Emerging Technologies

New technologies with a big impact: ‘the Essential Eight’

The Essential Eight emerging technologies are crucial for business leaders to understand and utilize in order to stay competitive. These technologies have the potential to transform everyday operations and long-term strategies.

The Essential Eight were identified in 2016 after analyzing over 250 technologies, but since then, there have been advancements and new technologies that have become instrumental. To help businesses prioritize their efforts, the Essential Eight has been updated and organized into three categories: expand, evaluate, and experiment. 

The expand category includes technologies that have advanced quickly and offer new value propositions for businesses. The evaluate category consists of technologies that are still evolving and may require further assessment before implementation. The experiment category includes newer technologies that are not yet fully understood but have the potential to provide significant benefits.

Business leaders need to be aware of these technologies and their potential impact on their industry. By understanding the Essential Eight and prioritizing their efforts, companies can make strategic investments that will drive growth and innovation.

Emerging technologies

Artificial Intelligence

In 2023, AI reached a tipping point, with generative AI (GenAI) emerging as a powerful and user-friendly technology that is revolutionizing business models and work processes. Alongside GenAI, conventional AI, including machine learning, deep learning, and knowledge representation and reasoning, is advancing to deliver greater productivity and generate new revenue streams. AI is no longer limited to data scientists and software engineers; it is now accessible to traditional knowledge workers who can create content using simple text-based prompts. The potential of AI to provide value is continuously expanding, both as a standalone technology and as an enabler for other technologies. Responsible and scalable use of various types of AI is already solving everyday challenges across organizations. 

The bottom line is that AI is already enhancing productivity and driving efficiency. With GenAI leading the way, AI is poised to rapidly scale, enabling new business models and transforming the way work is accomplished.

The expand category
Technologies that are or should be used at scale in many enterprises

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is often referred to as the internet of (almost) everything, as it encompasses a wide range of devices and systems. From wearables and home appliances to enterprise-level devices, IoT is revolutionizing industries by making systems more intelligent and enhancing decision-making processes. And it has become an integral part of modern businesses, comparable to the importance of electricity. Its applications have the potential to drive innovation, improve operational efficiencies, ensure compliance, and create sustainable and competitive advantages.

In today's business landscape, recognizing how IoT technology can enable data-driven insights and support various use cases is crucial. By leveraging IoT, organizations can drive efficiency and transform their business processes.

The expand category
Technologies that are or should be used at scale in many enterprises

Blockchain

Blockchain is a transformative technology that offers transparent, cost-effective, and secure ways to store, monitor, and transfer information and assets. It enables new digital business models and revenue opportunities while enhancing trust and security. 

Blockchain's decentralized nature provides agility and flexibility for businesses to communicate with customers and stakeholders. It seamlessly integrates with existing systems and processes, allowing trusted interactions among external participants. The ecosystem effect allows companies to offer integrated solutions that combine the strengths of multiple participants. Blockchain is poised to become a foundational element of the global economy, revolutionizing financial transactions, data protection, digital identities, and essential business processes.

The evaluation category
Technologies that are being deployed for a growing number of use cases, but may have faded into the background in some companies. As these technologies continue to evolve, it may be wise to reevaluate their relevance within your business strategy.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a transformative technology that can transport individuals, teams, and customers into realistic digital environments. It is increasingly being used for business applications, such as enabling global collaboration and accessing data and tools. With advancements in AI, eye and facial tracking, VR is blurring the line between the digital and physical worlds. This has the potential to revolutionize employee and customer experiences, as well as daily operations. VR is already a powerful tool for upskilling and workforce collaboration, and its realistic nature will further enhance its impact in the near future.

The evaluation category
Technologies that are being deployed for a growing number of use cases, but may have faded into the background in some companies. As these technologies continue to evolve, it may be wise to reevaluate their relevance within your business strategy.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital elements onto the real world, enabling new experiences and ways to access data. Advances in computer vision, object recognition, and IoT capabilities are allowing AR to deliver even more relevant and interactive overlays tailored to an individual user's environment and needs. AR often helps solve problems and enhance processes in areas such as maintenance, design visualization, and customer engagement.

Like VR, AR is becoming integral to upskilling and workforce collaboration. Its seamless use of data and powerful real-time capabilities will likely prove an invaluable tool for businesses.

The evaluation category
Technologies that are being deployed for a growing number of use cases, but may have faded into the background in some companies. As these technologies continue to evolve, it may be wise to reevaluate their relevance within your business strategy.

Advanced Robotics

Advanced robotics combines artificial intelligence with robots to enable them to perform complex tasks and interact with the real world autonomously. These robots use deep learning and neural networks to process large amounts of data, adapt to changing environments, and make real-time decisions. Improved sensor technology helps them better understand their surroundings. By incorporating principles of human-robot collaboration, modern robots (or cobots) are designed to work alongside humans seamlessly. 

In summary, advanced robotics is revolutionizing labor-intensive processes by improving productivity, ensuring workforce safety, enhancing reliability, and enabling data-driven decision-making.

The evaluation category
Technologies that are being deployed for a growing number of use cases, but may have faded into the background in some companies. As these technologies continue to evolve, it may be wise to reevaluate their relevance within your business strategy.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize classical computing and transform various industries. This technology can perform exponentially faster and more complex operations than classical computing, making it ideal for applications like AI that require reliable results with smaller data sets. Quantum computing utilizes the principles of quantum mechanics to process information, and recent advancements in its building blocks, known as qubits, are making it increasingly relevant for businesses. The fusion of quantum and classical computing, known as hybrid quantum-classical paradigms, could dramatically increase computational power. 

In summary, quantum computing has the potential to solve previously unsolvable problems and greatly enhance the capabilities of computers and computer-based applications.

The experiment category
Newer technologies that are not yet fully understood but have the potential to provide significant benefits.

Neuromorphic Computing

Neuromorphic computing is a technology that mimics the structure and functioning of the human brain using electronic circuits. It has the potential to revolutionize various industries by enabling faster AI decision-making and greater pattern recognition. Neural interfaces, a subset of neuromorphic computing, can establish direct communication between the brain and external devices. This technology offers benefits such as improved data processing efficiency, reduced power consumption, and cost savings. Overall, neuromorphic computing holds promise for a new era of intelligent computing.

The experiment category
Newer technologies that are not yet fully understood but have the potential to provide significant benefits.

Powerful Convergence

The powerful convergence and transformation of the Essential Eight is real and accelerating. It is improving everyday processes and driving long-term transformation. The IoT is combining with AI and blockchain to create more resilient, transparent, and flexible supply chains. AI and quantum computing can work together to improve travel routes for business travelers. Virtual and augmented reality, combined with AI and the IoT, are being used to develop products and services and enable seamless collaboration between teams across geographical locations. Neuromorphic computing and advanced robotics are automating complex industrial processes. These are just a few examples of convergence in today's business world. Next, there will be further integration, aided by global standards and common approaches to improve governance, sustainability, and trust in data and transactions.

The potential usability and remarkable scalability of GenAI can help make these technologies accessible. The Essential Eight are powerful and, when responsibly deployed, can offer more people more opportunities to create value. Our future will be powered by technology but guided by people. People will be in control, helping to build trust and making data-driven decisions with high risks and high value. As they converge, this is the future that the Essential Eight can help build.

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Gerwin Naber

Gerwin Naber

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 150 75 75

Ragnar van der Valk

Ragnar van der Valk

Partner Technology, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 157 18 35

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