Staring into a crystal ball to predict the future is a dangerous practice in the fast-changing world of technology. Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN – Staring into a crystal ball to predict the future is a dangerous practice in the fast-changing world of technology! 

But we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with a new generation of sophisticated and game-changing technologies that are transforming our world into a highly connected and intelligent place. Over the next few weeks, we will take a peek at some technologies that will certainly impact our lives and businesses in 2019.

In the first decade of the current millennium, sharing platforms became popular, for example, Zipcar, BlaBlaCar and Couchsurfing, as well as the widely used Airbnb (2008) and Uber (2009). Owing to digital and mobile technologies that made access to services-on-demand much easier, a dramatic shift from access over ownership took place.

The sharing economy has matured and will see the first Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) this year. Both ride-sharing Lyft (valued at R207 billion) and ride-hailing Uber (R1.7 trillion) have applied to go public, probably in the first half of the year.

Unfortunately, 2019 may also see the first large-scale bankruptcies of the sharing economy. 

In China, bike-sharing Ofo is considering filing for bankruptcy due to immense cash-flow problems, while millions of customers are demanding a refund of their R3 046 deposits from Togo – one of the first drive-and-go car-sharing services.

The sharing economy is mainly built on mindset shifts and trust. However, sharing companies that assume mindset shifts happen fast, demand growth would be exponential, or that compromise customer trust will experience difficult times in 2019.

As demographics are changing, the sharing economy in 2019 and beyond will be driven increasingly by the emerging middle class (the majority of the population) and the ageing population in developing countries.

Sharing platforms enables people to access services they might not otherwise be able to afford. It is gradually reshaping retirement as retirees start to share homes via platforms such as Silvernest, EasyRoommate, Roomster and Roomi. 

A similar focus on the elderly is provided by the sharing platform GoGoGrandparent, which enables elderly people without smartphones to access Uber or Lyft, monitors the ride 24/7, and keeps families updated via text alerts.

According to research by Deloitte, the market for eSports – video games played as a spectator sport – will expand by 35 percent in the next year and reach revenues of R13.8 billion. 

The watching of professional video game players is extremely popular in Asia and according to experts will take the rest of the world by storm in 2019. 

Online competitive gaming has grown in popularity, mainly among the younger generation who have a tendency towards building online social communities where fans of a particular sport or game interact and converse.

As audiences become passionate about newly formed leagues and fan bases grow for successful video game series such as Fifa (sold 260 million copies of the soccer game), NBA (basketball), Fortnite (one of the most popular strategic action games) and Overwatch (team-based multiplayer first-person action game), franchise rights, advertising, broadcast agreements, cryptocurrency and big money will follow suit.

The elevation of professional game players to the level of professional athletes is a developing trend, which is likely to continue, with big money available to those who attract large audiences to this new form of entertainment.

Partly as a result of the constant changes in technology and the resultant behavioural changes of people, we are living in the age of accelerated transformation. 

Transformation is not new, but the current frequency, pace and impact are new. 

At the beginning of 2019 it is time to stop and consider the issue of how we will amplify our ability to adapt to a world of accelerated change.

Professor Louis Fourie is the deputy vice-chancellor: Knowledge & Information Technology – Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.

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