After listening to six years of tech prediction shows – it seemed only fair to add my own predictions based on industrial and slower moving technologies. I’m attempting to follow the rules as laid out by DTNS and the observations made in past posts.
- Assume the DTNS predictions about IT and consumer level technology are true.
- A year for the forecast will be included.
- Some kind of quantitative measure must be included.
- Details for the forecast are listed here in Google Sheets.
Materials science will remain a difficult area for the lay person to understand and macroeconomic trends will continue to push investment away from this area for that very reason. Mega mergers like Dow-DuPont will reduce spending on early stage materials sciences and academic spending will be driven towards ‘vanity’ work that leads to publications, rather than commercialization.
Prediction #00. Materials science will continue to move at a slower pace than IT; but within the next five years (2021) increased integration across IT, computational power and documentation of existing materials shortcomings will lead to an acceleration in materials investing and discovery.
The main disruptive component in wearables is the smart phone. Innovation in smart phones will continue in a largely linear fashion; longer battery life, increased durability, increased performance. Prediction #01: Smart phone innovation will remain on a mostly linear path through 2021 (5 years).
Easily configurable networks for wearable components that we carry with us all day long will emerge. We see hints of this now with how different watches are bound to certain operating systems. #P02: Within 3 years we’ll see the emergence of a primary constellation type system for devices we carry with us all the time to talk with each other.
The main drivers in other ‘wearable’ technology – smart fabrics, membranes, body sensors, etc. will be cost and performance. #P03: The first major market to adopt such technologies broadly will be healthcare, and that will happen within 3 years. #P04: Within 5 years, one of those innovations will shift out to the mass market.
Energy Storage, Vehicles, Autonomous Driving and Uber
Since their introduction in 2010 to the present, about 1,000,000 electric vehicles have been sold. This is roughly 100% of all non-traditionally fueled vehicles, as the first mass market hydrogen vehicles introduced in 2015 are effectively at 0 units sold. #P05: From now in 2015 over the next five years, that number for all non-traditionally fueled vehicles will jump to a total of 10,000,000.
#P06: To get to that number of 10,000,000 total units sold will involve a combination of new technologies – including fuel cells, more expensive technologies, and their usage through vehicle sharing which will amortize their costs over more passenger miles driven. This combination will take the full five years.
#P07: An autonomous driving vehicle system will be introduced in a major global city within three years (2019) – a passenger will be able to book a ride in such a vehicle. Google’s work with Ford foreshadows this.
A major constraint in adoption of new energy systems for vehicles (be those vehicles autonomous or owned) will be the existing infrastructure, as highlighted by this recent article on BMW and Nissan using common charging methods. #P08: Countries other than the US who are not as heavily invested will attempt to leapfrog and accelerate adoption through policy and investment goals – this will be clear within three years (2019). The US’s continued favoring of petroleum based fuel systems will impact this adoption the same way that it has domestic usage of drones.
#P20: The ‘containerization‘ of individual travel – the fluidity, systems, software and hardware utilization that changed shipping, will be a dominant trend in hindsight within ten years (2026).
#P24: There will not be an Apple Car – debate about it will be gone by 2019.
Aerospace and Drones
Drones will have their ‘Marijuana Moment’ with the FAA; states will attempt to bypass existing legislation, relax rules and promote growth while the federal government follows a different set of incentives. #P09: A US state or collection of states will actively ignore, promote growth, or otherwise act out of alignment with the FAA in their goal to foster this growing industry within 4 years (2020).
#P10: Within five years, a mission will have been launched (but not yet necessarily completed) to retrieve or mine an extra-planetary object (2021).
#P11: Elon Musk will not be buried on Mars. (Year uncertain.)
#P12: Within 10 years (2026) a common, every day item which is of value to the individual will include components that must be manufactured or produced in low / zero gravity / orbit.
Agriculture and Food
The combination of activities listed above under ‘Energy Storage, Vehicles, Autonomous Driving and Uber’ will have a dramatic impact in agriculture. Fully autonomous vehicles will be deployed in force. #P13: The labor force involved in agriculture, particularly in regards to harvesting, will drop by 30% within 4 years (2020) due to the above mentioned changes.
Further, changes due to increased usage of drones, IoT and other data systems will have a huge impact in the consumption and productivity of agricultural feedstocks such as pesticides and seeds. #P14: From a materials standpoint, consumption of these items by mass will fall by at least 30% within five years in the US (2021).
