At the beginning of the year, we published a number of top 10 tech trends of 2016, like the ‘Tech trends 2016: embedded features transforming lifestyles and enterprise’, ‘Top 10 mobile trends for 2016’, and at the end of last year, ‘The 10 innovations that could impact our lives in 2016’. As we complete the mid-year mark for 2016, we came across the latest top 10 emerging technologies of 2016 from the World Economic Forum.
The article on its web site says a diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including batteries capable of providing power to whole villages, “socially aware” artificial intelligence and new generation solar panels could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges.
“Technology has a critical role to play in addressing each of the major challenges the world faces, yet it also poses significant economic and social risks. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is vital that we develop shared norms and protocols to ensure that technology serves humanity and contributes to a prosperous and sustainable future,” said Jeremy Jurgens, chief information and interaction officer, member of the executive committee, World Economic Forum.
The Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2016 list, compiled by the organization’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies and published in collaboration with Scientific American, highlights technological advances its members believe have the power to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet. It also provides an opportunity to debate any human, societal, economic or environmental risks and concerns that the technologies may pose prior to widespread adoption.
“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world, enabling timely expert analysis in preparation for these disruptors. The global community needs to come together and agree on common principles if our society is to reap the benefits and hedge the risks of these technologies,” said Dr Bernard Meyerson, chief innovation officer of IBM and chair of the Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.
One of the criteria used by council members during their deliberations was the likelihood that 2016 represents a tipping point in the deployment of each technology. Thus, the list includes some technologies that have been known for a number of years, but are only now reaching a level of maturity where their impact can be meaningfully felt.
The top 10 technologies to make this year’s list are:
- Nanosensors and the internet of nanothings: connected nanosensors capable of circulating in the human body or being embedded in construction materials could have a huge impact on the future of medicine, architecture, agriculture and drug manufacture.
- Next generation batteries: recent advances in energy storage using sodium, aluminium and zinc based batteries makes mini-grids feasible that can provide clean, reliable, round the clock energy sources to entire villages.
- The Blockchain: with related venture investment exceeding $1 billion in 2015 alone, the economic and social impact of blockchain’s potential to fundamentally change the way markets and governments work is only now emerging
- 2D materials: plummeting production costs of materials like graphene mean that such 2D materials are emerging in a wide range of applications, from air and water filters to new generations of wearables and batteries.
- Autonomous vehicles: despite the Tesla fatality, self-driving cars do have the potential for cutting pollution, boosting economies, and improving quality of life for the elderly and other segments of society.
- Organs-on-chips: miniature models of human organs – the size of a memory stick – could revolutionize medical research and drug discovery by allowing researchers to see biological mechanism behaviours in ways never before possible.
- Perovskite solar cells: a new photovoltaic material offers three improvements over the classic silicon solar cell: it is easier to make, can be used virtually anywhere and, to date, keeps on generating power more efficiently.
- Open AI ecosystem: shared advances in natural language processing and social awareness algorithms, coupled with an unprecedented availability of data, will soon allow smart digital assistants help with a vast range of tasks.
- Optogenetics: recent developments in the use of light and colour to record the activity of neurons in the brain mean light can now be delivered deeper into brain tissue, something that could lead to better treatment for people with brain disorders.
- Systems metabolic engineering: advances in synthetic biology, systems biology and evolutionary engineering mean that the list of building block chemicals that can be manufactured better and more cheaply by using plants rather than fossil fuels is growing.
[Image: World Economic Forum]