Separating signal from noise in emerging technology

Published at 07:58 AM on 26 July 2016

  • PwC analysis identifies the ‘Essential Eight’ technologies that businesses should consider

With no shortage of technological breakthroughs affecting businesses today and many more on the horizon, how can business leaders develop effective emerging technology strategies?

For its new report, Tech breakthroughs megatrend, PwC evaluated more than 150 technologies globally and identified those most pertinent to individual companies and whole industries. The result is a guide to the “Essential Eight” technologies PwC believes will be the most influential on businesses worldwide in the very near future:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Blockchain
  • Drones
  • Internet of Things
  • Robots
  • Virtual reality
  • 3D printing

The specific technologies that will have the biggest impact on each industry will vary, but PwC believes these eight comprises the technologies which will have the most cross-industry and global impact over the coming years.

Sean Mahdi, digital and emerging technologies leader at PwC, commented:

“With the relentless pace of technological chance and a vast array of new innovations coming to market, it can be difficult for organisations to know where to start in selecting technologies that could reshape their future. The impact on each individual business will vary widely, but the Essential Eight are designed to give an idea of the most important advanced technologies to have on the radar. It’s time to start having conversations about technology-driven innovation right at the very top of a business.”

To arrive at the Essential Eight, PwC filtered technologies based on business impact and commercial viability over the next five to seven years (as little as three to five years in developed economies). The specific criteria included a technology’s relevance to companies and industries; global reach; technical viability, including the potential to become mainstream; market size and growth potential; and the pace of public and private investment.

What makes technological breakthroughs a megatrend?

Companies continually wait for the “next big thing,” believing that a particular technology trend either won’t amount to much, or that it won’t affect their industries for years to come. But disruption is happening today at a faster rate and higher volume than ever before. Innovations throughout history have tipped the balance in favour of the innovators. In that sense, technological breakthroughs are the original megatrend. The ubiquity of technology, with increased accessibility, reach, depth, and impact are what will expedite adoption of the Essential Eight.

Key questions and actions for business leaders

PwC believes the Essential Eight technologies will shake up companies’ business models in both beneficial and quite challenging ways. Across industries and regions, the emerging technology megatrend will influence strategy, customer engagement, operations and compliance. As a result, leadership teams should find effective answers to three fundamental questions:

  • Do we have a sustainable innovation strategy and process?
  • Have we quantified the impact of new technologies? If not, how can we do that—and how soon?
  • Do we have an emerging technologies road map? If so, are we keeping it up to date?

According to PwC’s report, executives should not treat the Essential Eight technologies as a sort of checklist to delegate to the CIO or CTO. Rather, exploring and quantifying emerging technologies—and planning for them—should be a core part of a company’s corporate strategy.

Before developing an innovation strategy and exploring and quantifying emerging technologies, executives should educate (or re-familiarise) themselves with these technologies and what they can do.

Sean Mahdi concluded:

“The recent success of Pokémon Go has shown us that augmented reality can be a complete game changer for a business with the courage to innovate. As with all of the Essential Eight, real success comes from being first to market. But this isn’t just a problem for the technologists; UK business leaders shouldn’t be waiting for others to make the first move - it’s their obligation to lead from the top to ensure that innovation is wired into corporate strategy.”

Explore PwC’s Tech Breakthroughs Megatrend site and download the new report at


Notes to editor

For more information please contact Felicity Main: 020 7213 3092 / 07841 467 421


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