In 10 years, over 40 percent of the Fortune 500 will no longer be around. By 2020, more than three fourths of the S&P 500 will be organizations that we have not heard of yet. Predictions like these are common these days. What if they turn out to be correct?
The Five Technology Megatrends summarized below are creating winners and losers faster than ever before. Whether you work at a small or mid-sized business or a huge multinational, the discoveries and decisions you make in response to these trends will determine not only future prospects, and quite possibly even survival in the years ahead.
1. Big Data Will Transform Healthcare, Government and a Host of Industries
Everybody knows that data is expanding exponentially, but here’s how much: Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in just the last two years alone. The only limitation is that 80 percent of that data is still “unstructured” – meaning it’s not fully digitized and therefore inaccessible. Big Data is the technology that allows more people to analyze more information from more sources in more ways than ever before.
Organizations that embrace Big Data will discover ways to make sense of the new information at their fingertips, and derive new strategic benefits: New ways to cut costs, increase sales, personalize product offerings, and enter new markets. Since 2005, IBM has invested $24 billion in their data analytics business, including $17 billion in 30 acquisitions. And they are hardly alone. Key question: what are you doing to exploit Big Data in your company? (See further questions at the end of these five trends.)
2. A Supercomputer Will Appear in Every Purse and Pocket
In just the past two years alone, the smartphone has become an essential mass-market device used by two billion people around the world. Qualcomm predicts that by 2017, seven billion smartphones will be sold. Soon, you won’t even be able to purchase a basic cellular phone. “We’re just now starting to live in the world where everybody has a supercomputer in their pocket and everybody’s connected,” Netscape inventor and tech investor Marc Andreessen told the Wall Street Journal. “For a lot of people, their smartphone will be the first computer they ever have, the first phone to connect to the internet, first way to learn online and organize politically and get accurate information and access to global markets.”
The way Andreessen is thinking about mobile technology is the way all of us should be thinking. The fact is, we’re just starting to glimpse the implications of five billion people having a supercomputer in their purse or pocket every hour of every day. To get your creative juices flowing, try this exercise: ask your kids (or grandkids) to think out into the future 10 years. Then have them speculate on what new things the smartphone will be able to do? Have pen and paper handy, and take notes!
3. The Internet of Everything Will Usher in a Major Productivity Boon
There are already more things connected to the Internet (and soon to your smartphone) than there are people in the world, according to Cisco research. This is the Internet of Everything (IOE) megatrend and it too is gaining ground at lightning speed. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt calls IOE “tying together the physical and analytical worlds,” and he’s empowering his 315,000 employees to get busy doing just that. Since GE makes everything from power plants to locomotives to hospital equipment, IOE is a definite game-changing opportunity to differentiate offerings and add unique value to customers seeking greater productivity.
Already, GE’s sensor-empowered machines kick out data about how they’re operating, where they’re in need of attention, and how they can be run more productively. GE’s analytics team crunches the data (See Trend #1, Big Data), and helps customers adjust machinery to be more efficient. By the company’s estimates, data of this sort could boost productivity in the USA alone by 1.5 percent, which over a 20 year period could save enough cash to raise average national income by as much as 30 percent!
Internet of Everything innovators are busy connecting not just machines, but buildings, factories, even cities. The Spanish city of Barcelona is already using IOE to operate more efficiently and offer its citizens new services. Through connected water management, the city already saves $US58 million a year. Connected street lighting saves $37 million. And an estimated 47,000 new jobs have been created over the past seven years. Some observers, such as Cisco CEO John Chambers, predict IOE will have a much bigger impact on the world than the first 20 years of the Internet. Question: How can the Internet of Everything Megatrend work to your advantage? Check out the questions at the end of this article for more innovation-spawning prompts.
4. 3D Printing Will Change the Game in Manufacturing
While much of 3D printing’s early days were confined to making small plastic items for giddy hobbyists, these are no longer early days. This fall, 3DP innovator Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, will print an entire car!
