Technology and innovation are exponential functions — that is to say that advances in technology inevitably beget even faster rates of new technology and innovation. One of the best ways to illustrate this trend is to look at the advancements of cell phone technology over the past twenty years. The clunky mobile phones of the 90s quickly became the sleek flip phones of the early 2000s, which soon turned into today's pocket computers that just happen to also make phone calls.
However, there are a quite a few industries that haven't yet experienced the same kind of exponential innovation. Whether because of lagging standards or the enormous investment that is required when implementing widespread change, there are a handful of business fields that remain at a tipping point of innovation.
Let’s take a look at four industries that I believe are poised for big innovation breakthroughs in the near future.
Medicine and Health Care
When we consider the amount of regulation that controls the medical industry and the effect that these changes could ultimately have on human life, it's no wonder that the health care field has seen slower adaptation to new innovations than other fields. It's certainly difficult to effect universal innovation over such a huge system. However, there are some wonderful new strides being made in the medical space that will increase the efficiency of diagnoses and the efficacy of medical treatments.
Some examples of these innovations are sensors that possess the ability to track the moment a pill enters a patient's stomach, confirming that he or she is taking her medicine and what kind of effect the medicine is having. Further, high-tech scanners will soon have the ability to “wave” across our bodies to capture more detailed vital information instantaneously (another example in which the inventions of science fiction are becoming reality).
Eric Topol, Editor-in-Chief of Medscape, highlights the way that technology is transforming healthcare in an article for US News:
“We can image any part of the body and do a three-dimensional reconstruction, eventually leading to the capability of printing an organ. Or, we can use a miniature, handheld, high-resolution imaging device that rapidly captures critical information anywhere, such as the scene of a motor vehicle accident…”
I predict that medical technology that increases the level of information doctors can use to assess their patients' conditions will see the greatest advancements in the next decade.
Since the 1960s, the “green-movement” has grown from a simple idea into a worldwide movement pushing healthy, holistic, environmentally-sustainable practices. As more information becomes clear about the state of our changing environment, various innovators have created technology that enables businesses and individuals to lessen their environmental footprint — and it's not just about alternative sources of energy. Carbon-neutral plastic chairs, ethical smartphones, and algorithm-powered transportation systems were all featured on The Guardian's list of the top ten leading sustainability innovations.
Other technologies in development include miniaturizing (think rooftop wind turbines) or altering (think underground sun-heat storage centers) existing green technologies. Whether it's in altering current technologies or innovating new ones, the “green” industry has massive potential for growth in the coming years.
The Automotive Industry
The new-age automobile looks nothing like what Ford imagined when he created his Model T. Today, cars contain more lines of code and types of technology than America's first space shuttles did. The reinvention, or reintroduction, of the electric car has slowly started to change the way our roadways look as companies like Tesla, Nissan, and Volkswagen have found success with their electric car designs. Tesla's designs provide a sports-car feel, while Nissan and Volkswagen's models provide more affordable and accessible options.
Soon, the exterior appearance of cars won't be the only design aspect that is continuously in flux. According to a report commission by the U.S. Department of Labor,
“Presently, electronics account for about 25 percent of a vehicle’s value; that figure is expected to climb to 40 percent or more in the next five to 10 years.”
As cars continue to become further computerized, I suspect we will see a greater amount of connectivity with our smartphones and the Internet. Further, with the positive news that has surrounded Google's development of a self-driving car, the futuristic representations of interactive, automated, self-driven cars from the movies may not be as far off as some would think.
Big Data and Analytics
For businesses, big data analytics are no longer a luxury. With the use of big data, analytics that used to take years are now made actionable and applied in months. Big data is helping companies better target their customers, make manufacturing processes more efficient, and even help determine their marketing ROI. As we learn more about how to mine, distribute, and analyze data, companies will rely more on these results to make informed business decisions. As a report on big data and innovation published by the McKinsey Global Institute explains,
“Organizations need not only to put the right talent and technology in place but also structure workflows and incentives to optimize the use of big data. Access to data is critical…”
Look for increased cloud-based analytic tools, the introduction of “data lakes”, and more predictive formulas to arise as just a few of the future innovations in this field.
Forecasting the future in any sense is always difficult, so none of these fields are a “sure thing” for expansive innovation. However, I do believe that these four fields are ripe targets for disruptive technological innovation, and I look forward to seeing how they evolve in the coming years.
What fields do you foresee being most affected by innovation in the coming years? What fields are in desperate need of innovation? Let us know by tweeting @EidsonPartners!