Some futuristic technologies seem inconceivable today, but the same may have been said for a smartphone device 30 years ago. So, what are the trends that may be game-changing across different industries in the coming years? BP Magazine hears from business leaders with a firm eye on the future
When BP Ventures hosted its first innovation summit at Google in London, experts from a cross-section of industries revealed what’s on their minds when it comes to technology and the future. If you’re wondering when cars will drive themselves, if a vertical take-off rocket-type device will ever let you escape the rush-hour and what artificial intelligence might mean for data scientists, the panellists revealed their opinions on transformative trends.
‘Experts will be freed up to do more complicated things’
Oil and gas: Morag Watson, BP
“I believe artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to change absolutely every part of oil and gas operations. That’s why we’ve invested in Beyond Limits, a company that is developing advanced intelligence systems that have been used in space exploration. So, we’re really now starting to break through the surface of high-end AI and see how we might apply it.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
I consider artificial intelligence in degrees of sophistication, with cognitive intelligence at the top of the pyramid, while big data and analytics are the foundation. Big data is not new, we’ve been talking about it for decades. What’s happened is that big data has got bigger and there are more varieties of it. By itself though, data is pretty useless; it’s about having the sophisticated algorithms to give insights and, more importantly, the ability to act on those insights.
Big data is still underutilised, in my opinion, but we’re working furiously in this space, as is most of the industry. As uses of data become more prevalent across BP, there are more areas where data science is required.
I see a sharp growth in the need for data scientists in the near future and, then, as AI and cognitive computing improve, that need will decline. However, those experts will be freed up to do more complicated things.”
‘By 2030, we’ll have urban centres with 500 million people’
Investment strategy: Beijia Ma, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
“The future of mobility is my favourite topic right now. We see four separate trends:
- the increasing uptake of electric vehicles
- more autonomous driving features
- the sharing economy, presenting significant challenges for car ownership models
- the Internet of Cars. In other words, where the ecosystem for the Internet of Things spreads to cars, once vehicles are ‘connected’ to one another
These four trends converge and are mutually reinforcing. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen significant progress in each area and our future vision is that by 2030, we’re very likely to have urban centres comprising around 500 million people with some kind of shared autonomous electric transport system.
For this to happen, we’ll need:
- high population density areas to facilitate sharing
- high income areas to invest in the new infrastructure
- supportive government legislation
- consumer acceptance
This acceptance will vary significantly from region to region. As an example, research tells us that today 85-95% of average Chinese consumers would be happy to get into a fully automated vehicle. There’s a high willingness, even if not’s a current reality. But, in a German city, it’s currently around 40-45% of consumers who are willing to climb into a ‘robotaxi’.”
‘The energy transition needs big players with the skills to lead it’
Urban energy systems: Professor Nilay Shah, Imperial College London
“When we talk about transformative trends, digitization will play a big part in the transition of energy systems. Energy majors have grown up as asset owners and sellers of physical products, but looking ahead 40 years, there’s the question whether companies may be selling something else? Businesses are thinking about what they have today – that’s big balance sheets, the know-how to complete huge projects and lead transformations.
Some say there should be divestment from traditional companies, others argue the energy transition has to involve these big players as they are the only ones that really have the skills to lead it.
The energy system we’ve inherited has been built on the basis of a rough prediction of what kind of electric grid we need, how many refineries we need, what sort of logistics infrastructure is required.
We now have a very sophisticated way of understanding how the needs of humans (for everything from food to energy) will evolve over time. For example, we can look at how urban systems will evolve geospatially, meaning we can be much smarter about developing new infrastructure and re-purposing existing infrastructure. So, I’m excited by how digitization will fit with the physical world as it undergoes its transformation.”
‘Behaviour is changing and the market is fragmenting’
Automotive: Sebastian Peck, InMotion Ventures for Jaguar Land Rover
“In the automotive industry, we see the importance of technology trends together with social trends. We understand that behaviour is changing and the market is fragmenting. For example, it’s clear that people are looking for alternative options in which to get around and the car isn’t always the go-to form of transport. Car manufacturers can’t stand still, the industry is changing and we need to change with it.
It’s not a matter of ‘should we do this?’, it’s about understanding where core capabilities lie and who we might want as a future customer.
Jaguar Land Rover is not currently in the mass transit business; it produces premium cars for a highly affluent customer base. Now though, we’ve made an investment in Zeelo - a demand-response shuttle service – that allows interesting conversations in areas that we’d never engaged in previously such as with large airports, large corporates. Overall, technological and societal change makes us ask how does our business mix shape up to remain relevant?”
‘We’re thinking like Airbnb, but for empty car seats’
Mobility: Finlay Clark, Waze
“I think cars will drive themselves eventually, that’s the big change. It will take time, perhaps a decade or two realistically. And, there will be lots of alternatives before we get there.
Waze is in the business of routing people; about 100 million people globally use our app every month. But, there’s a limit because there are too many cars and not enough roads. So, what if we get people to leave their cars at home and travel with others?
We’re conscious that no-one has ever really cracked car-pooling at scale. We launched our carpool app in Tel Aviv 18 months ago and we’re branching out in the US now. We’re focusing on commuters; we’re thinking about Airbnb, but for empty car seats. I don’t think that could have been done five years ago as people weren’t used to going to another city and staying at someone else’s house, but now the mindset is different. In certain cities, there are tonnes of transport options but in others, simple car-pooling is more efficient.”
‘There’ll be short-distance, vertical take-off vehicles’
Aviation: Clive Jackson, Victor
“Today, we talk about 747s, Lear Jets, helicopters. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be talking about vertical take-off vehicles in aviation. They’ll be electric-powered, full-rotors, with a pilot at first – and later automated for short distances. Victor provides air mobility on demand, from anywhere to anywhere, on any type of aircraft. At the moment, that’s a trip across the Atlantic. The difference we’ll see is eventually that trip may be approximately two minutes and 22 seconds from one part of London to another, with a vertical take-off. Compare that to an Uber ride, in heavy rush hour traffic. That’s the future outlook for us.
We already live in an ‘on-demand society’ but another trend I see is businesses and brands predicting and answering demand before the consumer recognizes their need. Intelligent human-like services will make consumers’ lives easier and that brings us back to the significance of artificial and cognitive intelligence.”