Tuesday 25 October 2016

Business in 2035: What can we expect to find? And what challenges will we face?

From artificial intelligence to the growth of biometrics, business is going to change dramatically over the next 20 years. Nick Webb, Harry Leech and Gavin McLoughlin ask big thinkers to pick the key trends in business

Nick Webb, Harry Leech and Gavin McLoughlin

Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30

From artificial intelligence to the growth of biometrics, business is going to change dramatically over the next 20 years
From artificial intelligence to the growth of biometrics, business is going to change dramatically over the next 20 years

Retail - The "internet of things" is going to completely change retail, according to Reep Rewards boss James Lenehan. "Pre-emptive shopping" where your fridge decides that you are out of milk and buys some online will be "on steroids" he suggests.

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"Borrowing vs buying will be another big trend. You already see it with the likes of AirBnB but it'll grow across other areas, such as consumer electronics or tools. There'll be much more device pooling," he says.

"Why would you spend €400 or €500 on a lawnmower if there was device pooling on your road?" Lenehan also thinks that deliveries will transform the grocery sector. Currently, deliveries account for around 12pc of sales in the UK market. "That could rise to 25pc to 30pc," he suggests.

"It'll become a habit. You already see it in places like South Korea, where if you're on the tube you just scan some of the 150 products on the wall and they are delivered to you by the time you get home. Or you pick them up from the station."

Retail will also be changed by increased consumer subscription services, such as buyers clubs. Companies like Jet.com will offer cheaper products if you pay an annual subscription fee. You might pay $50 or $60 in a subscription but get a Fitbit at manufacturers costs.

"There won't be much fat left for the retailers," he believes, so high-street shopping will need to change.

The shopping experience will be the big thing because you will go online for better prices."

Shops like Penneys or H&M will be trend setters. Their superior logistics means that they will be able to have a new product line every two or three weeks. Consumers will visit these shops to experience the hottest trends in what will become even more refined "Lightning retail". New technology, such as the Oculus Rift and virtual reality headsets, will be important to show what new clothes look like or how a car test drives.

John Warburton, CEO Donedeal.ie, said the migration to online will continue. "The reason for this is that people want things instantly and online retailers that can ship quickly with as little friction as possible will be the winners.

"There are clear trends there, such as personalisation of goods and services, and also that our over-reliance on fossil fuels over the last few decades means that in the next two decades there will be a greater emphasis on recycling of goods."

Eason Managing Director Conor Whelan said current trends don't look good for high-street retail.

"Unless government, chambers of commerce and retailers work together a lot better than they have, then we will follow the trend in the US and UK, where the centre of towns and cities are wastelands. Retail is such an incredibly important part of town and city centres that we need to focus on it a lot more than we have.

"Those retailers that are most agile and best at incorporating the relevant consumer trends that gain traction will be the ones to survive. Retail stores in the future need to be 'destinations', rather than just places that sell a product.

"Mobility is going to be key into the future, and not just selling product; its use is also in communicating to customers wherever they are and also in building up a profile of customers that allows us to serve them better. Those retailers who can best personalise the shopping experience as much as possible will be the ones who succeed."

Tesco Ireland chief operating officer Geoff Byrne said that supermarkets will still be a feature of Irish towns and cities in 2035, "but it is likely that the physical retail experience will be supplemented by a much stronger digital one as the online market place continues to grow and flourish".

He continued: "Firstly, service and the shopping experience will be much more personalised and tailored. Increased capabilities of technology will allow retailers to better understand customers at an individual level, tailoring range and promotions to suit personal preferences and budget and allowing a greater level of customer reward.

"Online shopping will become easier too, with more customers shopping directly from their mobile phones and tablets. Two decades on, we could have precisely the products we want, and just when we need them, right on our doorsteps at the sending of a text message.

"Developments in payment options could render cash transactions a thing of the past, with technology already in the market for contactless payment.

"It's likely that we will see a continued growth in home delivery, with an ageing population contributing to a greater need for flexibility around when and how we shop, and services such as Tesco Grocery Home Shopping and Click & Collect becoming even more popular.

"Finally, price will continue to be one of the most important factors in how someone chooses where and when to shop.

"Consumers will still be value-conscious, comparing prices between retailers on their digital devices. So being competitive on price will continue to be key."


