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Emerging Technologies to watch in 2017 (a resource guide) by Chuck Brooks


Chuck Brooks

A few years back, The McKinsey Global Institute published an informative analysis that comprehensively examined the economic impact of global technology trends. The study was called, “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.”  The McKinsey predictions were highly accurate. As we move ahead into another year of  unprecedented technology advancement, it is useful to examine the trends, & technologies and applied verticals that are already shaping 2017. Below are a compilation of categories, lists. and short synopses that should be useful as heuristic tools in tracking and navigating the rapid and transformational changes in our paths:



Artificial Intelligence:  Gartner describes artificial intelligence as a “technology that appears to emulate human performance typically by learning, coming to its own conclusions, appearing to understand complex content, engaging in natural dialogs with people, enhancing human cognitive performance or replacing people on execution of non-routine tasks.“ The promise of these technologies are very exciting. Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer Dave Choplin claimed that AI is “the most important technology that anybody on the planet is working on today.” Human/computer interface breakthroughs that will extend human brain capacity and memory. There are new developments in “neuromorphic” tech, that can incorporate nano-chips into wearables modeled on the human brain. Eventually these nano-chips may be implanted into our brains artificially augmenting human thought and reasoning capabilities. Companies are already developing technology to distribute artificial intelligence software to millions of graphics and computer processors around the world. McKinsey predicts a $5 to 7 trillion potential economic impact by 2025 from automation of knowledge work by intelligent software systems that can perform knowledge work tasks from unstructured commands. We may also have artificially intelligent personal assistants, perhaps even in holographic forms in some sort of augmented reality. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have formed and are prioritizing artificial intelligent teams throughout their companies.

High Performance Computing  (Super & Quantum):  The world of computing has witnessed seismic advancements since the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s. The past few years in information processing have been especially transformational in our hyper-connected world.  What were once thought of as science fiction fantasies are now technological realties. Classical computing has become more exponentially faster and more capable and our enabling devices smaller and more adaptable.  In today’s world, computing rules almost all that we do and much of it is already stored in The Cloud.  The exponential upsurge of data and its uses directly impact the critical infrastructure of society, including health care, security, transportation, communications, and energy. We are starting to evolve beyond classical computing into a new data era called quantum computing.  It is envisioned that quantum computing will accelerate us into the future by impacting the landscape of artificial intelligence and data analytics. The quantum computing power and speed will help us solve some of the biggest and most complex challenges we face as humans.   Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that mankind will be able to “expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold” and that “the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years.

Big Data:  According to the Gartner IT Glossary, Big Data is high volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making. to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, estimated that we produce more data every other day than we did from the inception of early civilization until the year 2003 combined. Therefore, organizing, managing and analyzing data is more important than ever. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be 35 zettabytes of digital data. Big Data is comprised of the data governance of everything  including; geospatial data, 3D data, audio and video, and unstructured text, and social media.

Digital transformation:  Digital Transformation includes digitizing the customer experience, data flow, supply chain management, governance, engagement, e-government and virtual government. In its basic description, it is turning paper into electronic records. Going from paper-based to electronically based systems of documentation requires data collection, processing and analysis. Last year at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in DAVOS, it was announced the combined value of digital transformation -- for society and the industry -- could be greater than $100 trillion by 2025. That transformation includes the immersive inclusion of digital technologies and cloud-based platforms. It also includes analytics, sensors, mobility and a new era of automation impacting all industries and verticals including financial, energy, security, communications, and health.

Internet of Things:  Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the general idea of things that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable, and/or controllable via the Internet. Most everything nowadays is connected to the internet by sensors. Cisco, who terms the “Internet of Things”, “The Internet of Everything,” predicts that 50 billion devices (including our smartphones, appliances, and office equipment) will be wirelessly connected via a network of sensors to the internet by 2020. IoT is conjoined with the Internet of Everything (IoE. )  Cisco defines IoE as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. The benefit of IoE is derived from the compound impact of connecting people, process, data, and things, and the value this increased connectedness creates as “everything” comes online. Gartner lists the pillars of IoE as: People, Data, Process, and Things. Security is and will continue be a major factor in both IoT and IoE.

