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2017 and Beyond



The folks at New Equipment Digest interviewed me a few weeks back for an article on manufacturing,  ahead of a major keynote I had earlier this month.

 

You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.” And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

It’s but one talk I do in this sector; on Monday, I’ll headline the International Asset Management Council on future manufacturing trends. They’re the folks from Fortune 1000 organizations who make the decisions on where to locate future factories, logistics locations and supply chain investments.

INDUSTRY TRENDS
Futurist Says “Fast & Furious” Changes Coming to Manufacturing

Forget your Magic 8-Ball or fancy-schmancy predictive analytics. Futurist Jim Carroll knows what lies ahead for manufacturing and technology, and we have the scoop for you here. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
John Hitch | Sep 21, 2017

Jim Carroll, a former accountant and current author/corporate speaker, is confident he knows what’s going to happen in the world of manufacturing. And the world renowned Canadian futurist doesn’t need a flux capacitor or any other sci-fi MacGuffin to make bold claims in front of millions about what technologies they need to adopt now, and what the world will look like for our children after we’re rocketed to our Martian retirement homes — where our corpses will no doubt be used as fertilizer for space yams. (You’re welcome, Elon.)

No, Carroll’s trick is to absorb as much knowledge about technology’s past and present, and combine that with critical thinking to make educate guesses on its future for NASA, GE, Lockheed Martin, and dozens of other global tech leaders. It’s not as salacious as predicting robots will take our jobs and spouses, but the accomplished author has a track record for getting things right. He’s the opening keynote speaker for the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show in Toronto on Sep. 25, and he recently found some time for us.

NED: Why did you become a futurist and how does a person go about becoming one?
Jim Carroll: I’m actually a C.P.A. by background. You know from ’79 to ’89 I was with predecessor firms of KPMG and Ernst & Young. I was probably one of the first 1,000 guys in the world on the Internet and I wrote 34 book about the Internet in the ’90s that sold a million books. That got me out there talking about future trends and what comes next. So much of the future is about technology and connectivity and it just sort of morphed into this broader thing of overall trends and innovation.

NED: What can you say was the first future prediction that you had?
JC: Probably the Internet of Things. I can go back to articles I was writing in 1993-94, that this world in which every device that was a part of our daily life is becoming connected to the big global machine known as the Internet. I was absolutely bang-on on. A lot of that is still coming true.

NED: What you see happening with technology and what the world’s going to look like in 10 to 20 years?
JC: We’re in a situation in which companies that do not yet exist will build products not yet conceived using materials not yet invented with maybe manufacturing methodologies that don’t exist fulfilling a customer need we don’t even yet know. That’s the way I view the future.

When I get in front of my audiences, the picture I paint for them is that everything’s on the table, everything is coming out faster and we need to prepare for that. We can make these broad predictions of where we’re going, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to happen faster than we think.

One of my jokes on stage is, “We don’t know where we’re going but we’re making great time.”

NED: What technology would you say should people be right to be a little suspicious of?
JC: The hype du jour is that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take all our jobs and we’ll need a government that gives us a guaranteed income supplement. I wrote a blog post in which I dig out these articles from Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines from the 1930s and 1940s that predicted giant robot brains were going to take away our jobs, that machines were going to make us all unemployed. The 1950s and 1960s Reader’s Digest issues I read about had computers that were going to lead to a world in which we’d all be working two hours, day two days a week.

We’re going to have all the leisure time in the 21st century. Well, how’d that work out? There’s a lot of hype and hysteria about robotics and AI right now. No doubt, there’s a real trend, but people are carried away in the hype and hysteria. What they’re not talking about at the same time is that while all these jobs disappear, there’s the emergence of all kinds of new job new careers, new capabilities.

I mean, we used to make horseshoes, now we make tires, and what are we going to make next? The old skills are dead gone. Those jobs aren’t coming back. There’s new jobs, new skills, more advanced skills. And everybody in manufacturing knows that.

NED: Do you ever think about how the next couple generations, raised in age of smartphones and unlimited information age, will deal with all these changes?
JC: I view the world through my kids, who are 22 and 24. They’ve never known a world without the Internet or mobile devices. A one-year-old can walk up to the TV and touch the screen and wonder why it doesn’t respond like an iPad does.

During my speaking engagements, I ask the question, “How many of you, took computer courses that involved COBOL, BASIC, or FORTRAN?” A whole bunch of hands go up. We were freaked out by technology, because we saw the ugly side, while this generation has not. And so I think the defining difference is that they are far more willing to ingest and innovate with and work with new technologies and new ways of doing things. They’re not burdened by the past in the same way that baby boomers are.

They don’t have a hang up that baby boomers have with technology. Behold the The future of manufacturing innovation! Bob Dylan did warn that “the times, they are a changin’.”

NED: How do you think that’s going to translate to the so-called future?
JC: Think about manufacturing and robotics. You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.”

And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

NED: What is one of these new technologies people should adopt now?
JC: The whole trend towards rapid prototyping. I can design something in CAD/ CAM, I can send it to a 3D printing contract manufacturer, get a prototype back to see if that works. If it doesn’t work, redo the blueprints, send it back. Boom, boom. All of a sudden I’ve got this iterative product design methodology. The old methodology was we had to figure out how to design something, commit to a production run, bring it to market.

