Top Trends of 2014:
1. The Industrial Internet (a.k.a. the “Internet of Things”) will revolutionize infrastructure.
One of the biggest technology trends in 2014 will be one that remains essentially invisible to the vast majority of people on this planet, even though its eventual impact on humankind will be dramatic. The first applications of the “IoT” will be in such mundane business processes as the maintenance of industrial machinery and infrastructure, supply chain optimization, and security, but the technology will see its way into consumer devices as well, particularly in the “connected home” and the “smartgrid.” With the fallout from Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States, as well as the recent typhoon that hit the Philippines, and with continuing floods and droughts across the globe, individuals, cities and municipalities are taking responsibility for their own energy and resource needs and are beginning to create sustainable, “smart” cities. These leverage renewable energy, cheap storage (e.g. fuel-cells) and local manufacturing to create resilient “grids” that can continue to function during severe weather or a breakdown in national infrastructure. They will be managed, maintained and optimized using cheap sensor technology running on the industrial internet.
2. “Wellness Care” will finally put a brake on rising health-care costs.
Little noticed in the brouhaha over The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) and the botched rollout of the Healthcare.gov web-site has been the slowing of health-care costs, driven principally by incentives, penalties and regulation imposed on insurance companies and the government (via Medicare). As one example, lowering hospital re-admittance rates for the chronically sick has already had a significant impact on the increasing cost of healthcare. Other measures, such as increasing price transparency, driving down the cost of treatments, and a change in the way hospitals set prices will all have a large impact on the cost of health. However the largest and most dramatic impact on healthcare will be in preventative or “wellness” care, mandated by large employers (who are the largest single payers of healthcare costs). Over 80% of western diseases are almost entirely preventable, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. The ability to monitor numerous vital signs in real-time on personal devices, coupled with incentives and motivations to “nudge” behaviors towards greater health, will over time lead to a dramatic decrease in these diseases and the consequent cost required to treat them. Coupled with advances in genetics/epigenetics and the better identification and detection of biomarkers for disease, real-time monitoring of wellness will “nip in the bud” many diseases before they affect wellness and consume healthcare resources.
3. The rebound in aviation, driven by new short-hop jetliners, as well as fuel-efficient long-range wide-body jets such as the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.
While aviation is typically taken for granted and advances in this industry seem incremental, dramatic changes are currently being implemented in airplane manufacture, driven by new technologies in engines, materials and computer-assisted technology. A series of new short-hop jets from Bombadier, Embraer and Chinese manufacturers will revolutionize point-to-point flights between smaller towns and cities, offering comfort and convenience combined with higher fuel-efficiency. In addition, the long-term impact of Boeing’s much-delayed 787 “Dreamliner” has been hugely underestimated. As this jet gets rolled out to more airlines in 2014, its ability to fly mid- and long-haul flights at a significant fuel savings (up to 20%) will result in dramatically increased business and leisure travel. Even though the internet has reduced the need for face-to-face meetings, the need to be in the same time-zone has not changed. Consequently the demand for business travel will continue and is in fact expected to increase in rapidly developing economies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The increase in international tourism from countries such as China and India will further fuel aviation’s comeback. In addition, the transportation of goods and materials across the globe at a lower cost will be a boon to exports, particularly for seasonal and perishable items.The expansion of airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar presage the expectation that, as the global economy rebounds in 2014, so will air-travel.