Core Media's Alan Cox sees the rise of artificial intelligence and 3D printing as huge trends that will dominate the next 20 years.

"Remember, 20 years ago it was 1995, which was when Nick Leeson brought down Barings bank and the OJ Simpson trial. The future is never as far away as it seems."

The rapidly increasing speeds of computers will also drive change. "It will dwarf the capabilities they have now," he suggests.

Technology will also transform health, with high-functioning wearables monitoring your vital signs. "It'll be like going to the doctor every day and having bloodworks done every day," he says.

This means that people will live longer.

"We will still be enjoying the same type of media experiences but enhanced and through better quality devices and media platforms," he suggests. Multiscreen viewing will continue to grow.

"The availability of screens will explode and will be cheaper too." He feels that the power of video will remain but that linear television viewing will continue to erode. "Radio will still thrive, although a chunk of listenership will be lost to global streaming," he predicts.

A recent Core Media survey showed that two-thirds of people polled believe that newspapers will be around in 2045.

"They will still exist, some on a weekend basis. The digital march forward will continue but you will never see newspapers, books and magazines disappear because people like tangible things."

Cox believes that outdoor poster advertising will be entirely digital across the country, which means that instead of printing up posters, digital billboards can be booked for varying campaign runs.

"Media planning will be so precise and entirely data-fuelled. Programmatic buying will be everywhere," he believes.


"Health, convenience, climate and globalisation are the factors that will most heavily influence the make-up of the food industry," according to Vincent Cleary of Glenisk. The drive for convenience foods will continue, as more people seek out fast, affordable mealtime solutions. Meanwhile, the developing world adopts more of the traditionally western dietary habits.

"To date, most of these convenient, processed solutions have come at the expense of nutrition, as evidenced by rising rates of obesity and the increasing prevalence of conditions like heart disease and diabetes, bringing very real and unsustainable pressures to bear on our healthcare systems.

"These pressures are exacerbated by an ageing population, whose nutritional needs are not being fully met. In response to this, we see customers becoming more engaged with the food they consume; worldwide, recent research indicates that 66pc of consumers check labels on food before purchasing.

"As they become more informed about how their food is produced, its impact on the environment and their own dietary needs, I believe they will seek more sustainably or organically produced foods that are good for them, their families and the planet.

"Awareness of the need for protein in the diet will grow for all, but especially for those increasing numbers engaged in fitness activities and for the ageing population. Less red meat is being consumed in Europe and while a third of our protein needs currently come from seafood, with diminishing global fish stocks, food producers will need to provide alternatives in this space.

"Sugar is increasingly being blamed for the obesity epidemic and a host of other conditions and ultimately will be taxed - something which food producers will have to address head-on.

"Globalisation will continue to change the eating habits of all. There are likely to be trends and food solutions that haven't yet been invented.

"For food producers like Glenisk, the challenge is to innovate with better, cleaner recipes and to provide consumers with clear, transparent labelling that not only explains how the food is produced, but what specific need state it meets, to help them in their decision process".


"Given the fast pace of change in technology and customer preferences, forecasting how banking might look 20 years from today is a speculative task," said Wim Verbraeken, CEO of KBC Bank Ireland.

"Globalisation will bring convergence of standards and harmonisation of rules between markets, including those we currently refer to as 'emerging'. As we are already witnessing today in other sectors, this will lead to greater consolidation in the financial service industry.

"A number of large international banks will cater for consumers on a world-wide scale. As a counterweight, regulation, competition authority and consumer protection will have to be organised in a similar global fashion.

"Technological advancement and digitisation will continue to offer opportunities for 'disruptive' innovators, as we are already seeing today in the area of payments.

"We will quickly reach the moment when cash and even payment cards will no longer be part of our daily lives. Robustness of systems and security will be paramount. The use of biometrics, such as retina recognition for account access, will be commonplace.

"Sophisticated data analysis will allow banks to tailor their offering to the individual customer in real time and consumers will have more control over their financial choices, with switching possible at the touch of a button," the KBC Bank chief forecast. "Exciting developments on a number of fronts! However, customer service will still be the key to success."

AIB chief operating officer Stephen White said the essence of banking will remain the same 20 years from now.

"Customers will still want the option of personal communication, whether in branch or by any other channel. However, undoubtedly the frequency of this interaction will reduce, as technology continues to evolve.