NED: Is this something that’s going to exponentially improve the future innovations, because we have so many more people that are able to take engineering chances and it’s not costing them as much in terms of time or resources?
JC: The coolest thing I saw in the last 24 hours was Elon Musk putting out this video done to very cool music from all the rocket failures. His tweet essentially said, “This is what it takes to get to a workable product.” They celebrate failure. You look at that and go, “Wow, what a mindset!”

Obviously, for safety, security, supply reasons, quality control, etc., we can’t do that through regular manufacturing, but we can do that with rapid prototyping and 3D printing, iterative design and testing base design and all those types of things.

NED: So what other technology will play a big part in the factories of the future?
JC: I speak a lot with companies about the future of manufacturing and we talk about the Internet of Things. There’s a lot of experimentation and a lot of belief that this is going to take us to a very new and real and different world of digitization of the factory. Where we are right now is real time spotting of production defects with a lot of IoT-based technology through the supply chain in the manufacturing process. But there’s still a lot more yet to come.

There’s the business model change that is coming fast and furious with this very thing called 3discovered.com. And it’s sort of like an Uber for 3D printing. You send me your CAD files and I’ll line you up with a 3D printing manufacturer which can do it.

I think cobots are coming out very quickly. We’re getting away from two-plane robotic capability to six or eight or 10-plane capability and more spatial awareness, because spatial technology is going along at a fast and furious pace. The return of Google Glass with the manufacturing focus. And I was with a welding group doing virtual welding. I think we’re going to witness all kinds of fascinating capabilities there very quickly.

NED: What about securing all this technology? Could that be a real issue, or is that more fear mongering?
JC: No. It’s real. I’ll say two things: Equifax and South Park. Part of the Equifax problem happened because an employee portal as I understand it in Argentina was protected with the default user ID password combination of “admin” and “admin.” Companies don’t put enough senior level prospective on security. That’s number one.

The second thing is you know we’re still in the area that we’re not really thinking through where it takes us. In the South Park season premier that aired the other night, the characters were doing Amazon Echo commands throughout the show and they were ordering products. People were discovering products were being added to their Amazon checkout boxes. They were setting alarms for people at really weird hours in the morning, they were turning up their Nest thermostat to 110°. To me is the most hilarious story ever. No one ever thought about this and here it takes a cartoon to come along and show us this glaring massive security weakness. The issues are huge and I think we’ve really only begun to scratch the surface of what’s going to happen.

NED: If there’s one thing people should know about the future, what is it?
JC: I really try to leave people with this message: Some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend and see an opportunity. There’s a huge opportunity for North American manufacturing to reinvent itself to compete in the world economy. We’re not going to do it by building crazy walls and wishing that the job of the 1950s will come back. It’s all about robotics, 3D printing, and mass customization.

This October, I’ll keynote the MacKay CEO Forum 2017 Edge Summit in Vancouver, with about 500 CEO’s in the room. I’ll take a look at what happens when accelerating technology trends result in every company become a technology company.

I just wrote up a new keynote topic description, modified from a few of my other topic outlines.

Aligning to Velocity: Key Trends and Strategies for the Era of Acceleration

We have a new vocabulary! Self-driving cars, 3d printing, crowdfunding, the sharing economy, blockchains, personal drones, swarm-bots, smart dust, vertical farms, the Internet of Things, cognitive computing, smart factories, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, quantum computing, intelligent farms, smart clothing! What seemed to be science fiction just a few short years ago has become a reality today, as time compresses and the future accelerates.

Take a voyage with Futurist Jim Carroll into the world of tomorrow, today, as he outlines the key trends, technologies, ideas and initiatives that are transforming our world around us at hypersonic speed. A world in which the speed of change impacting every company and every industry is increasingly driven by the speed of technology and Silicon Valley hyper-innovation. One that demands faster innovation, agile response, flexible strategies, and most important, the ability to ‘think big, start small, scale fast.’

 For the last 25 years, Jim Carroll has been speaking to and advising some of the worlds largest organizations on the trends that will impact them. With a client list that ranges from NASA to Disney, the Swiss Innovation Forum to the National Australia Bank, Johnson and Johnson to Godiva Chocolates, Jim has had a front row seat to the massive change being encountered in industries worldwide, and deep insight into the leadership mindset of organizations as they adapt to the era of acceleration.

In just a few short years, it will the year 2025, and the world of tomorrow will be your reality of today. Are you ready for what comes next?

Want to understand the future? It’s all about the batteries!

My attention was reminded of this fact last week with an article that appeared on Bloomberg, “Tech Guru Bill Joy Unveils a Battery to Rival Lithium-Ion,” which brought me back to a series of Twitter posts I did a few months back about trends involving batteries.

The thread is worth revisiting, since what is happening with battery technology today will impact dozens of industries into the future! Often, entire industries will be changed and disrupted by the most innocuous of trends.

Obviously, the energy, hi-tech and automotive sectors will be transformed by the acceleration of battery innovation.  But so will other industries, such as healthcare, aerospace, and agriculture. Everywhere I look, I see big changes and opportunities that come from the acceleration of battery science.

With that, I’m pretty convinced that in the future, people will come to realize that one of the most transformative trends of our time had to do with the acceleration of the science of battery technology. To understand why the acceleration of battery science, and innovation around battery concepts is so important, let’s replay the Twitter thread here, with some added commentary.

