Briefs: Emerging Trends

Digital Payment Futures

Moneyby _J_D_R_

There is a push underway to digitize consumer payments, led by those seeking to make the mobile phone and other personal devices into digital wallets.

To help monitor this trend and the evolving opinions about its future, we analyzed the results of a recent survey about the future of device-based payment systems conducted by the Pew Research Center. This brief presents some of the key themes that emerged from the Pew survey and synthesizes them with material from other sources to explore the future of digital money and explore implications for businesses and other organizations.

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American Parents’ Changing Attitudes: New Roles, New Needs


The values and attitudes of American parents about their parental roles, their children, and their careers are changing — driven by economic realities, shifting gender roles, and generational transitions.

Major trends underway include:

  • US parents are extraordinarily focused on their children’s cognitive development.
  • The roles of mothers and fathers are converging more than ever.
  • Mothers’ attitudes toward work-life balance are splitting along economic lines.
  • Both genders feel more stressed by juggling work and family.

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Rising Giants: Companies Welcome

Gabriel White flickr

The landscape of global business is changing. While World 1 economies still dominate the global business landscape, more and more companies based in World 2 and even World 3 are making their presence known on a worldwide scale.

These rising giants are not only serving — and in some cases dominating — their home markets, but they also are increasingly seeking to expand into other markets, both from other emerging economies and from developed economies. The growth and expansion of companies from emerging economies will dramatically transform the global business landscape in the next two decades.

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DIY Biotech: Citizen Foresight in Science


The do-it-yourself (DIY) biotech movement includes individuals and groups who are engaged in biotechnology outside of traditional academic, government, and industrial laboratories. The Introduction 1 movement has also been described as “garage biology.”

Some participants in DIY biotech are also known as “biohackers.” In the last several years, community biotech laboratories have begun to Introduction to DIY biotech 2 emerge to support and encourage such citizen science. The first of these laboratories was Genspace, located in Brooklyn, New York.

Eye-Tracking and Eye-Control: In the Blink of an Eye

Eye-Tracking Peter_Sheik_Flickr

Poets have long declaimed that the eyes are windows to the soul. Today’s technology entrepreneurs and marketers have a more prosaic idea—using eyes, specifically the movement and behavior of a person’s eye, to gauge interest, detect health problems, and control technology.

Bolstered by this possibility—and the spread of key technologies such as cameras, sensors, and cloud computing—eye-tracking and eye-control technologies are leaving the lab and demonstrations and moving into commercial settings. This could bring about new form factors for computing, new ways to interact with the built environment, and even new artistic processes. It will also likely continue to erode current privacy levels.

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The Future of the Auto Industry

Image: Marianna, Flickr creative commons for commercial use

Over the last century, the auto industry has put more than 1 billion vehicles on the world’s roadways—and continues to add more. Over the last five decades, the industry has averaged sales growth of 3% per year—double the growth of the world’s population over that period.

Yet the automobile industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Sales in what have traditionally been the industry’s strongest markets have leveled off in recent decades, but they continue to grow rapidly in emerging markets, especially China.

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Smarter Roads: Innovations in Roadway Infrastructure

Highways Agency

The wealth of time and interest devoted to the development of smart cars in recent years often overshadows equally significant advancements in a related sector: the roadways that such cars will navigate. Smarter roads may not have received as much attention as the advent of smart cars; however, governments, entrepreneurs, and innovative companies have been allocating substantial research and development resources toward their creation.

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Is Average Over?

Brandon Martin-Anderson

Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a popular economics blogger, made waves with his bestseller Average Is Over, a controversial and compelling forecast that maintains that the modern world is on the cusp of a sea change, brought on largely by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

“The basic look of our lives … hasn’t been revolutionized all that much in 40 to 50 years,” Cowen writes. “That’s about to change.”

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Ethiopia’s Consumer Market: Is It Worth Getting In Now?

