Do you ever think about what the future will look like and the role technology will play in our daily lives? The recent resurgence and cinematic success of Marvel films such as Pacific Rim and the Iron Man trilogy certainly hint at an ongoing fascination with science fiction and technology in our society. Yet if we had to name a gadget which we predict will be integral to our lives 20 years from now, wouldn't it our mobile devices? According to a Credit Suisse estimate, there could be more than a billion smartphones sold by the year 2014. Other reports suggest that the total global mobile applications market could be worth $25 billion by 2015.
The rapid growth in device shipments and high-speed mobile networks has already led to big societal changes, as traditionally physical experiences such as shopping, banking and socializing have become digital experiences as well. As we look ahead, I believe that we'll see our offline world converging with our online world more than ever before. Individuals will benefit as technology – especially our smartphones and tablets – makes everyday tasks simpler, faster and more convenient, while communities will benefit as new innovations help groups of people to deliver new experiences and value, creating what we call the human-centric intelligent society.
The main driver behind this change? The cloud. In fact, cloud technology is already causing a quiet revolution in our lives. It is liberating data and intelligently helping people to collaborate with others all over the world, through any device, empowering us to make better decisions and unlocking fresh value from data and systems.
Climate change, population growth and increasing urbanization are all factors which are currently impacting food security in Asia. In fact, the World Bank projects that the urban population will outstrip the rural population by 2028, causing an increased demand for greater amounts of higher quality food. Those not directly involved in the agricultural industry might assume that this issue is difficult for us to control, given that harvesting crops and breeding farm animals depends greatly on environmental conditions, with limited opportunity for us to control the end result. Although we will always depend on the environment and climate to some extent, significant advancements in cloud technology have ushered in a new era of enterprise-style agricultural management for farmers to improve productivity and profitability.
In Japan, Fujitsu's pioneering food and agriculture test bed Akisai Farms provides farmers with mobile devices which can monitor and collect results of day to day tasks such as planting crops. The data can then be analyzed in the cloud, allowing farmers to visualize entire processes and modify their schedule to increase profitability and improve efficiency. For instance, they may find that sowing runner bean seeds reaps the biggest harvests if done at a certain time, under certain conditions. The farm can also collect and store information relating to the daily activities of cattle including their eating habits and hormone levels. Farmers can then identify and control the best time for the cows to breed and give birth, boosting their reproductive rate. Centralizing all this data, for example, gathering all the information on a crop’s lifecycle, from planting to harvesting, allows farmers to proactively 'manage' crops like a product, and take a more holistic approach to agriculture, rather than leaving their fate to the hands of the climate alone.
Guaranteeing food security is a major issue for many Asian countries today, but probably not something which a young woman living in Hong Kong will give much thought to day to day. So how is cloud technology impacting the lives of individual consumers? To look at another example, a “beauty smartphone” was launched earlier this year, which enables users to monitor the condition of their own skin anytime, anywhere. By using the application and taking a photo of your skin with the phone, users can store the results in the cloud and compare with past photos to check how their skin has changed. The app can even measure users' stress levels, exercise habits and quality of sleep. In the next two years, we envisage that there will be one million people using this application, meaning that a significant pool of updated health data will be available in the cloud. The reliable information, based on real-time, real-world input could benefit other players such as cosmetics manufacturers and dermatologists, helping them to develop better beauty products and provide more accurate counseling services.
As we move towards a human-centric intelligent society, powered by the cloud, the key to success is to identify areas for innovation based on everyday activities in the physical world and bringing those experiences into the digital sphere. We've reached a point in time where organizations need to harness the masses of information being generated each day to add value to their products and services, and build a better social infrastructure. By integrating cloud services on a large scale it will be possible to link people, enterprises and society from end to end, enabling citizens to enjoy the benefits of the cloud without even noticing. Traditionally labor-intensive industries such as agriculture and logistics, which were often slow to adopt ICT solutions in the past, are now gradually employing cloud-based technologies to maintain their competitiveness edge. The future of business undoubtedly falls on cloud technology. By using it to significantly enhance existing business models, I firmly believe we will see transform our world into a connected, intelligent society.
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