First off, battery technology is being subjected to the acceleration of basic science, with I have been speaking on stage about for many years. Specifically, the key point being that “we’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today, to 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. Any new substance can lead to the emergence of a billion dollar market.”

That’s the acceleration of battery science in a nutshell.

The key concepts accelerating concepts with batteries involve how to improve longevity, weight, and innovate with battery concepts to ride this pace of scientific discovery.  Simply put, there are big opportunities that come from making batteries lighter, that last longer, and which are based on new concepts and scientific ideas, not to mention innovate methods of utilizing them.

Where is the basic science innovation occurring? With drones!

What sparked my original Twitter thread was an article I came across which focused on the unique research occurring with drone batteries. Drones have quickly become a part of many industries, yet have been limited in terms of how long and how far they can fly. The article took a look look at the many new types of batteries – beyond the common lithium-ion batteries – which are under development. If you want to understand what’s really happening with the science of batteries, read the article.

As a futurist, I track dozens of topics in order to keep up with trends, and last month, this article below caught my attention. It’s another example that there is a lot of innovation occurring with different concepts in battery science, another barometer for fast innovation.

And the disruption from batteries? It’s huge in every industry. In the energy sector, for example, it will allow people to store energy from their own backyard energy sources, to be reused later. Then they’ll connect to their neighbours, leading to the emergence of little local energy micro-grids. People will disrupt the utility industry just as they they disrupted the music industry!

Since industries understand that batteries really define their future, the pace of innovation is moving from fast to furious.

And then, while writing may Twitter thread, another article about battery science innovation caught my attention!

And another…. the key thing is, take a look around, and there is just an amazing level of science innovation with battery tech – just as there was with ‘plastics’ in the 1960’s!

Often, to think about the future, you need to stretch your mind well into the future, and think big and bold. Folks are doing that in the battery space:

Add it all up, and something transformative is happening!

I’ve been speaking about the impact of battery science on industries for many ears, including in the energy sector; in 2012, I keynoted a global energy event for Accenture, and spoke about how battery technology was leading to fascinating  concepts — such as a 24 hour solar power plant!

I’ve also written about the topic for many organizations, such as this article I wrote for GE, distributed to their clients worldwide.

Of course, the thing about innovation is this: there are often people who discount the speed of trends which are occurring, or simply can’t conceive of how massive change comes into play.

Back to the fact that it is all about accelerating science. (I repeat myself!)

And so, it’s all about the batteries!

What should you think about next? Maybe penguins!

Your car is about to become your concierge. A personal robot. And so much more.

You probably don’t have a lot of time to think about all the things that are going on with the rush to self-driving cars and electric vehicles. I do – that’s my job as a futurist. The things is, you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it.

So I’m going to let you know!

We are currently seeing a massive acceleration of change hitting the auto industry. I’m doing lots of keynotes around the theme — read Accelerating the Auto Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

What’s next? Here are some things you might not be thinking about:

