The World Economic Forum has listed what it says are the top 10 emerging technology trends to watch.
WEF is a membership organisation which comprises 1,000 of the world’s top corporations, each with more than $5 billion in annual turnover.
It was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit organisation and its annual meetings always attract big names from the world of business and politics, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, who gave a speech at WEF recently claiming robots are taking over the world.
In this particular list, WEF has highlighted what it says is a diverse range of technologies, including batteries capable of providing power to whole villages, “socially aware” artificial intelligence and new generation solar panels.
The WEF 10 technologies are:
1. Nanosensors and the Internet of Nanothings – Most people in tech probably know about the internet of things, but the internet of nanothings…? Apparently, once connected, this Internet of Nanothings could have a huge impact on the future of medicine, architecture, agriculture and drug manufacture.
2. Next Generation Batteries – A perennial problem for technology engineers everywhere. WEF says 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.
3. The Blockchain – The technology behind the online currency Bitcoin. WEF says the economic and social impact of blockchain’s potential to fundamentally change the way markets and governments work is only now emerging.
4. 2D Materials – Nothing physical can truly be two-dimensional, that’s just an abstract concept. But graphene, being a single-atom layer material, comes close. WEF says similar materials are emerging in a wide range of applications, from air and water filters to new generations of wearables and batteries.
5. Autonomous Vehicles – WEF reckons self-driving cars have the potential for saving lives, cutting pollution, boosting economies, and improving quality of life for the elderly and other segments of society has led to rapid deployment of key technology forerunners along the way to full autonomy.
6. Organs-on-chips – Apparently, 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.
7. Perovskite Solar Cells – This 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.
8. 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, from keeping track of one’s finances and health to advising on wardrobe choice.
9. Optogenetics – The use of light and colour to record the activity of neurons in the brain has been around for some time, but recent developments mean light can now be delivered deeper into brain tissue, something that could lead to better treatment for people with brain disorders.
10. 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 every year.