Twelve fast-developing technology trends will heavily impact businesses and society over the next 10 to 15 years, generating huge sales and profits amounting to trillions of dollars for some organizations but proving highly disruptive to those unable to tap into these opportunities, according to consulting and research firm McKinsey & Co.
In a major study, the researcher identified what it described as “12 potentially economically disruptive technologies” and offered ideas for exploiting these developments that “have the potential to affect billions of customers, hundreds of millions of workers, and trillions of dollars of economic activity across industries.”
The technologies include well-known but still unfolding innovations like the mobile internet, automation, cloud technology, advanced robotics, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles and advanced materials. Here’s the complete list with blurbs on how McKinsey described them:
- Mobile Internet – Increasingly inexpensive and capable mobile computing devices and Internet connectivity
- Automation of Knowledge Work – Intelligent software systems that can perform knowledge work tasks involving unstructured commands and subtle judgments
- Internet of Things – Networks of low-cost sensors and actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision-making, and process optimization
- Cloud Technology – Use of computer hardware and software resources delivered over a network or the Internet, often as a service
- Advanced Robotics – Increasingly capable robots with enhanced senses, dexterity, and intelligence used to automate tasks or augment humans
- Autonomous and near-Autonomous Vehicles – Vehicles that can navigate and operate with reduced or no human intervention
- Next-generation Genomics – Fast, low-cost gene sequencing, advanced big data analytics, and synthetic biology (“writing” DNA)
- Energy Storage – Devices or systems that store energy for later use, including batteries
- 3D Printing – Additive manufacturing techniques to create objects by printing layers of material based on digital models
- Advanced Materials – Materials designed to have superior characteristics (e.g., strength, weight, conductivity) or functionality
- Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery – Exploration and recovery techniques that make extraction of unconventional oil and gas economical
- Renewable energy – Generation of electricity from renewable sources with reduced harmful climate impact
Click here for a slide-show gallery of disruptive technologies.
All of these technologies are already in use or being tested. In fact, a few already demonstrate elements of the potentially disruptive impact identified by the researchers. Few people closely watching current innovative developments would be surprised at the technologies that McKinsey pointed out but the research team goes in-depth to highlight the likely impacts on businesses and even forecast the potential value in dollar amounts.
“We believe that these technologies will have large and disruptive impact. More importantly, the results of our research show that business leaders and policy makers—and society at large—will confront change on many fronts: in the way businesses organize themselves, how jobs are defined, how we use technology to interact with the world (and with each other), and, in the case of next-generation genomics, how we understand and manipulate living things,” the researchers said in the report. “There will be disruptions to established norms, and there will be broad societal changes. Nevertheless, we see considerable reason for optimism.”
The McKinsey researchers (James Manyika, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Peter Bisson and Alex Marrs) said they evaluated many technological innovations before coming up with the Top 12 list. The technologies that made the list had to meet the following four criteria:
The technology is rapidly advancing or experiencing breakthroughs
The potential scope of impact is broad
Significant economic value could be affected
Economic impact is potentially disruptive
Clearly, the 12 on the list are bound to influence businesses and society over the course of the next decade although the impacts on each country and regions will not be uniform. Their contributions to the global economy will also depend on factors such as how pervasive they become, the sectors where they are used and their combination by exploiters to further enhance deployment and impact.
The impact of each of the identified technological innovations is potentially enormous. McKinsey expects mobile internet, for instance, to contribute some $25 trillion to global commerce while the Internet of Things could contribute up to $36 trillion. These estimates may fall short or turn out to be below actual impact but they offer mouthwatering possibilities. Taking advantage of them and avoiding getting trampled upon them will most likely turn out to be huge challenges for businesses, McKinsey said.
“We see that certain emerging technologies could be used in combination, reinforcing each other and potentially driving far greater impact,” the researcher said in the report. Here are some of their observations with regard to how the identified technologies could impact society:
- Combinations of technologies could multiply impact
- Consumers could win big, particularly in the long run
- The nature of work will change, and millions of people will require new skills
- The future for innovators and entrepreneurs looks bright
- Technology impact differs between advanced and developing economies
- Benefits of technologies may not be evenly distributed
- The link between hype and potential is not clear