Heinz Mayer, what do you see as the most important technological trends?
Digitalisation and artificial intelligence already permeate our lives. These technologies are not fundamentally new. The topic of artificial intelligence has been around for decades. What is new, however, is its massive penetration into industry, business, and society. This trend will only intensify, as not using efficient, digital technologies will automatically lead to a competitive disadvantage in the international environment. However, the pressure to digitalise and employ artificial intelligence is also accompanied by the need for innovative companies such as ours to explain the usefulness of digitalisation, and artificial intelligence in particular.
Sensors, miniaturised computing technology and software are increasingly being merged into powerful and cost-efficient systems in an edge-to-cloud continuum. This interconnection of intelligent sub-systems also gives rise to a need for innovation in the field of cybersecurity.
Climate change is a threat to our very existence and the European Green Deal provides a focus for innovation in the long term. This focus is not only placed on the utilisation and storage of energy in the classical sense, but also on green photonics, energy-efficient computing and communication technology, where substantial innovation is expected. A very important role will be played by technological developments for social issues - such as medicine and care. Demand-oriented start-ups are currently stepping up to counteract the shortage of skilled workers and demographic developments with their innovations. Here, too, digitalisation will play an essential role.
Looking a little further into the future, quantum technologies could play an enormous role, ranging from parallel processing and revolutionary sensor technology to secure data communication.
You played a major role in the development of the research area "highly automated driving" in Austria. When will we see the first driverless vehicle on domestic roads?
Since the timetables for the realisation of the automation levels are in a constant state of flux, it is very difficult to make a concrete statement and is like reading a crystal ball. The fact is, however, that automated driving functions already offer significant customer-oriented added-value in terms of economy, safety, and comfort. Current efforts will result in us seeing continuous improvements in current functions and the advent of exciting new driving functions, even if full automation (motorway, country road, city) is still far away for both technological and economic reasons.
Keyword digitalisation: Which digital device is indispensable for you?
Even though my notebook is one of my essential work devices, so is my smartphone. From the original, singular function of a mobile phone, these electronic assistants have been transformed into devices with a comprehensive set of functions. A smartphone can be used to make phone calls, read and write e-mails, manage appointments and notes, conduct web research, read documents, plan mobility including navigation, provide digital signatures and perform banking. And, in the private sphere, it has a camera, a QR scanner and can even be used as a torch. This myriad of useful functions is proof that the "mobile-first" strategy of many software manufacturers was the right one.