So much of a CEO’s time and mental energy is devoted to running a company and staying up to date on their specific industry.
But if you’re like me, you tend to have a diverse set of interests. Our team is in logistics, but I’ve always been interested in a wide variety of science and tech-related subjects. Here are four of the technology trends I’ve had my eye on lately:
1. Mobility As A Service
We’ve begun the slow transition away from car ownership, especially in crowded, growing cities.
Companies are working on self-driving taxis. Ridesharing apps make it more convenient to hail a ride, and are focusing heavily on their own self-driving technology, as well. Once self-driving cars become the norm, there will be even less incentive for people to own a vehicle.
At that point, mobility as a service will have a strong presence. It will likely be best for small to midsized cities that lack strong public transportation and dense city centers. In cities with concentrated populations, public transportation will still be the best option for most people because the roads simply aren’t built to handle an increase in traffic.
Regardless, autonomous vehicles have arrived. It’s now just a matter of seeing how quickly these new methods of mobility will be integrated into our daily lives, and how entrepreneurs can best adapt to this new environment. Paradigms like service stations will change: Today they’re hubs for not just fuel, but food and more, but it remains to be seen how self-driving systems will change this entire business model.
2. Improved Biologic Drugs
A variety of stories in the news lately have been about breakthrough treatments that use gene therapy or monoclonal antibodies (mAB) to cure diseases. The catch is that these drugs are customized for a single patient.
In the case of mABs, immune cells are extracted, modified, grown in a lab animal, extracted from that animal, and finally put back into the patient’s body. Through this process, the immune cells are customized to better fight whatever illness the patient has. Currently, mAB drugs are good for treating autoimmune disorders, but they’ve also shown a lot of promise in fighting cancer.
And because these therapies are specific to one individual, they’re also incredibly expensive. Price tags can range anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million for treatment. The hurdle here is simply figuring out how to pay for it, whether the money’s coming from insurance companies, the government or some combination thereof.
Still, the efficacy of these treatments will make them hard to ignore in the coming years, for patients, medical professionals, investors and entrepreneurs alike.
3. Advanced Nuclear Power Plants
Nuclear power comes with a well-known stigma: It’s too dangerous for widespread use. However, by and large, the nuclear industry is safe. Countries like France, which gets 75% of its power from nuclear plants, can attest to that.
Usually, the other sticking point for detractors is the waste produced by nuclear plants. But there are promising developments in the use of thorium, rather than uranium, in nuclear power. A liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is even safer than current reactors. It can’t melt down because the reaction automatically stops if the reactor gets too hot. Thorium is more abundant than uranium, and, critically, the waste produced from thorium is less radioactive, has a shorter half-life, is not weaponizable and does not include plutonium, which can be used to create a bomb.
As the world looks for sources of electricity that don’t emit CO2, we may see more progress in developing advanced nuclear reactors that use thorium. Startups are entering this space once again, backed by major institutions and even the likes of Bill Gates, and clean energy as a service is only just beginning.
4. Blockchain In Government
Blockchain has been pegged as the technology of the future — a system with almost unlimited uses. As with any new tech, some of the hype is bound to be unfounded.
Blockchain has many legitimate uses, however, and governments will likely begin exploring them in the next few years. Specifically, federal and local governments may be able to use blockchain to produce digital identities and secure voting in elections.
Digital identities are a good way to meet in the middle when it comes to the voter ID debate. Republicans want to eliminate voter fraud in our elections. Democrats insist that voter ID laws lead to discrimination and voter disenfranchisement. Digital identities on a blockchain can help bridge that gap by allowing for secure, immutable voting records.
In fact, the Swiss city of Zug has already held the first test of a local, blockchain-based voting platform. Using digital IDs, residents who signed up were able to cast votes during the platform’s trial run. And by all reports, the project was a success, hopefully leading the way toward immutable, traceable voting records in larger elections around the world. The Iowa Caucus disaster is a good example that change is needed, and entrepreneurs should be ready to explore B2G Blockchains even further.
It’s clear we live in an age of rapid technological change. While five years may not seem like a long time, consider that it’s been that long since the Apple Watch was first announced. So, it’s always a good idea to have a sense of where technology trends might be headed, even if they aren’t in your specialty. You never know what innovation may cross industry lines.