  • the simplicity of design means more companies enter the car and truck industry. Carbon and gas is tough; electric and tech is much easier. Electric involves a motor, some wheels, and some stuff to connect the two, with a few computers thrown in. That’s a bit of a stretch, but talk to anyone in the industry, and its ‘way easier’. Simply put, the next generation of vehicles is easier to design, engineer and build, with the result that we will see more organizations entering the space.
  • the shift in legal liability is huge.  As in, what happens in a crash between an autonomous car and a human driven vehicle? Who do police take a statement from? Do we impound the data record? If so, from the cloud? Lots of fun is going to unfold in this area!
  • partnership is everywhere. The industry is blurring at a furious pace. Coming together are companies in the battery and alternative energy space; telematics and GPS and intelligent highway technology; cybersecurity companies and dozens more. Simply take a look at a few infographics on the number of companies getting involved.
  • the future will be full of surprises. For example, who would have predicted Nvidia, long known for making the graphics cards that were at the heart of the gaming industry, is now at the forefront of the self-driving car industry — because of the ability of their technology to process the vast volumes of data that are involved. There are lots more NVidia’s out there, repositioning themselves for this fast-future.
  • there might be an increase in automated muggings. A self-driving car will be programmed to stop when it senses a human in front of it. Hence, I could merely walk into a road, stand there, and the car will stop. It will then take me a moment to do something evil to relieve the occupants of their valuable. Who will program and mitigate against this scenario?
  • route and car hacking will be the next ransomware.  Have you seen the experiment where someone placed some concentric circles on a road that totally confused a self-driving car? What happens when the computer virus industry sets its sights on the new computer-car industry? Oh, the places we’ll go and the things we will see (or not see, as it were…)
  • there will be data wars. Self-driving cars generate lots of data, and many questions are as yet unanswered. As in, who owns the data, and what can they do with it? People buying, sharing or leasing cars will be presented with massive “I agree to all terms and conditions” word dumps like they get with their iPhones and software, and they will click away their right to any of that data. Expect massive new intellectual property issues to emerge, and lawyers who will make a lot of money going forward as these data issues get sorted out.
  • the data will be worth a lot of money. Google built a business on search. Car data companies will build a business based on location and navigation.
  • you car will become a credit card. At the same time that companies equip cars with cell capability to turn the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot, they’ll also put a SIM card and technology in place that will let the car do an automatic credit card transaction. Apple put Apple Pay into a mobile device, and as the car becomes a phone, it will become an Apple Pay device too! You’ll pay at the drive-through simply by putting your thumbprint on the dash.
  • driver education will change. It will move from “how do I drive a car” to “how do I use a car?” Why? Consider a University of Iowa study : 65% of drivers didn’t know how to use adaptive cruise control, and many didn’t event know what it was! Expect befuddlement and bewilderment as cars become computers on wheels.
  • watch the drones to understand the future of electric cars. One major form of car innovation today is occurring with battery technology, which is at the heart of electric vehicle technology. Those in the drone space are working hard to figure out how to extend the range of flying drones, and are doing lots of research with new battery technologies that offer extended range through lower weight. This will bleed into the electric vehicle market, and will lead to rapid advances in electric car range and a decrease in cost.
  • your car will be personalized based on biometrics and technology. – Your car will know who you are when you get in, when you approach it, or when you phone it, and will adjust its settings based on that knowledge. Your car will have a trusted relationship with your mobile device, your fingerprint and your eyeball. You will start it simply by having it examine your retina, rather than pressing a button.
  • the purpose of a car will fragment. Cars today are designed to get you from point-A to point-B. In the future, specific cars will be designed for a specific purpose, with the result that the very concept of a car is going to fragment. There will be cars for long distance vs those built for a short commute; those built for peloton travel (i.e. interlinking with other cars in a pack) vs. those which are engineered to excel at navigation for narrow city streets. There will be cars which will be decked out as a home office for a self-driving commute, and others which will be tricked up to be rolling bedrooms on wheels for tourists. We’ll see lots of new types of cars, with different cost implications the result!
  • self-driving cars might obliterate pizza delivery jobs and other activities. Your car will simply go out and get pizza when you tell it too. In this way, your car will evolve to become a personal-concierge-robot, undertaking various activities at your command. Car-as-a-service concepts will unfold.
  • big bets are being made, big bets will be lost; Business books will be written in the future as to who won, who lost, and which big bets they made along the way It’s an epic battle between car companies and tech companies, and we are in the midst of a 100 year revolution. One estimate suggests that there are currently 50 major competitors in the space today; that might be reduced to 5 or 6 within a decade.
  • video gaming will come to cars. With that in mind, we’ll see video game consoles and controllers built into cars. After all, while its busy taking you to work, you’ll have some time to kick back and destroy a few daemons!
  • we’ll see ‘network of cars‘, and network-subscriptions will be available. You’ll be able to link to your friends and go off on a self-driving voyage somewhere, because your car will link to other cars and you’ll be able to share an automated voyage together. You might find a network of folks in your neighbourhood who self-drive to work together, and you’ll sign up to their morning commute, sharing a peloton experience on the HOV lanes in order to reduce your cost.
  • car mechanics become computer techies. Geek-squads for cars will be the new normal. We’ll reboot our cars more often than we will change the oil.
  • disruption will be fun! Self-driving car tourism will combine Uber and AirBNB into something new. Use your imagination,
  • trailers will take on more importance. It will be a growth market — since you’ll have so much more to do with your car, you’ll have to take a lot more stuff with you!
  • a steering wheel of today is already is a thing from the olden days. One day, a kid will be born who will be the first to never use a steering wheel, and will never know how to ‘drive’ in the context of driving today. The concept of telling a car what to do will simply seem silly. Maybe that kid is already alive. They’ll only ever know a world in which a car drives itself.
  • gesture control and eyeball scanning might be the future of navigation. Didn’t think to tell your where you were going, or are simply going through a new, unknown neighbourhood? You’ll simply point or look and your car will figure out where you want to go. Video game developers that excelled at writing human-machine interface code for the gaming industry will find hot new carers in the automotive sector.
  • design is shifting from the exterior to the interior. More money will be made on the function, apps, and purpose of things you can do inside the car than outside.
  • legacy companies will try to fight the future, thinking it is a marketing war, not an innovation war. They’ll realize it won’t work. Consider Lexus, for example, which doesn’t want to talk about ‘self-driving cars‘ – they want people to talk about “automated safety technology.” Sure. It won’t work.
