The SAP Future Series

Digital technology's exponential growth curve foretells avalanche of business disruption
October 7, 2015

Processor speed, data storage, bandwidth, connected devices and sensors are leaping ahead exponentially. That’s how it is with digital technologies.

Ray Kurzweil predicted progress in this century could be of equal magnitude to all progress over the last 200 centuries. The fundamental driver behind this is the relentless digitization of everything.

That’s because once something is digitized it can be copied infinitely, perfectly every time, and made immediately available to everyone. It also can be offered nearly for free, because the marginal cost of a digital asset is essentially zero. These are the forces that ignite exponential growth — and the rapid disruption of business models, industries, and practically everything.

Consider these facts:

  • In 2015 Airbnb will become the largest hotel chain in the world, launched in 2008, with more than 850,000 rooms, and without owning any hotels.
  • From 2012 to 2014, Uber consumed 65% of San Francisco’s taxi business.
  • Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics put 47% of US employment — over 60 million jobs — at high risk of being replaced in the next decade.
  • 10 million new autonomous vehicles per year may be entering US highways by 2030.
  • Today’s sensors are 1 billion times better — 1000x lighter, 1000x cheaper, 1000x the resolution — than only 40 years ago. By 2030, 100 trillion sensors could be operational world-wide.
  • DNA sequencing cost dropped precipitously — from $1 billion to $5,000 —  in 15 years. By 2020 could be $0.01.
  • In 2000 it took $5,000,000 to launch an internet start-up. Today the cost is less than $5,000.

Some examples:

1. Self-driving vehicles will dramatically change the driver and passenger experiences, increase productivity and safety, and reduce the need to own vehicles for personal use. The automobile, insurance, legal, and transportation industries will all feel the impact.

2. Bitcoin threatens to undermine the traditional roles played by banks and payment systems by providing a viable alternative to traditional currency and value transfer methods.

3. 3D printing promises to render product complexity essentially free, by bypassing the physical limits of how we make and ship things. This will fundamentally change the manufacturing and distribution industries.

4. Digital biofabrication and DNA sequencing will transform healthcare by greatly extending lifespans and making ultra-personalized medicine available to billions.

5. Organizational structure, the nature of work, and limits of human performance will be re-thought as leadership, management, and education are transformed to fit our digital age.

The SAP Futures Series will explore digital disruptions and the possible futures being shaped by technology.

related reading:
Forbes | brand voice: SAP


video collection | The SAP Future Series

video 1. | SAP Future Series: The future of the employee.

SAP | Future Series: The future of the employee. — You need to build a new team, but you don’t have the headcount to do it, so what do you do? How do you build the right team with the right skills and get them up to speed quickly? It’s a common challenge for hiring managers and how do you make data driven hiring so hiring employees doesn’t lead to you looking for a new job? You need a plan.


video 2. | SAP Future Series: The future of learning.

SAP | Future Series: The future of learning. — Making sure that everyone has the right skills at a time when the skills requirements keep changing and employees are increasingly short term is an all too common challenge for learning departments. How do you adapt learning to attract the best possible talent and retain loyal employees? How do you enable ongoing training and make it available across your network to make everyone more productive today? You need a plan.


video 3. | SAP Future Series: The future of the information economy.

SAP | Future Series: The future of the information economy. — If your processes have been refined, your supply chain has been optimized, and your products are well made and well prized but your customers aren’t returning what do you do? How do you create loyal and happy customers? How do you focus on innovation and disrupting the existing business model? You need a plan.


video 4. | SAP Future Series: The future of the networked economy.

SAP | Future Series: The future of the networked economy. — Why isn’t your business network as connected as your social network? How can your network bring you closer to your employees, and how do you fit your customers into the network? Whatever your business, you need to increase the levels of transparency, engagement, collaboration and trust. You need a plan.


video 5. | SAP Future Series: The future is arriving sooner than you think.

SAP | Future Series: The future is arriving sooner than you think. — Exponential change means technological progress in this century could be equal to all such progress over the last 200 centuries. This video is part of The SAP Futures Series, which aims to build a broader understanding of emerging ideas with potential for major impact in business and society.


video 6. SAP | Future Series: Revolution in resource management.

SAP | Future Series: Revolution in resource management. — The great companies of the future will be those who dramatically improve resource productivity. Global awareness, digital technology, and creative business designs have brought us to the tipping point for a revolution. This video is part of The SAP Futures Series, which aims to build a broader understanding of emerging ideas with potential for major impact in business and society.


video 7. SAP | Future Series: The circular economy.

SAP | Future Series: The circular economy. — The circular economy is one way our current “take-make-dispose” economy could someday be redesigned as re-generative, with tremendous opportunities for business innovation. This video is part of The SAP Futures Series, which aims to build a broader understanding of emerging ideas with potential for major impact in business and society.


related reading:
SAP | main
SAP | Digitalist
SAP | YouTube channel