Future Vision 2019

Now more than ever, our markets are growing at rapid speed, fueled by technology disruptions and digitalization across industries. It takes our collective knowledge today to predict the technology of tomorrow. Altran Future Vision brings together our global thought leaders from across disciplines and industries to forecast the trends that will have the biggest impact on business and technology over the next year.

#1 The Future Will Exist at the Intelligent Edge

Today, intelligence has gravity—the tendency to move everything towards a central data source. When looking to our future hyper-connected world of on-the-move humans demanding mobile devices with zero-latency, complex decision support or medical diagnosis and treatment, it’s clear that the traditional centralized data center model will no longer cut it. Rather, the future will exist at the Intelligent Edge. Zero latency intelligence distributed across all points of contact between people and AI-powered systems will soon take hold in smart cities with interconnected infrastructure, transport hubs, residential communities and utilities. Edge puts the intelligence at the data source, meaning connectivity is no longer dependent upon a center. This will revolutionize the capability of the device and radically improve the human experience. Placing local compute and AI systems in urban micro-data centers, built into the telecoms and network infrastructures, immediate answers are provided without the expense and delay of long distance data transfer. The need to radically simplify the complex demands of living, working and sharing the space of sprawling crowded cities will drive the rapid adoption of the Intelligent Edge.




#2 AI Diagnostics is the New Normal in Health

While the “AI for everything” trend has been the “next big thing” for several years now, AI diagnostics in healthcare is a particularly promising area. By making patient health data available and secure, AI diagnostics will allow providers to streamline previously manual diagnosis processes, modelling practitioner know-how and training such knowledge with scores of data. This will vastly improve quality of care with rigor and accuracy, while relieving pressures on resources. As more and more well-funded AI diagnostics get the nod from regulators in China (a trend also taking traction globally), breakthroughs are expected to happen in every stage of the healthcare value chain. In 2019, we are sure to see scalable AI-powered dialogistic solutions to help the healthcare sector transform and transcend the current challenges it faces from growing aging populations, congestion and chronic illness. But simply having algorithm expertise or owning enormous healthcare data will no longer be a sole competitive advantage. Players who are able to integrate with partners and pivot to scalable solutions will prevail.





#3 Welcome to Your Virtual Reality Workplace

As the trend of our workforce continues to move from physical to mental labor, high-performance immersive VR will enable remote real-time collaborative development in a large number of domains. This new paradigm for work will provide the high-resolution, low-latency needed for large groups, and easy-to-use private communications for one-to-one interactions, all in endlessly customizable virtual environments. Yes, even a virtual ping-pong table game to keep us moving! Immersive VR will hugely reduce the need for international economic migration and national commuter travel. It will also have improved benefits for inclusivity and accessibility for those with disabilities. RSI will be a thing of the past with speech- and gesture-recognition becoming the primary man-machine-interface modes. Designing will be done using new ‘higher-order’ digital visual representations, allowing us to design, develop and maintain at orders of magnitude faster than we currently do with our written-language based models. Multi-dimensional views of the (product/software, etc.) architectures will show the behavior and interactions of systems/modules/components from different aspects. Plugging into the Digital-Twin of the product augmented by data-analytics will show the real-time data-flows, highlighting performance bottlenecks and errors needing attention – all from the comfort of your own home or adaptable workplace.



#4 Technology Learns from Biology

Biomimetics or Bionics is the process of learning from nature to develop and/or optimize products, processes and systems. “Bionic design” and additive manufacturing is on the tipping point of an exciting new era of possibilities. It is the blueprint for AI, providing the inspiration and basics from biological neuronal networks. The future belongs to the interdisciplinary work of biology and technology, and ER&D firms like Altran are poised to take action. Past innovators from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs have postulated these concepts, and today, companies like Fraunhofer and Microsoft have already begun to take action. As a result, many more prospects are by now on the horizon and Altran’s biomimeticans are leading the way. We are on a path to a bio-seminal future with more bio-inspired products, bionic designs, soft-robotics, smart-materials, algorithms and swarm intelligence, etc. The German Fraunhofer Institute describes the movement as the “Biological Transformation”, the necessary step enhancing Industry 4.0 and Digitalization. Today we can learn from ca. three million different well-described biological models, which had the toughest quality management process – fight for life. Let us have an eye on the living patents and revise.



#5 Ethical and Clean Growth Design Becomes Non-Negotiable

Sustainable, ethical and clean growth is no longer an option, but a non-negotiable necessity for global enterprises looking to have real impact on innovations of tomorrow. While there have been many advances in energy efficient products, utilities and manufacturing, enterprises still are not thinking about these solutions on a macro scale. It’s up to engineering leadership to focus on designing holistic solutions that suit the needs of our planet. In order to have a real effect on our future, we need to design entire factories with zero environmental impact, secure medical implants, smart buildings and smarter cities. This approach requires multiple skills from cybersecurity, digital analytics, software development, design thinking, UX and UI, and Artificial Intelligence. It requires deep knowledge about industrial verticals and a cross-fertilization mindset. As engineers and designers, we are responsible for building the multi-skilled teams to provide end-to-end solutions for ethical and clean growth.



