How weak signals can help you stay ahead of the next wave of innovation

A crucial ingredient for any successful business is understanding the trends shaping the world around us and that point to future opportunities.

If you miss these shifts, you risk being disrupted and, worse, going out of business. But if you can catch these potential trends early and capitalize on them, they instead mean growth and opportunity.

Catching these subtle changes early isn’t easy, however. All world-changing shifts don’t just magically appear, they start as weak signals, and you must look for them. A weak signal is very early evidence of a potential future mainstream trend. Given the very early nature of these signals, they may or may not actually become a trend. But identifying and monitoring weak signals over time is integral to getting in on new trends early. Sometimes this can be the difference between catching a new wave and leading this change or getting left behind.

As futurists, we want to be the disrupters, not those being disrupted. To do that, we need to constantly observe society and the world around us to find these new trends and weak signals.

Here are eight weak signals that our team is watching for future impact.

Eco-consumerism

Consumers are becoming more aware of how their consumption contributes to climate change, and this is changing their buying behaviors accordingly. As consumers become more eco-friendly, they’re putting pressure on brands to do the same by repurposing waste, using biodegradable materials, and prioritizing renewable resources. Companies that don’t embrace sustainability or give back to the planet in some way risk losing the support of consumers. With 77% of consumers concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy, that’s a large demographic to risk losing.

Here’s a look at eco-consumerism at play:

  • These bio-concrete tiles are made with Japanese knotweed and American signal crayfish, two invasive species in the UK that would otherwise be considered waste. They also reduce carbon emissions caused by traditionally made concrete.
  • These running shoes from Zen Running Club are made entirely from plant-based materials, resulting in a fully biodegradable shoe.
  • Molded fiber, an eco-friendly packaging alternative, is gaining momentum. Once a time-consuming process, recent innovations like HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution are accelerating the adoption of more sustainable packaging.

Rise of reality

While we are still living highly digital lives, and there is significant hype surrounding a potentially virtual future in the metaverse, there is also a growing need for a return to reality. After the lockdown portion of the pandemic, many of us are ready to return to physical spaces, travel, and in-person entertainment to escape Zoom fatigue and tech burnout. As more people crave unplugging over new online experiences, it will be critical for new technologies to enhance our physical experiences and interactions. Even further, tech companies are responsible for improving their products to battle burnout and enhance user experience.

Here’s a look at the rise of reality at play:

  • AiFi, an HP Tech Ventures portfolio company, offers AI-powered autonomous retail solutions, making shopping a seamless experience for consumers and retailers.
  • To address tech fatigue, many tech companies could provide time-limit features or recommend breaks to users. Other companies are getting even more creative, like these hologram startups aiming to make remote meetings feel less impersonal.
  • Location-based VR experiences, powered by technologies like HP’s VR backpack, allow users to blend the virtual with reality.

Distributed enterprise

In a recent HP Wolf Security report, 46% of office workers admitted using their work devices for personal tasks, and 69% claimed to have used their personal devices for work activities. This overlap between work and personal devices has been exacerbated by the increase in remote work, which has further blurred the line between consumer and enterprise. Enterprise products and services are being increasingly distributed across smaller home offices rather than large company headquarters. This has significant implications for cybersecurity and maintenance and could contribute to feature changes.

Here’s a look at distributed enterprise at play:

  • With the era of hybrid work upon us, there is a growing need for devices connecting home and corporate offices. Solutions like HP Presence provide powerful collaboration tools to reinvent how people connect.
  • Employees and companies can better protect their data from cybercriminals by embracing decentralized cybersecurity. Approaches like zero trust security are gaining popularity, with 78% of firms planning to adopt zero trust in 2022.
  • Remote maintenance is not entirely new, but it’s increasingly essential as remote work grows. Advanced remote management technologies, like NVIDIA’s Fleet Command, are working to optimize processes for global IT professionals.

Omniscient health

As people continue to be hyper-conscious of their health, there has been significant growth in health-related technologies ranging from wearable devices to AI-powered diagnostics. Wearables like fitness trackers have become smarter and more powerful, so users are gaining greater insight into their health. Health providers can use this new data, paired with the power of AI, to aid in their care. Microfluidics could also enable faster, less invasive, and more accurate diagnostics. As monitoring our health becomes part of our daily routine, chronic issues could be caught sooner, leading to more proactive care.

Here’s a look at omniscient health at play:

  • Using data from continuous wearable sensors, physiQ generates personalized and actionable insights for patients and their healthcare providers.
  • For people with chronic illnesses, health monitoring tools are essential. Fortunately, many startups are working to create more straightforward and less invasive health monitoring methods, such as BOYDSense, which developed a breath-based glucose level monitor for those with diabetes.
  • Using microfluidics, researchers at Northwestern developed a sticker that absorbs and uses sweat to accurately diagnose cystic fibrosis in newborns. Another research team from the University of Minnesota has also created a new microfluidic chip that could provide point-of-care diagnostics.