Image: David Stanley
Flickr, creative commons for commercial use

The 14th largest country in the world by population, Ethiopia is an emerging economy that has demonstrated impressive growth throughout the past decade, growth sustained through the global recession. Ethiopia is currently the fifth largest economy in Africa and is projected to become the third largest within a decade, making it an inviting target for multinationals seeking to establish a presence in Africa.1

Despite its attractions, however, Ethiopia does not offer a certain—or even a relatively clear—road to prosperity for multinationals looking to do business there. The great promise the Ethiopian market presents is counterbalanced by the many drawbacks and challenges that will have to be overcome.

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Artificial Photosynthesis: Creating Solar Fuel


Over the long term, new energy sources will be needed to meet increasing energy demand, mitigate climate change, and provide energy self-sufficiency at the national and regional level. Ideal sources would be abundant, renewable, carbon neutral, portable, and affordable and make use of the existing energy infrastructure.

The energy needs of living organisms are met directly or indirectly through photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight into fuel. Renewable energy strategies already convert sunlight to electricity with photovoltaic cells and convert biomass—a product of photosynthesis—to fuel such as ethanol.

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The Future of Cybercrime: Impact on Business


New technologies will enable an expanded set of cyberthreats, and by 2020 cybercrime will become a key driver shaping how the Internet is governed, how data is used and stored, and how countries, companies, and consumers engage with each other in cyberspace.

These are among the key conclusions of “Project 2020: Scenarios for the Future of Cybercrime,” a study by the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA), a global nonprofit concerned with cybercrime, in collaboration with Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.Read more…

Wildcard: The Splintered Internet


The Internet “is arguably the most transnational economic and political network in human history,” one that has “greatly benefited the spread of commerce and ideas.” The US, along with many allies, has been a champion of a free and open Internet, and US-based multinational companies have reaped substantial rewards from Internet economic activity. Some other nations have sought, to varying extents, to control Internet content and access. Because of its global nature, providing a ready highway for hackers and spies, it has been argued that the Internet threatens to weaken national borders.

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The Future of Europe’s Instruments and Sensors Sectors


The EU’s instruments and sensors sector is facing an era of rapid change. Globalization, the emergence of low-cost competitors, a looming labor shortage, changing consumer values, and technological innovations in related fields are creating both opportunities and challenges. Though it may be difficult for firms in the sector to change, the future holds new opportunities for those looking to establish markets in emerging high-tech fields.Read more…

Cyberspace and Cybersecurity to 2025: Three Scenarios


The next decade will see enormous growth in cyberspace: more people, more devices, more connectivity, more data. The expansion of connectivity offers abundant opportunities for businesses, governments, and individuals, but also significant risks, especially those related to cybersecurity.

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Wearable Computers: Ready for Action


Wearable computing has long been seen as a logical step in the integration of information technology with humans and their environment. But the promise of wearable computing has “remained largely unfulfilled despite decades of research driven by everyone from the military to DIYers.”

Now recent developments suggest that wearable computing may finally be gaining traction. For example, the announcement of the Google Glass wearable- computer project in 2012 spurred a great deal of popular interest in the field, with a variety of observers forecasting major product introductions and consumer adoption as soon as 2013 or 2014.

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Taking It Slow: Understanding the Slowness Movement

michael pollak slow flickr

Life is moving too fast. In our always-on culture, more and more people are saying that they feel overwhelmed: too much to do, too much information, too many responsibilities, and, above all, not enough time. These feelings have sparked a growing movement to slow down the pace of life.

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The Future of Digital Literacy: Skills for smarter digital citizens

Flickr_Juan Cristóbal Cobo

As digital life has moved from unconnected personal computers, mainly concerned with word and data processing, to a myriad of always-on, connected media devices, what one needs to know to be a successful digital citizen has evolved. Whereas once a family member may have asked for help in formatting a document, or finding a file, now he or she may seek assistance in establishing a presence on Facebook or learning Twitter etiquette.Read more…

