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Major trends

Some people see a trend and see a threat. Smart people see the same trend and see an opportunity! -- Jim Carroll



Today’s photo is actually from a keynote for an agricultural organization, but the quote in the picture actually started out having to do with the fast pace of change in the automotive sector. The thought came to mind with my morning photo preparation, because I’m currently preparing for a hands-on, interactive session with a Board of Directors, on the future of self-driving cars and more.

Companies that don’t yet exist will build cars that aren’t yet designed, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

I could have made this quote back in 2000, in the context of where Tesla Motors is today. I pretty much did when I predicted the emergence of Tesla back in 2003 when I led a leadership team for an event with DaimlerChrylser at Mercedes Benz HQ in Germany.

After I prepare my morning picture, I send it out via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (You can find all of them on my Instagram feed). This one drew some instant response:

Good point — every industry is subjected to the similar trend of uncertainty.

Since I still had the picture on my laptop and was having my morning coffee, I did a quick revision, to make it more general. “”Companies that don’t yet exist will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas that have yet been generated, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

That too got a fast response, with a number of shares  – but one curmudgeonly fellow decided to take a few shots:

So I tweeted back.  “Geesh you are in a bad mood. Cheer yourself up. The type of thinking is real.” I linked to a quote from Tesla Motors on their unique experience with the Model 3. It somewhat parallels my thinking.

I really should know better.

 

Futures-babble? Sure. Let’s check the assumptions and deconstruct my quote from a historical perspective to put this type of future-babble in perspective:

  • companies that don’t yet exist: Netflix, AirBNB, Uber are the easy ones. We’re seeing a lot of existing ones disappear. The entire history of business involves companies that come into industries, change it, do something new, and upset the balance.
  • products not yet conceived. Really? CD’s, DVD’s, drones, curved skis…. isn’t the whole human experience about conceiving new products?
  • ideas not yet generated. Um, iPads? Didn’t someone invent the concept of a car?
  • materials not yet invented. Velcro, folks. I actually just did a talk for the senior leadership team of Arconic — a new spinoff of the aluminum giant Alcoa. I can tell you that capitalizing on the rapid emergence of new materials based on advanced science is very much on their mind. Should I tell them that maybe it’s just future-babble?
  • manufacturing methodologies not yet conceived. Additive, 3DPrinted manufacturing? Build to demand manufacturing models? Mass customization? Rapid prototyping and SmartThings? Seems we have had a constant stream of new methodologies and capabilities.

I always find it fascinating when curmudgeons jump out and undertake critic-babble.

My quotes stand on their own. I don’t see anything the least bit wrong with them. They will become true, over and over and over again.

Challenge yourself to align to a future that is not yet invented, but in fact, is being invented all around you. Listen to the future-babble. Watch for all the signs and trends that are changing everything – faster. Refuse complacency.

It might make a difference in how you approach things.

My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, helping at leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry.

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. At no other time in the world of business have we seen so many trends come together all at once. Computers, exponentiating bandwidth, connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry. As this happens….

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul. What this means is that …..

3. Velocity accelerates and speed defines success. Moore’s law — the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before. Some can do it, and others can’t, which leads to the new rule in the economy that….

4. Small beats big. Agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by legacy, and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge. In their world….

5. Edge thinking dominates. These small upstarts don’t follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through crowd-funding, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories. The result of this trend is that ….

6. Ideas accelerate. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality. In such an environment …

7. Big, bold thinking predominates. We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas. To get their fast, they realize that….

8. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which ….

9. Experience is oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century. To get there, you need to know that….

10. Action is the best reaction. If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about it.

The 11 Rules of #IOT Architecture
February 13th, 2017

In the 21st century economy, building a great product is no longer enough. It’s what you can do with it after it is shipped that is important. That idea defines the opportunity of the Internet of Things.

When the phrase “Internet of Things” came along, I had a bit of an A-HA moment! I’d been talking about the trend since 1995, referring to it as ‘hyperconnectivity.” (I went kind of ballistic back in the day when Nortel — remember them? — tried to claim that it originated the phrase in 1997….)

The impactions of IoT is significant. Yet at this point, the Internet of Things is in its very early days — there is extensive experimentation, innovation, idea exploration and such. Yet much of of the current generation of stuff will disappear, simply because it isn’t architected for the future. It’s almost like the early days of e-commerce in the late 90’s – a lot of excitement yet not quite ready for primetime. That will change as organizations and entire companies make the transition to become software companies.