The health and wellness component of our economy will continue to drive increased visibility about agriculture and food. #P15: Within four years a major global insurer will offer discounts for individuals who allow some degree of food monitoring, or who rep and warrant what it is they consume.
Maker Movement, Internet-of-Things (“IoT”) and 3D Printing
I’ve not been a big fan of 3D printing, but the more I talk with production sites around the world – I was wrong. The statement below was made in January 2013 (effectively 2012) and looked out 12 years. I think it will be wrong and may be wrong already.
My prediction is that it isn’t until 2025 that 3D printing products are in regular use in automobile lines selling over 50,000 units per year or electronic goods selling over 200,000 units per year.
However, I stand by my prediction that 3D printers will not ever achieve mass market consumption status. #P16: Even giving a 10 year window, US household adoption of 3D printers will never be more than 10% of the adoption of microwaves (2026). Part of this has to do with the Uber-ization and growth of the sharing economy – part of it has to do with the limited utility of 3D printing. 3D printing remains more time consuming and much harder to do than video editing – I don’t think that will change. #P16.1 If Best Buy exists in 3 years (2019) – it won’t have a 3D printer for sale on its shelves.
IoT will be a big deal – but it will require a ‘killer app’ to achieve its vision. If we counted the total items in a household today and then looked at how many of them had a transistor / integrated circuit (“IC”) in them, the count is really low. [Fewer than 5%?] Google bought the best available Killer App. The next one will have to be created. #P17: The next killer app for IoT will be a new device (not the garage door opener, not the front door lock, the door bell, etc.) along the lines of the Amazon Echo, and it will exist within four years.
Healthcare and Life Science
Healthcare will also have its ‘marijuana moment’ in the US – but it will be driven by high end, top 1% of wealth individuals, who have access to treatments internationally, for which they will require maintenance services or therapies which are not yet available in the US. Or, a smaller country with more liberal views on healthcare, will make widely available at lower costs a therapy which is not otherwise available in the US. #P18: This will occur within six years (2022).
#P19: In 20 years the idea that someone could have their consciousness (brain, soul, etc.) downloaded onto a device or network will seem as silly then as it is today (2026). This is the opposite of the Ray Kurzweil outlook.
#P23: Theranos will be shown to have significantly misrepresented technical results and its technical results within two years (2018). However, the complexity of the approval process and the technology will leave it difficult for the lay-person to explain exactly what went wrong.
Information Technology and Software
Many of the trends that have driven the growth in IT, software and the increased consumerization of technology are now on linear growth paths. Disruptions are unlikely. #P21: Moore’s law will continue for the next 20 years. #P22: However, despite this continued growth – the major IT players in the Fortune 500 will be the same in 2021 as they are in 2016. In 2026, that group will be 90% the same.
#P25: Apple Pay will win the payment space and this will be clear by 2019.
The major disruptions will occur where IT encounters other established industries.
Finance, Venture Capital and Start-ups
Investment themes, rather than individuals, firms or companies, will continue to drive returns in illiquid alternative investments. As an activity forecasting activity for finance, venture capital, start-ups and the universe of unicorns is closer to forecasting long term interest rates, than it is a statement about current technology themes.
#P22: Capital flows, rather than technology trends, dictate returns for early stage investors – any decrease in Unicorn valuations (or the prior increase) within three years will show strong correlation to other, well-established, more easily tracked finance information such as interest, fixed income capital flows, macroeconomic trends or FX rates. For example – a major devaluation in Unicorns will have more to do with valuations that were too high due to currency improvements of the US dollar and subsequent devaluations due to that over-valuation than it will have to do with the state of the actual technology and its commercial use.
Futurism & Other
#P23: If artificial intelligence occurs, we will only know of it at least five years after its first inception (indefinite).
Honesty and integrity will grow in importance for business. Volkswagen and other businesses that have faked emissions tests will take longer to recover than currently believed. Businesses that remove clutter and doubt about what they do and how the world really works will be more and more welcome. #P26: The Daily Fantasy Sports industry, which has come under fire for its methods, will be substantially regulated or out of existence by 2018. I also think of this as the ‘MMA-ification’ of business; prior to the 1993 UFC events there was much debate about what fighting style was best – after that event it was clear. Businesses that promote and create clarity will win.
Quantified metrics will grow in importance. #P27: Within six years, a cost method other than miles-per-gallon (“MPG”) will be the dominant window sticker method for evaluating vehicle use prior to purchase in the US.
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