“A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry”
It is extremely likely that many of our kids will work in an industry that currently does not exist. Over the past couple of decades, disruptive technologies have led to the collapse of entire industries whilst also creating brand new ones. Think of how the introduction of email revolutionised how we communicate with one another – instantaneous dialogue across the globe with no fee, and how this seemingly simple introduction had a huge impact on conventional posting methods which, not only incurred a cost, but also a considerable delay. More recently, we have seen the impact Uber has had with their innovative approach to the taxi industry. Without owning any vehicles themselves, they have developed an easy to use app which has allowed them to gain considerable market share in an extremely monopolised industry. This form of disruptive technology is now becoming more and more prominent in our everyday lives, and will only continue to do so.
Disruptive technology with the potential for upsetting a variety of markets includes;
- Autonomous driving – one of the biggest advocates of this technology is Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors. The concept of an electric car is clearly a disruptive change to the combustion engine vehicles we currently use (with no engine, the car garages will need to rethink their current model; engine manufacturing lines will become redundant etc). The introduction of autonomous driving takes that one stage further. As our cars become smarter, they will reach a stage where autonomous driving is the norm on all vehicles meaning collisions will become far less frequent. How will this technology advance impact insurance companies, car garages etc? As this technology progresses and incorporates trucks, companies cannot afford to be reactive and must approach this head on without delay. There are over 3.5 million Americans currently employed as a truck driver - with autonomous driving and electric vehicles, how will this technology impact the entire transportation industry?
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – as physical hardware continues to develop, the capability of software is becoming increasingly more powerful. Artificial intelligence is now becoming a powerful weapon for companies to harness and gain a competitive advantage. Some studies show that IBM Watson is now better at mitigating risk when dealing with legal cases than the average human being. IBM Watson can accurately draw information from over one billion legal documents per second to assist in forming a clear and definitive answer. With more information being inputted daily, these machines are becoming more and more efficient to a variety of needs. This has the potential to disrupt a number of different industries including the stock market. Aidya, which is based in Hong Kong, now utilise AI from inputted information such as market price, volume, macroeconomic data and corporate accounting documents to provide market predictions on what shares are best to buy. AI can have an impact of a wide range of markets including medicine. In fact, according to the BBC, AI has been able to slow the growth of cancer cells in clinical trails which involves a supercomputer producing possible positive outcomes from billions of scenarios. How will AI be utilised across banks, telcos, property investors etc?
- Virtual reality (VR) – have you ever wanted to sit courtside at an LA Lakers game or at the Superbowl? Perhaps visit the Eiffel Tower without having to do the long journey to get there? With the introduction of VR, companies such as Oculus Rift are now bringing that to a reality. Whilst still in the infancy of development, virtual reality has serious disruption potential to a wide variety of markets (travel and tourism, theme parks, concerts, movies, sports and entertainment). One of the markets most likely to be disrupted is the gaming market which is worth billions in revenue each year. The ability to put on something as simple as the Oculus Rift headset and immediately gain a first person perspective of any given scenario can provide enormous benefits across almost any industry. Flight simulations for astronauts, university students attending tutorials from any location, doctors and surgeons providing their expertise across the globe. For someone who is currently confined to a bed, having the opportunity to explore the world can be life changing. The opportunity to exploit this technology and disrupt a number of established markets is massive.
- 3D printing – each year, an astronomical amount of money is invested in sending raw materials to the International Space Station to continue various experiments, including sending additional tools and instruments. With the introduction of 3D printing, all that is required is for the blueprints to be sent via satellite to the space station and for the object to be printed in a fraction of the time and more importantly, a fraction of the cost. 3D printing is now beginning to disrupt various industries including the medical field. Scientists, using 3D printers, are now printing vertebrae which will be more customised and safer for the each individual recipient. The future of this can be huge as we begin to explore the technology and develop the capability to print bone and muscle tissue. Again, this is a disruptive technology that can revolutionise a number of industries across manufacturing and supply chain. The European Space Agency have just 3D printed an entire plane named “Thor” which could be an interesting insight for the future of transport.
These are just a few examples of how a single disruptive technology can impact multiple industries. All of which will create new jobs and start new markets for subject matter experts. The above is not an exhaustive list and can stretch to include drones, augmented reality (Pokemon Go has shown the market already exists), renewable energy etc. Facebook has recently launched a solar powered plane capable of providing internet to millions of people in disadvantaged areas.
As we move into an age of exponential growth across a number of technologies - all industries will begin to be redefined, new markets will be generated and if organisations do not take notice, they will find themselves dissolving into the past.
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