The momentum behind the adoption of new technologies underway is no less than astounding.
Those enterprises that not only adopt, but learn to master, emerging technologies will be the clear winners in the years ahead as they learn their customers’ needs better, rapidly develop new and successful products and services, optimize their use of business technology, improve supply chains, increase margins and stay a few steps ahead of the competition.
Recently the World Economic Forum released its annual list of technologies it thinks are ready to “break through” this year, which generally means start witnessing wider adoption. Some of the breakthrough technologies this year include very powerful batteries, what is deemed “socially aware” artificial intelligence (AI) and improved solar panel technology.
According to a statement released by the World Economic Forum, the Top 10 2016 Emerging Technologies list, compiled by the Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies and published in collaboration with Scientific American, reveals the technological advances the group believes could improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. The list also serves as an opportunity to discuss the any human, societal, economic and environmental risks the technologies may pose prior to widespread adoption.
“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world, enabling timely expert analysis in preparation for these disruptors. The global community needs to come together and agree on common principles if our society is to reap the benefits and hedge the risks of these technologies,” said Dr. Bernard Meyerson, chief innovation officer at IBM and chair of the Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.
Some important criteria in technology selection was the council members’ belief that 2016 would prove to be a deployment tipping point of each technology. That should be of interest to CIOs and technology leaders, too. And it means it’s time for tech leaders to start figuring whether and how implementation may or may not make sense.
The top 10 technologies to make this year’s list are:
- Nanosensors and the Internet of Nanothings – With the Internet of Things expected to comprise 30 billion connected devices by 2020, one of the most exciting areas of focus today is now on nanosensors capable of circulating in the human body or being embedded in construction materials. Once connected, this Internet of Nanothings could have a huge impact on the future of medicine, architecture, agriculture and drug manufacture.
- Next Generation Batteries – One of the greatest obstacles holding renewable energy back is matching supply with demand, but recent advances in energy storage using sodium, aluminum and zinc-based batteries make mini-grids feasible that can provide clean, reliable, around-the-clock energy sources to entire villages.
- The Blockchain – Much already has been made of the distributed electronic ledger behind the online currency Bitcoin. With related venture investment exceeding $1 billion in 2015 alone, the economic and social impact of blockchain’s potential to fundamentally change the way markets and governments work is only now emerging.
- 2D Materials – Graphene may be the best-known, single-atom layer material, but it is by no means the only one. Plummeting production costs mean that such 2D materials are emerging in a wide range of applications, from air and water filters to new generations of wearables and batteries.
- Autonomous Vehicles – Self-driving cars may not yet be fully legal in most geographies, but their potential for saving lives, cutting pollution, boosting economies and improving quality of life for the elderly and other segments of society has led to rapid deployment of key technology forerunners along the way to full autonomy.
- Organs on chips – Miniature models of human organs—the size of a memory stick—could revolutionize medical research and drug discovery by allowing researchers to see biological mechanism behaviors in ways never before possible.
- Perovskite Solar Cells – This new photovoltaic material offers three improvements over the classic silicon solar cell: it is easier to make, can be used virtually anywhere and, to date, keeps on generating power more efficiently.
- Open AI Ecosystem – Shared advances in natural language processing and social awareness algorithms, coupled with an unprecedented availability of data, will soon allow smart digital assistants help with a vast range of tasks, from keeping track of one’s finances and health to advising on wardrobe choice.
- Optogenetics – The use of light and color to record the activity of neurons in the brain has been around for some time, but recent developments mean light can now be delivered deeper into brain tissue, something that could lead to better treatment for people with brain disorders.
- Systems Metabolic Engineering – Advances in synthetic biology, systems biology and evolutionary engineering mean that the list of building block chemicals that can be manufactured better and more cheaply by using plants rather than fossil fuels is growing every year.