At the recent VentureBeat MobileBeat conference on July 13, a panel of executives assembled to discuss the impact of emerging technologies on the future of commerce. Three executives from high-profile companies – Holger Luedorf, senior vice president of Business Development at Postmates; Nichele Lindstrom, director of Digital Marketing at Whole Foods Market; and Eric Moujaes, senior director of Global Digital Product at McDonald’s – chimed in and gave their insights on what they believe to be the most overhyped and promising technologies that will impact commerce in the near term.
Their perspectives fell on the spectrum of the slightly surprising (drones will not be the future delivery vehicle of choice) as well as in alignment with current ‘hot’ trends (chat bots look to be in like flynn). All three executives’ opinions shed light on the potential future of our role as consumers and on businesses as providers in a ‘brave new world’. I delve into a few of their key insights to provide additional context and use cases:
With companies like Amazon and Google forecasting the use of drones for delivery (any day now), people may be expecting these unmanned aerial vehicles to be a serious part of the future of commerce, but McDonald’s Eric Moujaes believes differently. Moujaes thinks drones have had their heyday as an up-and-coming trend in the media – at least for the foreseeable future – and that they’ll be much less in the public eye than originally thought.
Drones seem particularly cumbersome in urban environments, with tall buildings, a lot of people, and the general hustle bustle making it foreseeably difficult to pull off drone delivery effectively. That isn’t to say that drones won’t have any place in the future delivery of our online purchases, but Moujaes believes they’re more likely to be used in suburban or rural areas, where fast delivery by automobile is limited; however, this won’t equate to a ubiquitous overhaul of the delivery industry.
New drone laws released by the Federal Aviation Administration in June include limitations (for example, vision of the drone must be maintained by a human pilot at all times and no person may act as a remote pilot for more than one drone at a time), but there’s hope for those who want to use them for delivering goods (up to 55 pounds of airload allowed). One of the most interesting inclusions is the terminology that most restrictions are ‘waivable’ if an applicant can demonstrate that their operations can be conducted under terms of a ‘certificate of waiver’.
You don’t have to look too far to find views similar to Moujaes’. An article in Bloomberg News argues that droids may be more useful than drones for near-term delivery, with British startup ‘Starship’ being the first to manufacture its delivery robot in the UK and already testing bots in the U.S. In addition, the legal ramifications associated with drones, such as those related to privacy and civil rights (as echoed by Barack Obama in a 2015 Presidential Memorandum) remain an issue that could prevent extensive use of drones in the near future. Government, private parties, and the American public will have to hash out the ethical ramifications involved with this emerging technology before it becomes mainstream.
Conversational commerce – chatbots and voice-activated apps – are certainly a hot topic amongst AI startups and executives, and they may be poised to disrupt industry in a big way. Both Whole Foods’ Nichele Lindstrom and Postmates’ Holger Luedorf seem to be in agreement on this point. Chatbots Will Have a Lot More to Say (and It’s All About You)
Lindstrom stated that she might have considered bots to be overhyped even 18 months ago, but now believes they can drive real value in the market, and she thinks they’ll be especially valuable when able to autonomously operate in various contexts.