  • race car drivers will complain when a self-driving car wins the Indy 500. Such is progress, but it will take on the form of many other grand challenges, such as 3D printing Michelangelo’s David in concrete, having a robot play in the World Cup of soccer, or a world in which a computer beats a human in chess. (That one has been done.)
  • there’s a massive rush for skills : Delphi is hiring 5,000 software engineers and wants to double it in the years to come. Most car companies don’t have the skills they need, and the war for talent will go super-nova.
  • self-driving cars will have personalities. You’ll be able to press a few buttons and have it drive like your grandmother, or another button to have it become a race car driver (GPS restricted, of course)
  • some car company executives are saying some pretty dumb things right now. Just like CEO’s in the past: Bill Gates at Microsoft (‘640k should be enough for everyone‘); Ken Olsen at DEC (‘no one will ever need a computer in their home‘); IBM’s Thomas Watson (‘computers in the future may weigh no more than 5 tons‘). Smugness and complacency is not a business strategy.
  • the stories for the business books of the future surround you right now. Years from today, we’ll have a flood of innovation books and detailed case studies which will compare Deliberate-Detroit vs. Speedy-Silicon Valley. The story is still being written. Right now, there are a few Research-in-Motions about, convinced that heir business model has longevity. Maybe not, and I know who my money is with!
  • people will get ticked with highway lanes dedicated to self-driving cars. There are always those who hate the future and progress. But lanes dedicated to self-driving cars will make sense, because they will be able to support big volumes of smart cars, reducing overall traffic growth. San Jose in California is already considering doing this.
  • it’s all about the airwaves. If self-driving cars are throwing off 7GB of data per hour, the data has to float through the ether. There will be a huge rush to support new data transmission channels – and smart governments will realize there will be money to be made by auctioning off new spectrum.
  • Siri, Alexa and other botnet technology will be everywhere. That’s a simple conclusion, but it will be kind of interesting to be driving next to someone who is engaged in a long conversation with their car.
  • networked battery technology will emerge. The big pursuit with mobile phone technology today involves dockless-or-plugless charging : you simply charge your phone through the air. That will eventually come to electric car batteries — and maybe I’ll sell you a little bit of my excess battery energy while we cruise down the highway next to each other
  • the evolution of self-driving cars is really a story about Moore’s law. Processing power will collapse on a regular basis, and capabilities will exponentiate. Study the past of the computer industry to understand the future of the auto industry.
  • it’s really a big data story with big implications : Tesla already has compiled millions of miles of data about the folks driving its car. The future might be less about the vehicle and more about the data they generate.
  • the economic development implications are huge. Industry will relocated to regions that have smart highway infrastructure, excellent re-charging services, and progressive policies when it comes to supporting this revolution. Does your Mayor get it?
  • self-driving cars don’t involve just cars. It involves trucks, and tractors, and ships, and planes, farm combines and boats. It’s not just an era of self-driving cars — it’s an era of autonomous, self-operating things.
  • a bunch of other innovations are happening all at once. In fact, there  are a whole bunch of parallel innovations occurring with self-driving vehicles, involving such things as advanced energy storage technologies and methodologies, energy microgrids, robotics and AI, deep data and analytics, smart highway technologies, advanced materials, and so much more. And just as with the space program, all of these developments are leading to other new opportunities, industries and new billion dollar industries.
  • outsourced driving will be a thing. Your car might have the smarts to drive for you. Or, if it is a complex route and it doesn’t have the smarts, you’ll simply be able to outsource the driving to someone on the other side of the world. “Leave the driving to us” will take on new meaning.
  • your car will know when its going to break down, and will tell you. It will also tell the auto company or local computer geek. Maintenance models will turned upside down through prognostic diagnostics.
  • there’s a massive skill set shift underway. As in, this ain’t your fathers carburetor! The new skill sets in automotive will involve electronics, programming, electrical circuit mastery, advanced route optimization insight, and so much more!
  • the future of the industry might be determined by a geek in a garage. Just like the computer industry and HP, the future of the car industry might unfold by some hacker hacking away with big dreams and big visions. Such as, say, comma.ai 
  • modularity will be a thing.  In fact, the very concept of ‘fixing a car’ might go by the wayside. We’ll see more modular technology — parts that you simply drop in to replace another one that has gone bad.
  • no one is talking about open source vs. closed source cars. Linux vs. Microsoft anyone? As cars become computers, some people believe that they should be built on an open source foundation, because this will be the best way to provide for reliability and safety. 20 years ago, the running joke was that if Microsoft built the operating system for the car of the future, the car would shut down in the middle of the highway randomly, and the dashboard would simply say, “General Car Fault.” Open source concepts will quickly come to the car industry, and could be pretty disruptive. Watch the video below – I was talking about this in 2004!
  • faster obsolescence will be a reality. Cars will take on the innovation curve of the smartphone: you’ll replace them every 24 months or less. In the same way, your car will become a fashion statement: disposable, instant, with the result that cars will a new form of fashion. With that, resale values will collapse — who wants to be seen driving around with an old outdated car, using an outdated iPhone 4?
  • we’ll see a lot of stranded assets throughout the auto sector. For example, what happens to all those lube/tire replacement/auto repair facilities? Smart entrepreneurs will figure out smart things to do with all that infrastructure.
  • it’s all about the penguins. Simply put. Read the post.
  • Amazon might own a big chunk of the future of highways. Not the physical part, but the data part. Right now, they have a few significant patents, including one which involves the allocation of highway lanes. Expect HOV-as-a-service business models!
  • not many people realize that light poles are a big part of the self-driving car future. You average local light pole is changing: it’s become a Wi-Fi hotspot, a car charging station, and a ‘FitBit for a City’ with environmental monitoring capabilities built in. People who understand the evolving role of light poles also understand they can be a big thing in terms of the future of smart, interconnected highways and streets
  • no one is talking about smart highway technology, but there is a lot happening there. The future is not just about how the fact that the cars that drive on highways are gaining intelligence, but the roads they drive on are becoming intelligent too. Highways will be built with embedded sensors, network technology and other gear that will interact with smart cars to provide the best
  • the really smart people in the industry are carefully reading an older book. It’s called Traffic, and it’s all about the science of traffic jams. Figure out how to program your way through the inefficiency of traffic jams, and you’ve got a product or service that people are willing to buy!
  • spatial data bubbles are a thing, and you’ll learn about them. You’ll be immersed in a lot of spatial data bubbles and if you understand that, you’ll understand the future. You don’t know what they are? Learn about them!
  • get ready for zombie cars. I bet you haven’t even thought of that one! 
  • robotic highway cones will be a thing. I’ve been talking about them since 1995, and no one has built them yet. I still believe it will happen, just like perfect microwave popcorn did. Watch both videos.

