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Technology Trends in 2021 And The Convergence Tsunami

Every now and again, you get the feeling that society is on the verge of change.

There is a series of emerging and maturing technologies that, when combined with each other (CONVERGENCE) are going to provoke a Tsunami of progress.

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Society is currently undergoing a massive digital and electric transformation. This will affect how we go about our daily lives:

  • our shopping habits
  • the way we entertain ourselves
  • the way we work
  • the way we communicate
  • our eating habits
  • travel
  • healthcare

PC is King (was)

I was too young and innocent to realise the importance of the first Personal Computer (PC). But I do remember storing data on audio cassettes using the only BBC commodore in my high school. We literally had to reserve a slot to get access to the machine. BIG LOL.

The PC was king in the 1980s and revolutionised the workplace. It increased productivity significantly, thanks to word processing & processing power. TCP/IP was developed in the 70s and made its way to become the industry standard in the early 80s. Local Area Networks were also established little by little.

Information Highway

Enter Linux, Text messaging, the DVD, the Sony Play Station, …

The 90s were forged by the internet and without doubt, the Might of the US economy had something to do with it. The big push by the Clinton Administration ensured the future of the Information Highway, as Al Gore is alleged to have coined the phrase. The Global Village became a reality.

Hyper Growth

The Internet has gone from

  • Around 2.6 million users in 1990
  • to 44 million users in 1996
  • to just under 2 Billion in 2010
  • to 3.4 Billion in 2016
  • and to an estimated 4.66 Billion users in 2021 (source DataPortal)

Just South of 60% of the World Population as of 2021 within 30 years.

That is serious growth.

1990s

Significant progress in parallel was made in seemingly different technologies: video, audio & image to converge into Multimedia.

The advent of the Internet accelerated their convergence and further development.

A small company going by the name of Google is founded at the end of the 90s.

2000s

The 2000s saw the DotCom bubble burst. Internet speeds increased, the USB flash drive, Bluetooth, iPods, High resolution Digital Cameras and smartphones became widely used. Wifi went through mass adoption.

Although IBM came out with the Simon Personal Communicator mobile touch screen cellular device in 1992 (rolled out in 1994), it did not catch on in a big way.

It wasn’t until the 2000s for the Touch-screen revolution to take hold of the mainstream: The LG Prada hit the market in 2006, but wasn’t a big success.

Apple hit the market in 2007 with its first iPhone and made waves. The race was on to fight for market share in this exponential growth market. It allowed your average Joe and Joanna to start managing life on a day-to-day basis using a smartphone with access to an increasing number of efficient applications, with an internet connexion.

2010s

The 2010s saw the massive rise in Social Media, Cloud computing, Artificial intelligence, wireless ear-plugs and headphones, the Exoskeleton & Oculus Rift (Virtual Reality). 3D-Printing hit the Retail Industry although it had been used in the Manufacturing industry since the 80s. Enter the Electric Vehicle and of course SpaceX.

What will the 2020s bring in terms of major evolutions in technology?

Certainly, the C-word brought disrupted our daily lives in a number of domains:

  • E-Commerce for the Retail Industry
  • Video Consultation for Doctors, Therapists and Medical Experts
  • Home Entertainment
  • Food Home Deliveries
  • The way we work (see Zoom, Skype, MS-Teams, HouseParty, Jamm…)
  • The need for faster broadband, organisational tools in the workplace (or rather out of)
  • Where we live, as seen by the phenomenon of migration of families from Cities to Outer Suburbs or even further afield.

Change Is Inevitable

But the change that is about to hit society with the next few years was already on the horizon for those who bothered to look. Such change did not need a global pandemic, although circumstances are accelerating change.

In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital”

Warren G.Bennis

Change tends to creep up on us slowly….and then all of sudden, it hits us on the nose.

Digital Transformation has already taken hold of many parts of society and the trend will only continue. All industries will be disrupted. Those who resist are doomed to extinction.

Unexpected Black Swans (don’t mention the C-word) can also contribute to an acceleration within a trend.

Nascent and Maturing

At a particular moment in time, a technology can be

  • Nascent or at the embryonic stage, undergoing experiments in Labs out of sight
  • On the verge of being discovered by a Business Angle or a Venture Capitalist
  • Appreciated for its game-changing benefits. It is already being adopted slowly by a particular industry, but not necessarily in the public eye
  • Going through mass adoption by industry (away from retail). Hedge Funds, Venture Capitalists, Private Investors are ploughing their money into the tech. They intend being the first out of the gates and amongst those who will benefit greatest
  • About to take the General Public by storm with useful applications for the retail sector

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Consider the following

AI – Artificial Intelligence

AI has wide variety of applications. Agriculture is a labour-intensive activity. AI can be used as a decision-making tool. Which crop could be the more profitable for the coming growing cycle? AI can assist the farmer in determining the health of the soil (are there missing nutrients?), spotting disease and recommending the best course of action. It can predict the best day and time for the harvest based on climatic factors.

