What are the big emerging trends in technology?
Depends on where you live. Cloud computing and artificial intelligence will continue to be hot for Chinese consumers, but 3-D printing will be all the rage in Europe, technology executives say.
From bitcoin to the "Internet of Things," trend watchers are faced with a dizzying array of "disruptive" consumer technologies. The most indispensable consumer trend over the next three years, it turns out, depends on your region, according to a new study by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, who surveyed top executives at technology firms in 17 countries in August and September on topics like cybersecurity, data and analytics and biometrics.
Fifteen percent of those surveyed thought health-care technology would be the most disruptive consumer technology in the United States over the next three years, while in Europe, 3-D printing topped the chart at 12 percent. Cloud computing and artificial intelligence each gained 15 percent of votes for the most disruptive technology in China, according to the 832 business leaders surveyed from start-ups, mid-size to large enterprises, venture capital firms and angel investors.
"On the consumer side, the largest response from the U.S. sector was biotech, and health-care IT," said Gary Matuszak, global chair of KPMG's technology, media and telecommunications consulting practice. "I think that is indicative of the massive amount of transformation in the health-care industry here, and opportunities with wearables and digitizing health records. If you look at China and Japan, the result that comes out is artificial intelligence, where there has been a lot of push to make it a national priority, including some push for government spending and support to make China a world leader in AI."
The survey highlighted stark differences between societal and economic trends in different regions, Matuszak said, where some countries already see mobile and cloud as intuitive platforms for other technologies, while others are still trying to adjust.
Case in point: Only 2 percent of respondents saw artificial intelligence as a growing trend in Europe and the Middle East, compared to 15 percent in China and 10 percent in Japan. And while 11 percent saw mobile technology as a disruptive force in Europe, only 3 percent said the same for China.
"With societal trends, if you look at mobile in China, it has been way ahead of the U.S. and other places," Matuszak said. "Mobile is not seen as disruptive. So now, ["Internet of Things"] is much higher in China. It's, 'How do we take and use cloud and mobile applications that people are already accustomed to using, and apply them to different aspects like IOT?' But some of the demographic changes will come through in how technology providers view opportunities in their regions."
For example, as the workforce ages in Japan, firms there are looking to artificial intelligence to make manufacturing more efficient, Matuszak said.
While other trendy technologies, like robots and digital currency, did not fare as well in any one region, KPMG did notice trends by industry. While only 2 percent of respondents saw Bitcoin as the most disruptive with American consumers, 41 percent saw it as potentially very disruptive to American banks.
"Asia has always led the transformation around mobile banking, because it was more of a necessity than a convenience there," Matuszak said. "As the number of cross-border transactions increase, there becomes more and more need for a global currency. U.S. financial institutions are really beginning to understand that they need to get ahead of this area and work with their counterparts around the world, and become a disruptor instead of the disrupted."
Global trends are important to keep in mind, Matuszak said, because though areas like New York City and Silicon Valley are still among top innovation hubs, Tokyo, Shaghai and London are quickly gaining ground.
"You're seeing countries' recognizing that for them to continue to be relevant, they have to have innovation at the top of their list of priorities," Matuszak said.