What important innovation or idea is being overlooked today?

EVERYONE wants an early glimpse of the next big thing, a peek into the future. So we went to Asia to ask some leading investors, financiers, and technology executives for their take on what the global herd doesn't fully appreciate — yet.

Ahn Le Partner, fintech practice, Chinarock Capital Management Ventures

We are still early in the blockchain adoption curve. The (fintech) industry will continue to go through various iterations in which a killer application will push the limits of the existing infrastructure, and that demand will create a breakthrough at the protocol level — be it scalability, interoperability, or privacy. Startups that can improve the user experience and provide key services for developers, investors, and end users will succeed regardless of main chain outcomes. Seamless customer onboarding, user interface, security and privacy of personal data and assets — and a killer reason to use blockchain technology or crypto assets — still need to happen, whether it be in developing countries or the US.

Nana Otsuki, chief analyst, Monex Inc

As the global society gets older, we need to think about offering more creative business opportunities for elderly people. Some may think about writing novels, doing research and teaching history, or programming for apps. They could provide their services or products via the Internet, and companies could offer platforms to connect them. The target customers for these products would be also elderly people. They know what other people their age want. This elderly-to-elderly, or e-to-e, business would give the older generation not only money, but also motivation to live long and healthy lives.

Simon Loong, founder and chief executive officer, Welab Holdings Ltd

With so many devices connected to the Internet, from laptops to mobile phones to wearables, people are generating a vast amount of data. In 2015 an average person generated around 0.32 gigabytes per day. By the year 2020 it is estimated that an average person will generate 1.5 gigabytes per day.

Hence in today's world of complex information systems and connected platforms/networks, it is crucial to explore creative solutions to extract valuable insights from users' data while protecting users' data privacy as information travels through a network of systems.

Maaike Steinebach, Hong Kong and Macau general manager, Visa Inc

As the pace of innovation has accelerated, particularly in a tech hotbed such as the (Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau) greater bay area, companies can overlook the importance of an open, interoperable customer experience. This is not a groundbreaking idea, per se. But the main challenges for fintech are also consumers' challenges — namely, how can we broaden consumer choices when it comes to payment? Consumers should be able to pay with whichever payment method they choose, be it standardised contactless payments or QR code via digital wallets, at the point of sale. For that to happen, we need to foster an open-loop payment ecosystem, enabling full and consistent interoperability.

Kevin Bong, director of economics and investment strategies, GIC

In recent years, emerging markets have become major hubs for innovation and technology adoption, and hence investment opportunities. Their strengths: nascent infrastructure with room for substantial growth, highly innovative companies addressing challenges from the ground up, and greater openness to experimentation.

Over the long term, we believe that technological disruption can be even more powerful in emerging economies, as these economies have more unmet and undiscovered needs and more leapfrogging opportunities. Their companies offer products that are better, cheaper, and faster. New entrants and innovators often create entirely new categories. For example, micro banking and e-commerce have been big boons to small businesses and consumers, giving them much-needed access to financing and new marketplaces.

Cheng Li, chief technology officer, Ant Financial

We live in an era where all of the ways in which we live and work today can be made far more efficient and inclusive through digital technology. Not just seeking out far-fetched moonshots, but also focusing on the ordinary that's all around us — conventional ideas that haven't been reimagined in decades or even centuries. Take, for example, how we buy and sell, receive and pay, and how we transfer money globally. All these have hidden possibilities waiting to be revolutionised through digitalisation, to make it easier to do business anywhere, and bring equal opportunities all around the world.

Hannah Qiu, co-general manager, Ping An Oneconnect

Unstructured data currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of all data, but the centralisation and governance of unstructured data in text, voice, and video have not yet been well established. The value of applying this data still needs to be further developed. The current research and development of fundamental AI technology is relatively robust; however, the application of AI technology into finance still needs work. Due to the lack of cross-border discipline talent and the sensitivity of financial data, the fast development of innovation in AI plus finance is currently limited. The establishment of standards and risk-prevention systems also lags behind.

Piyush Gupta, chief executive officer, DBS Group Holdings Ltd

AI and data are getting a lot of investment and attention. I think the related important thing will be augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality, because when you merge AR into virtual reality, you can get into a completely different world.

It's meaningful because — can you imagine? — you can live in a whole alternate world your whole life. I don't need to be physically here. I can be sitting in my office, I project, and you can see my augmented-reality thing and I can be telling you everything you really need. I don't physically move. So the notion of hologram, the notion of avatar, the notion of virtual people going everywhere — we can make that possible.