A senior management team at Whirlpool/Maytag recently invited me in for a keynote for a leadership meeting that was focused on the Internet of Things. They know that they know that they are in an industry that is making the transition from to a company that sells computers that happen to feature its products. In my talk, I outlined the key components of a real, robot, scalable IOT architecture. Its good food for thought for anyone going down this path in a serious way.

A smart device architecture in the world of #IOT should involve devices that are:

  • upgradeable: any device should have the ability to be upgraded from afar, automatically, either by user choice or centralized management
  • feature addition capable: the design should provide for the addition of future capabilities, some of which might not be imagined yet at the time of development
  • prognostic, diagnostic: each device should be able to self-diagnose and report when it is not working correctly
  • self-repairing: better yet, it should not only know when things are going wrong, but have the capability to fix it once it is aware
  • programmable: the device should be modifiable by users, to the extent that is possible within a predefined robust security and privacy architecture
  • self-reporting: the device should be able to report on a wide variety of information pertaining to operations, proximity, location, status, etc
  • swarm data-generating: it should be able to generate types of information that, in concert with other similar devices, is able to be manipulated to provide some unique operational, predictive or maintenance-information data-set (or more)
  • inteligence-capable: as in, artificial intelligence; on launch, or in the future, it should have or be provided capabilities to make its own decisions based on input data
  • sensor-aware: it should have the feature of being able to link to one or more external sensors for additional information
  • grid-connectable:  it should be able to exist or participate within a connected series of devices to achieve some original or newly conceived purpose
  • individually and collectively addressable: to accomplish all of this, the device must be accessible either on its own, or as part of one of many predefined groups

The implications of #IoT are bigger than you think; its fair to say that it will be responsible for a huge amount of disruption, because it transitions many organizations from their core business to that of hi-tech companies. It accelerates the pace of innovation, has a dramatic impact on available and necessary skills, leads to market and industry upheaval, and leads to the blurring of competitive boundaries.  It impacts everything, from water to entertainment, energy to healthcare, manufacturing to communications.

As they say, just wait – there’s more!

In 2017, politics is bound to once again dominate the world of healthcare. When that happens, people tend to lose sight of the remarkable advances, driven by science and innovation that are occurring, that make this one of the most exciting industries out there.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that we are out of big ideas. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP – consider, for example, what is occurring with the science and technology of medicine!

With that in mind, consider the tremendous advances that have occurred with the science and technology of medicine. This is a grab bag of a few of those trends:

  • technology is taking over medicine. BIo-connectivity devices such as remote blood pressure monitoring devices allows for the virtualization of many health care services (“bedless hospitals”) at a much lower cost
  • Google and other companies are working on a contact lens that will monitor blood sugar/glucose for diabetes patients
  • we will soon see ‘smart medical implants’. This will include a contact lens, surgically implanted, that will feature storage, a battery, sensors and other electronics to aid in vision
  • we have ingestible pharmaceuticals, such as from Proteus, that report on how well a particular cancer treatment might be working
  • global grand challenges and funding are set to solve big diseases, such as a $3 billion fund establish by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife
  • we will soon see a computer chip that will diagnose infectious diseases through continue bloodstream monitoring
  • 3D printing technologies now allows us to provide customized hip-replacements and other medical implants, or the printing of prosthetics for amputees — including in war ravaged areas such as Sudan and elsewhere
  • computational, real time analytical healthcare dashboards will allow us to monitor and track the emerging of infectious diseases and other conditions in real time; Google Flu Trends was a harbinger of what is coming
  • smart packaging allows the development of pharmaceutical/drug products that will aid in the use of the product
  • digital mobile technologies are allowing many people to ‘get closer’ to their health, by monitoring, gaining a better understanding and actively managing chronic conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes
  • wearable sensor technologies (such as the contact lens mentioned above) allows for continuous monitoring of medical conditions
  • personalized medicine and pharmacogenetics provides for more targeted drug and medical therapies
  • there is continued momentum towards virtualized healthcare concepts that don’t require visits to a doctors office, for common treatable conditions
  • patient generated data and shared patent edited medical records are providing for more consultative medical relationships
  • ‘frugal innovation’ is leading to such ideas as smartphone-based medical imaging capabilities
  • continued rapid advances in the cost collapse of genomic medicine
  • AI advances leading to an ongoing decrease in the cost of medical diagnosis, including pathology slides, x-rays, retina scans and more
  • continued advances in anti-aging strategies
  • inexpensive medical tests, often referred to as a “lab-in-your-pcoket” devices
  • the ‘exercise is medicine’ trend which recognizes real methods to reverse the staggering cost of lifestyle disease
  • robotic technology advances providing opportunities for those who have lost hands or limbs

But wait, there’s more!