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We seem to live in two parallel worlds at this moment: the fanciful, political, “let’s make a wish” or “yell and scream” political world, and the real world. I don’t know about you, but I’m with the real world, and it’s obvious that others are too. To that end, I’m doing an increasing number of economic development talks that take a look at the real trends driving our world forward.

Case in point: I’m headlining the Nevada Economic Development Council conference this September in Las Vegas. We’ll have economic development folks, elected officials, industry representatives — all looking for insight on what comes next in terms of opportunity.


In my mind, economic opportunity comes from linking to the fast paced trends that envelop our world today. As the session description notes on my keynote: “He is an authority recognized for his deep insight into the cutting edge trends of our time, including autonomous vehicle technology, sensors and the Internet of Things, 3D printing, virtual reality, alternative energy generation and storage technologies, genomic medicine and healthcare virtualization, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual cash, machine learning and robotics, crowdthinking and next generation R&D.”

Around the world, we are building a giant new machine, and new opportunities abound. They’ll involve new skills, big bold innovators, fast new technologies, and obviously big investments. Nevada woke up to the future when Tesla established the Gigafactory outside Reno, and knows that its’ future will come from aligning itself to other, similar trends.

If only other regions and people could think like Nevada instead of hitching themselves to a failed politician from the land of make believe.

Similar to this event, I’m also headlining (for the 3rd time in 16 years!) the International Asset Management Council annual event in Richmond, Virginia this fall. This is a group that consists of corporate relocation folks for Fortune 500 companies — people who analyze where they might place their next factory or manufacturing facility. They’ve asked me to come in and do a talk around the future of manufacturing, with an eye to better understanding the trends involving the reinvention of this critical sector of this economy.  (Hint: the old jobs aren’t coming back. New jobs are appearing all the time).

As the keynote description outlines: “Collapsing product lifecycles. Mass customization. Digitization, robotics and the cloud. Rapid prototyping, sketch to scale, and agility-based business models … are you ready for the new world of manufacturing? While popular media and opportunistic politicians portray a picture of a sector in crisis, smart manufacturing executives are furiously busy with innovation, reinventing their capabilities, processes and business models using advanced ideas, materials, methodologies and technologies.”

Regions that can align themselves to the reality of future trends, and set the right tone and welcome mat for innovation will discover the future of economic success. I’m pleased to be doing what I can to help people understand the real future — not a fake future dreamed up in someone’s mind.

It’s about time someone starts to talk about the future implications of the new world history that we are now watching unfold.

There are real economic implications in a time in which a nation chooses to turn its back on the rest of the world. The impact likely won’t be apparent for years to come, but clearly decisions are now being made now which will change the global economy in significant ways.

I decided to write this post after reading of Angela’s Merkel recent comments on the fact that Europe needs to go it alone. Quite clearly, she is voicing what many other political, business, science and other leaders worldwide are thinking.

There are real economic implications in a time in which a nation chooses to turn its back on the rest of the world. The impact likely won’t be apparent for years to come, but clearly decisions are now being made now which will change the global economy in significant ways.

In my mind, as a futurist dealing with the facts of trends, here’s a starting list of what we can expect.

