In Digital Partners Network we have already written about technologies that make digital and corporate life easier, like Quantum Computing or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) but in this article, we would like to discuss trends in technology that are disrupting not only the digital or corporate landscape but all industries and the general direction of the world at large.
These tech trends may not represent the coolest or the most flashy technologies, but they’re the ones drawing the most venture capital investment, producing the most patent filings, and generating the biggest changes across all industries with a direct impact on our daily lives.
The Bioengineering Revolution
The bioengineering revolution reflects a confluence of advances in biological science combined with the accelerating development of computing, automation, and AI, which together are giving rise to a new wave of innovation. This tech trend promises a significant impact on economies and our lives and will affect industries from health and agriculture to consumer goods, energy, and materials.
An incredible example of this may be self-fertilizing crops. Fertilizer containing around 110 million tonnes of nitrogen is used in global crop production every year. This accounts for 1% to 2% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but plants like soy and beans – from the legume family that also includes peas and lentils – use a “clever way” to produce their own nitrogen – according to the Scientific American and the World Economic Forum.
These breakthroughs in biology, combined with innovations in digital technology, could help organizations respond to demands in areas not only related to food and agriculture but also healthcare, consumer products, sustainability, and energy and materials production by creating products and services. Experts suggest that some 400 use cases for bioengineering, almost all of which are scientifically feasible, could have an economic impact of $2 trillion to $4 trillion per year from 2030 to 2040.
Next-level Process Automation and Virtualization
The collective power of these technologies, in which robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and 3-D or 4-D printing (also known as additive manufacturing, or AM) combine to streamline routine tasks, improve operational efficiency, and accelerate time to market.
By 2025, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the IIoT, generating 79.4 zettabytes of data yearly. Annual installations of industrial robots, which have increased two times to about 450,000 since 2015, will grow to about 600,000 by 2022, even as 70 per cent of manufacturers will be regularly using digital twins by 2022. Across industries, about 10 per cent of today’s manufacturing processes will be replaced by AM by 2030.
For an idea of the broad implications of next-level process automation and virtualization, consider that 50 per cent of today’s work activities could be automated in the next few decades, spurring powerful changes to the future of work, labour costs, and public policy. This will occur as robots become ever more intelligent and capable.
The Future of Connectivity
This trend combines fifth-generation (5G) broadband cellular networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable faster connectivity across longer distances, with exponentially faster downloads and latency (the time it takes to retrieve data) reduced to nearly nothing. Far-greater network availability and capability will drive broad shifts in the business landscape, from the digitization of manufacturing (through wireless control of mobile tools, machines, and robots) to decentralized energy delivery and remote patient monitoring.
This technology mainly influences four sectors—mobility, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail—and could increase global GDP by $1.2 trillion to $2 trillion by 2030.
Superfast connectivity (and the internet) has broad implications for organizations. It supports the creation of new services and business models linked to sensor-enabled intelligent products, yields new value-chain offerings (for example, predictive services, and augmented-intelligence services), and creates the potential for companies to more seamlessly personalize offerings across channels and create heightened customer experiences.
Applied AI deploys AI algorithms to train machines to recognize patterns and interpret and act on those patterns—helping computers make sense of real-world data, including videos or images (using computer vision), text (through natural language programming [NLP]), and audio (using speech technology).
This tech trend promises to improve customer satisfaction through new customer interfaces and interaction methods—such as searching Amazon for products based on photos. More seamless human-machine interactions are also simplifying applications by translating speech, text, and images provided by humans into machine-readable instructions, boosting human productivity and lowering operating expenses.
By 2024, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of user touches will be augmented by AI-driven speech, written word, or computer-vision algorithms, while one billion connected cameras will collect and share visual data by 2023.
An upcoming explosion in AI applications is set to augment nearly every aspect of human–machine interaction and power the next level of automation, both for consumers and businesses. Applied AI will further disrupt research and development through generative models and next-generation simulations.
Many things have been said about cryptocurrencies in this past year, but their importance in the current and future financial landscape is undeniable. Cryptocurrency is moving from the “fringes of finance to the mainstream”, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation. An example of irrefutable evidence is how large institutions and governments are adopting these currency systems to operate at a large scale.
El Salvador in Central America became the first country to make bitcoin – the original and most popular cryptocurrency – legal tender in September 2021. Meanwhile, central banks in Sweden, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are among those considering their own digital currencies.
Not all countries, however, are embracing this development in the future of finance. Concerns about potential risk and fraud have seen countries including China, Bangladesh, Qatar, Egypt, and Morocco ban cryptocurrency.
Using vastly powerful computer systems to ‘mine’ for new crypto is also bad for the environment. But there are tech industry experts who believe that, with regulation, it will become a more sustainable legal tender in the future.
Energy solutions that drive toward net-zero emissions span the entire value chain, from generation or production to storage and distribution. These increasingly important solutions include renewable sources such as solar power and wind power, sustainable fuels such as hydrogen, long-duration battery systems, and smart grids.
Experts estimate that annual investments in energy supply and production could double by 2035, reaching approximately $1.5 trillion, and could be increasingly skewed toward nonfossil and decarbonization technologies. Overall, the shift to clean energy would trigger profound changes across both energy-producing and energy-intensive sectors. While capacity and reliability constraints could slow the uptake of clean energy, growing capital spending and more regulatory support could help accelerate adoption.
Clean-energy technologies come in many forms for use across the value chain. Noteworthy examples include the following:
- Solar photovoltaics. These panels with semiconductors convert sunlight into electricity.
- Low-wind-speed onshore and offshore generation. These turbines are designed with larger rotors, longer blades, and greater height to tap slower, higher wind.
- Hydrogen. Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that can be produced with minimal or zero-carbon emissions.
- Electrolyzers. Electrochemical energy-conversion technologies are used to convert water into “green” hydrogen with oxygen as the only byproduct (thus achieving zero carbon emissions).
- Long-duration energy storage (LDES). LDES systems can store energy for more than eight hours, or for weeks or months, to meet peak demand or cope with temporary production shortfalls.
- Smart grid. Advanced, intelligent electric-grid systems have the ability to provide real-time insights and power-distribution control.
- Electric-vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. These charging stations and distribution systems are used to power up EVs.
Extended Reality [Metaverse, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality]
Any extended reality technology immerses the user in an environment that is enhanced for a specific purpose. Although this technology trend has primarily been used for gaming thus far, it has also been used for training, as with VirtualShip, a simulation software used to train U.S. Navy, Army, and Coast Guard ship captains, as a clear example.
In 2023, we can expect these forms of technology to be further integrated into our lives. Usually working in tandem with some of the other emerging technologies we’ve mentioned in this list, AR and VR have enormous potential in training, entertainment, education, marketing, and even rehabilitation after an injury. Either could be used to train doctors to do surgery, offer museum-goers a deeper experience, enhance theme parks, or even enhance marketing, as with this Pepsi Max bus shelter.
AR and VR device sales have increased by more than 400% since 2019. The global AR and VR market is expected to grow to $209.2 billion by 2023, creating more opportunities in the trending technology, and welcoming more professionals ready for this game-changing field.