A new report from McKinsey has outlined the top technology trends unfolding today that will have the biggest impact on businesses and society. Understanding and preparing for these trends will be critical to success in the coming years.
In total, 14 technology trends were identified in the report, with figures of the amount of money organizations spent on each trend in 2021. The first and most impactful trend is applied artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is enabling companies to automate tasks, make better decisions, and improve customer experiences. It’s no wonder businesses poured a record $165 billion into AI in 2021. And that’s just the start.
Roger Roberts, a co-author of the report, posited, “we see things moving from advanced analytics towards… putting machine learning to work on large-scale datasets in service of solving a persistent problem in a novel way.”
He continued, “there’s never been a better time to be leading the application of AI to exciting business problems.” In the future, we can expect to see more investment in AI as companies look to solve current issues.
Technological trends on the horizon
Another trend with big implications is the advanced connectivity of 5G and 6G networks. These super-fast networks will enable new technologies like autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and remote surgery. They’ll also provide the foundation for the Internet of Things (IoT). In 2021, a colossal $166 billion was invested in 5G and 6G networks.
Another transformational technology is bioengineering, which uses genetic modification and other techniques to change the characteristics of living organisms. This trend holds tremendous promise for improving human health, but it also — hardly surprising — raises ethical concerns. It’s no wonder investment in the sector totalled $72 billion in 2021.
The fourth major trend is clean energy, which refers to technologies that generate power with little or no pollution. This is a crucial area of development as the world looks to transition to a low-carbon economy. In 2021, $257 billion was invested in clean energy – more than any other sector.
The future of mobility is the fifth major trend, with $236 billion sunk into the sector in 2021. This trend is being driven by the rise of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and new modes of transport like flying cars.
Sustainable consumption has also captured the attention of people. This refers to the growing movement of consumers demanding products and services that are environmentally friendly and ethically sourced. In 2021, $109 billion was invested in this area.
Web3, which includes technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency, is the eighth major trend. These technologies are decentralizing power away from traditional institutions and giving individuals more control over their data. With greater interest in these technologies, $110 billion was invested in Web3 in 2021.
Industrialized machine learning is also generating a lot of buzz, with $5 billion invested in the sector. This trend involves using AI to automate tasks in manufacturing and other industries.
There are other trends identified in the report where significant investment is being made. These include immersive-reality technologies ($30 billion), cloud and edge computing ($136 billion), trust architectures and digital identity ($34 billion), future of space technologies ($12 billion), quantum technologies ($3 billion), and next-generation software development ($2 billion).
Overall, the McKinsey report provides a comprehensive overview of the technology trends that will have the biggest impact in the coming years. Businesses and individuals that can identify and adapt to these trends will be well-positioned for success.
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
NASA to deflect asteroid in key test of planetary defense
NASA will on Monday attempt a feat humanity has never before accomplished: deliberately smacking a spacecraft into an asteroid to slightly deflect its orbit, in a key test of our ability to stop cosmic objects from devastating life on Earth.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spaceship launched from California last November and is fast approaching its target, which it will strike at roughly 14,000 miles (22,500 kilometers) per hour.
To be sure, neither the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, nor the big brother it orbits, called Didymos, pose any threat as the pair loop the Sun, passing about seven million miles from Earth at nearest approach.
But NASA has deemed the experiment important to carry out before an actual need is discovered.
If all goes to plan, impact between the car-sized spacecraft, and the 530-foot (160 meters, or two Statues of Liberty) asteroid should take place at 7:14 pm Eastern Time (2314 GMT), and can be followed on a NASA livestream.
By striking Dimorphos head on, NASA hopes to push it into a smaller orbit, shaving ten minutes off the time it takes to encircle Didymos, which is currently 11 hours and 55 minutes — a change that will be detected by ground telescopes in the days that follow.
The proof-of-concept experiment will make a reality of what has before only been attempted in science fiction — notably films such as “Armageddon” and “Don’t Look Up.”
– Technically challenging –
As the craft propels itself through space, flying autonomously for the mission’s final phase, its camera system will start to beam down the very first pictures of Dimorphos.