Despite all that, the challenges in healthcare are vast. Aside from the political challenges (which will likely be a gong show), we are faced with a continuing rampup in self-inflicted lifestyle disease (which could cost Western society $150 billion more over 10 years), a shortage of specialized skills, a funding mismatch, expectation gap, anti-science hysteria and more.

But all-in-all, there are a lot of big ideas and bold solutions.

I knew ‘fake news’ was a thing in 2016. Who would expect to see it in the Wall Street Journal?

Does the science of healthcare make a difference? In 2012, I did a keynote for the health care professionals and senior leadership of Mercy Health, and suggested they get aggressively involved in exploring virtual health care ideas. Imagine my surprise when I came access this item today – Mercy Virtual! The initiative was established in 2006, but picked up significant steam from 2013 onwards…. with 300+ patients now being monitored from afar. I sspecifically remember suggesting that as an activity when some questions came up in the Q&A.

It’s nice to know that in my own small way, I am helping to effect big changes in the world of healthcare!

Today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article,”Why Saudi Arabia’s Oil Giant Aims to Be Big in Chemicals, Too“, with the subhead: “Aramco’s plans to vastly expand its petrochemical operations are part of the kingdom’s effort to remake its economy as oil’s future clouds.” 

bn-qv896_1117ar_j_20161117132853

“Aramco’s strategic goal is to create a global network of refining and petrochemical plants that let Saudi Arabia turn its biggest asset into hundreds of higher-value products crucial to modern life, from chewing gum to auto parts”

Why would one of the world’s largest oil companies shift to a new focus on the chemical industry as their key opportunity? One reason is that the math, and hence the scope of the opportunity, is so overwhelming. (The other being that in a world awash in oil, energy is no longer a growth industry. So after the world gets flat, you put a ripple in it!)

Here’s why: years ago, I dug out a fascinating observation having to do with the world of chemistry. I’ve used this in keynotes for BASF, the American Chemical Society, and many others. Consider the simple math at hand that spells opportunity with a capital ‘O’.

  • “…The number of known chemical substances has been growing exponentially since 1800, from some hundreds then to about 19 million today….”
  • “…. the number constantly doubles every 13 years….”
  • by 2025: 80 million chemical substances
  • by 2050: 300 million
  • and by 2100: 5 billion……

19 billion known chemical substances to 5 billion? That’s a pretty exponential change….

Why is this important? I always point out on stage, when using these stats, that the discovery of a single new chemical substance led to the opportunity for Apple to miniaturize the hard drive — that led to the first iPod.

Which was the birth of a multi-billion market.

For every new chemical substance, similar massive new opportunities exist.

That’s what it means to live in an exponential world! And that is what it means to focus on future opportunities through innovation. Which is precisely what Said Aramco is focused on….

 

 

So … I regularly get approached to speak at a lot of corporate leadership meetings …. and have done so for organizations like Johnson & Johnson, The GAP, Dupont, BASF, Siemens, Lockheed Martin. I frame for them the issue that the future is arriving faster than they think, and offer concise guidance on key trends that they need to align themselves to…..

To help emphasize the issue of the era of acceleration I’ve been using the story of the Jetson’s over the last 5 years while on stage. Remember it? It’s that cartoon show from 1962, purporting to show what the world will look like in 2062. Remember George Jetson? Remember the fact that there were autonomous vehicles, robot assistants, drones, and Skype and FaceTime seemed to be everywhere?

Now consider this! About a month ago, I was approached by Arconic to headline a leadership meeting for them in Phoenix; this is a newly spun-off entity from Alcoa that is focused on advanced technologies. I’ll be the opening kickoff – outlining and reaffirming the trends that will provide massive opportunity in the future.

Great minds think alike! They think the world of the Jetson’s is going to arrive here soon too — and are planning to play a major role in helping to make it happen. So much so, that they engaged Hollywood filmmaker Justin Lin of Star Trek Beyond fame, to do  a live-action re-imagination of the world of “The Jetsons!

 

Give it a watch!

Check their tagline: “Arconic: A Company Where the Future Takes Shape.” And my talk for them? I’m thinking this: “A keynote with the motivation that can help to make it happen!”

Do you need to accelerate your team into the future? Do it now, and read my keynote topic, The Jetson’s Have Arrived Fifty Years Early: What Are You Going to Do About It?