"The likelihood is that the majority of banking will be done at time of the customer's choosing. If you think back to 1995, there was limited use of the internet and mobile phones were the size of books… compare that with today's mobile banking apps and contactless payments.

"There really is no foretelling how far technology will evolve or who will be offering banking products. Only one thing is certain, any significant change will be driven by customer demand and this reality will continue to shape AIB's strategy.

Professional Services

"In the US, they recently predicted that 65pc of the jobs that we'll be doing in 10 years, we haven't even thought of yet, so on that basis there's a definite unknown," said Accenture Ireland's head of digital Vicky Godolphin.

"We've really seen the impact that digital, in particular, has had in really stretching and changing the norms when it comes to how organisations are organised, what work is being done and also, obviously, the profile of the workforce.

"In terms of how the work is organised, I think even when you see the rise of important roles, such as chief digital officer and chief data officer, now we're starting to see a change in the way organisations are actually structuring themselves and you can see the impact of disruptors and start-ups around breaking down traditional hierarchies.

"From a professional services perspective, I think you'll absolutely see the importance of that. We already stress that very much within ourselves.

"We have our own internal social network and knowledge exchange, because collaboration and teaming are so important for our business. And I think across the board, when you're looking at the legal profession, and accountancy and advisory services, being able to tap into all of your knowledge, whether it's located in Europe or Asia or America, is going to be really important.

"I think we'll see further developments around the connectedness of organisations.

"When you look at the type of work that's being done, when you look across industries, 2035 is going to be less brawn and more brain. What we mean by that is that where you're seeing automation come in, it helps to free up time for people to work on those higher value, more thinking-type work as opposed to repetitive, very manual activities.

"We have a breadth of roles supporting our clients in terms of helping them solve problems and in 2035 there is going to be a different set of problems, a different set of challenges.

"In terms of our role in helping companies solve those problems, meet the challenges, take on new opportunities, in that way our role won't change.

"Certainly in terms of the tools we would use and the approaches we would use, in terms of the way we would approach the work in 2035, we need to make sure that we are evolving and changing just as much as we would advise organisations to do."


"International tourist arrivals worldwide are projected to approach two billion by 2035, presenting a tremendous opportunity for the Irish hotels sector and wider tourism industry," says Irish Hotels Federation chief executive Tim Fenn.

"Overseas visitors to Ireland could grow to some 14 million a year, almost double the 7.3 million we attracted last year. This would have a significant knock-on effect for tourism jobs, which would likely exceed 300,000, up from 205,000 today.

"Technology will continue to have an impact, just as it does today. New innovations will shape the overall guest experience across everything, from sales and marketing to check-in, front-of-house service, customer care and hotel reviews.

"And, of course, technology will keep pace within hotel premises, be it in terms of internet and communications services and advances in the hotel room experience.

"However, Ireland's key selling points will not change to any large extent. We will still be an island with a very friendly welcome, the great outdoor adventure waiting and an abundance of heritage and culture.

"Hoteliers will still focus on quality of service, exceeding customer expectations and providing memorable experiences. This will remain paramount as we grow new markets over the next 20 years, including the potentially lucrative Chinese market."


John Given, chairman of biotech and life science group Malin, believes that the increasing life expectancy in developed nations will see a huge push to develop new drugs and therapies for the elderly and diseases of the elderly, such as neurodegenerative illnesses.

National healthcare systems will also need bigger budgets as people will live longer, putting pressure on economies. However, the increased healthcare awareness will see earlier diagnosis of illness and better patient outcomes, he suggests.

Medical hardware will improve dramatically, with improved rapid point-of-care diagnostics becoming prevalent. This will mean that your GP can run almost instant tests on bloods or other indicators themselves, which will again provide for earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

Given also see the growth of personalised or bespoke healthcare, where patients will be assessed to see if particular treatments will worth for them, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The Malin chairman also forecasts huge changes in the developing world as economies improve.

This will see increased life expectancy in places like the African subcontinents - but it will also bring first-world problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, to areas where they had not been prevalent. The increased wealth in developing economies will also see more demand for quality and guaranteed healthcare products and medicines.

Given also warns that the rapid growth in pollution - particularly in places like China - will see a major increase in respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and emphysema. This will lead to increased investment by biotech companies in trying to develop cures for these health issues.