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3D-Printing or Additive Manufacturing

3D-Printing has been around since the 80s. It has been widely adopted in the manufacturing industry. It is possible to limit the number of individual components in a device or object and greatly reduces the time of assembly. The technology facilitates the production of highly intricate, complex objects out of different materials. Resin, metals, composite materials and even foodstuffs are involved.

Product Life Cycle

It has revolutionised the Product Life Cycle. Specialised CAD software enables designers to produce complex 3D representations of a complex object. Rapid Prototyping can reduce the time from Design to Production. No sooner the design finished, the physcial object can be 3D-printed. Following tests, the design can be adjusted, improved, enhanced and a new prototype rapidly printed in 3D. Rinse and Repeat.

More complex scenarios allow 3D-printing of composite materials that even integrate electronic circuitry.

You may recall the massive buzz on TV back in 2014 when 3D-Printing became available for the Retail Industry.


5G

This is the convergence of Wi-Fi, RFID and Broadband Cellular technologies. Most Western countries have experienced difficulties developing and adopting 5G technology. They are late to the party.

It is clear that China has a huge edge on 5G technology. They have pushed their advantage – and rightly so – rolling out 5G-solutions before many Western companies had even got out of the R&D phase.

It begs the question:

What have the many Western Hi-Tech companies been up to (or not been up to) over the last 5-10 years?

They are scrambling around, currently playing catch-up in 5G.

Meanwhile China had already deployed the 5G throughout their country and has been busy developing the next generation 6G.


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Genome

You may recall the Human Genome Project initiated in the 90s. It made the headlines and it took $1 Billion and about 13 years for scientists to complete the sequencing of the human genome.

In 2015, the price to have your genome sequenced was around $4000. Today for as little as $600, it is possible to have your genome sequenced.

Mind-blowing!

Genome Biotech companies have positioned themselves in three main categories:

  • Sequencing
  • Testing
  • Editing

Pimp My Genes

Thanks to faster computer processing times and artificial intelligence, the time taken to SEQUENCE a person’s DNA has been reduced to between 1 and 2 days.

It is possible to carry out complex TESTING of DNA, come up with a diagnosis. The technology helps the researcher determine whether a particular gene displays anomalies.

For certain diseases, it has also become possible to EDIT or modify the gene. If the anomaly cannot be removed altogether, the patient may hope to have at least improved quality of life.

Check out this link to see what certain editing companies are up to.


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Renewable & Alternative Energy

Renewable & Alternative Energy are currently receiving huge support by the Biden Administration, in their bid to fulfil campaign promises. Check out the chart in the link, showing the evolution of the different Energy sources.

Renewable Energies include

  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Tidal
  • Wave
  • Geothermal

Although they are slowly making inroads, you suddenly realise that no ONE renewable energy can be relied upon.

The Base Load power of the electricity generated could not be assured in the event that one renewable energy goes off-line. For example, at night-time, Solar panels could no longer generate electricity. If there was little or no wind, again this would cause a sudden reduction in the power.

Sudden variations in consumption by companies and residences may cause power cuts and outages.

Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy such as Hydrogen has gained in interest. Hyundai, Nikola and GM manufacture Big Trucks that run on Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The French Start-Up PRAGMA Industries has developed Hydrogen-powered bicycles, although the price is currently exorbitant. The major advantage is the extremely short time to recharge the battery: a question of minutes for the bicycle.

Huge Hydrogen Fuel Cell packs are also manufactured by the company Plug Power. They can be used as a back-up source of energy for a plant and also for automotive applications.

One major disadvantage of Hydrogen at the moment is the lack of infrastructure for Refilling Stations in a given country, a pre-requisite for mass adoption.

Biomass: Is it really Renewable?

Biomass is a strange and interesting source of energy. In some instances, it can involve the cutting down of trees and the reduction of the trees into wood chippings. This uses combustion. Some Biomass plants have been known to use fossil-based chippings for the combustion process, when wood chippings are unavailable. Is this sustainable? Is it possible to plant trees faster and grow them faster than we can destroy the current population of trees?

Maybe I’m missing something, but burning trees emits CO2, as with fossil-based chippings. How can this be classed as a Renewable Energy? Help someone!