This is all just too much fun — just yesterday, while in Washington, I had some time to kill before a meeting, so I visited the Smithsonian Institution. What did I find, but a Jetsons lunchbox!

jetsonslunchbox

I so want this item….

Learn more about the making of the video

Here I am on stage in front of 2,000 in Chicago on the Jetsons!

david-full-front

“Using 3D-printed wax moulds for concrete components, we will have a completely different paradigm. This is transformative technology”.

It is perhaps the most staggering piece of artwork in the whole of human history, renowned for its accuracy in the depiction of the human body . Anyone who has seen it up close comes away in awe of the fact that someone had the ability to carve such a piece from stone.

Now, imagine, that one day we will see a 3D printer that could print Michelangelo’s David utilizing concrete and other advanced materials – and that if such a statue would be placed next to the original, most people would be unable to tell the difference!

Science fiction? Not to me.

That was one of my messages in my keynote last week for the American Concrete Institute, with with over 1,000 executives from this industry in the room. My job was to outline for them the opportunities that will come to the industry from embracing fast paced trends. And I put on the table for them the idea that the boldest goal in their industry would be accomplished when someone was able to print Michelangelo’s David utilizing a 3D printer.

It’s perhaps the equivalent of the well known Turing test, which is the ultimate challenge with computer technology — could a computer have the ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human?

Farfetched? No. In fact, computer companies have been pursuing the goal of the Turing test in a feverish race.

This same thing will happen in the concrete industry with 3D printing — indeed, it’s a bold goal that some people are already thinking about in terms of the transformative trends sweeping the industry today.

Every industry has, or should have the equivalent of a Turing test. Think about robotics – how quickly will this industry mature? I just toured a robotics display at a museum in Philadelphia, and one display suggested that there should be a “Jetsons goal for robotics” –” the industry will have matured when it can build a robot that will be accepted by a family, just like Rosie the Robot from the popular 1960’s television cartoon.”

Here’s the thing — we might see these big bold bets be achieved sooner rather than later. I continually emphasize to my clients that the future is happening all around them, and that it’s happening faster than they think. In China, an entire 4,305 sq foot, 2 story home has been printed with a 3D printer, with walls as thick as 
8 feet and with 9 foot ceilings. It too 45 days from start to finish, and was printed in one go at the building site.

Consider this office building in Dubai which was printed in concrete using a 3D printer (from my slide deck).

dubaiconcrete
There are fascinating trends which come from the ability to 3D print with concrete. We can get more flexible designs, with concrete that is warped or twisted. Waste is significantly reduced, new design concepts are suddenly possible, and we can cut down on the cost of manufacturing. People are talking about the fact that it will lead us to an era in which we can “design for deconstruction” — printing in such a way that when a building is eventually decommissioned, we can dissassemble it rather than blowing it up!

Where is the world of construction headed? Consider this:

Your future home might be planned using virtual reality, built with a 3D printer and inspected by a robot for quality. What may sound like a sci-fi movie could become reality in a few decades as Singapore ramps up its construction productivity and employs more efficient building methods. Building with speed and quality through high-tech, Straits Times, Hong Kong, October 2016

Of course, 3D printing is already passe, I pointed out to my audience at the American Concrete Institute: people are already talking about 4D printing — which has materials that can change shape depending on the environemt they are in!

Bottom line? Consider this comment by Archite ct James Gardiner: “Using 3D-printed wax moulds for concrete components, we will have a completely different paradigm. This is transformative technology”.

What’s the Turing test or Michaelangelo’s David in your industry? And are you prepared to think in a big and bold way to get there before others do?

 

Last week, I was the opening keynote speaker for a small insurance industry group — and had senior executives of quite a few major property & casualty and life insurance companies in the room.

As always, I undertook an extensive amount of detailed research on the latest status of innovation within the industry. In addition, I looked back on my research and interview notes for previous keynotes for CEOs and other executives for the largest insurance companies in the world.

(Last December, I was the opening keynote for the annual Insurance Executive Conference in New York City; in the room was the CEO for Transamerica Life, among others; this is typical of many talks I’ve done within the industry over the course of 20 years)

"Kicking off Executive Leadership Council meeting with our friends @GAMAIntl  & keynote @jimcarroll in Amelia Island"

@IntellectSEEC – “Kicking off Executive Leadership Council meeting with our friends @GAMAIntl & keynote @jimcarroll in Amelia Island”

Let’s face it: the trends are real. The industry will be disrupted by tech companies. Existing brokerage and distribution networks will be obliterated as more people buy insurance direct. Predictive analytics will shift the industry away from actuarial based historical assessment to real-time coverage. Policy niches, micro-insurance and just-in-time insurance will drive an increasing number of revenue models. The Internet of Things (iOt) and healthcare connectivity will provide for massive market and business model disruption. I could go on for hours!

