Ayear ago, I wrote a column titled “How Mind-blowing Technology Innovations Will Impact our Lives”. I had just attended for the first time the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and conference in Las Vegas and my mind was indeed blown. This year, the conference was all virtual, and as is the case with many things that we do repeatedly, they may still impress us, but we have a more measured approach to describing what we learn.

Here it goes, this is what is new in the wide world of technology.

5G is arriving, creating new opportunities, but also threatening to deepen the digital divide. Ultrawide broadband is arriving in many metropolitan areas and it will change consumption, entertainment, education and business.

As more towers and cells are going up, an abundance of data will allow us to consume content at never before seen speeds and it will open the door for the “experience economy.” More about that shortly. But there is a downside. The pandemic showed us how critical it is that all students have reasonable broadband access.

5G will arrive in different modalities and it will only be select areas that enjoy the fastest versions. Rural areas are once again at risk of being left behind. It’s only fitting that some alternatives, such as Elon Musk’s Starlink with direct connection to satellites, are standing ready to close these potential gaps

Technology is moving us closer to an experience economy. Creating superior customer experiences has always been the goal of businesses small and large. Now, technology is playing an increasing part in achieving that goal.

For example, take the new all electric GM Hummer. Electric cars have amazing acceleration and GM is creating an entire “Disney like” experience around that called “Watts to Freedom.” As the driver activates the mode, the vehicle is lowered, vibrating seats and sound effects signal that it is ready, and the driver finally catapults the vehicle into maximum forward thrust. It’s clearly not an “everyday in traffic” type of utility, but a distinct feature to showcase the power and abilities of the vehicle.

Companies that remain on the sidelines may join the fate of countless retailers who simply could not keep up with the speed and efficiency of rivals such as Amazon.

Voice is quickly becoming the dominant interface. For thousands of years our brains encoded information based on visual and auditory stimuli. Only with the printing press did we shift toward “written words” as the primary interface to information.

Through features such as Siri and Alexa, we are already communicating more “naturally” with machines and through enhanced natural language capabilities and more powerful artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, voice will become the dominant mode. We will simply ask for directions, request information, give verbal instructions, etc. As the understanding of computers is growing, we may soon be engaged in a delightful conversation with a machine about the latest (audio) book or movie.

Smart everything will be all around us. Seemingly everyone has a Smart Phone, more and more people have smart TV’s, smart vacuum cleaners, smart watches, and so on. The real key to smart being amazing is that these devices learn our preferences. Technology will move into the background (the trendy term is “ambient”) and we don’t have to push buttons or give commands, because our “smart home” already knows what we want and Alexa passes the directions that we just asked for right on to our car which is automatically checking for the best route.

Our personal digital assistants will remind us of appointments and reschedule as needed, suggest and order dinner according to what they know we like, and set the mood in the home with lighting and music to match any occasion.

Our wearable devices will double up as communication, entertainment, and health monitoring tools. What we are giving up in exchange is privacy. I have written about that a few times. Most of us will likely trade-off some level of privacy and data protection for an added layer of convenience and experience.

Education could be truly revolutionized. In my role as executive in residence for digital transformation at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, I have the opportunity to work with the leaders of the university on the future of education. It was very fitting to share with them some of the latest developments.

The pandemic clearly changed the game and forced 250 million students into online learning, but that was only the beginning. Much improved online learning platforms such as Engageli are launching to create better experiences for students and teachers. The Gaming industry is discovering that their ability to create immersive experiences can apply to various fields of education. You could just “play your way” to a certificate or degree. It is called invisible learning, and larger businesses are stepping up their game as they cannot find the resources they need fast enough.

Google has created an entry level information-technology (IT) training program that quickly became the number one course on Coursera, one of the leading Online Universities. With more than 400,000 people having gone through the training, Google is now expanding into other areas.

IBM has created thousands of badges, each one indicating the achievement of a specific learning objective. Universities are going to see competition from entirely different sectors and they need to get ready.

Supply Chain innovation will impact many industries. Amazon has been the leader in revolutionizing how goods are being ordered, warehoused, and distributed. Now, others want a piece of the action, too. GM and FedEx jointly developed Brightdrop, an integrated platform that starts with smart pallets in the warehouse which are organized with the delivery to the consumer in mind.

They can be transported in modular concepts and follow the carrier down the road like a loaded mule in the days of the old West. The productivity of carriers has been proven to increase by 25 percent using this new method.

The boundaries between wholesale, retail, transportation, warehousing, robotics, and many other fields are blurring and integrated solutions are replacing the old “verticals.”

Companies that remain on the sidelines may join the fate of countless retailers who simply could not keep up with the speed and efficiency of rivals such as Amazon.

I could continue on with many more trends. The key takeaway however remains the same. The speed of technology-driven change is accelerating. It is impacting an increasing number of aspects of our lives and livelihoods and we need to prepare ourselves. We need to learn about the possibilities and carefully examine how and when we can become part of that innovation momentum.

Start the conversation in your organization by asking the question “Do we know which technologies have the power to put us out of business and how can we use them to stay in business?”