Minutes later, a toaster-sized satellite called LICIACube, which separated from DART a couple of weeks earlier, will make a close pass of the site to capture images of the collision and the ejecta — the pulverized rock thrown off by impact.
LICIACube’s pictures will be sent back in the weeks and months that follow.
Also watching the event: an array of telescopes, both on Earth and in space — including the recently operational James Webb — which might be able to see a brightening cloud of dust.
Finally, a full picture of what the system looks like will be revealed when a European Space Agency mission four years down the line called Hera arrives to survey Dimorphos’s surface and measure its mass, which scientists can only guess at currently.
– Being prepared –
Very few of the billions of asteroids and comets in our solar system are considered potentially hazardous to our planet, and none are expected in the next hundred or so years.
But “I guarantee to you that if you wait long enough, there will be an object,” said NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen.
We know that from the geological record — for example, the six-mile wide Chicxulub asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago, plunging the world into a long winter that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs along with 75 percent of all species.
An asteroid the size of Dimorphos, by contrast, would only cause a regional impact, such as devastating a city, albeit with greater force than any nuclear bomb in history.
How much momentum DART imparts on Dimorphos will depend on whether the asteroid is solid rock, or more like a “rubbish pile” of boulders bound by mutual gravity, a property that’s not yet known.
The shape of the asteroid is also not known, but NASA engineers are confident DART’s SmartNav guidance system will hit its target.
If it misses, NASA will have another shot in two years’ time, with the spaceship containing just enough fuel for another pass.
But if it succeeds, Chabot said, the mission will mark the first step towards a world capable of defending itself from a future existential threat.
EVs at Detroit Auto Show? Consumers have questions
The emerging fleet of electric vehicles (EV) provoked fascination at the Detroit Auto Show, but many consumers were not yet ready to take the plunge to own one themselves.
Some, like Justin Tata, wanted a first-hand look at new EV offerings, saying “it’s embracing the change that’s coming because I think the internal combustion engine (ICE) is on the way out.”
But Tata, who works in the packaging industry, still has questions about EV battery disposal. He came to the Detroit show, which concludes Sunday, to survey the state of play, but doesn’t foresee buying an EV for another five to 10 years.
Among other attendees, the less-EV enthused included Tim Stokes.
“I think eventually that’s going to be the only option,” said Stokes as he admired a new gasoline-powered Ford Mustang, adding that he wants to “prolong (driving ICE vehicles) as long as possible.”
Friends in the auto industry have advised waiting three or four years for the industry to “work out the kinks” with EVs, said Stokes, who works in telecommunications.
– Mainstream options –
Long considered a niche sideshow in the auto world, the prominence of EVs at this year’s Detroit gathering underscored their new mainstream status as big automakers respond to rising concerns about climate change and government policies promoting EVs.
Chevrolet’s showcase highlighted EV versions of three of the GM brand’s top-selling products: the Silverado pickup, and the Blazer and Equinox, both SUVs. Chevy expects to begin deliveries on the vehicles in 2023.
Ford too has targeted its EV campaign towards its most popular vehicles, unveiling a battery-powered version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck and launching the Mustang Mach-E, a new SUV that has also attracted strong interest from consumers.
A 2022 Consumer Reports survey showed 14 percent of Americans saying they would “definitely” buy or lease an EV if they were searching for a vehicle, up from four percent in 2020.
While the vehicle launches have brought unprecedented attention to EVs, auto experts say that a meaningful transformation of the ICE-dominated US fleet is still years away.
Price remains a big problem, with the average price of an EV nearly $67,000, according to Cox Automotive.
Experts also cite the lack of EV charging stations as a concern. President Biden signed into law a bill to provide $7.5 billion to build more stations, as his administration announced the first tranche of funding in parallel with a presidential address at the Detroit show.
– Can the industry deliver? –
Auto insiders also point to doubts about the availability of critical materials such as lithium and cobalt needed for batteries.
These issues have come to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic, when shortages of semiconductors and other supply chain woes forced automakers to restrict vehicle production and store tens of thousands of partially-built autos.
Ford said on Monday that it expects to have some 40,000-45,000 mostly built vehicles in inventory at the end of the third quarter due to needed parts. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had delayed some vehicle deliveries due to a shortage of badges with the company’s blue oval logo.