Internet of energy

At our current rate, global energy consumption is set to see a 50% increase between 2020 and 2050. With the growing volume of data, demand for clean energy, and increasing adoption of emerging technologies, a new energy system may be critical. Antiquated energy infrastructure, like electrical grids, cannot keep up with technology advancements and energy demands. The Internet of Energy may be the best solution, as it can reduce inefficiencies, limit waste, and maximize the potential of existing infrastructures. It could also lead to the adoption of smart grid technology, which would hugely benefit users and energy consumption.

Here’s a look at the internet of energy at play:

  • Smart panels from startups like Span balance home electricity use to avoid overloading utility grids.
  • Packetized Energy, recently acquired by EnergyHub, is a software platform aggregating energy devices such as water heaters, HVAC systems, electric vehicle chargers, solar inverters, and distributed batteries into dispatchable and flexible grid resources.
  • General Electric (GE) launched a startup, Current, which pairs LEDs and solar panels with software. This allows the system to gather data to apply insights to corporate operations to increase lighting and productivity savings.

Geospatial AI

The increasing number of satellites and improved image quality provides a plethora of data that, combined with supercomputing, allows Geospatial AI (GEOAI) to extract and impart impactful insights. This integration of geospatial studies and AI helps machine learning mimic human spatial reasoning and dynamics to better understand environmental and geographical impacts. This could lead to hyper-local and instantaneous weather forecasting, real-time wildfire detection, and other capabilities that could make environmental conservation and planning more seamless.

Here’s a look at GEOAI at play:

  • Google’s Machine Learning for Precipitation Nowcasting from Radar Images performs weather forecasting using real-time data instead of hours-old data.
  • The city of Boston will use data from satellites in the TreeTect pilot to improve tree equity and anticipate tree maintenance tasks.
  • Scientists from Stanford University developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels across 12 of the US’ Western states, making it easier to predict where wildfires are likely to ignite and spread.

Transportation transformation

Growing concern for pollution and congestion is leading to disruptive innovation in transportation technology, policy, and infrastructure, which will radically change how we transport people and things in the future. Crowded freeways, slow delivery times, and an urgency to counteract climate change all demand revolutionary change in the transportation industry.

Urban transportation is central to the effort to slow climate change, with plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation. Home to more than half the world’s population, cities account for more than two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation is often the most prominent and fastest-growing source of emissions and is the U.S.’ second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s a look at transportation transformation at play:

  • Though not quite a reality yet, the idea of a hyperloop has long captivated society, with companies like Virgin and The Boring Company working towards its creation. The technology exists to create the ultra-fast transportation concept, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome.
  • TuSimple has created autonomous trucks, which promise improved safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Its trucks allegedly shaved 10 hours off a 24-hour run.
  • Florence has implemented smart trams, which could shape future transportation for other European cities.

3D-printed electronics

Advances in 3D printing technology that allow for voxel-level specification of materials, combined with improvements in metal substrates, will enable electronic components to be printed at the same time as durable parts, rather than being added as a separate assembly step after printing. These capabilities could allow electronic devices to be 3D-printed on demand as all-in-one elements, with no assembly required. This would minimize production costs and time and create an opportunity to reduce the size and weight of electronics.

Here’s a look at 3D-printed electronics at play:

  • Japanese CAD and 3D printing company SOLIZE uses HP 3D printers to make out-of-production spare parts for NISMO, the motorsport division of Nissan
  • Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printing technology enables 3D-printed electronics using aerodynamic focusing.
  • Nano Dimension’s Dragonfly IV 3D printer can generate entire circuits in one step.
  • Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a method of printing copper on fabric, a milestone for wearable electronics.

Considering the state of our world, futuristic thinking is a necessary skill we all need to learn and practice. With the constant and rapid pace of change, everyone should be honing their futurist skills. And thinking like a futurist isn’t reserved for a select group of people. It is a fundamental skill set that anyone can learn.

This is not something all of us do naturally, though. Only a small percent of the population thinks and plans for the future. In fact, only 35% of Americans regularly think about their five-year future. Those who aren’t thinking of their futures are disadvantaged over those who do. If we want to stay one step ahead in our fast-paced world, and if we’re going to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

To help you get started, here are three essential practices that I have found very useful in my career as a futurist:

  1. Monitor shifts — Pay attention and understand what’s happening in the world around you. Notice the small changes that create new needs. Keep an eye on these weak signals and any others that appear.
  2. Visualize future outcomes — Start with your vision for the future and work backward from there, not the other way around. What was the catalyst for your vision of the future?
  3. Adopt an innovative mindset — Have a “can do” attitude and be unstoppable. Embrace everything as a learning opportunity, even failure.

The more you think like a futurist, the better you can create the future you want.

Which of these weak signals are you interested in? Any others you are monitoring? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Blog Innovation Trends

4 technologies that will power the metaverse

We’ve discussed weak signals, how to spot trends, and the risk of missing them. Now, let’s shift streams and explore the recent trend getting the most press coverage and attention: the metaverse.

Currently, there’s no standard definition for the metaverse, reminding me of how the internet was viewed back in the early 90s. At the time, we used the word “internet” without truly understanding what it meant. Did it mean AOL? Did it include intranets? And what was this thing called “the information superhighway?”