Analytics:  Data is everywhere flowing from the sensor networks that surround us and is the transactional roots of our activities. What , why, and how we make choices in our lives are reflected in and can be discerned through the collection, organization, and taxonomy of that data. When the extracted data is systematically combined with multi-layered analytics, it creates a forensic and predictive meaning that can be transformed into actionable insights in reporting systems.  The future of applied data analytics looms bright and the data sets of disparate information are seemingly endless. Technological R&D advances such as "machine thinking," which will allow connected devices on the "Internet of Things" to talk to and learn from each other, will contribute immensely to the use of data analytics. Open Data sharing is also catalyzing the development of new analytical capabilities.

Cybersecurity:    information assurance and resilience are the glues that will keep our world of converged sensors and algorithms operational. In the U.S., most (approximately 85 percent) of the cybersecurity critical infrastructure including defense, oil and gas, electric power grids, healthcare, utilities, communications, transportation, banking, and finance, is owned by the private sector and regulated by the public sector. There is a growing need for the following in government: 1) Better encryption, authentication and biometrics (quantum encryption, keyless authentication, etc.); 2) automated network security and adaptive self-encrypting drives to protect critical infrastructure in all categories; 3) the protection of critical infrastructure through technologies and public-private cooperation; 4) technologies for "real time" horizon scanning and monitoring of networks; 5) advanced defense for framework layers (network, payload, endpoint, firewalls and anti-virus); and 6) diagnostic and forensics analysis. 

Robotics:  Robots are no longer Jetson like technologies, they exist. They are physical machines used to automate tasks and usually directed by computer programs. They have applications for manufacturing, and construction, and for exploration of terrain, oceans and space. They are now also the subject of both policy questions and moral dilemmas. Will they take jobs away from workers? And in a future incarnation; combined with artificial intelligence, will robots pose a threat to mankind?

Materials Science: Exciting research in materials science are creating stronger, durable, lighter, and even “self-healing” materials.  Nanomaterials artificially engineered at molecular scale synthetic composites are now being designed at the inter-atomic level. The capability to design and manufacture infrastructure such as bridges, roads, buildings with stronger, adaptable, self-intelligent, and seemingly eternal materials will revolutionize the construction and transportation industries.

Virtualization and Augmented Reality:  The world is going virtual and it being supported by a myriad of new and exciting technologies including artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and exponential connectivity to both people and objects. Augmented reality intertwines the physical and digital world by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, and sometimes even smell. Google Glass and Oculus Rift, are already good examples of these emerging technologies. Virtual communications combined with virtual reality will become integrated into business applications. It can also serve as an outlet of entertainment and already is in gaming at on attractions such as “Soaring” at Disney World. The analytical firm Digi-Capital forecasts Augmented/Virtual Reality revenue forecast to hit $120 billion by 2020.

Machine Learning:  According to Gartner, Machine-learning technology combines the "information of everything" with smart machine algorithms to make an algorithmic business possible. Machine learning algorithms are composed of a set of many technologies — deep learning, neural networks, natural-language processing and other technologies — used in unsupervised as well as supervised learning ways to understand information, activities and the world. In business, an application of machine learning includes chatbots, avatars, and digital assistants.

3D Printing and 4D self-assembling printing: 3-D printing is trailblazing future manufacturing. 3-D printing connotes a three-dimensional object that is created layer by layer via computer aided design) programs. To be able to print the object, the computer divides it into flat layers that are printed one by one. By printing with advanced pliable materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and graphene there have already been breakthroughs in prosthetics for medicine and wearable sensors.

Wearables:  these include flexible electronics Wrist bands, rings, glasses, ear pods, contact lenses, attachable, wearable, and embedded. There may be upwards of 604 million users of wearable biometrics by 2019 according to Goode Intelligence. The trend of wearables is an emerging one with seemingly limitless possibilities. The question is no longer when wearable tech will be available, but how fast, these technologies will extend human /computer interface capabilities and how ingrained in our daily lives that these technologies will ultimately become.

Smart Cities:  Smart Cities integrate transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies, and security technologies and services. The term “smart city” connotes creating a public/private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. This includes shared situational awareness and enabling integrated operational actions to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from cyber incidents as well as crime, terrorism and natural disasters. In the past few years, cities have migrated from analog to digital and have become increasingly “smarter”. A smart city uses digital technologies for information and communication technologies to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. A smart city is indeed a laboratory for applied innovation. A smart city and its accompanying ecosystem can influence and impact the industrial verticals including transportation, energy, power generation, and agriculture. Frost & Sullivan estimates the combined global market potential of smart city segments (transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, energy, governance) to be $1.5 Trillion ($20B by 2050 on sensors alone according to Navigant Technology).

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