The UK’s contribution to the future of tech is fueling the fourth industrial revolution

The UK’s contribution to the future of tech is fuelling the fourth industrial revolution

Paid content by the UK’s Department for International Trade

The UK’s contribution to the future of tech is fuelling the fourth industrial revolution

Paid content by the UK’s Department for International Trade

Paid content by The UK’s Department for International Trade

The UK is a world-leading hub for business with an unrivaled network of experienced and innovative companies. Our businesses offer exceptional products and services that have transformed the day-to-day lives of people around the world.

In 2018, man and machine are more inextricable from one another than ever before in human history. With innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and 5G connectivity advancing at breakneck speed, we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift that will shape the very fundamentals of future society.

The UK has played an integral role in each of the preceding three industrial revolutions — it boasts the birthplaces of the steam locomotive, the telephone, and the World Wide Web. But it’s not just the entrepreneurially inclined turning their attention to this part of the world; venture capitalists, too, understand the value of UK innovation. In fact, data compiled by London & Partners found that UK-based tech companies are attracting more VC capital funding from Silicon Valley than any other country in Europe.

In the wake of Mobile World Congress 2018, we’re exploring how the UK is leading the charge to shape the future of technology — and the world as we know it. Here are a few predictions for the coming year.

Buzzwords >> Tools

Trendy technologies will go from buzzwords to ubiquitous tools

Joining the list of terms that dominated headlines in 2017 — AI and AR/VR among them — 2018 is likely to see the proliferation of technologies like 5G and blockchain. These innovations are predicted to go from ambiguous hypotheticals to mainstream tools over the course of the coming months.

Scott Amyx, a futurist, venture capitalist, and author who writes frequently about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the fourth industrial revolution, explains that there’s been a “feverish pursuit” of technologies like AI, IoT, 5G, blockchain, and AR/VR/mixed reality (MR) in this region.

“Under the umbrella of digital transformation, businesses are embracing these technologies with a healthy IT appetite. Moreover, open-source projects are accelerating industry-wide adoption” he explains, citing examples like Hyperledger and IOTA. Amyx goes on to explain that companies like DeepMind, Amazon UK, and Microsoft UK are often reliant upon talent coming out of Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and the like to staff their innovation teams.

As these kinds of technologies are increasingly adopted, digital innovations will only continue to experience spurts of exponential growth. Numerous practical use cases will emerge in the not-so-distant future. In our neighbourhoods, for example, we’ll start to see robust smart home ecosystems fueled by advanced AI. On our city streets, smart urban planning firms will use the IoT and 5G connectivity to optimise traffic flow, waste removal/recycling, and urban accessibility. In the world of advertising, immersive entertainment and marketing experiences will reign supreme. The global business landscape, too, will completely transform as blockchain restructures processes ranging from consumer transactions to B2B “smart” contracts.

AI also represents a seismic shift that will redefine industries ranging from hospitality and retail to medicine and the military. A 2017 PwC report estimates that AI will add £232 billion to the UK’s GDP by 2030 — a 10.3% overall boost — and refers to the technology as one of the “biggest commercial opportunities in today’s fast-changing economy.”

£232 billion

The amount that AI will add to the UK’s GDP by 2030 — a 10.3% overall boost

PwC report, 2017

Mixed Reality

Welcome to the age of “mixed reality”

Digging into projections for the future, IDC expects the AR/VR/MR market to grow from £5.2 billion in 2016 to more than £162 billion in 2020. The UK, which is already home to hundreds of AR/VR startups, is also likely to see more disruptors like SenSat, DigitalBridge, and WaveOptics emerge as industry leaders. 

In 2018, we’re also likely to see the medium of VR break through into the consumer market and become an integral part of both entertainment and brand-based interactive experiences. Hammerhead VR is just one UK-based business making strides in this arena; the award-winning organisation was one of the first dedicated immersive content studios, and provides end-to-end production services for virtual experiences. Companies like Virtual Umbrella and Vyking that provide AR and VR advertising and marketing services, too, will help the mixed reality movement snowball by bringing new, immersive kinds of experiential marketing to both brands and consumers across wide spectrums of industry. 

Let’s Collaborate

As Sam Routledge, the chief technology officer at Softcat, a UK-based IT infrastructure provider, explains, cyber security is less of a separate entity these days than a continuous thread that must be woven into every industry and new product release.

“With increasing regulation — GDPR, the ePrivacy regulation, NIS directive, etc. — and an ever-increasing threat landscape, we need to build security in rather than wrap it around the outside [of a business model],” explains Routledge. In the UK, cyber security focussed companies such as Sophos and Cyberlytic are helping make this holistic mindset a reality.

A security-first approach will be particularly important as industries collaborate with one another and as more and more sensitive data is moved to the cloud. Within the medical field, technologies like automation and robotics are becoming more common. Startups like Echo, an app that enables seamless NHS prescription ordering and delivery, are revolutionising how people obtain their medications. Even once-unfathomable concepts like remote, robotic surgery may not be so far-fetched in the next half-decade.

Technology startups are making inroads within other traditional fields like law, too. The Link App, for example, is intended to help law firms improve client communication. The company provides a platform for lawyers and clients to seamlessly connect, and uses bank-level encryption to ensure utmost data security.

Both The Link App and Echo made this year’s list of Best British Mobile Startups, an annual competition led by KMPG; the companies recently appeared on stage at Mobile World Congress 2018 to pitch their concepts to industry experts. In the end, Echo was awarded first place

Connectivity

Connectivity will break new barriers

The UK possesses a few foundational elements that make it an attractive launch-site for tech companies: World-class support facilities, a pro-investment environment, and one of the world’s fastest connected infrastructures — these elements also offer security to the businesses working with them. 

That infrastructure will only continue to improve as technologies like IoT and 5G networks become more sophisticated. In fact, the UK recently announced a £1 billion initiative to fund the next generation of digital infrastructure. These plans include a nationwide 5G Testbed and Trials Programme, a 5G University Test Network, a 5G Innovation Network, and a Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review to assess efforts and provide a roadmap for progress.

Today, 5G testing is already being conducted in major tech hubs around the country, such as in Guildford, the home of the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC). The 5GIC is just one example of a UK-based educational institution — the University of Surrey — working with established, multinational companies in order to lay a foundation for the future of connectivity. The 5GIC is currently experimenting with 5G radio technologies, as well as developing a virtualised mobile core network that will enhance both Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). 

All these acronyms mean, essentially, that faster, more reliable connections — with speeds that can provide a foundation for everything from connected cars to smart factories — are just around the bend.

One of the platforms that 5G connectivity will facilitate is a proliferation of IoT technologies. There is no lack of UK-based startups in this space, either. Take Stream Technologies, for example: The company currently works within the IoT space, enabling data transfer from sensors to decision-making entities and control centres. In the future, Stream Technologies plans to have an even wider-reaching impact: They hope to develop a global eSim, or a SIM card with an embedded chip can be used anywhere in the world, providing users with on-demand connectivity.

As technology drives the fourth industrial revolution forward, it’s crucial that businesses and entrepreneurs stay one step ahead of the curve. To find British products and services that meet your organisation’s needs in the ever-evolving and malleable tech landscape of today, connect here.