Like the internet once was, the metaverse is likely to be the source of a lot of potential disruption moving forward. It could replace today’s internet with connected virtual worlds, creating an internet of experiences instead of content. But why all this metaverse buzz now? VR has been around for decades, as have virtual worlds like Second Life.

One reason is apparent enough: Facebook became Meta and announced that it would be investing billions in the metaverse. Perhaps more than that, however, is that four technologies are maturing concurrently, coming together to make the metaverse truly viable. These technologies include spatial computing, game engines, virtual environments, and virtual economies.

Spatial computing

From Fortnite to virtual reality (VR), spatial computing is essential to our current and future digital experiences. In previous iterations of computer games and virtual worlds, we moved using 2D mouse pointers on screens. Now, more and more, we are  transitioning to 3D experiences, which feels much closer to how we move around in the physical world. Spatial computing allows users to digitally interact in 3D vs 2D, which is more much intuitive for most people, and allows us to interact with a digital world in a very similar way to how we navigate the physical world. VR/AR/MR are good examples of this, but so is playing Fortnite on your phone.

Game engines

Game engines are the software tools developers use to build 3D video games, but they’re not just about video games anymore. They’ve become more sophisticated and are now used in applications from agriculture to the driver interface in the new all-electric Hummer. They have also become incredibly realistic, making them the perfect solution for building hyper-detailed virtual worlds in the metaverse. Powerful game engines, like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 and Unity Technologies’ Unity Engine, are equipped with tools that can create large-scale open worlds with incredible detail. They’ve already contributed to popular games like Fortnite and Pokémon Go and are well-suited to the creation of the metaverse.

Virtual environments

When you pair spatial computing with game engines, you get an explosion of virtual environments. These aren’t just entirely made-up virtual worlds but also digital replicas of buildings and locations from the real world, also known as digital twins. These replicas can be used for retail, education, the future of work, and more. Today, companies have websites. Tomorrow, companies could also have virtual worlds or locations that can be used to interact with customers, partners, and employees. And someday, there could even be a digital twin of the whole earth!

For example, NBA teams can (and are) outfitting their physical stadiums with hundreds of video cameras that capture the action in real-time and instantly convert it into a metaverse version of the stadium where people can virtually watch the game. These users can choose any seat in the stadium, watch the game in the metaverse instead of in-person, and still get close to the same experience.

Virtual economies

The fourth technology trend that’s coming together to create the metaverse today is something we call virtual economies. People want to make purchases in virtual worlds. They want to buy clothes for their digital avatars. They want to buy special powers. They want to purchase virtual sneakers or digital tools. And they’re willing to spend a lot of money purchasing those digital items. In 2018 and 2019, Fortnite generated $9 billion through its virtual economy. However, the problem with today’s virtual economies is that you can’t buy something in one world and use it in another. It’s also challenging to convert virtual items into real-world cash. This is where NFTs come in: they allow everyone to own their digital assets. In theory, these assets could be used across different virtual worlds and could be more easily sold, traded, or converted into cash. NFTs have the potential to implement a pan-world virtual economy for the Metaverse that isn’t tied to a specific company or virtual environment. They give people and consumers the ability to own their digital assets and information, rather than these being owned by the operators of the virtual worlds themselves, and this is why they are currently garnering so much attention. 

The emergence of these four related technologies and trends makes the metaverse the topic of today and potentially the internet of tomorrow. Together, they are unlocking several vital elements that will power the metaverse and make it engaging and immersive. As these technologies mature, we move closer to the internet of tomorrow.

What other technologies do you think will be essential for the metaverse?

Blog Innovation Trends

How to think like a futurist: Cybersecurity

Change is happening faster and faster around us. So how do we manage it and stay ahead of it? How do we ensure we are leading change and not being disrupted by it to create the future we want? One of the key ingredients for any successful business is understanding the trends that are shaping the world around us and that are pointing to what the opportunities of the future might be. The corporate graveyard is littered with companies who weren’t monitoring trends and went out of business because they didn’t react fast enough to the changing world around them. But if you can catch these shifts early and figure out how to capitalize on them, that is where growth and opportunity lie.

In this new series, I’m helping you see through the lens of a futurist by exploring some of the exciting technologies and trends bound to shape our future lives.

Ready to think like a futurist? Let’s explore cybersecurity.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting connected technologies against unauthorized digital access. It applies to everything from devices to digital networks to critical data. As our digital lives grow, so does the importance of cybersecurity. With the number of cyberattacks occurring at alarming rates, the cybersecurity industry must continue to adapt and improve to keep up with cyber threats.