To gauge the current thinking within the industry as to “how to deal with what comes next,” my session included some hands-on, live interactive text-message polling.

Right out of the bat, I asked the participants if they felt ready for the massive disruption now underway in the insurance sector.

And the fact is, they are not:

gama1

Having said that, they know that they are in the midst of some pretty significant change — the majority indicated that they believe that the insurance industry will not look anything in 10 years like it looks today.

gama2

The reaction in the room parallels that of a recent Accenture study that I referenced in my keynote:

  • CSO’s at global companies and 94% of CSO’s at insurance companies agree that tech will “rapidly change their industry in 5 years”
  • fewer than 1 in 5 CSOs in insurance believe their companies are prepared
  • fewer than 1 in 10 believe their companies are “high value achievers”

A similar observation was found in a recent PWC study on the insurance industry:

  • “Nine in 10 insurance executives polled by consultant PwC reckon at least part of their business is at risk over the next five years – a greater proportion than in any other area of finance”

Clearly, these executives know that something needs to be done to deal with the potential for business model disruption in the industry. Yet is the industry prepared to deal with it?

Not really:

  • “Fewer than 50 per cent of respondents in the life and general insurance sectors said they would increase IT spending to help them access new customers.” Fintech is booming – but where are 
the insurance tech startups? 
29 September 2015, City AM

Here’s the current problem: there is tremendous potential for complacency to seep into the industry, particularly as Google has pulled back from its’ Google Compare initiative. (This service let people use a Google tool to do comparison shopping for insurance policies from major carriers; the CEO of Google Compare also spoke at the New York event last December).

  • “Google’s initial failure shows technology firms won’t necessarily have “an easy road” to success in the new sector.” Beating Silicon Valley to the Punch; Digitizing Insurance, 11 March 2016

Is the complacency warranted? Not in my view — I think most tech companies, when disrupting an industry and suffer an initial setback, come back in a bigger and more significant way. It’s most likely that when Google, Amazon, Apple and other tech companies  come back in to disrupt insurance, they won’t be working with major carriers to do it!

  • “Expect that when the megatechs enter the insurance space, they will insist on taking control of a much bigger portion of the sales journey, positioning themselves as an alternative end-to-end solution provider, not just a lead generator.” Life Insurance Disruption, Asia Insurance Review, June 2016

Does the insurance industry have the innovation culture necessary to deal with the potential for what comes next? My next poll gave me a pretty stark response — the industry continues to be bound up in some pretty significant organizational sclerosis.

gama3

Is there a way out of this mess? Can the industry fix the clear strategic mismatch which exists?

In my keynote,  I suggested that disruption in such a significant issue that it really needs to be dealt with at the level of the Board; strategy needs to be kicked up a notch; clear responses and actions are warranted.

Quite clearly, specific responsibility needs to be put in place to implement a  disruption-strategy. Back to the Accenture report:

  • “Companies that have put in place chief digital officers and chief innovation officers and who report directly to the CEO tend to have a dedicated focus on technology-focused initiatives …. That’s a sign that they and C-level peers are taking technology-disruption seriously.”

Industry insight also clearly shows that insurance companies must “partner-up” to deal with the fact they simply don’t have the technology expertise to compete with Google, Amazon and others.

  • “an overarching theme …. not least among them insurers .. is that they cannot face technology driven innovation by themselves” – “How to disrupt the high-tech disruptors”
National Underwriter & Health
September 2016

Are many insurance companies following the path to partner up? Sadly, no:

  • “Only 28% of the respondents said they explored partnerships with fintech companies and less than 14% actively participated in ventures or incubator programmes.” Insurance Companies Slow in 
Bridging Fintch Gap, Mint, July 2016

I’ve been providing strategic level guidance to senior executives in the global insurance industry for over 20 years.

The issues, challenges and opportunities are stark. They’re real. They’re not going away.

Will most companies survive? Maybe not. Stay tuned!

