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Advanced Robotics, Energy Storage and Next-generation Genomics that will help improve health diagnostics and treatments are among the 12 disruptive technologies that will impact the world by 2025, says a recently-released report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). Here’s a summary:

Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, a report from the McKinsey Global Institute has identified 12 technologies that could drive truly massive economic transformations and disruptions in the coming years.

The report estimates that the potential economic impact of these technologies will be between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year in 2025

“This estimate is neither predictive nor comprehensive. It is based on an in-depth analysis of key potential applications and the value they could create in a number of ways, including the consumer surplus that arises from better products, lower prices, a cleaner environment, and better health,” says MGI.

  1. Advanced robotics—that is, increasingly capable robots or robotic tools, with enhanced “senses,” dexterity, and intelligence—can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate. These technologies can also generate significant societal benefits, including robotic surgical systems that make procedures less invasive, as well as robotic prosthetics and “exoskeletons” that restore functions of amputees and the elderly.
  2. Next-generation genomics marries the science used for imaging nucleotide base pairs (the units that make up DNA) with rapidly advancing computational and analytic capabilities. As our understanding of the genomic makeup of humans increases, so does the ability to manipulate genes and improve health diagnostics and treatments. Next-generation genomics will offer similar advances in our understanding of plants and animals, potentially creating opportunities to improve the performance of agriculture and to create high-value substances—for instance, ethanol and biodiesel—from ordinary organisms, such as E. coli bacteria.
  3. Energy-storage devices or physical systems store energy for later use. These technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, already power electric and hybrid vehicles, along with billions of portable consumer electronics. Over the coming decade, advancing energy-storage technology could make electric vehicles cost competitive, bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries, and improve the efficiency of the utility grid.
  4. Mobile Internet In just a few years, Internet-enabled portable devices have gone from a luxury for a few to a way of life for more than 1 billion people who own smartphones and tablets. In the United States, an estimated 30 % of Web browsing and 40% of social media use is done on mobile devices; by 2015, wireless Web use is expected to exceed wired use. The technology of the mobile Internet is evolving rapidly, with intuitive interfaces and new formats, including wearable devices. In developing economies, the mobile Internet could bring billions of people into the connected world. Impact on the economy will be to the tune of $1.7 trillion GDP which will be related to the Internet.
  5. Automation of Knowledge Work Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural user interfaces (e.g. voice recognition) are making it possible to automate many knowledge worker tasks that have long been regarded as impossible or impractical for machines to perform. For example, the ability of some computers to answer "unstructured" questions (i.e. those posed in ordinary language, rather than precisely written as software queries) opens up possibilities for sweeping changes in how knowledge work is organised and performed.
  6. Internet of Things The Internet of Things- embedding sensors and actuators in machines and other physical objects to bring them into the connected world- is spreading rapidly. From monitoring the flow of products through a factory to measuring the moisture in a field of crops to tracking the flow of water through utility pies, the Internet of Things allows businesses and public sector organisations to manage assets, optimize performance and create new business models. With remote monitoring, the Internet of Things also has great potential to improve the health of patients with chronic illnesses and attacks a major cause of rising healthcare costs.
  7. Cloud With cloud technology, any computer application or service can be delivered over a network or the Internet, with minimal or no local software or processing power required. In order to do this, IT resources (such as computation and storage) are made available on an as-needed basis- when extra capacity is needed it is seamlessly added, without requiring up-front investment in new hardware or programming. The cloud can improve the economics of IT companies and governments, as well as provide greater flexibility and responsiveness. The cloud can also enable entirely new business models, including all kinds of pay-as-you-go service models.
  8. Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles It is now possible to create cars, trucks, aircraft, and boats that are completely or partly autonomous. From drone aircraft on the battlefield to Google’s self-driving car, the technologies of machine vision, artificial intelligence, sensors, and actuators that make these machines possible is rapidly improving. Over the coming decade, low-cost, commercially available drones and submersibles could be used for a range of applications. The potential benefits of autonomous cars and trucks include increased safety, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, more leisure or work time for motorists (with hands-off driving) and increased productivity in the trucking industry.
  9. 3D printing Until now, 3D printing has largely been used by product designers and hobbyists and for a few select manufacturing applications. However, the performance of additive manufacturing machinery is improving, the range of materials is expanding, and prices (for both printers and materials) are declining rapidly- bringing 3D printing to a point where it could see rapid adoption by consumers and even for more manufacturing uses. With 3D printing, an idea can go directly from a 3D design file to a finished part or product, potentially skipping many traditional manufacturing steps. 3D printing can also reduce the amount of material wasted in manufacturing and create objects that are difficult or impossible to produce with traditional techniques. Scientists have even "bioprinted" organs, using an inkjet printing technique to layer human stem cells along with supporting scaffolding.
  10. Advanced materials Over the past few decades, scientists have discovered ways to produce materials with incredible attributes- smart materials that are self-healing or self-cleaning; memory metals that can revert to their original shapes' piezoelectric ceramics and crystals that turn pressure into energy; and nanomaterials. Nanomaterials in particular stand out in terms of their high rate of improvement, broad potential applicability, and long-term potential to drive massive economic impact. At nanoscale (less than 100 nanometres), ordinary substances take on new properties- greater reactivity, unusual electrical properties, enormous strength per unit of weight- that can enable new types of medicine, super-slick coatings, stronger composites, and other improvements. Advanced nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes could drive particularly significant impact. They could help create super-efficient batteries and solar cells. Nanoparticles are already being used in drug treatments for cancer.
  11. Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery The ability to extract oil and gas reserves from shale rock formations is a technology revolution that has been gathering force for nearly four decades. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing makes it possible to reach oil and gas deposits that were known to exist in the United States and other places but were not economically accessible by conventional drilling methods. The potential impact of this technology has received enormous attention.
  12. Renewable energy Renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydro-electric, and ocean wave hold the promise of an endless source of power without stripping resources, contributing to climate change, or worrying about competition for fossil fuels. Solar cell technology is progressing rapidly. In the past two decades, the cost of power produced by solar cells has dropped from nearly $8 per watt of capacity to one-tenth that amount. The wind energy sector is also growing rapidly and along with solar energy represents a rapidly growing sector in advanced economies such as the United States and European Union.
    (For more information, visit http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/disruptive_technologies )

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