There are several different facets of cybersecurity, including:

  • Endpoint security: Securing endpoint devices such as laptops, printers, and point-of-sale devices
  • Data security: Protecting and managing digital information
  • Network security: Safeguarding access to secure networks by monitoring access and use
  • Application (app) security: Implementing security features within apps to protect users
  • Database security: Protecting the data within the database, as well as any associated apps, infrastructure, and physical hardware
  • Cloud security: Securing cloud-based tools and data
  • Identity management: Technologies and infrastructure that control user access to networks and/or data
  • Mobile security: A facet of endpoint security that focuses on protecting mobile devices
  • Disaster recovery: The recovery of IT infrastructure following a disaster includes anything from a cyber-attack to a natural disaster

In an ideal situation, these facets work together to create a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity for organizations and individuals, however, it is extremely difficult to do that, which is the source of many problems the industry is facing.

What are the trends?

Our society has become dependent on digital tools and technologies, and the impact of cybersecurity breaches and attacks cannot be overstated.

HP understands the importance of cybersecurity and endlessly works to build safe and secure products. With a deep focus on endpoint security, HP is constantly adapting to stay ahead of cybersecurity trends and risks. In 2019, HP acquired Bromium and now utilizes its technology for essential malware protection. HP also offers HP Wolf Security as powerful endpoint protection that is built-in to its PCs and printers. Starting at the hardware level and extending across software, HP Wolf Security is a unique and comprehensive cybersecurity offering. As a true prevention-first solution with containment of threats, HP Wolf Security is better than detection alone.

When cybersecurity fails or is ill-equipped, several aspects of our lives are at risk, from our data and identities to our safety. Governments, organizations, and individuals respond to cybersecurity threats with new approaches and regulations in our increasingly digital world.

These new approaches include zero-trust frameworks and multi-factor authentication, which provide a heightened level of security for users. Zero-trust framework adoption has increased by 27% in the past two years. Zero-trust security works by requiring all users to be authenticated and regularly validated before gaining access to any networks, data, or applications. Multi-factor authentication is a part of zero trust, requiring multiple verification points before granting access to any user, thus protecting against brute force logins and login theft.

Individuals are now expected to be more responsible for cybersecurity, as well. With hybrid and remote work now commonplace, more responsibility is placed on employees to stay on top of their organization’s cybersecurity requirements. Many organizations now require remote employees to install a VPN (virtual private network) to protect their internet connections. Network segmentation is also becoming popular amongst IT professionals, as it gives administrators more control over who has access to which data. While this increases security, it also adds steps for all employees as they maneuver these new systems.

Governments are enacting new regulations and policies to navigate this new world of cybersecurity and digital risks. In June 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed two new cybersecurity bills into law. The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2021 is meant to improve coordination amongst different departments and governments, allowing for more accessible tools and information sharing. The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021 focuses on skill-building for federal employees, allowing role rotations amongst those in cybersecurity-related fields to enable a more comprehensive learning experience. The U.S. is not alone in its cybersecurity laws. The UK and EU are also considering new legislation addressing the growing cyber protection demand.

Where is the opportunity?

There was a 125% increase in cyberattacks in 2021, a percentage expected to grow in the coming years. Not only were there more attacks, but they were also more complex, with many having the ability to evade existing endpoint protection tools. To maintain cybersecurity in the future, there must be continuous improvement and adaptation in security tools and frameworks and increased skill development for cyber professionals and leadership.

As explored above, more organizations must adopt a zero-trust framework. While this framework is not a perfect solution, it is still a powerful strategy against cyber risk. Zero trust inherently focuses on prevention rather than reacting to threats, which is essential for organizations dealing with constant cyber-attack attempts.

Another area of opportunity for cybersecurity is blockchain technology. From secure transactions to identity management, blockchain has the potential to be a powerful cybersecurity solution. Due to its transparency and interoperability, blockchain could make it easier to verify data, identify fraud, and create innovative cybersecurity solutions.

The downside to blockchain, however, is its immaturity as a technology. As it is a somewhat recent innovation, it is likely to have unknown vulnerabilities that leave it open for risk. This issue applies to all emerging technologies, such as AI and quantum computing, because cyber threats tend to evolve alongside technological advancements, creating an ongoing feedback loop. Due to this, assumptions about cybersecurity practices will need to be constantly challenged as nascent technologies grow.

Finally, there is an incredible demand for cybersecurity talent, with over 700,000 roles needing to be filled. Because cybersecurity positions often require specific credentials and certifications, there aren’t enough qualified job seekers to fill those roles. Some companies are addressing this issue by removing some requirements, and others are creating talent pipelines and programs specifically for cybersecurity professionals. There is also a lack of cybersecurity talent in leadership, with 45% of companies lacking a Chief Information Security Officer. This lack of cyber skills opens an opportunity for company programs and online courses that could help build a qualified and effective cybersecurity workforce.

Data rules our digital lives, and protecting that information from bad actors is essential. As emerging technologies bring us deeper into the digital world, cybersecurity tools, approaches, and skills will become critical for everyone. Cybersecurity professionals may be the only people honing their abilities now, but these skills could soon become necessary for anyone accessing the internet.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think cybersecurity will be able to keep up with future threats? Should we all be taking cybersecurity courses? Sound off in the comments.
 
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My top 5 TED Talks of 2021

There’s no question that the past two years have been highly disruptive. Our daily lives look entirely different than they did in 2019, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another.