Don Lamos, who works for auto supplier, had placed an order on a Ford Lightning, but is backing off after Ford raised the price on that version to above the $80,000 cap that would allow car buyers to qualify for a $7,500 tax credit under new US legislation.
Lamos and his wife, Janice, were drawn to the Chevy offerings, including the Equinox, which starts at $30,000.
“If they can hold that at $30,000, then awesome,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll really be able to meet production next year, so we’ll see.”
Don Lamos cited cost savings as the main impetus, while Janice Lamos described climate change as a priority. The couple are sold on EVs, but pondering how much to spend now when battery technologies will likely improve in the future.
Many of the vehicles being released are touted for being able to travel 300 miles without being recharged, but the capacity is much lower if the vehicle is towing cargo.
“You know when you need gas you can go to the corner and there’s a station. I don’t think there’s enough (charging) stations for one of these,” Carlos Rubante said when asked about the Lightning.
Consumers at the show described climate change as a worry, but were not necessarily convinced that EVs were the solution.
Besides battery disposal, another concern is the unwanted consequences of the mining boom in critical materials, such as the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo to produce cobalt, said Cristian Damboiu, who works for an auto supplier.
“When you’re considering all these things, maybe they aren’t as clean as they seem,” said Damboiu.
“I understand (EVs) have some advantages, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
IBM Canada’s Centre for Advanced Studies is weaving the perfect storm of innovation
IBM’s Marcellus Mindel on how the company’s Enterprise Design Thinking and WeaveSphere technology conference are paving the way for new possibilities.
The city council meeting starts with uneventful, routine opening remarks. Then all hell breaks loose, and the shouting begins.
“Our kids cross that street, and these crazy drivers fly up and down it like maniacs,” a mother of two young boys yells from the back, pointing around frantically at familiar faces.
“That isn’t possible with the unnecessary number of stop signs and lights already on that street,” a motorist fires back. “We don’t need a new crosswalk. It will clog things up even more.”
“You know full well you roll through those signs,” a concerned father chirps in response.
This situation is a hypothetical example that Marcellus Mindel calls a thought experiment. He’s out to prove a point about the effectiveness of traditional problem-solving techniques. Mindel, who is head of Advanced Studies at IBM Canada, says a design thinking approach can produce different, and often better outcomes.
“With a design approach, you first ask why the kids are going across the street,” he says. “Turns out, they’re going to after-school activities. And it turns out, there are already after-school activities on the same city block that would be better suited for the kids than crossing a busy street, they just don’t know about it.”
Mindel continues to iterate on possibilities and ideas in a rapid-fire manner as he runs through scenarios that might resolve the conflict in this fictional scenario. Through all of the ideation, however, he does not suggest a crosswalk is the answer.
If the after-school program is the reason the kids are crossing the road, that’s the users’ need. If they’re crossing because there isn’t a closer program, then the solution might be to instead design that.
“If a program doesn’t exist close to home, would the same money that was going to be spent on building a crosswalk be better spent creating a new afterschool program on the same block?”
There are multiple solutions to the same problem, but considering the end-user is key to an ideal problem-solving approach.
“I believe this kind of approach can get us to find other ways to solve problems rather than using hierarchy and politics to drive solutions,” he concludes.
How Enterprise Design Thinking unlocks innovation
The approach Mindel is referencing is called Enterprise Design Thinking.
Design thinking seeks to address problems by framing the issues in a human-centric way by putting the end-user at the center of all decision-making.
Enterprise Design Thinking puts the process into context in a business environment.
Originally developed by IBM in the early 2010s, Enterprise Design Thinking is a framework that seeks to take the agility and innovation found in smaller startups, and make it possible to achieve within large enterprises where multiple departments and teams of people participate in design exercises. It aims to solve users’ problems by catering to the often ambiguous nature of enterprise-level projects where dispersed teams collaborate on big projects with the focus on user outcomes.
And the results of the approach are impressive. Forrester research says that teams who take an Enterprise Design Thinking approach are 75% more efficient, and can turn out products twice as fast.