#6 Public Transportation Goes Digital

Cities will start to look towards enterprise transformation solutions that converge the public and private sectors, people and goods. Smart hubs will take the best from automated, intelligent robotic and logistics technologies to make the transition as seamless as possible. This will allow advancements such as transportation optimization that uses AI and machine learning to mine data from social networks and apps to identify synergies for the most efficient, reliable and cost effective transportation services possible. Our smart cities will soon be learning from digital enterprises and intelligent automation to optimize time, cost and environmental impact on our largest global hubs.



#7 Brands Build Recommendation Bubbles with IBI

Individual Biometric Identification (IBI) no longer requires face detection, iris scanning, or finger prints to identify users. Now your very stance, posture and gait are enough to identify you through computer vision coupled with machine learning. This will enable identification bubbles of highly tailored experiences. With brands able to identify personal preferences and history in order to make real-time predictions, we could be living in a world that constantly adapts around us. Purchases will be made by simply taking items off a shelf and walking away with them. Doors will unlock and open in front of us. Suggestions for food or wine will appear at our table. But, with the ability to target and follow people everywhere—brands will have to be smart about how they engage with their customers. While this thorough identification will create opportunities for innovative new products and services, it also provides opportunities for unwanted surveillance or even social scoring of private citizens. In order to build positive relationships with customers, brands will have to design for trust in these moments.



#8 Hidden Tech Reveals Itself

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a technology avalanche that has brought about a multitude of new devices in the personal and professional areas: smartphones, photo frames, tablets, cameras, smart watches, activity trackers, AR glasses, VR lenses. The next wave of this insatiable appetite for newness will be “hidden tech.” A major obstacle for adoption of new tech is the complexity, heterogeneity and new challenges that arise. This is true on both the personal and industrial scale. To ease this, we can use “hidden tech” to augment the legacy with technology in a seamless, invisible way. A number of consumer products have hit the market recently with this kind of approach: Withings Steel is an activity tracker for everyday use that looks like a nice watch; Under Armour has a connected shoe that tracks performance through their running shoe and app; Samsung TV Frame is a TV that becomes a piece of artwork when not in use. Altran has even used this approach on the industrial scale, creating Augmented Reality display updates for existing manufacturing infrastructures. In 2019, we expect this trend to continue with many more upgrades to existing products that make new features available with minimal disruption to the user.



#9 Blockchain Secures Cloud-Native Systems

Most of today’s cybersecurity processes are manual and built on silo security foundational technologies e.g., IPS/IDS, firewalls etc. But to operationalize threat intelligence gathered from external sources (e.g., by combing dark web or by security researchers) and internal sources (e.g., vulnerability assessments of assets, IOC & TTP analysis of the security incidences etc), an automated templated approach is being promoted and Gartner tracks such security automation under SOAR (security orchestration, automation & response). However, in order to create such an automation program that helps to create and optimize repeatable security operation excellence across cloud-native systems deployed in a multi-cloud environment, relevant data (e.g., up-to-date asset information (including risk profiles, software versions etc), security control configurations (e.g., ACL, rules, certificates etc), asset and application dependency maps, automated auditors and audit trails etc), is made available in a trusted distributed ledger that can create of distributed apps (DApps). Comcast is already using blockchain to manage identities in a home automation scenario. With adversaries weaponizing AI and using intelligent bots to inflict damage, enterprises need to utilize a DApps paradigm to adopt a collaborative, federated learning models to detect and respond to the security incidences in a timely manner. OpenMind is promoting tools that treat privacy, security and multi-owner governance as first class citizens to build AI models across a distributed datasets stored in a blockchain. Improvements in building digital twins for a cyber-physical world with AI/ML models will only accelerate development of ‘security digital twin’ as a preventative security strategy in an increasingly distributed cloud-native assets and environment.



#10 Control Your Devices with Your Augmented Brain

The human brain has puzzled scientists for years. For decades, neuro-scientists have been measuring the brain’s electrical signals to understand its language and use the readings to do “simple” tasks such as moving a robotic arm or an exoskeleton. Altran has now taken this field to the next level. Gathering Altran’s expertise in machine learning, electronics, software development and the healthcare, a dedicated team has been working to create a learning EEG cap. This device reads and interprets brain activity in a non-invasive way. From relaying simple information to machine, to more complex interactions with objects, distances or emotions, this device understands your thoughts and acts on command, replacing traditional controllers and carrying out digital and physical tasks. With the human-machine interface reduced to a simple thought, a surgeon could mind-manipulate a live 3D model of the patient he’s operating on without disturbing his movements, while also giving him better knowledge and response time, and potentially saving lives.