One thing that I’m grateful for, however, is that TED has continued to share inspiring and innovative TED Talks throughout this time to give us inspiration and insight. Watching these talented individuals on the stage has become a favorite part of my week as someone who misses in-person public speaking.

Here are my top five TED Talks of 2021:

“We were looking for bliss in a blah day and purpose in a perpetual pandemic. But languishing is not unique to a pandemic. It’s part of the human condition.” –Adam Grant, How to stop languishing and start finding flow, TEDMonterey, August 2021

The pandemic created a massive shift in our lives, and many of us found ourselves sinking into “languishing,” which Adam Grant expertly explains in this TED Talk. After spending nearly two years living through a pandemic, it feels validating to put a name to the feeling that so many of us were experiencing. Even better are the solutions that Grant provides in his talk.

“On today’s internet, we don’t get paid for the work we do with our minds. And what’s more, the content we upload to these services is trapped there. These services not only make money from our content, they control it. Until NFTs.” –Kayvon Tehranian, How NFTs are building the internet of the future, TEDMonterey, August 2021

NFTs surged into popularity in 2021, and people have been trying to explain them ever since. This TED Talk from Kayvon Tehranian does a brilliant job of explaining what NFTs are, as well as their potential to bring the internet into its next evolution.

“This wouldn’t just be better for chickens and cows and pigs and the people who have to farm them and slaughter them and process their meat. This could be better for the whole world.” –Isha Datar, How we could eat real meat without harming animals, TEDMonterey, August 2021

One of my daughters is vegan, and she’s always making creative meals for us to enjoy (like this vegan turkey). She’s inspired me to look into vegan options, but I have to admit that I love real meat, which is why the development of lab-grown meat is fascinating. This TED Talk from Isha Datar dives into the science behind lab-grown meat, as well as all of the incredible benefits that could result from this new means of food production.

“The future of work is not going to be created with top-down, opinion-driven edicts from senior leaders whose day-to-day realities don’t match those of us dual-career, time-pressed and income-pressed people. Of course, senior leaders want to go back. That worked for them. But they have to recognize that for 18 months now; their people experienced unprecedented agency, control, flexibility, trust, and accountability.” –Debbie Lovich, 3 tips for leaders to get the future of work right, TED@BCG, September 2021

There’s no question that the future of work has changed drastically, and the post-pandemic world is likely to see a somewhat permanent shift to remote and hybrid work. As Debbie Lovich says in this TED Talk, it’s time for leaders to embrace the change and learn new methods of leadership and teamwork.

“It’s not just about your commutes. It’s really about changing everything in terms of how we move people, goods and services, eventually.” –Aicha Evans, Your self-driving robotaxi is already here, TEDMonterey, August 2021

Self-driving cars are not a new subject, but Aicha Evans believes their technology has the potential to shift how our world moves entirely. In this TED Talk, Evans discusses how robotaxis could create a high-tech, sustainable, and convenient mode of transportation.

These were some of my favorite TED Talks of 2021, and I’m looking forward to more educational and inspiring talks in 2022!

Share your favorites in the comments.

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3 technologies impacting our lives during COVID-19

Appreciating technology’s progress amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

There is no doubt that this global pandemic is putting a massive strain on healthcare systems, businesses, economies, and governments all over the world. The world’s economy is expected to diminish by 3% this year. 36.5 million Americans have applied for unemployment since mid-March, nearing levels not seen since the Great Depression. At the time of publishing, over 8 million people have been infected, and 436,322 have lost their lives. In response, the global population is collectively adjusting to a new way of living as the COVID-19 situation progresses. Amidst the extreme stress and uncertainty that we are all facing, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate some of the technologies that are helping us cope during this difficult time.

Connective technologies like video conferencing, social media, gaming, and more are quickly becoming essentials as we are less able to collaborate, socialize, and interact physically. Working from home, something that would have been practically impossible for many people less than two decades ago, is now supported by these technologies, allowing people to connect via video conferencing apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx etc. Zoom, one of the most popular video conferencing apps of this time, saw a staggering increase in meeting participants, up from 10 million in December to 300 million in April.

Virtual events and educators are utilizing video conferencing as well, in an attempt to continue life as normally as possible. Similar apps like HouseParty and FaceTime are helping friends and families stay connected from afar. Some have noted this reconnection to be ironic in the age of social distancing, as it’s prompting many friends, families, and neighbors to rekindle and deepen their relationships.

Mobile applications and delivery services are enabling people throughout the world to support their favorite local restaurants and vendors by ordering delivery while things remain closed. Throughout the world, apps like Postmates and DoorDash are allowing restaurants to continue business through deliveries, with options to have deliveries left at the door in order to limit person-to-person contact. Some delivery services, like Zomato, are waiving restaurant fees in an effort to bolster the now-struggling industry. In Uganda, the Market Garden app is now connecting women vendors to customers seeking fresh fruits and vegetables that they would normally find in the bustling markets of Kampala but are missing while social distancing rules are in place. In the U.S., 49% of consumers turned to online grocery delivery because of the coronavirus, a practice that may continue even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Even drones are getting involved in deliveries, with startups like Manna Aero using drones to deliver much-needed medicine to vulnerable people on lock-down.