Millennial Women at Work: Progress and Struggles in the American Workplace

flickr_ITU Pictures

The roles, opportunities, and treatment of women in the American workplace have been gradually shifting for many decades. Issues such as equal opportunity and equal pay for equal work have been addressed across several generations, yet remain unresolved. The Millennials are the latest generation to encounter these workplace hurdles. In October 2013, Pew Research Center surveyed 2,002 adults, including 810 Millennials (ages 18 to 32), asking questions pertaining to gender and work. Pew combined the results with analysis of Census data to create a picture of the roles and attitudes of men and women in the US workplace.Read more…

Women in World 1: Outcomes for Women, Men, and Society

Flickr_Donnie Nunley

An extraordinary shift in gender roles is underway throughout World 1 according to Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy, who has dubbed this discontinuity “the Big Flip.” In her book “The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family,” she notes that almost 40 percent of working wives in the United States are now “breadwomen” — their household’s primary breadwinner. And the trend is escalating through other World 1 societies, including Western Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, and South Korea.Read more…

The Future of Food and Diet: Toward a healthy and sustainable food system


While unhealthy diets are recognized as a major risk factor for many chronic diseases and other medical disorders, the development and adoption of healthier dietary patterns is a complex challenge.

A shift toward healthier diets would involve not only changes in the food supply, but also technological advances, economic considerations, demographics, social factors, and environmental consequences. It would also depend on food and diet research by both public agencies and private entities that produces clear scientific evidence indicating what changes need to be made.

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The New Patients: Digital Technology and the New Healthcare Consumer


US consumers continue to take a more central role in decisions about their own healthcare. Now, as technological capabilities and consumer values continue to evolve, a new type of patient is emerging. These patients are driven by a desire for greater control over their own healthcare, by a desire for more and more-timely healthcare information, by the need to control the cost of care, and often by their role as a patient with a chronic health issue or as the family member of such a patient.
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Healthcare at Home: Six Forecasts for 2020

Nurse and elderly man spending time together --- Image by © Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Blend Images/Corbis

The number of individuals receiving medical care at home will grow over the next decade, driven by demographics, economics, consumer preferences, and technology enablers. IBM notes that residential care and home care together constitute a $45 billion industry that is projected to grow, and that “the cost and quality of care improve” as care moves across the continuum from hospital and clinic to residential to home settings.

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Cloud Robotics: Distributed Robot Intelligence


Just a decade ago, the concept of robots communicating with a central computer “brain” was more science fiction than science fact. This vision was often portrayed in dystopian views of the future; for example, the sentient computers in the world of “The Matrix” and the implacable Borg in the “Star Trek” universe.

But researcher groups, including some at Google, are now looking seriously at the idea of robots that tap the processing power and data made available by cloud computing, seeing it as a way to create “lighter, cheaper, and smarter” robots.

The fruits of research into cloud robotics are just beginning to emerge from the laboratory, and some early examples of robotic systems that use the cloud approach seem more like toys than serious working robots. But these systems may in fact be the precursors of a new generation of robotic devices that will have broad commercial and consumer impacts.Read more…

Integrated Solutions, Diversity of Vehicles


As cities grow ever larger, more numerous, more congested, and more polluted, consumers, governments, and automakers are looking for transportation solutions that move beyond the conventional personal auto.

The goal of so-called micromobility solutions is to provide convenient transport in congested urban areas (e.g., for short urban commutes or shopping trips) and to solve the “first/last mile connectivity” problem — the need to connect public transportation points of entry/exit to homes, workplaces, shopping, and other destinations.

While there are a wide variety of possible solutions — including walking, biking, and ride-sharing — that can meet these needs to various extents, this brief explores personal transport vehicles that are smaller than a conventional auto and are powered by a drivetrain other than a simple internal combustion engine. These types of vehicles may become a more important part of integrated urban mobility solutions over the next decade and beyond.Read more…

Food Waste: Feeding Innovation


Food waste is epidemic and becoming a more important consumer and business issue. As awareness rises, a wave of innovative solutions — ranging from high-tech to low-tech to best practices — is emerging around reducing, reusing, and recycling unconsumed food.

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Nanotechnology and Food

nanotech_flickr_UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Nanotechnology applications for food are under investigation and development in a variety of academic and industrial laboratories, though products are only beginning to enter the marketplace.Read more…