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When old industries get new tech

/ 02:00 AM March 15, 2017

Businesses that can match the speed of progress tend to do well out of the tech revolution. Here we look three very different but equally established industries that have been invigorated by the advent of new tech.

Bingoing Online – A Lot

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“Losing Bingo Cards” (CC BY 2.0) by apple_pathways

A crackly PA system, colored ranks of plastic fold-down seats and vertigo-inducing patterned carpets sun-bleached to an inch of their lives at some point during the nineties.

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That’s the game of bingo for you, at least in terms of a crass and sweeping over-generalization… Except actually it turns out bingo’s experiencing something of an online renaissance these days.

By 2014, a third of the bingo halls in the UK had closed. So it’s lucky for bingo that Wi-Fi took off the way it did – the online bingo industry is now worth $13.31bn for 2017, and the UK online bingo industry looks set to pull in over £130m of that this year with some to spare.

The internet has given bingo new and multiple leases on life – as online site, as browser game, as apps to play on tablets and phones.

If you’re ever stuck for which bingo to play, sportsbook-orientated sites such as William Hill offer a full spectrum, from scratch-card variants to interactive group games which come with their own dedicated online chatrooms. Here can be found the lively banter and call-and-response traditions of the old bingo halls, respected for a tech-savvy generation.

Banking on Blockchain

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“Creditor’s Ledger, Holmes McDougall” (CC BY 2.0) by edinburghcityofprint

The blockchain is an elegant expression of higher mathematics. It is also the keystone upon which the next generation of internet banking is being built. Best known as the operating principle behind Bitcoin and similar digital currencies, the blockchain was first floated as a notion in 2008. Today it helps keeps internet banking safe and swift and up to date.

Its peer-to-peer nature makes for a virtual ledger that updates in real time. That’s an exciting concept for folk in the banking world where, presently, accounts tend to be updated overnight.

But the advantages of blockchain don’t end with convenience. As a distributed system, there’s no central point to attack, just a network of data nodes exchanging, authenticating, and then passing along the updated information. All very busy, and each equally secure.

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Blockchain-based systems offer a safety-in-numbers approach to internet security which takes huge amounts of raw computer processing power to bypass – an off-the-cuff benefit of the new technology which is already transforming the banking industry.

Last year saw $1 billion invested in blockchain tech, and The World Economic Forum goes so far as to suggest that a mighty 10% of global GDP could be stored on blockchains within a decade.

It’s hard to get more old-school than banking, yet what was once regarded as a “disruptive” tech is now used to streamline and safeguard the whole transactional process of buying and selling in the digital age.

The Doctor Will See You Now

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“Stethoscopes and Laennec Book” (CC BY 2.0) by taberandrew

Do you remember when doctors would turn up at your door whenever you’d taken more than a few days off school, with a bag full of cold stethoscopes and bottles of banana-flavored medicine?

Well, events have moved on a bit since then, and if there’s a doctor at your door at some point in the near future, he/she/it could look more like a talking camera on wheels.

As the population grows older (and stays that way for longer), pressures on the health service increase. One good way to square this circle could be the internet – from the huge growth in wearable personal health tech like the Fitbit, to online apps for phones that can run through a range of bespoke diagnostics for those with an ongoing health condition, the opportunities offered by internet connectivity are almost endless. Throw in the immersion factor of VR (Virtual Reality) and you reach the very real possibility of human surgeons operating on their patients many miles distant; medicine by remote control.

If a surgeon’s tiniest movement can be copied electronically and mimicked by a machine, and the appropriate haptic feedback responded to in real time over an internet feed, then a doctor can attend a patient at a distance just as well as they can in the consulting room.

So runs the theory. And it’s a noble one. So let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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