Social media and entertainment platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Quibi are providing a welcome distraction from the many stressors of day-to-day life under quarantine. Over 80% of U.S. and UK consumers admit to consuming more content during the lock-down, especially online videos and broadcast TV. In response, Netflix released a way to watch TV shows and movies simultaneously with your friends, virtually. Video games have always been a great way to connect and play with others, and now more people are embracing them. According to Verizon, gaming data usage increased by 75% in mid-March, and several streaming gaming services experienced server issues, likely due to a significant increase of inactive users. Among the affected were Blizzard Activision and Riot Games.

Thanks to these existing technologies, people all over the world are finding ways to stay entertained and sustained during this difficult time, and 9 out of 10 surveyed Americans claim to have a better appreciation for technology due to how it has impacted their lives during this crisis.

How have emerging technologies affected the world’s response to COVID-19?

Artificial intelligence

While artificial intelligence (AI) is still in a relatively nascent stage, researchers have been using it to track the coronavirus and predict potential spread. In the very early days of the virus, Toronto-startup BlueDot’s AI platform spotted a heightened amount of “unusual pneumonia” cases occurring in Wuhan, China. Kamran Khan, BlueDot’s founder and CEO, served as an epidemiologist and physician during the 2003 SARS outbreak, which inspired him to develop a technology that could cull through massive amounts of data in order to detect potentially dangerous diseases. In the past, AI has also successfully predicted the outcomes of the 2016 Zika virus and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. AI machines, like the CS-1 computer from startup Cerebras Systems, are being used to speed up the discovery of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Originally intended for cancer research, the CS-1 computer is hard at work at Argonne National Library, running learning models with the intention of finding compounds that may be effective against the virus.

Robots

In Singapore, semi-autonomous robots are being utilized to disinfect large public surfaces, such as outdoor seating. One robot, called the eXtreme Disinfection robot (or XDBot), was created in only six weeks by a team at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). In China, robots are helping out in several ways, from taking temperatures to sanitizing surfaces to producing and delivering food. To limit the amount of contact between healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients, robots are also serving as portable telehealth operators. One such example is Boston Dynamics’ Spot, a dog-like robot with a tablet attached for video conferencing purposes. Boston Dynamics also says that they are working on upgrading Spot with technology that would allow the robot to test for fevers and monitor respiratory rates.

3D printing

The 3D printing community has been incredibly active in finding ways to contribute during this difficult time. Many in the industry have been producing essential gear and helpful devices for healthcare workers, including HP. HP’s 3D research and development centers located in San Diego, Corvallis, Vancouver, Washington, and Barcelona are actively creating mask adjusters, face shields, and hands-free door openers, as well as testing potential new devices that may help patients. HP has made these designs public and available to any who are able to 3D print and contribute to the cause.

We are not alone in our efforts. Digital manufacturing companies from all over the world are coming together to create necessary supplies, such as test swabs. Lamborghini is using HP Multi-Jet Fusion technology to make lung simulators used to test ventilators used by coronavirus patients. Individual 3D-printing enthusiasts are also working tirelessly to give back to healthcare workers, using smaller, at-home 3D printers to craft personal protective equipment and other helpful gear.

During this time of uncertainty and overwhelm, it is perhaps comforting to appreciate how far technology has come. Existing technologies are enabling people to cope in a variety of ways during isolation, and emerging technologies are proving themselves to be essential to the future of our world. While the current pandemic has brought us great challenges, we are better prepared today than we have ever been in history, and perhaps our continued progress will enable humanity to survive future challenges with more confidence and awareness.

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HP Megatrends 2020 Refresh

Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions

The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.

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Are you ready for the future?

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, one thing is certain. The future will look very different than it does today. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.
 
This change is inevitable, and those that anticipate and embrace it will be the revolutionaries of the experience age. In fact, adapting to the changes is the difference between leading change and being led by it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. No silver bullet. It takes dedication and thought. So, how can you lead the way and future-proof yourself?

1. Adopt an innovation mindset

When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room. Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.
 
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices.
 
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible. Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.

Start with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the better you will be able to innovate.

Write down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in handy.
 
Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.

Question your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How can we make it better?

2. Keep learning or unlearning

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –Eric Hoffer

If you have a fixed mindset, your qualities are carved in stone. If you lack a skill, you will continue to lack it. However, when you adopt a growth mindset, you can grow and change through persistence and experience. With a fixed mindset, you can be easily overwhelmed with the future’s uncertainty, but the future belongs to those who can adopt a growth mindset and keep learning.

I’m currently learning about Quantum Computing by reading “In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality”.

I’m very interested in how the line between science and philosophy is blurring. It seems where science doesn’t have all the answers (e.g. quantum mechanics and the true nature of reality), philosophy comes back to the fore to help us imagine the possibilities that we hope science might one day prove out. Consider Einstein’s original thought experiment about sitting on the end of a light beam (philosophy) and how that led him to the special theory of relativity (science). Both are equally important for charting the human future in a world of accelerating change and technology.