It is likely to be a number of years before Renewable & Alternative Energy sources make the significant contribution to the overall Energy Generation. Let us not forget that the transition period to Green Energy will require huge amounts of Energy to manufacture that Green Technology. Where is this energy and power likely to come from? I have a few ideas…


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Electric Vehicles (E.V.)

No doubt helped on by the visionary and star of the Electric Vehicles world, Tesla leader Elon Musk, announced the company had reached their goal of 500. 000 units sold in recent months.

However, the clear leaders in this field are the Chinese EV companies who have a head start in the technology and are ideally placed to serve the huge Chinese population. EVs will solve part of their pollution problems. They have high ambitions that by 2030, EV car sales must make up at least 40% of all sales.

Limited Natural Resources

It’s Game On! to innovate and develop more and more efficient batteries. The demand for Battery Metals over the next 5-10 years will far outweigh the ability to mine the resource. such as Lithium, Manganese, Nickel, Cobalt and Graphite are typically used in Battery technology.

Certain Metals are hard to come by or are found in hostile environments. Approximately 60% of Cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic Of Congo, currently a war-zone. The need for innovation and alternative battery technology is extremely high.

Interesting times ahead for EVs.


Autonomous vehicles:

Go for a stroll or a drive around Phoenix, Arizona, USA. You’re likely to witness the driverless vehicle experiment in progress, run by WAYMO (a spin-off from Alphabet).

There is limited circuit that such vehicles can navigate. You have to admit it would be a pretty cool experience to be chauffeured around by an unmanned vehicle.

Even UBER are seriously looking into adopting driverless vehicles as part of their global offer.

Imagine a trend where people feel less need to invest in an Electric Vehicle. Driverless autonomous taxis could be digitally hailed, ready to take you where you need to go.

Shared Autonomous Vehicles

The notion of the Shared Autonomous Vehicle is taking autonomous vehicles to the next level. It is the coming together of Electric Vehicles and the Rideshare and Artificial Intelligence.

Elon Musk takes any opportunity to sing the merits of the Tesla. However, you’d join me in thinking that a car is an expense and a liability. No sooner does it leave the forecourt, that the price depreciates significantly.

How To Turn A Liability Into An Asset?

Well Elon has one or two ideas on this, although some have said that he has slightly reviewed his vision on this. Did Elon really backtrack on what he said about Robotaxis ?

Whatever!

Let’s just imagine going to work in your Autonomous Vehicle. You wouldn’t even have to drive it.

You’d be busy doing more important things. Doing some Admin for your personal life. Phoning your Mother to wish her Happy Birthday. Or simply preparing your work meeting in 30 minutes time.

You arrive at work, take your stuff out of the vehicle, lock up the vehicle and go to work.

Meanwhile, your Autonomous Vehicle has become an SAV: a Shared Autonomous Vehicle. The SAV is digitally hailed by another person who detects that it is currently free for use for a limited period. Who cares for how long, so long as the vehicle is back where it started when you come out of work.

All of a sudden, your SAV becomes an extra source of income, meaning less drain on your finances.


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Spatial Computing

Take the following technologies. The value of Converge is bigger than the sum of its parts:

  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • The Internet Of Things
  • Machine Learning
  • 5G
  • Robotics
  • Remote Sensing
  • Spatial Data Science
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

Applications in Spatial Computing

Welcome to Spatial Computing. Some examples of Applications are:

Military

– in combat, military vehicles can sometimes be damaged, but can be repaired. Spatial Computing can help a technician in the field to download, visualise, carry out a quick diagnostic and potentially repair the vehicle.

Medical

Imagine a Doctor in California who has to operate a Brain Tumour on a patient situated in Boston. Prior to the operation, scans are made of the brain tumour. Both the Doctor and the medical team are able to do a dry run in a virtual environment? They can anticipate any hiccups along the way and validate the approach. Using Augmented Reality – without the aid of a physical screen – the Doctors are able to view the 3D scan results in the form of a life-size holographic representation of the patient’s skull.

On the day of the operation, the Doctor is able to use Augmented Reality to visualise the patient on the operating table. The Doctor operates using a robot that is holding the scalpel. The operation is successful and the patient survives the intervention.

Real Estate

OPENDOOR and Porch.com are both Realtors. They are currently collaborating with Spatial software company Matterport. The Aim: develop Virtual Walkthrough experiences for potential property buyers.

Autonomous Vehicles: LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) devices are used on different parts of an Autonomous Vehicle. They detect objects & movement, translate the physical world into a 3D representation for the onboard computer. This enables the vehicle to navigate safely.


Blockchain

Click here to see how Blockchain is already disrupting the world and will continue to do so more and more significantly…


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