Top 10 emerging technologies to watch

The World Economic Forum has released its annual list of breakthrough technologies with the most significant potential to impact the world positively.

From climate change to public health, technology will play a critical role in finding solutions to many of the world’s challenges, according to the World Economic Forum.  

A statement from the organisation says 2021’s emerging technologies demonstrate the rapid pace of human innovation and offer a glimpse into what a more sustainable, healthier future could look like.

 “Our goal with the list is always to identify those with the greatest potential for impact, but we also want to provide a diverse and inspirational list,” said Jeremy Jurgen, managing director at the WEF. “Every single technology has the potential to solve major global challenges.”

 The technologies on the 10th anniversary list, curated by experts convened by the World Economic Forum and Scientific American, are selected against several criteria. In addition to promising major benefits to societies and economies, they must also be disruptive, attractive to investors and researchers, and expected to have achieved considerable scale within five years.
 The top 10 technologies to make the 2021 list are:
 
Decarbonization technologies: As nations race to deliver on their commitments to tackle climate change, a multitude of technologies that offer lower-carbon footprint solutions, or suck carbon dioxide out of the air, will need to scale up fast. These technologies will include net-zero emissions air-conditioning, low-carbon cement, renewable energy sources and meat-free protein, among others. 

 Self-fertilising crops: Providing food for the world’s growing population relies heavily on such nitrogen-containing industrial fertilisers as ammonia – the production of which accounts for one to two percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. New engineering approaches enable crop plants to produce their own fertiliser by mimicking a symbiotic relationship between plant roots and soil bacteria that occurs in nature.

Disease-diagnosing breath sensors: Human breath contains more than 800 compounds. New breath-sensing technologies analyse these compounds and detect changes in concentrations of compounds associated with diseases. Early-stage testing has demonstrated the potential of breath sensing technologies to diagnose Covid-19, tuberculosis and cancer.

 On-demand drug manufacturing: Traditionally, drugs are made in large batches through a multi-step process with different parts dispersed among many locations worldwide. Recent advances in microfluidics and on-demand drug manufacturing open the possibility of common drugs like antidepressants and antihistamines being made to the exact dose and formulation tailored for an individual, on-site at their local pharmacy.

 Energy from wireless signals: Devices that do not require much power to operate, such as pacemakers and smartwatches, could soon be wirelessly charged through Wi-Fi and 5G signals, leading to a future where low-power wireless devices never need plugging in.

Engineering better ageing: Research that unlocks the understanding of ageing mechanisms enables the development of targeted therapies that could one day stave off dementia and other age-related ailments.

Green ammonia: Green ammonia, which is made from cleaner sources of hydrogen, could provide more environmentally friendly fertilizers for crops.

 Wireless biomarker devices: Monitoring chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer requires frequent blood testing to identify and track certain biological markers. Innovations in wireless, portable and wearable sensors integrated in clothing or contact lenses could soon monitor this vital information continuously.

Houses printed from locally sourced materials: Building houses with 3D printers could help tackle the challenge of inadequate housing for 1.6 billion people worldwide. The concept of 3D printing houses has been around for a while, but new advances enable houses to be built from locally sourced materials like clay, saving time, money and energy on transporting building materials to the site. 

Space internet of things: At least 10 billion active devices make up the internet of things, a number that is expected to more than double in the next 10 years. Maximising IoT benefits in communication and automation requires devices to be spread worldwide, but cellular networks span less than half the globe, leaving enormous gaps in connectivity. A space-based IoT system could patch those gaps, using a network of low-cost, low-weight nanosatellites that orbit a few hundred kilometres from Earth.

See: https://www.weforum.org/

 

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