Thinking longer

"Business people have a bad reputation for short-term thinking. Yet many of the same people put money into pensions they won't access for another 15 or 20 years - or even longer," says Amarach Research chairman Gerard O'Neill.

"So what if you applied the same long- term thinking to your own business? What opportunities might you see?

"Here's a thought: in 20 years, many of us will personally be part of the biggest business opportunity in 2035. That opportunity is the ageing of the world's population, with the number of people over 60 set to double by 2050. It's a 'never before in human history' shift that many will see in their own lifetime.

"As soon as 2020, older people will have a combined global spending power of some €15 trillion. How much of that will you need to be successful?

"Ireland and Irish businesses are well placed to benefit from the transition that is already under way. Food is fast becoming the key to healthier, fitter and longer lives; specifically the right food in the right quantities. Not just the five-a-day sources of nutrition but also 'functional food' innovations that prevent illness, mitigate disease, even reverse aspects of ageing.

"Beyond food, our sliver future will open up business opportunities for health-related products and services; housing and accommodation (financing as well as building); training and employment programmes; lifestyle and tourism services etc. And that's before we even begin exploring opportunities emerging from communications technologies, the internet of things, crowd-funding and the sharing economy.

"The recent Technopolis report for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is a handy guide to the future now approaching.

"Finally, this is business that's personal: the products and services you develop in pursuit of the silver future may well be ones you'll personally want to buy when 2035 comes around."


"If the gambling industry continues to develop at the pace which it has changed over the last 10 years, the industry is in for a very exciting time," according to Boylesports chief executive John Boyle.

"The future of digital gambling is inextricably linked to technology, its portability and the means to interact via the web at any time. And, as history has proven, the gambling industry is one of the best at taking advantage of the opportunity the internet presents.

"Biomechanics and gestures will be the default form of identification and navigation, with a mouse and keyboard confined to museums. The eye will be the command centre, registering through an iris scan and navigating through its natural movement.

"Success will be determined by which gaming companies understand the needs of the customers in each channel they have the option to bet on and their expectations on the customer experience will be measured in milliseconds, not seconds.

"Similarly, the future of the retail space will be linked to the developments in technology. As important will be how regulation keeps up with technology. It is reasonable to assume that the retail shop will become a more diverse leisure arena, where traditional betting will be accompanied by a more diverse and interactive gaming experience more akin to a leisure space than a betting shop, encompassing all elements of gaming and gambling in one space.

"This leisure space will be accessible either physically or virtually. Customers will visit personalised retail stores in virtual reality, and still talk with a cashier. Or they will be at the races and use augmented reality technology to research the track, races and odds."


The changes in the next 20 years will be cataclysmic - the move to renewable energy is inexorable and accelerating, says Mainstream Renewable Power founder and chief executive Eddie O'Connor.

"Wind is now half the price of coal and solar is about three-quarters the price of coal, when you compare new build power stations with new builds.

"This has major implications. Firstly, it means that most of the major utilities are going to go bankrupt and will be forced to drastically change their business models.

"The democratisation of energy is under way and will continue - instead of tens of producers as we have now, there will be millions of producers. Every new-build rooftop will have solar panels on it and most likely the roofing material will be entirely made of solar panels that harvest energy from the sun.

"The cost of storage is falling by 11pc per year and that mirrors the fall in the cost of renewables, particularly wind energy, which has fallen by 55pc over the past five years. Solar has fallen by 80pc in that time. Lithium-ion storage of electricity is coming, which is a phenomenal thing, so that in 20 years time I will be able to offer production of energy and storage of it for cheaper than I can produce it alone today.

"Smart meters will be everywhere and price will be instantaneous; consumers will be able to have a standing instruction in their house or even with certain appliances, that if the price of electricity goes above a certain price, then the appliance switches itself off or goes on power-saver mode, until the price drops below the acceptable threshold again."

Oriel Windfarm managing director Brian Britton says Ireland will have will have become energy-independent by 2035 and will be among the largest exporters of renewable energy in the world.

"Offshore wind will be the bedrock of this, while other technologies, such as onshore wind, biogas, solar and wave and tidal energy, will all form part of our energy mix. Ireland, by now a centre of excellence for offshore energy, has played a role in designing turbines which harness not only the wind, but also at the same time tidal energy.

