Bonanzas and blind spots: PwC ranks emerging technologies in NZ

PwC New Zealand has identified artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the most advanced of eight emerging technologies in New Zealand

PwC New Zealand has identified artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the most advanced of eight emerging technologies in New Zealand, with some companies already banking returns, but it says there are blind sport around blockchain and virtual reality.

Its conclusions are set out in its Commercialising Innovation report and are based on analysis of NZ respondents to its 2017 Digital IQ Survey, released in May.

The eight technologies — which PwC calls “The Essential Eight” — are AI, IoT, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, robotics, 3D printing and drones. They were identified by PwC in its 2016 Tech Breakthroughs Megatrend report.

PwC says it mapped the percentage of Digital IQ respondents who are investing in each technology now against those who will be investing in three years and the disruptive potential respondents thought the technologies would have. On this basis PwC identifies three groupings: today’s focus, new priorities and blind spots.

Today’s focus is on AI and IoT. “These two technologies are already the most advanced in New Zealand and are currently dominating emerging technology investment,” PwC says. “As a result, they are also the two where our Digital IQ respondents are most aware of their disruptive potential.”

The new priorities are augmented reality, 3-D printing, drones and robotics). “These four all share similar traits. … They’re areas companies aren’t investing in currently, but they will be in the coming years,” PwC says. “What’s more, while they aren’t considered as disruptive as AI and the IoT, they’re all areas with significant disruptive potential.”

The blind spots are blockchain and virtual reality. “These were the two technologies that were consistently ranked low by our Digital IQ respondents. Few are investing in them, or planning to, and their disruptive potential was barely acknowledged by our survey participants,” PwC says.

PwC partner and innovation leader, Andy Symons, said Kiwi companies and innovators like Soul Machines were leading the way in AI. “Their avatars could be amongst the first digital employees and are designed to work on well-known AI platforms and operate with realistic facial expressions and muscles as well as the ability to detect emotion in the person they are interacting with,” he said.

"The avatars can provide the digital interface but as organisations increasingly look to use AI platforms to transform their businesses, data availability and data quality will become a central focus for them. The recipe for success will be to have reliable data that is correctly stored and accessed, and the ability to combine emerging technologies with good innovation capability that will actually result in something with a commercial value."

Soul Machines, a spinout from the University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute, in March unveiled Nadia, billed “an online virtual assistant for Australia’s disabled community who can understand thousands of questions put to her in plain English and respond with clear and simple replies.”

According to Symons the impact of emerging technologies can already be felt across financial services, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, government, automotive, transportation and logistics, and technology, communications and entertainment.

"I believe that healthcare, government and financial services will be the sectors that will have a stronger focus on artificial intelligence,” he said. “These industries have significant scale issues and they need to transform to align with customer expectations. They understand the fact that they need to take their customer service to a whole new level in a scalable, smart way.”


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