Today, we’re striving to master communication between brain and machine—tomorrow we take the next step to facilitate the stuff of sci-fi fantasies: brain to brain telepathy.



#11 Digital Twin Development

In the Digital Transformation era, tomorrow’s product will be developed around its own “avatar,” a digital twin that will accompany the product from its concept (e.g. 3D model) throughout all the design phases and along the entire lifecycle. Thanks to artificial intelligence technologies, virtual reality, IoT, 5G and pervasive connectivity, each product will be enriched via its own digital twin with new ways of interactions and new features to support the customer to better understand, use and maintain the product. In this way, a wide range of value added services will be built round the product and new fascinating business models will be enabled by incorporating the digital twin to the development process.



#12 Manufacturing Meets Mixed Reality

Mixed reality, a combination of augmented reality, connectivity and interaction between humans and systems, will start coping the manufacturing workstations to enhance human capabilities in terms of cognitive, experience and knowledge skills. The result? People will be able to do better work, faster and safer. People will be able to visualize the collective wisdom of the company when performing their tasks, interacting with the systems using advanced interfaces (i.e. haptic devices) and reducing or removing the amount of non-value added activities and the human-induced errors. Designing the adequate use case and the technological architecture to facilitate human tasks will be key for the wide adoption of these technologies. By augmenting human labor with intelligent systems and new interfaces, we will see a new wave in the workforce, enabling higher-efficiency and ultimately lower-cost manufacturing.



#13 New and Evolving Battery Technologies

Energy is the ultimate currency; progress in the generation, transmission, storage and use of energy characterizes much of our industrial society. Many of today’s technological advances (from phones to cars) depend on the ability to store electrical energy in a compact, lightweight manner. The current mass-market leading technologies are based on lithium ion technologies using a liquid electrolyte and lithium compounds such as oxides or phosphates as the anode material. New battery chemistries offer improvements in charge and discharge performance and crucially in energy density (energy / weight) and specific energy (energy / volume) stored. Lithium-silicon batteries are emerging and offering energy densities of ~400Wh/kg (compared to the previous level of 250-300Wh/kg). Lithium-sulphur batteries might offer densities up to 500Wh/kg. An effective doubling of battery capacity would clearly have a significant impact on products across industries. We can expect small-scale and large-scale effects. At the product level, selection, integration and management of these power sources will become key skills in industries that have previously used other means. At a strategic level, battery production capacity, and access to the raw materials needed have the potential to become a strategic asset comparable to the oil industry. New players and new opportunities are continuing to arise, as a recent announcement  regarding solid-state battery production demonstrates. While all industries will see the effects of these evolved batter technologies, it will be particularly transformative for automotive, aviation, energy and industrial.



#14 Consumers Take Back Their Data

Five years ago, IRM predicted that companies would be forced to purchase data after consumers became astute to irresponsible data handling. This year we saw those threats come true, with recent scandals involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which illicitly harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles for targeted political advertising. The resulting plummet of Facebook’s reputation has started to shift power from companies to the public. People are now understandably scrutinizing the use of data on social media, reward schemes, mobile apps and beyond. With the power of data deletion by users and the threat of fines from new regulations, companies are now beginning to realize the urgency of cybersecurity to protect one of their most valuable assets: customer data. In addition to the GDPR, organizations processing data of critical national importance face the NISD are also assessing the way they handle, protect and process data to avoid malicious attacks. At Altran, we are well-versed in supporting these organizations to make the changes required to meet evolving security standards. But as consumers begin to protect their personal data from companies they mistrust, social media companies, which have built their entire business models on access to this data, will have to adapt. We predict that unless these companies take real steps to make changes in customer trust, people will begin to maintain private social existences, while generating false identifiable information where possible to feed data-hungry organizations.



#15 The End of Screen Time

While we’ve seen a number of evolutionary steps in how we interact with machines, from the click of mouse to the swipe of a finger, the main paradigm of graphical abstraction of real world objects on a screen has remained intact. That is about to change. With the latest advancements in machine learning, the next revolution in human-machine interfacing will be the end of screen time and a switch to natural voice interaction with intelligent systems. Advanced audio processing makes it possible to safely process human voice under a variety of environmental conditions. Leaps in raw computing power, as well as in machine learning algorithms, make it possible for systems to develop a sense for the context when analyzing user input. With these advancements, we’re able to move away from point and click operations to conversational-based interactions with machines. Designers and engineers now have a clean canvas to re-imagine the way we utilize technology to ease and improve our lives. This opportunity requires new sets of skills and a much more holistic view from User Experience designers, machine learning experts and data scientists, shaping the future of natural interaction with ubiquitous, personalized assistant systems.