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The world in 2025. Do you have a 10 year plan?

Flying cars and robots doing your washing up - it’s the future we’ve been promised for some decades. So where will technology really be in 2025 and how might it affect the way we do business? In the first of a series of articles, RL360° asks “Do you have a 10 year plan?”

Flying cars and robots doing your washing up, that’s the future we’ve been promised for some decades.

2015 was the year Back to the Future’s Marty McFly went everywhere by hoverboard and the skies were filled with flying cars plus, by 2019, just four years from now, Blade Runner’s Rick Deckart was tracking down his rogue replicants (genetically engineered versions of humans).

That’s obviously all still Hollywood pie in the sky, nevertheless don’t be too quick to scoff. An internet search for predictions about how we’ll be living our lives in a decade’s time will yield thousands of results – some as seemingly ridiculous as those found on the silver screen all those years ago.

For instance, there’s DNA mapping, electric travel and mobile payment systems – which of those would’ve sounded the least bizarre 30 years ago?

Take DNA mapping, which will provide a key to a person’s individual genome. The benefits of this would be life changing and, possibly, life-saving. It will mean a person’s likelihood of developing certain illnesses will be uncovered and, in addition, doctors will be able to drill down to facts such as how an illness will behave and which medicines will, therefore, be best placed to tackle it.

For our industry, this could fundamentally change the way we work, in particular in the area of underwriting. Decisions are going to be taken on absolutes rather than likelihoods and this will obviously impact on the kind of cover a client will receive.

Electric motorbikes and cars have been around for some time now and their popularity is steadily gathering pace. In the Isle of Man, home of RL360°’s head office, the world famous TT Races now include an increasingly popular and competitive electric bike race. But the real breakthrough will come when air travel can be powered by electricity, making flying cleaner and more efficient.

July 2015 saw an electric plane cross the English Channel for the first time, bringing the reality of electric flight a step closer. By the time 2025 rolls around, the technology will have developed significantly further and, who knows, we could be seeing commercial flights on electric aircraft? The business traveller would enjoy a reduced carbon footprint as a result – as well as a much more peaceful in flight experience without the powering up of noisy engines and possibly cheaper prices.

This can only be good news as air travel is on the increase, with bigger airports and more runways in the pipeline at most major hubs. It will also have implications as national borders disappear further for those working internationally.

It’s likely that the list of countries in which we work will continue to expand. For instance, the emergence and continuing growth of the middle classes and a young, well-educated and vibrant workforce in the developing world will add some new names to that list, particularly in Africa. It’s an area on which those in the financial services industry are keeping a watchful eye.

Mobile payment systems are, without doubt, on the verge of making their presence known throughout the world. Mobile wallet services Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay are all launching this year for smartphone users and will allow them to pay by swiping their device in front of a card reader. To add weight to the argument, note that Visa is partnering with Apple and Android on their projects and Barclaycard has launched its own contactless payment device.

We are without doubt heading towards more and more digital connectivity. Indeed experts say no-touch interfaces will soon combine with an array of sensors and intelligent back-end systems to form an Internet of Things. It will mean we are constantly connected to the digital world, and the things, around us. Technology will become inextricably linked to everything we do – there’ll be no turning on and off, our daily lives will be one long connection to all of our devices, appliances, entertainment systems, educational apps and communication systems. Essentially, actual and virtual reality will merge. Whether that is by way of implanted chip technology or through an external driver remains to be seen, but there’s no question that it will happen – it’s already started, just look at the Apple Watch and Microsoft’s HoloLens, plus don’t rule out the return of Google Glass in a different guise.

Those operating in the international life industry will have to not only accept these innovations but embrace them and integrate them into the way they do business. Online applications, online policy servicing, it’s no longer a perk but a necessity. If the client is constantly connected then so should we be. Perhaps we will have to develop and use intelligent technology in order that we can provide a service to our advisers and clients as and when they require, rather than within the normal hours of work? To some extent this is already happening with online dealing and applications but it’s likely this is just the start of the journey.

Increased connectivity, however, will pose some very real questions regarding privacy. Recent high profile cases of celebrity cloud accounts being hacked and nude pictures revealed only served to highlight the tip of the iceberg. If, within a decade, we’re living our entire lives and running all of our business online, what will protect us from having our entire lives hacked and exposed?

Privacy tools and technology will have to keep pace and, no doubt, this is where the boom industry will arise.

There's more, obviously. We’ve not even covered the implications of Big Data, 3D printing and nanotechnology - we’re clearly living through exciting times.

But while keeping pace is going to be an imperative, there’s a flip side to the coin. What is going to make a company stand out in this crowded technological landscape?

We believe it’s the human touch.

RL360° has built its reputation on its technological advancements but has never, ever lost sight of the need to do business face-to-face. In this fast-paced world it is that which will give us the edge.

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