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May 12, 2014

Are These Stupendous Disruptions On the Way?

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:23 PM

4D Printing is the Future of Design [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow5TgVTTUdY]

The analysts at the research arm at megabank Citi are once again creating a buzz for their Top 10 list of the technologies that will disrupt our world.

For example, one of the innovations on their latest list is 4-D printing. Essentially this development will allow people first to use 3-D printers to print out materials that can then assemble themselves. The United States Army, a group that tends to be keen on the latest technologies, seeded a total of $855,000 to a handful of universities that are doing research on 4-D printing. If the military has expressed interest, I imagine private industry has plenty of potential uses for this technology as well.

A promising technology on the bank's new list is immunotherapy. The idea is that doctors can train a person's immune system both to recognize and (if needed) attack cancerous cells.

Expect disruption where you might never think of looking: the farm. The bank's analysts say that "precision agriculture" is going to be big, with things like hyper-local weather detectors and even an Internet for farming machines. The world's population is growing like never before, and that means billions more mouths to feed in the coming decades. With land limited (they're certainly not making more of that!), today's agro-businesses are looking for such innovations to make the most out of the farmland that they presently have.

The electric grids in places like North America are ageing, and in the developing world they can't seem to keep up with supplying energy to the skyrocketing population. In both cases, the future appears to be filled with technologies that better store electricity for when people actually need to use it. Says one Citi analyst: "If storage could be combined with smart metering and demand response, we could conceivably move to a situation where load is managed and supply is being managed by storage. This could significantly reduce the amount of stranded capacity and hence wasted cost on an electricity system, as well as improve its reliability."

Another area that is becoming a lot more dependable is digital banking. Increasingly we're seeing just about every financial services functions become automated. That should continue in a big way: Citi's analysts predict that mobile banking will experience a huge growth rate in the coming years because of the convergence of two phenomena: Western markets adopting an almost-complete use of automated banking functions and emerging markets beginning to use less cash and more credit in their day-to-day transactions. There are some areas of the world where physical bank branches have become very quiet - customers would rather do their banking online than visit an actual location.

Some innovations involve financial innovations and will be no less disruptive. In the insurance industry, look for securitization to shake things up. Traditionally, old-line insurers have gotten together to pool their risks in what's known as reinsurance. But instead of placing their risks in one or two reinsurance firms, insurers can spread it out in securitized bundles. (Is there anything left that banks haven't figured out how to securitize?!) Already the established reinsurers have dropped their prices by as much as 15 percent because of the securitization trend.

Whether or not these exciting predictions become more apparent in the next year, one thing is certain: Disruptions abound when innovative organizations are fueling the global economy.

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