  1. Science and R&D relocates. For long time, the US has been the engine of the global R&D machine; but that is no longer the case. The trend began long before the current era of political discourse – I documented it in a post back in 2008, Revisiting the Hollowing out of Global R&D Trends. But the current anti-science  mindset that is percolating throughout the US will only accelerate a trend that is already underway. A good chunk of the pure science research that drives future economic growth won’t occur in the US. That has massive implications for the countries that choose to take advantage of this realignment.
  2. Energy and green industries invest where it matters. There can’t be a more exciting industry — next to advanced manufacturing — than what is happening with wind, solar and other forms of energy generation. Exponential science is driving exponential change. Yet if you make a decision not to align yourself to the fast innovation trends which are unfolding, you miss out on the jobs, growth and new companies which are appearing in this space. I expect that many companies in this sector will make economic development decisions that are influenced by an attitude that welcomes their innovation.
  3. Travels shift. Immigration bans, an increasing climate of hatred, the degradation of a climate of diversity, laptop bans. Quite simply, a greater percentage of the world’s population will choose to visit other parts of the world. The laptop ban itself causes the mind to boggle. Why would anyone encourage people to spend hours travelling in an environment that is massively unproductive, when they could choose to go elsewhere?
  4. Meetings and events relocate. The global meeting industry generates billions of dollars in economic activity. Quite simply, countless scientific and other conferences and events will choose to host future events in a more tolerant, idea-diverse location than the US. Meeting professionals understand this, but few are willing to listen.
  5. Sporting events move. I have a friend who has just been appointed to take a senior role at the Canadian Soccer Association, who has an initiative to pursue the hosting of a future World Cup event with a combined bid involving Canada, the US and Mexico. Think about the chances of that happening in the current climate. Like, it won’t.
  6. Minds that matter move. If I were a PhD candidate, where might I choose to place the efforts of my mind today? Into an environment in which ideas matter! We are living in a modern day era of Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt? He and she are out there, and they are making their decision.
  7. Skills training evaporates. Economies move forward by enhancing the skills of their participants. The world of manufacturing provides the perfect example: dead-end brute force manufacturing jobs are gone, and they aren’t coming back. Robotics, digitization, 3D printing and more define the future, all of which involve higher-level skills and education. Countries worldwide are racing to enhance the skills of their workforce. Clearly this will slow down in the US given the current environment. The eventual winners embrace new skills; the losers cling to old, outdated irrelevant skills.
  8. Silicon Valley loses its dominance. This morning, I came across a really interesting Tweet which mentioned a Greek engineer who chose to move to Eindhoven in the Netherlands, considered to be one of Europe’s “Silicon Valley’s.” In years past, that fellow might have moved to the US, turned on his mind, and created the future, growth, and jobs. That era is coming to an end. The implications are profound. For the last 50 years, the California IT engine has dominated the accelerated innovation that comes from technology. That’s now changing quickly: the new growth engines are “Silicon Wadi” in Israel, the Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park in China, Canada’s Technology Triangle centred on Kitchener. They are set to take momentum and innovation away from Silicon Valley as America loses its dominance in one of the key drivers of innovation success, technology innovation.
  9. New multinationals become the corporate model. The US Fortune 500 has dominated the global economy for a long time, but if you take all of these trends, growth will occur elsewhere. Companies will choose to realign themselves to growth. The new Fortune 500’s will be headquartered in Germany, Singapore, China, and elsewhere. As corporate office power shifts, so too goes economic growth.
  10. Political discourse matures elsewhere. Long the beacon of democracy, it really seems we are witnessing its decline. Advanced economies are having discussions about the reality of climate change, skills retraining and more. Temper tantrums don’t define future success; mature discussions do.

What is happening today matters. The implications are pretty profound.

You should be thinking about this.

Location intelligence was the hot new opportunity 20 years ago as spatial (GIS) data came to be a big part of the world. 20 years on, it still is. My oldest son is building a fabulous career working in the industry – he’s a leading expert in the use of tools such as ArcGIS, for example.

But move over for spatial data bubbles — all of us are about to become immersed in many different bubbles, and the implications are bigger than you think!

What is a spatial data bubble? It’s a phrase I’ve coined as I’ve come to spend more time thinking about what happens when we add location oriented data to data-sets that will envelope us in multiple dimensions. I first hit upon the realization of how important they will be when I was working out with my personal trainer one day at the gym, and was continuing to ensure she understood the impact of emerging smart clothing technologies upon exercise routines.

The simple fact is, I drive my personal trainer nuts when I’m at the gym. She will try and get me to do a certain routine that has my limbs or torso moving within a certain defined area. If they move within that area, I’m doing it correctly. At the same time that she is trying to get me to do this, I’m busy formulating in my mind how we could reinvent exercise in the future with spatial data bubbles! Here I am on stage talking about this idea — in this case, an opening keynote for the YMCA/YWCA.

How will this work? First off, smart clothing will replace wearable technologies – read my post on that. I’ve been speaking and writing about smart clothing for years — two years ago, I outlined in a keynote for the Sporting & Fitness Industry Association that this would be a major trend to watch. Some of the bubbles which are emerging will be fascinating: a golf ball in the future will be its only little spatial-data bubble information generator as it starts to transmit real time information on speed, velocity, location and acceleration! Most sports equipment will exist in little spatial data bubbles that also align goals and objectives to performance.

So it will be with exercise routines. The  emergence of smart-clothing will solve the problem of ‘firing’ the right muscles during an exercise routine, by providing information on whether I’m in the right spatial area.  In the future, we will be buying clothes that will have a variety of embedded sensors and technology. When my trainer gets to me to do a routine in the future, and these sensors will be used to generate a data bubble around my body. She’ll be able to set a tolerance range — say, 10 or 20%. The bubble will determine if my activities are within that particular spatial range within the bubble — if so, I’ll be rewarded in some way. The better I get at the routine the lower the tolerance with the bubble will be!

If my activities stray outside the bubble — well, maybe the clothing will zap me! Big opportunities for performance-oriented exercise routines!

Spatial data bubbles will soon be everywhere! They are emerging at a furious pace with the rapid emergence of self-driving car technology.

Today’s collision avoidance systems have limited data bubbles, only looking at vehicles around them. In the future, the bubbles will be bigger, talking to the road, linking to other data bubbles, advance telemetry systems, road monitoring and lane allocation systems, and more!

The typical self-driving, connected car is putting off some 7 gigabytes of data per hour. That’s a staggering amount of information — and increasingly, more and more of it will be spatial data bubble oriented. Self-driving cars and trucks will talk to intelligent highway infrastructure technologies which might guide them on their journeys, and in effect, create a little bubble of data around the vehicle involving obstacles, other vehicles, road sensors and other stuff. Then there is stuff that is already here: peloton technology that has self-driving cars and trucks involved cars communicating their lo0cation in time and space with other vehicles so that they can travel in a space-saving, wind-resistant pack. The data bubble of a car has 360-sensing capability, looking for pedestrians, other cars and other information.