How design thinking works in practice
To provide an example of how design thinking works in the practical world, Mindel shared a story of a student at Carleton University who wanted to reduce the amount of disposable hot beverage cups that were being used at a campus coffee shop.
With a design thinking process, the first step was to empathize with the students to understand what they were doing, saying, thinking, and feeling, rather than just demand they stop using the cups.
Through the process, they learned that the students sleep in, rush to class, or they’re over-tired from studying. As a result, their to-go coffee mug is often dirty, sitting on their car floor, or at the bottom of a morning commute bag.
These students do indeed care about the environment, but user needs were simply getting in the way of the goal of reducing waste.
By looking at user needs and asking questions, Mindel says the group stumbled upon a “wow” moment and solution: What if the coffee shop put a washing station in the line so to-go mugs could be reused and cleaned on the spot, removing the barrier to why reusable mugs were not being used in the first place?
“In hindsight, it is absolutely, totally mind-blowingly obvious. And where I got excited about all this stuff, is that it helped me to rethink what innovation actually means.”
Advancing enterprise innovation
Mindel started his career as a software engineer in Ottawa, and later took on a number of roles managing relationships with academic institutions and research and development labs, before becoming head of the Canadian IBM Centre for Advanced Studies in 2015.
After joining, Mindel began learning more about Enterprise Design Thinking, and the problem-solving and innovation framework lit a fire in him as he looked to lead teams to innovate in new ways.
“What good are improved means, to unimproved ends?” Mindel asks, referencing a famous Henry David Thoreau concept. “A lot of technology research today is about improving the means without asking the question about the ends.”
Asking questions, and looking at “the ends” is what he spends every day doing as the leader of IBM’s Canadian Advanced Studies team, one of several in a global network that specialize in collaborative research. Today, Mindel leads partnerships between students, educators, and researchers who apply IBM technology to business and societal challenges.
How WeaveSphere became a design thinking epicenter
Creating innovation that matters within a large enterprise is no small task. If you find yourself scratching your head, unsure where to start, your first stop should be the Weavesphere technology conference.
Taking place November 15-17, 2022 in Toronto, WeaveSphere brings together world-class leaders and researchers from a range of disciplines who share insight, ideas, and co-create technology for the future.
The event is hosted by IBM’s Centre for Advanced Studies, and Evoke, and it invites everyone — even non-technical people — to attend. Attendees include undergraduate and graduate students, industry leaders, academics, IBMers, and anyone who wants to learn to leverage an enterprise design thinking approach.
The event is under a new name this year (it was previously called CASCON) but 2022 marks the 32nd year IBM’s Centre for Advanced Studies has hosted an industry-leading, award-winning technology conference.
Unlike other technology conferences where audiences sit passively and listen to keynotes and panel discussions, WeaveSphere attendees roll up their sleeves and jump head-first into the innovation pool. Researchers present ideas, industry leaders ask questions, students suggest new ways of approaching a challenge — whatever the scenario, it’s practical, and attendees walk away with ideas and real connections to build their future.
What makes the event so successful is how it brings to life the work that Mindel and his team do every day within Advanced Studies, while also inviting a bigger group to the innovation roundtable.
“What we are doing through Enterprise Design Thinking is creating ways to improve the ends, and the means,” Mindel says. “We seek to help people enter into a problem space when they don’t know what to do, or even what the problem really is, or how to solve it.”
He likens the approach to the story of Frodo, a character in Lord of The Rings. Frodo is a Hobbit who volunteers to lead the dangerous, long journey in order to deliver a valuable and important asset (the ring) to Mordor. Frodo doesn’t know the way there, and he is not the most obvious first choice to lead the journey, as there are many others who are braver, stronger, and more experienced than he.
In Advanced Studies, and at the WeaveSphere conference, there is an opportunity for anyone to lead and present their ideas to problems. In fact, Mindel says that when many Frodo-like people from a variety of backgrounds write their ideas on sticky notes and put them together on a wall, magic (and true innovation) happens.
That is the essence of WeaveSphere.
It’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the collaborative process of design thinking, and embark on their own journey into the unknown, to get to a faraway place, without a map.
Digital Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. We will share updates leading up to the event, and we’ll be live on location from November 15-17,2022. Join us and get your tickets at weavesphere.co
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
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