3. Collaborate

A Nielsen study examined the impact of collaboration in the development stage of innovation. It showed ideas developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played a hands-on role.

Ideas developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played a hands-on role.

Connect with people in your field (current or desired) by discovering how they think and their vision of the future. When you get to know one another, you feel more comfortable sharing ideas and voicing your opinions, creating healthy collaboration.

4. Pay attention to emerging technology trends

Stay current on trends by reading, watching, and listening to sources you trust. As a futurist, my job requires a keen understanding of how the world around us is evolving, the global forces that are dramatically changing the landscape of markets and industries, and trends that are reshaping customer expectation. 
 
At HP, we’ve formalized our analysis and forecasting process into a body of work we call Megatrends, a systematic effort to identify the global technological, economic, and social currents that are influencing how people will live and work around the world in the future. Take a look at this year’s report that looks at how innovation and disruptions in economics, data, automation, and energy impact megatrends.

Personally, I stay on top of trends by reading the latest technology news, speaking with customers and industry pundits, paying attention to university and academic research areas, monitoring venture investing trends and start-up activity. I also draw from my personal experiences, media coverage, and public data sources.

It’s important to have a vision and desired outcomes in mind. Then explore how trends and technologies can help you realize those outcomes. Ongoing problems the world is facing, like poverty and climate change, cannot be solved with short-term thinking. If we want to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

Once you’ve identified the trends, come up with proactive statements about where you think the future is going. This is something that true disrupters do. So … ask outlandish questions, free your mind, and push yourself outside of your box. The future is yours to create.

5. Give yourself a break

After all that, are you feeling a bit frazzled? We spend hours pondering how we can stay ahead of this change instead of being led by it. Even if we could predict the future perfectly (which, of course, we can’t), we need to be willing to reinvent ourselves continuously as all of this change in our world occurs.
 
It’s okay to take a break from future-proofing yourself. Read a book. Take a walk outside. Listen to your favorite music. Give your brain a chance to breath and recharge.

Our future will be transformed by people like you, who are strategic thinkers, quick to innovate, and passionate. What do you think? What skills or mindsets will we need to adopt today for the future? Sound off below. 👇

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Answers to 4D Printing’s Top Questions

Did you know the 4D printing industry is expected to be worth upwards of $537 million by 2025 and grow by a CAGR of 42.95% between 2019 and 2025? This is being driven by the need to reduce the costs of manufacturing and processing in the face of an increasing focus to ensure a sustainable environment. Today, I’m diving into the top 4 questions about 4D printing:

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  1. What is the difference between 3D and 4D printing?

    4D printing is similar to 3D printing since it uses the same techniques of computer-programmed “printing” of layered materials to create a three-dimensional object. However, during the fabrication process of 4D printing, the printed produce reacts to external stimuli — heat, water, chemical, pressure, etc. — to self-assemble or change

    It’s a further evolution of 3D printing and is set to completely alter how we create and produce materials by adding the dimension of transformation over time into the creation process.
  2. How does 4D printing work?

    4D printing involves 3D printing objects that can self-assemble and transform based on some external stimuli. For example, a table that assembles itself when you touch a part, or an airplane wing that transforms with wind speed, or a temperature-activated cardio stent.

    In order to make something “4D” — assemble itself or change precisely under certain conditions — a precise geometric code is used based on the object’s angles and dimensions, as well as measurements that dictate how it should change shape when interacting with outside forces.

    It’s all about self-assembly. The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what I believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.

  3. What is 4D printing used for?

    4D printing technology is not merely a novelty, but a necessity due to increasing urbanization caused by world population growth that is expected to reach 8 billion people over the next 30 years. This will cause an increase in “megacities — or cities with populations over 10 million people — from 10 in 1990 to 41 over the next ten years. This rapid urbanization will put an incredible demand on manufacturing and the distribution of materials.

    Numerous organizations are pouring money in 4D printing research and development, including Airbus SAS who is using 4D-related “smart” material that reacts to temperature to cool jet engines and a wing that morphs according to aerodynamic conditions to decrease air resistance. Briggs Automotive Company is developing a morphable wing for its supercar that can adjust to external weather conditions and automatically adjust itself to provide maximum downforce to the car.

    As many of you know, I am a drone aficionado. When I saw this research, I was excited. Engineers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick are fabricating smart materials in 4D that will transform according to their environment. This leads to shock-absorbing materials that will change as needed for use in aircraft or drone design for parts like wings that need to self-alter for varying performance.

    4D printing will also have a profound impact on healthcare of the future. It could be used for tissue engineering, self-assembling human-scale biomaterials, design of nanoparticles, and nanorobots for chemotherapy.

    It doesn’t stop there. You’ll see 4D printing transform and disrupt a variety of industries including consumer products, healthcare, automotive, construction, and aerospace

Overall, how 4D printing evolves in the future is up to the innovators and makers of the world. We must remain open to fresh ideas, new tools, and collaboration from all industries

ICYMI: Answers to Industry 4.0’s Top Questions

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4D printing and a world of smart materials

 

Just when you thought a new era of disruption is upon us, another one comes right behind it. The latest disruption, 3D printing, is by some estimates predicted to have a greater impact on the world over the next 20 years than all of the innovations from the industrial revolution combined. 4D printing is a further evolution of 3D printing and is set to completely alter how we create and produce materials by adding the dimension of transformation over time into the creation process.

