As the world accelerates headlong into the new year, Dion Chang offers his take on what will shape our future. Here is his list of 10 things to look out for this year.
Disorder – the way of the new world order
Rules and regulations be damned. The new world order is rife with non-state combatants and rebel groups who flout the Geneva Convention when it comes to war.
A UN report states that the majority of peacekeepers are in Africa, facing militant groups like Boko Haram, who target innocent civilians, schools and churches.
Perhaps the most disturbing disorder is the Islamic State’s recruitment campaign aimed at Westerners and, alarmingly, how the Islamic State targets non-Muslims and recent converts in the West. Their campaign has proven to be highly successful.
Add to this the disruption caused by cyberhackers like Guardians of Peace, responsible for the Sony hack, and the enemy of the new world order has gone virtual.
Back home, with Parliament descending into chaos as insults and walkouts create mayhem and disarray, disorder is also right here on our doorstep. Whether the issues are political, social, economic or technological, brace yourselves for an unpredictable 2015.
The politics of food
Last year, a Russian consumer watchdog shut down four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations – a move seen by critics as a tit for tat sanctions war with the US.
In the same month, President Vladimir Putin ordered an embargo on meat, poultry, fish, dairy and produce from the US, Canada, Australia, Norway and the EU in response to those countries’ economic sanctions against his country.
Back home, members of the Congress of SA Students made a political statement by placing a pig’s head in the kosher section of Woolworths’ Sea Point branch to protest against the retailer’s trade relationship with Israel.
Food seems to be the new weapon for diplomatic protest. The saying “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” might need to be revised to “a way to push through a political view is via the drive-thru”.
Nesting later & the rise of the egg-freezing party
Firms like Facebook and Apple have made egg-freezing a standard health benefit for a young female workforce that must choose whether to have babies or further their careers.
But it’s not only big tech firms making the “nesting later” option possible. Sisters are doing it for themselves at egg-freezing parties, where women learn more about the egg-freezing process from a fertility expert.
However, delayed parenthood doesn’t work well for men. A new study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests men may have a limited reproductive timeline. A study of 2.6?million children has suggested the children of fathers 45 and older were three times more likely to have autism spectrum disorder, 13 times more likely to have ADHD and 24 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the children of fathers aged 20 to 24.
Move over Millennials, here comes Generation Z
Competing for the attention of the social-media-savvy generation, companies are relentless in their pursuit of appealing to Millennials. In 2015, they’ll have a new focus – grabbing the attention and meeting the demands of Generation Z.
For example, as members of Generation Z begin to make their own decisions about where they go outto eat, restaurants will have to start appealing to a new breed of customer in 2015 and beyond. That means upping the ante with hi-tech service and heightened experiences.
Born between 1994 and 2010, Generation Zs will also be a prime target in 2015for intern recruitments by forward-thinking companies.
Companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and VMware are already paying high school students thousands of dollars as interns. Companies are trying to close the skills gap and, in an ever-competitive market, are vying for the best talent. Grab their attention early and it may lead to the elusive Holy Grail: brand loyalty.
Wearable tech: Computational couture
2014 was wearable tech’s big debut, but 2015 sees a hi-tech fashion romance blossoming. S
tyle met wearable technology with “smart” jewellery at New York Fashion Week last year with accessories like an 18 carat gold-plated ring featuring semiprecious stones that connects to a smartphone and alerts the user to notifications. But wearable tech is moving beyond smart watches and jewellery, and into smart garments.
Amanda Parkes, product engineer at Skinteractive Studios, says: “Companies are making gadgets that are attached to your body. That’s not innovation, really.”
She’s designed a dress that uses piezoelectric material to generate electricity from the wearer’s movements. The energy is then stored and used to charge a device. The sports industry has been the frontrunner in using nanotechnology to monitor performance. This technology will move from the labs to the streets.
Doctors go digital: Healthcare 3.0
Remote-patient monitoring – a trend linked and enabled by wearable tech – is poised to revolutionise the healthcare industry. Cisco presented its offering of remote-patient monitoring at My World of Tomorrow in Joburg last year.
This is a system where a satellite clinic in a remote area run by nursing staff is able to consult with a network of doctors. A patient’s vital signs are uploaded into a cloud-based system, which the doctor accesses in real time and via webcam, allowing the doctor to speak to the patient and nurse.
By March, South Africa will be introduced to My Doctor24, a local online service that puts you in touch with a doctor who will assess the urgency of your ailment via remote consultation.
For healthcare professionals, Figure 1 is an app for discussing medical issues on a global scale, and is already proving invaluable in South Africa, connecting doctors in rural areas with city centres.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just another drone
From delivering pizzas to saving lives, the sky’s the limit for drone tech. Ambulance Drone is an all-purpose medical toolkit that can be flown to any situation to help people perform nontechnical life-saving procedures.
London-based Bizzby Sky is already creating a drone-on-demand service. A Bizzby drone can transport items that weigh up to 500g (like a set of keys if you’ve locked yourself out of your house or car). Amazon has promised drone delivery by 2016.
Last year, the SA Civil Aviation Authority clamped down on the use of drones for commercial purposes without a special licence, but the drone revolution is unstoppable.
Drones are already widely in use here for commercial filming and anti-poaching operations. Cape Town has plans to test drones to monitor land occupations, crime and natural disasters.
A Pretoria-based company is developing a drone that could spray tear gas and fire rubber bullets at protesters. The company revealed that an unnamed mining company has ordered 25 units.
Click and collect. Fetch and go
Asurvey from Which?, a company that reviews products and services, found that more than 60% of people shopping online last year had problems with delivery. Click and Collect is a convenient solution for online shopping that offers customers the option of collecting their purchases at places like shopping centres or petrol stations.
In the US, Amazon has installed Click and Collect lockers in shopping centres. Pioneering Click and Collect in South Africa, Makro finalised an agreement with Sasol last year that will provide nationwide access to Sasol’s extensive forecourt network.
Makro is also acquiring access to other sites to enable Click and Collect delivery.
Social-media laws come of age
As a result of the explosion of social-media culture, employment relations and employment law are set to get more complicated.
Social-media litigation is on the increase both internationally and locally. In a case in the UK, a man’s co-workers posted a status update on his Facebook page without his permission: “Finally came out of the closet. I am gay and proud.”
It was posted at work, during office hours. The employees responsible for the post were held to be vicariously liable for conduct that amounted to sexual harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Social media has generated new specialities in the legal profession, which include people like social law expert Emma Sadleir in South Africa, whose expertise includes all aspects of print and electronic media law. Her clients include corporations and parents whose children are threatened with expulsion from school.
eSport: Gaming’s parallel universe revealed
Virtual reality comes of age with the rise of digital athletes as eSport gains more competitors and fans. eSports are video game competitions between professional gamers – in cyberspace.
The most common video game genres associated with electronic sports are real-time strategy, hand-to-hand combat, first-person shooter and multiplayer arenas.
Gaming events like Modern Warfare and StarCraft II are organised with military precision and sponsored by billion-dollar franchises. Players amass loyal fans and sponsorships.
eSport is also a serious business. Twitch TV, which boasts 55?million unique viewers a month, was bought by Amazon last year for just less than $1?billion, and a Hollywood studio sponsors US StarCraft II tournaments.
Big sponsors for local eSports now include Telkom and MTN. South African shoutcasters – people who give live commentary – include Kyle “Congo” Wolmarans and Trevor “Qu1ksh0t” Henry, who are highly respected and have huge followings.
isorder – the way of the new world order