Is your community positioned for success in the era of autonomous vehicle technology? Are you thinking about this from an economic development perspective?

intelligenthighway

“Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad – Do you want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are you going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.” – Futurist Jim Carroll

It’s a valid question, and one that I’ve been addressing for a number of years. I covered this issue in a keynote for 2,000 mayors and elected officials when I was the opening keynote the Texas Municipal League, as well as the Colorado Department of Transportation Summit. There have been many other similar situations. But I think that perhaps now, the opportunities that come from community that supports advanced, intelligent and hyperconnected transportation infrastructure is only just beginning to hit the radar of those responsible for economic development.

At least, because I’m finding an increasing number of people reaching out to me to talk about the issue. For example, BisNow recently ran an article, The Future Intersection of Driverless Cars and CRE (Commercial Real Estate); read it here.

Jim Carroll, a noted futurist who has spoken to a number of automotive companies as well as such organizations as NASA and the PGA, says autonomous vehicles will have the same economic impact railways did in the 19th century and highways did in the 20th century. And those cities that quickly adopt and build “intelligent infrastructure” to accommodate driverless technology will be the ones to thrive in this new world. “Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad,” Jim says. “The same went for highways: Cities that were connected directly by major interstates thrived. And now cities are facing a similar paradigm shift, “and really that becomes an economic decision,” Jim continues. “Do we want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are we going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.”

And Ian Frisch (who sometimes writes for : The New Yorker, WIRED, Bloomberg and Playboy), notes in his article, So, Do Self-Driving Cars Mean We’ll Work During Our Commutes? – read it here.

We will see situations where some cities will want to be at the forefront of this trend and encourage the infrastructure needed to support self-driving cars,” says Jim Carroll, a futurist, trends, and innovation expert. “That will have bigger implications because companies will want to relocate to where this technology is emerging first.”

If your company does relocate, and your commute gets bumped up a few hours, being able to work while your car drives you to the office would dramatically increase efficiency.

Right now, there are buses in the Bay Area with wi-fi,” Carroll says. “If you have a three-hour commute to San Jose, you’re fully equipped to jump in on a meeting on that bus. This will be a more personalized extension of that trend. People are already shifting how they work, but autonomous vehicles will push them to shift work in new and different ways. But, before that’s a reality, we will see organizations investing in communities that are open to the intelligent infrastructure that encourages things like auto vehicles. That’s the key to all of this.

I’ve covered this issue in numerous keynotes: here’s a clip from my Texas Municipal League keynote:

The key issues are this:

  • self driving cars, tractors and trucks – there’s a lot going on, but it’s not going to happen all at once
  • this new era isn’t just about the vehicle — it’s about the infrastructure that surrounds and supports them
  • in other words, there is a lot going on with intelligent highway infrastructure ….
  • there are going to be different levels of intelligence when it comes to the roads and highways that support such vehicles
  • communities will discover that they have an opportunity to get in front of others if they support advanced intelligent highway and road infrastructure
  • some will upgrade existing transportation corridors that accelerate the adoption and use of intelligent autonomous vehicles
  • others will put in place entirely new transportation corridors – self-driving dedicated roads
  • an increasing number of companies will begin to make relocation decisions to those communities who have advanced intelligent transportation plans in place

If you are involved at a political or economic delveopment level, the big issue for you is : where do you want to position your community?

Or will you go the way of communities that died when railroads and the interstate highway system came along?

We live in interesting times, where an inane political debate makes it seem that with a wave of a magic wand, an entire industry can be transformed overnight.

It won’t happen like that, folks.

It will happen through constant innovation, big bold moves, skill set reinvention and challenging thinking that will – and already is — providing for significant transformation.

I speak at quite a few major manufacturing events. Here’s a clip where I’m in front of 2,000 manufacturing executives and engineers in Chicago a few months ago, speaking to the reality of what is occurring on the ground.

The Globe & Mail in Toronto ran a great article last week, which included some key statistics on the reality of manufacturing in America. Those in the sector should keep these in mind, in light of the stupidity of the political debate, and the reality of the real opportunity:

  • in 1960, 24% of the US labor force was involved in manufacturing, while today, that number is 8% (yes, 5 million jobs have vanished)
  • robotics and intelligent manufacturing technology has replace far more US workers than have Mexican or Chinese faciltiies
  • today US factories produce twice as much stuff as they did in 1984 but with 1/3 fewer workers
  • manufacturing as a % of GDP is virtually unchanged since 1960
  • much of US manufacturing has shifted from the rustbelt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan to Southern states, much of which has involved significant new intelligent facilities

It’s kind of sad and tragic that a sector which has been so busy innovating finds itself in the midst of what really is a dishonest debate.

The key going forward? Manufacturing needs to continue to focus on what it has done so well in the past — innovate, focus on the future, reinvent!