We are living in an age of massive technological change, but sometimes it is all so complicated it can be hard to work out what’s really going to change the world and what will fall by the wayside.
Researchers at Lux have looked at the key technology innovations that are going to change the world economy – and our lives over the next 10 years. Its 19 for 2019 report looks at the innovations that are facing market roadblocks and those that are more likely to succeed because they fit an unmet market need.
The top 5 transformative technologies to watch in 2019, according to Lux, are:
- Machine learning and AI: These programs can quickly generate insight from vast datasets for uses in retail, transportation, medicine, and more – 10,000+ AI patents were filed in the past year.
- Wearable electronics: Wearables are evolving beyond the smartphone to serve as connected, personalized sensors – venture capital funding over the past five years has totalled $2 billion.
- 3D printing: Long used for prototypes, this type of digitally controlled manufacturing is now being used for tooling and production parts – patent filings have soared 60% since 2014.
- Genome editing: Use of CRISPR and other tools can provide the next level of personalization and customization in farming, for consumers and patients – Intellectual Property activity has increased sevenfold from five years ago.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Enterprise uses for AR and VR are on the rise for training, quality, productivity, and more – $2 billion+ in VC funding pours in each year.
New to the list this year are battery fast-charging, graphene and 2D materials, drones, precision medicine, Perovskite solar, natural language processing, generative design, last-mile transportation and blockchain.
Battery fast-charging is one of a number of clean energy technologies on the list and will be a key enabler for the growth of the electric vehicle market, while solid state batteries will help to boost range in EVs and could move the industry beyond the lithium-ion era. Li-ion technology is reaching its physical limits to improvement and it is hoped solid state batteries will be cheaper, smaller and higher-capacity than Li-ion.
Another innovation takes a different approach to reducing the impact of travellers. Last-mile transportation is the final link in a transport infrastructure that will allow people to move seamlessly across different modes of transport and so travel without using their cars. The debate is still open as to what form this last-mile transport will take – options include bikes, mopeds and scooters, all electric.
Perovskite solar technology, which has the potential to make solar panels more efficient, has been stuck in the lab for a number of years, but Lux suggests that they will start to make a big impact in 2019, which could drive down the costs of solar power even further than the staggering reductions we have already seen.
The advent of 5G networks is also one to look out for, as it will enable networks to handle much more data, which will allow the Internet of Things to really take off and enable other technologies such as autonomous cars. However, this will also require more cybersecurity for IoT to give consumers confidence in the technology.
Drones are playing a growing role in the economy, in areas ranging from safety inspections to aerial mapping. Other applications include identifying crop diseases, subsea oil pipeline maintenance and environmental monitoring.
With cybercurrencies falling from favour in 2018, blockchain, the technology underpinning it, may start to come into its own, facilitating financial transactions, smart contracts and a range of other innovations.
In health, Lux highlights two completely contrasting technologies – microbiomes, or bacteria that can be used to replace pesticides, to improve human health and even to reduce antibiotic use in animals, and precision medicine, where drugs target specific problems and are tailored to individuals.
Graphene and 2D materials are also set to come into their own next year, enabling other new technologies such as inks for printable electronics, enhanced composites materials and better electrodes in fuels cells, lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Materials informatics will make it easier to bring advanced materials to market by using AI to accelerate the pace of innovation.
Generative design also uses AI “to mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to design” according to New Equipment Design, by considering all the possible options in designing a product, within specific parameters. Instead of designing based on your experience, you are asking the computer to come up with the best solution, creating many more options than a human designer would come up with.
Natural language processing is a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. It enables Siri, Alexa and other virtual assistants to interact with you and will make it easier for us to interact with computers in a host of different situations in future, from shopping to healthcare.
Lux also looked at which companies are the innovation leaders in these technologies, comparing both the firm’s “vision” – how many of the 19 for 2019 technologies the company is a leader in – and the firm’s “activity” – the total patent activity across all innovations over the last 10 years. It found that there are “focused winners” like Google, Siemens, Qualcomm, and Intel, which don’t have as much total activity as others but have strong vision to concentrate on the right innovations.
The “conservative giants” like Toyota, Panasonic, LG Electronics, and Huawei have high activity, but lower vision scores as they focus innovation on their core businesses. Just two companies, Samsung Electronics and IBM, are innovating in all 19 technologies, with both a large volume of activity and vision scores that reflect leadership in many areas.