"Ireland's contribution to global energy targets not only generated a multi-billion euro offshore wind industry, it also helped to ensure that we could offset the emissions from our growing dairy sector."


"Consumer demands and expectations are not going to decrease over the next 20 years," says UPC Ireland CEO Magnus Ternsjo. "Once consumers had mobile internet they wanted to watch video; then it was HD video; now it's no longer HD video, it's Ultra High Definition. All of these require bigger pipes, bigger networks, more connectivity.

"How to cope with this expectation? I believe there will have to be more co-operation between companies, more scale required and more global mergers and acquisitions. We can see some examples of this already, for example with the BT and EE merger in the UK.

"In Ireland, the population is set to grow to six million in the not too distant future - it's a good place to live, growth is the highest in Europe and it has the youngest population in Europe.

"Generation Y, the so-called millennials, they want to be constantly connected, it's what they expect now.

"The key for the network providers in the coms areas aren't just leisure however; it's in areas such as healthcare, education, business and improving the service in all of these areas. The growth in the next 20 years will be staggering."


Trinity College associate professor in economics Senator Sean Barrett says he fears for the aviation sector "particularly given that we have sold Aer Lingus for a pittance to British Airways parent company IAG."

"Aer Lingus has developed nine transatlantic routes from Dublin, while BA has developed none in Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast and so on - so we probably become very Heathrow-centric in the next 20 years, which will be a problem for Irish businesses.

"Buses between the major urban areas will increase in popularity, particularly with young people. At the same time I can see a lot of the railway routes being in serious difficulty and will be particularly affected by an ageing consumer base with young people opting for buses.

"The big problem for railway in the last few years has been the serious decline in freight traffic over the past years, it has practically disappeared. Most of it has moved to road over the past decade, but road freight volumes are unlikely to grow much over the next 20 years as we move towards a smarter economy.

"In terms of our ports, Dublin Port has finally gotten its act together - and so it will continue to grow at the expense of all the other ports."

James McCarthy, CEO of Nissan Ireland says that by 2035 the zero-emission vehicle will be a substantial part of the national fleet.

"We are already at a point where the current technologies will meet the needs of 90pc of consumer journeys, but despite that there is still a certain amount of 'range anxiety' when it comes to electric cars.

"Autonomous driving is the other big technology being talked about at the moment - there's no doubt that the technology will be there to allow that, but there is a whole regulatory framework that I see having a massive problem coping with that.

"What we will see is more driver-assisted features in cars, like the current driverless parking features. Most of these features will involve making the car increasingly safer: collision-avoidance features will become government-mandated standards in new vehicles."


Agricultural consultant Richard Hackett says the profitability of tillage farming is going to have to increase, "if there's "going to be any future in it at all.

"I suppose the last 20 years have seen a stagnation, insofar as we've had more constraints imposed upon us from the point of view of pesticides.

"You would hope that in the next 20 years we will go away from stagnation, more towards increasing yields and increasing quality and hopefully increasing returns at the lower level.

"There's an argument over GM technology and what it can bring and what it can't bring, and in the next 20 years I don't see GM technology making much of an inroad at a European level.

"First of all, legislation is not there to allow it happen, and secondly, technology is not there. In the morning, if GM was allowed in Europe, on the cereal front in an Irish context there's nothing really technologically available. You would imagine that's 10, 12 or 15 years away. So whether 20 years is going to see some change? Well, I don' t think so - unless there's a major change in Europe.

"We'll probably start using more of our own resources, we have only 9pc of our utilised agricultural area is tillage, so in the event where beef and dairy take off, they'll require more concentrate feed and they'll have more nutrients. So if we started working together, we could make better use of our own land if we were able to swap around the land and things like that.

"I think the technology is going to move towards a lot more bio-pesticides... we need to look at our soil, look at our soil structures, and if that's improved we'll have a huge increase in yields.

"The potential of our crops are not being met, we don't have to wave a magic wand, we just need to reach more of the potential that we have. The major problem we have is security of tenure, the tillage crops we have are mainly grown on short-term rented land and that's affecting our soil quality.

"Until such time as we have access to land on a long-term basis we can't improve our land. You can't improve it if you're thrown out the next year. If you can improve security of tenure, that is the one factor that's going to have an impact on yields and on soil structures."

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