Spatial data bubbles aren’t new: they’ve been around for some time. Perhaps the best example are the robots used in advanced manufacturing systems. These robots need to have continual 3D awareness. They used to be able to operate on their own; but as their spatial data bubbles have grown, they’ve become collaborative, designed to work in proximity to people. They’ve become more spatially aware, with cameras, sonar and other tech. This has allowed them to become cognitive and quality-conscious , with feedback on whether assembly is done correctly. Increasingly, they are capable of working in multiple planes at once, with multiple axis movements. Their bubble will extend to human-operators, who might increasingly use spatial bubble technologies such as Google Glass, for remote operation, in a virtual reality scenario.

And therein lies a key point – virtual reality, more than anything else, will accelerate spatial data bubble technologies. This point was hammered home to me on the weekend when I visited Colony VR in Ottawa with my son, his girlfriend and my wife. Here I am smashing some balloons while in a virtual reality spatial data bubble!

A futurist in a spatial data bubble!

Virtual reality is going to have a massive impact on the rate of spatial-data bubble technologies, methodologies, data sets and more! VR will emerge as a significant tool for skills training, telemedicine, sports and so much more. And if you think about it, it’s all about data bubbles!

Location-oriented data is pretty easy and not terribly overwhelming in terms of quantity, because it essentially involves a couple of points on a map. Spatial data bubbles are infinitely more complex, because it will involve thousands or millions of data points involving that point on the map, and the areas above and around it.

If you think we’ve seen a data explosion in the past, we have, as they say, ”seen nothing yet!”

Spatial data bubbles are the new location intelligence!

I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.

Over the years, I have come to realize that while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away.

I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”

This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.

Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!

Leaders today must steer their organization into a fast paced future — through the shoals of disruption, the emergence of new competitors, technology, automation and other challenges — while understanding that there is a core group that will do little to embrace that change. It’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons, in one workplace!

I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.

And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.

The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.

I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.

My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.

Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.

 

In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!

What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.

In other words, the future can be safely ignored.

I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and this is a real and substantive leadership issue.

As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast paced future — one full of challenge and opportunity — to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?

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It is quickly becoming apparent that in 2017, there will be the emergence of two economies: one linked to the whimsical desire for the 1950’s, and the other firmly  set to accelerate to the year 2050.

Case in point: one will involve a desire to return to coal; the other, to solar, alternative energy and accelerating science. One wishes that we can return to the brute force manufacturing methods of 1950 involving bashing metal; the other involves 3d printing, advanced processes and materials, and much more.

Which economy do you want to link yourself to? One will be driven by politics, and will seem pretty ridiculous years from now. The other will be driven by science, and is inevitable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m with science on this one….

Science acclerates and takes us into a faster future. It provides us opportunities that are unprecedented. For example: what if we could grow plants that became  solar panels? What if solar adoption grew as quickly as Facebook did?

Crazy ideas? I don’t think so.

Solar is a barometer for two new economies. I was thinking about that this morning when a Bloomberg article caught my attention: “Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth”  That’s a 1950 vs a 2050 economic issue right there!

Consider this key paragraph:

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Two really cool statistics stand out from the article:

  • since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent
  • every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent

The trend will start to accelerate further as science accelerates. Science is inviolable. It doesn’t slow down. And solar is science.

The fact is, there is incredible momentum with solar.

Innovation in 2017 will be about linking yourself to 2050….

Here’s a clip where i spoke to the National Rural Electrical Cooperaitve, and am challenging them to think about some of these questions.

10 Great Words for 2017
December 30th, 2016

Some years back as the year drew to a close, I wrote a blog post, “10 Great Words.” The intent was to provide some motivational guidance as to how to think and act in the coming year year.

Some good advice for 2017!

It was a hit! To this date, remains one of the busiest pages on my Web site. There have been a few more similar posts along the way.

I think such lists are helpful for people, as they help us to think about the many unique trends and issues that surround us. With that in mind, here are my words for 2017. They are based on an assessment both of what we have been through in 2016, but with thoughts as to what we might face in the year to come.

  1. Authenticity. A defining trend for the coming year. Given the brutal dishonesties of the previous year, people are going to aggressively seek and embrace reality. If your personal values, company or brand can be authentic, you will have the defining trend of the year well in hand.
  2. Volatility. It’s the new normal. In the coming year, expect more of it. Innovate your way around it.
  3. Persevere. With so much uncertainty, your ability to stay focused and disciplined in your actions, in spite of potentially long odds, will be critical!
  4. Dignity. From my view, it looks like the world will provide a more cruel and mean environment in 2017. Make a personal decision to fight back. Double down on dignity; you’ll be a better person for it.
  5. Surround. As in, surround yourself with optimists!
  6. Immerse. In experiences, new ideas, technologies, concepts. There is so much going on in our fast paced world that the only way to figure out what is going on is to dive in and get involved!
  7. Accelerate. Increasing rates of change mean that you must constantly assess and challenge your own personal speedometer!
  8. Anticipate. Develop better skills, insight and tools to understand what comes next — even if what comes next arrives quicker than the year before!
  9. Emulate. Seek personal innovation and motivational heroes, follow their lead, and then set your own course
  10. Act. Last but not least, make decisions! One lasting impact of the tsunami of unpredictability of 2016 is a stain of uncertainty. Wash it away!

 

 

 

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