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Nick Kós, Country Managing Partner at PwC Hungary: Evidence of technological change is all around us with mobile devices, wearable technologies, knickknacks made by 3D printers and sensors for building the Internet of Things (IoT). And the pace of technological advances has been quickening. Technology is changing not only the way we communicate, but also how we buy, sell, work, pay, search, learn and play. Whoever stays out misses out. Businesses are left with no option but to keep up with those changes to stay ahead of the competition.

One of the three major trends both global and Hungarian CEOs expect will have major impact on their businesses is continuing rapid technological changes, according to PwC’s latest CEO Survey. As a new generation of customers want ever more accessible, portable, flexible and customised products and services, businesses are forced to approach IT in radically new ways. Smart business leaders are using technology not just to develop new products and services, but to create brand new business models. There are new opportunities for growth and innovation, but only for companies that are able to capitalise on these changes.

We often see people walking down the street - and occasionally bumping into things - with eyes fixed on their smartphones. Others experience separation anxiety when they do not have their phones or tablets with them, even if for a couple of hours. Our new, personalised relationship with our mobile devices creates an opportunity for companies to connect with their customers through a device that they carry with them at all times. In addition, mobile devices have the ability to track presence, location, preferences, activities and even behaviour of their owners. For advertisers, this offers a great opportunity for unprecedented marketing results and new channels of revenue by enabling them to reach an interested consumer base. But first, they must understand the significant challenges in both technology and user acceptance and how these impact their advertising strategy. The rise of a networked society has redefined not only marketing strategies, but the workplace, too, which is becoming less and less place-specific. As a result, especially young, or young-at-heart, employees often prefer to work outside conventional offices.

While hand-held devices are commonplace now, wearable technology is yet to change the global technological and cultural landscapes. These devices can be accessories, such as glasses, bracelets, rings, watches headbands, gloves or earrings. However, there are implanted devices, too, such as, for instance, micro-chips. Wearable technology is gaining the most ground in health care, wellness, fitness and beauty. Devices that monitor physical activity are popular among consumers, clinicians and, last but not least, insurers. Coupled with smart diagnostics systems, they could completely change the way healthcare is delivered.

As for manufacturing, thanks to the expansion of 3D printing, the possibility to create objects is becoming available to the general public, thus turning customers into producers. Certain kinds of 3D printers are available at affordable prices, some cost roughly the same as a computer or a mobile phone. But 3D printing is not only about being able to print our clothes, shoes and household objects in the near future. Researchers have been able to print replacement bones and are working on making a bio-printer to produce human micro-tissues for drug-testing to replace animal testing.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming everyday physical objects from refrigerators through parking spaces to televisions into a network of information accessed through the Internet. Based on the increasing number of sensors, which enable the IoT, it is expected to be a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future. The IoT can help consumers by improving their decision-making capacity. For businesses, the Internet of Business Things (IoBT) helps to achieve enhanced process optimisation based on data collected from the business environment. Sensors, which can be added to people, places, processes and products to detect and measure changes in position, temperature and light, thus turning those into data-generating “things”.

According to a recent PwC survey, companies in Asian countries are most likely to invest in sensors, while only 8% of respondents from European companies said they plan to boost their investments in this field. Innovative Hungarian start-ups could and should try to get in early, as this sector has every chance to become the “next big thing’’. In our new survey, we ask CEOs how strategically important digital technologies are for their organisations. We also want to know what factors help their businesses get the most out of investments in digital technologies.

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