MYOB Futurist in residence Keran McKenzie says the world is at a convergence when it comes to technology, and anything is possible - but it's not without its risks.

McKenzie's role as a futurist is to try and predict what technology will be coming and when, as well as how it will affect businesses.

He says while most futurists look 30 to 40 years out, his focus is on what might be happening in the next 18 to 36 months.

Asked what technology will have the most impact in that time, McKenzie says it won't be just one.

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"We're at a point in time where you can't say it's AI or blockchain or robotics, we're really at a convergence. Everything has gone through exponential growth and it's all communicating easier and easier," he said.

"We're in the opportunity where anything is possible. We can replicate things, we can print things, we can solve problems, there is enough money in the world, enough knowledge and resource that we can pretty much solve any problem we want to."

"But there's also a lot of barriers and issues we need to negotiate around ethics and privacy and security."

Speaking at an event at Tech Week, McKenzie picked his top tech trends for the future.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence, or computer systems performing tasks which normally require human intelligence, is not a technology of the future but one that is already here and being used daily, says McKenzie.

"This is one of the biggest trends, it's a given, and I include machine learning and things like that in this as well. It isn't necessarily going to mean job losses, I think it's going to take away a lot of the mundane tasks and free people up to do more of the stuff they want to be doing."

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data.

According to McKenzie this will eventually reach a critical mass point where everything will be connected and communicating.

"Eventually, everything will be connected to the internet, and there's already some amazing stuff happening in this space. Companies like Pavegen, where tiles can generate electricity from your footsteps and power other things, for example."

Robotics

"Robotics is an interesting one because we often say well it's very futuristic but if you look around at the cars we all have, cars from roughly the 80s on are all robot built, so robots have been around a long time.

Robotics is just one of the tech trends that will shape our future. Photo / 123RF
Robotics is just one of the tech trends that will shape our future. Photo / 123RF

"Automation goes into this as well so physical robots and software robots, or automation are not really new but it's growing massively."

Changing reality

"Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are huge. It's a $7 billion industry at the moment, primarily in the gaming space, but it's becoming more mainstream. And we're seeing now that it can become so small you can use it in your glasses or contact lenses or safety goggles.

"There's a company called Leap Motion which does this. So you could be out in the field working and rather than having to pull out your phone you could, using your glasses or safety goggles with this technology, look up tips or videos or whatever.

"That's the changing reality of how we bring this kind of thing into the world."

3D printing

"We can print anything now, and this is really going to change the world. We can print skin onto burn victims," McKenzie says.

"There's a guy in America who printed a titanium chest plate to go back into his sternum, which he had broken, so they made a 3D chest plate. 3D stents can be made out of titanium."

A 3D printer in operation. Photo / 123RF
A 3D printer in operation. Photo / 123RF

"They're printing stuff in the space station, they can print homes in less than a few hours out of big concrete pumps basically with 3D Printing."

Medtech

"Medical science and what we're capable of doing now is amazing. We're getting a whole lot of young people using APIs (application programming and interface), and technology and computer vision, and they're coming up with better ways to treat cancer or improving IVF fertility," he says.

"There is nothing better than health being improved or helped or augmented through technology."

Food

"Here in New Zealand we have Sunfed chicken, which looks like chicken meat but it's 100 per cent pea product. So New Zealand is at the cutting edge of some of this stuff," he says.

"In San Francisco, you have Impossible Burger, who are making meat patties that look and smell and taste like real meat. You wouldn't know it wasn't beef. A lot of companies are working in this space now."

Blockchain

"It is a buzzword but there's tonnes of stuff in this space. It's super exciting but unfortunately there's a mass confusion between blockchain and cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency is the one that is driving a lot of the hype," McKenzie says.

"So if you park that the underlying technology, aka as a storage mechanism, and the speed at which you can do it and the trustability in the data and those sort of benefits, will impact economies and will impact businesses going forward. We're already seeing it in logistics and shipping and a whole range of areas."

Biometrics

"Biometrics is another bucket. A lot of technology now doesn't use passwords, it uses biometrics. Think about your Apple watch, Fitbits, iPhone and some computers, you can look at it and it will unlock, and this is going to get bigger and bigger," McKenzie says.

Biometrics is a growing field of technology. Photo / 123RF
Biometrics is a growing field of technology. Photo / 123RF

"There's a refugee camp in Jordan, for example, where they are putting passport identity for refugees on blockchain and coupling that with aid money, so when you go to the supermarket you can get the products you want and pay via retinal scan, or biometrics. There are some amazing examples using this technology."

Quantum Computing

"Quantum computing will be massive. When you suddenly have computer power in objects that is greater than all of the computing power we have right now in the entire world - where a decent password right now could take up to 100-odd years for current computers to crack, it will take milliseconds for a quantum computer to crack," he says.

"Everyone has been saying it won't be a reality for another 10 to 15 years but Google have come out and said it will be a commercial reality in less than five years."