Practical uses of 3DP are exploding. NASA uses 3DP to rapidly prototype at lower cost. Stage set designers on Broadway are using 3DP to churn out sample sets overnight. Ships at sea are using 3D printers to make replacement parts, doing away with costly backup inventory. Just this month, a group of volunteers from around the globe have teamed up to form a charity that creates 3D-printed prosthetics for those who could never afford them otherwise. And 3DP evangelists like Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot Industries, believe 3DP will ultimately transform manufacturing. Bre cites wages in China doubling every two years, and global supply chains interrupted in recent years by natural disasters, to argue that manufacturers will soon turn to the new make-on-demand technology en masse.
“No more making and shipping and storing” is the new mantra. Not when you can customize and deliver instantly. Sales of 3D printers, materials and associated services was only $2.5 billion worldwide last year, according to market research firm Canalys. But that figure is expected to grow to $3.8 billion this year and soar to $16.2 billion by 2018.
Suggestion: Even if you’re not a manufacturer, how might 3DP become an innovation machine in your world?
5. Cloud Computing Will Disrupt and Enable Businesses
Since the dawn of the computer age, companies have purchased their own equipment and installed their own software inside on-premise data centers. But those days may be ending. Over the next six years, 90 percent of new tech spending will be on cloud-based technology, according to tech-tracker IDC. Some companies are poised to ride this wave towards new capabilities and profitable growth.
One such company is SynapDx, a 22 person startup in Lexington, Mass, that uses cloud computing to search hundreds of thousands of genetic markers, looking for patterns in 880 autistic children it is studying for a research project. A few years ago this would have been impossible. But thanks to Cloud Computing, SynapDx is able to bid on research projects that previously only large research institutes or corporations could have managed.
Lanspeed, a 15 employee IT services firm in Santa Barbara, California, recently shed its last remaining on-premises server. The firm has fully embraced Cloud Computing, which CEO Chris Chirgwin reports is paying off in improved performance, greater reliability, at lowered costs. Lanspeed is hardly alone in taking advantage of this tech-megatrend — to serve customers differently, and to serve different customers. The cloud is both a disruptor and an enabling force of change. At IBM, The Cloud had the potential to displace big parts of the company’s business of selling hardware, software, and services to data centers worldwide. The company is now embracing “Cloud DNA” with gusto with the goal of having 40 cloud-dedicated centers in 15 countries operational by the end of 2014.
Since their near-death experience in the 1990s (when the market for mainframe computers suddenly shifted and the company was caught flat-footed), IBM has done an exemplary job of embracing marketplace shifts. They sold off their PC division. Most recently they sold off their server division. At the same time, they have intensely focused on higher value work such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, and related software and services. Clearly, IBM’s shedding and embracing will become a critical core competency that all organizations will need to master in order to sustain themselves over time.
Applying the Five Megatrends to Your Organization
Awareness of these powerful forces of change is not enough. Established companies are notoriously bad at finding new ways to take advantage, partly because they are so busy managing the day-to-day business. The key is to make these trends come to life for you and your colleagues, and then use them to disrupt your company.
Use the questions below to jumpstart your session. Look for ways to unlock new business value from the five megatrends – and avoid being late in .
- Regarding Big Data: what data can we access that we’re not capturing now? Can we deliver one of our capabilities as a digital service?
- Brainstorm: What possible new uses for the smartphone might we be missing that could benefit our customers? Hint: After you’ve surveyed your kids on this question, try to come up with at least 10 additional wacky and far-fetched possibilities that your organization might pursue. Have fun.
- Ask: what do we need to shed (stop doing, sell off, close down, abandon, etc.) in light of these trends?
- Consider: What do we need to start embracing (consider, purchase, investigate and research, etc.) to capitalize upon each of the Five Megatrends?
- How do we need to position ourselves differently in our markets?
- What new capabilities or services might we start offering customers (internal and external) to ride these tidal waves of change?
- Which of the five have the most promise/potential for our organization and why?
- What startups should we consider purchasing to jumpstart our embrace of these five megatrends?
- How can we innovate to take full advantage of these driving forces of technological and social change?
The Five Technology Megatrends will create new winners and take out laggards faster than ever before. The discoveries and innovations you develop in response to these trends could change your game, but only if you seize the day.
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Robert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.