Electric cars powered by fuel cells earn extra cash
for their owners—Your next car may help pay for itself by selling its excess electricity back to the power company.
Researchers in the Netherlands have developed electric cars using fuel cells that convert biogas or hydrogen into electricity. Then, while the car is parked, it generates extra electricity that you can sell to the power company for extra cash.
Open-source robot blueprints cut the cost of robots
by 90%—Robot development may soon dramatically
accelerate thanks to new open-source hardware-sharing systems. Similar to open-source software for computers, this new robot-development platform allows participants to share their designs so that other developers can adapt or improve on them. By sharing hardware and software development, costs may plummet and innovation may skyrocket. For example, a caregiving robot that used to cost more than $350,000 to purchase may soon be available for under $25,000.
Smart phones help spur political reform in Africa—Web-accessible mobile devices have proliferated in Africa, where text messaging and social networking are giving low-income residents more opportunities to watch their governments. Increased transparency and accountability, such as improving public access to spending on expensive infrastructure projects, could help reduce corruption and poverty.
The world’s oceans may face “mass extinction event.” By 2050, the scale of extinctions of ocean-dwelling plants and animals may equal the five great global extinctions of the past 600 million years, warns the International Programme on the State of the Ocean. Reasons: a “deadly triad” of pollution, overfishing, and climate change impacting the world’s ocean habitats.
The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not
just a place to store data—Cloud intelligence will evolve into becoming an active resource in our daily lives, providing analysis and contextual advice. Virtual agents could, for example, design your family’s weekly menu based on everyone’s health profiles, fitness goals, and taste preferences.
3-D Printing Revolutionizes Manufacturing
Many types of goods that are now produced in a factory may soon be created via 3-D printing. These new three-dimensional printers create 3-D objects by laying down successive layers of material.
New 3-D printers can use a wide range of materials—plastic, glass, steel, even titanium. Industrial 3-D printers are being used to make everything from lampshades and eyeglasses to custom-fitted prosthetic limbs.
Eventually, everyone might have access to these 3-D printers, just like we have access to inkjet printers today. You order the plans from the company, but instead of waiting for FedEx to deliver it, you just hit print and get it in minutes.
India may eclipse China in population and innovation by 2028—With its population now growing at twice the rate of China, India is projected to become the world’s most populous country by 2028.
India is also in the midst of a boom in technical innovation. The number of patents filed in 2010 in India increased by 36.6% over the prior year, greatly surpassing the worldwide average gain of 5.7%. Thanks to this skyrocketing rate of entrepreneurial innovation, the decades-long “brain drain” of university graduates leaving India has begun to decline.
A “green” housing boom is under way–While overall home sales are increasing slightly, green home sales are booming. U.S. consumers are increasingly demanding energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials both in new homes and in remodeling projects.
“Green homes” will grow from 17% of the residential construction market in 2011 to 38% by 2016, with a fivefold increase in revenues, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Robots may become gentler caregivers in the next ten years– Lifting and transferring frail patients may be easier for robots than for human caregivers, but robots’ strong arms typically lack sensitivity.
Japanese researchers are improving the functionality of the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), lining its arms and chest with sensors so that the robot lifts and places patients more gently.
Revolution in smart materials creates new energy boom– We’re now in the early stages of a revolution in new synthetic materials. These “smart materials” offer tremendous potential to save energy, generate power, and create lightweight materials that are stronger than steel.
For example, carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger than steel. They also conduct electricity like copper and disperse heat like brass. Carbon nanotubes could make a new kind of material that is lightweight, incredibly strong, and even generates solar energy.
The material would have countless applications. For example, it could enable a new generations of solar-powered blimps that would generate their own electricity from solar cells on their outer shells.
“The Internet of Things” Creates a Revolution of Wired Devices — We’ve witnessed a massive and ongoing revolution with computers and smart phones connected to the Internet. The next phase is the “Internet of Things.”
Trillions of devices— thermometers, cars, light switches, appliances, homes, will also be connected to the Internet—each with its own IP address. According to Internet pioneer, Vinton Cerf, this “holds the promise for reinventing almost every industry… When the world around us becomes plugged in and aware, it will drive efficiencies like never before.”
Shake-Up In the “C Suite”– Corporate futures will be shaped by leaders adept in social networking, content management, data mining, and data meaning. Look for such job titles as Earned Media Officer, Chief Content Officer, Open-Source Manager, Chief Linguist, and Chief Data Scientist.
Handheld “breathalyzer” will diagnose diseases in seconds– The Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer under development at Stony Brook University would use sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes. In the future, a handheld device could let you detect a range of risks, from lung cancer to anthrax exposure.
“Lab-on-a-Chip” Technologies Revolutionize Health — New technologies are enabling smart phones to conduct sophisticated lab tests for many different health conditions. These new devices will enable you to know your health status for many different tests day to day. Plus, combining these lab tests with new computer diagnostics programs using artificial intelligence will also give people in developing countries accurate, low-cost, easy-to-use, point-of-care diagnostics. People in the developed world can monitor their health in real time. And it will help the 60% of the developing world who don’t have access to hospitals and labs.
Drug-delivering Nanorobots built from DNA could be approved for use in humans within 20 years — Medical nanorobots that identify and attack individual cancer cells are being developed by researchers at Harvard University. The nanorobots would be able to sense when they encounter a cancer cell and then release its molecule-sized payload of cancer-fighting antigen.
Longevity Revolution Creates Lifespan “Haves” and “Have Nots”– An explosion of medical technologies using gene therapies, stem cells, and organ printing will soon greatly extend the average lifespan. Age 100 may soon become the new 60—for those who have access. But the cost of these technologies may still be out of reach for many poor people. This will create vexing issues around the distribution of health, wealth, and power. Today’s healthcare politics may seem tame by comparison.
“Rateocracy” and augmented reality makes corporate reputation a key driver of profitability– Yelp.com and Angie’s List are just the beginning in a new wave of “rateocracy” where reputations rule.
Corporations will closely track the real-time rise and fall of their reputational “credit ratings” as closely as they watch their stock prices. Savvy corporations will know that their reputations are key drivers of their growth, profitability, and employee retention.
For example, you might choose one restaurant over another when your mobile augmented-reality app flashes warnings about health-department citations or poor customer reviews. Customers, suppliers, and employees will gain power as they exert more control over corporate reputations.
“Peak Water” may become a bigger problem than peak oil — As water tables around the world become depleted, and as growing populations demand more water for personal as well as agricultural use, supplies of sustainably managed water will continue to fall. The consequences could be dire for human health, as water-related diseases proliferate.
Amish Boom– The fastest-growing religious group in the U.S. is the Amish. Their numbers will reach 1 million shortly after 2050. While most other religions grow through conversions, Amish communities are growing on sheer family size. A new Amish settlement is currently founded every three and a half weeks, according to research by a sociologist at Ohio State University.
The next space age will launch after 2020, driven by competition and “advanture captitalists” — While the U.S. space shuttle program is put to rest, entrepreneurs like Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are planning commercial launches to access low-Earth orbit and to ferry passengers to transcontinental destinations within hours. Challenges include perfecting new technologies, developing global operations, building new infrastructure, and gaining regulatory approval.