3D printing is currently transforming the manufacturing of everything from shoes, cars, space stations parts, buildings, and much more by allowing us to produce custom materials and products on demand. 3D printing leads to quicker response, reduced lead times, swift innovation, rapid manufacturing, reduced overhead, mass customization, mass production, use of unique materials, and economies of scale, according to Deloitte.

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The technology holds so much promise that some companies are looking to build entire cities from massive 3D printers. A 3D-printing crane dubbed the Minitank can layer up to 2,153 square feet of concrete per day for the construction of buildings, making it 50 percent faster than traditional construction methods.

As 3D printing is now steadily changing the way we produce items, 4D printing is evolving right behind it. 4D printing involves 3D printing objects that can self-assemble and transform based on some external stimuli. For example, a table that assembles itself when you touch a part, or an airplane wing that transforms with wind speed, or a temperature-activated cardio stent. 4D printing is similar to 3D printing since it uses the same techniques of computer-programmed “printing” of layered materials to create a three-dimensional object. However, during the fabrication process of 4D printing, the printed produce reacts to external stimuli — heat, water, chemical, pressure, etc. — to self-assemble or change.

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab is at the forefront of the 4D printing movement. The lab was created to see how researchers could 3D print an object without relying on sensors or chips. In order to make something “4D” — assemble itself or change precisely under certain conditions — a precise geometric code is used based on the object’s angles and dimensions, as well as measurements that dictate how it should change shape when interacting with outside forces.

“Normally, we print things and we think they’re done,” said Skylar Tibbits, a research scientist at MIT. “That’s the final output and then we assemble them. But we want them to be able to transform and change shape over time. And we want them to assemble themselves.”

Tibbits sees numerous uses for 4D printing technology, including footwear that can adapt to particular sports: “If I start running,” he said, “[the sneakers] should adapt to being running shoes. If I play basketball, they adapt to support my ankles more. If I go on grass, they should grow cleats or become waterproof if it’s raining. It’s not like the shoe would understand that you’re playing basketball, of course, but it can tell what kind of energy or what type of forces are being applied by your foot. It could transform based on pressure. Or it could be moisture or temperature change.”

Numerous organizations are pouring money in 4D printing research and development, including Airbus SAS who is using 4D-related “smart” material that reacts to temperature to cool jet engines and a wing that morphs according to aerodynamic conditions to decrease air resistance. Briggs Automotive Company is developing a morphable wing for its supercar that can adjust to external weather conditions and automatically adjust itself to provide maximum downforce to the car.

“The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what we believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.” — Shane Wall, HP CTO

The U.S. Army Research Center is developing a variety of applications including a soldier’s uniform that can alter its camouflage or provide more effective protection against poisonous gases or shrapnel upon contact. Plus, the U.S. Army gave a grant to Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois to explore ways the military could use self-assembling objects, including the possibility of shelters or bridges that assemble themselves.

Shane Wall, our chief technology officer at HP believes, “That is what 4D printing is about, self-assembly. The ability to program a particular area of the material and be able to activate it through heat, water, chemical reaction, pressure and many other external influences to actually do self-assembly. Altogether these represent what we believe will be the next industrial revolution and a fundamental transformation in manufacturing overall.”

Wall said 4D printing technology is not merely a novelty, but a necessity due to increasing urbanization caused by world population growth that is expected to reach 8 billion people over the next 30 years. This will cause an increase in “megacities — or cities with populations over 10 million people — from 10 in 1990 to 41 over the next ten years. This rapid urbanization will put an incredible demand on manufacturing and the distribution of materials.

The 4D printing industry is expected to be worth upwards of $537 million by 2025 and grow by a CAGR of 42.95 percent between 2019 and 2025. This is being driven by the need to reduce the costs of manufacturing and processing in the face of an increasing focus to ensure a sustainable environment.

“A 4D printed product would incur lesser manufacturing, transportation, and handling costs, which, in turn, would lead to the saving of resources and efforts, thereby sustaining the environment,” according to a report by Grandview Research.

The primary materials segments used for 4D printing are programmable carbon fiber, programmable wood grain, and programmable textiles, with the programmable carbon fiber segment expected to be the largest segment in the overall 4D printing market, according to the Grandview Research.

Since programmable carbon fiber has high stiffness, low weight, and tensile strength, it can be beneficial for many industrial applications, says Grandview Research. It can be autonomously transformed by printing active material on flexible carbon fiber using heat as an activator and it doesn’t require complex electronics, actuators, or sensors.

4D printing to save lives

The healthcare industry is set to take advantage of 4D printing since 4D printed products will be responsive to body needs once ejected in the human body. This could be used for tissue engineering, self-assembling human-scale biomaterials, design of nanoparticles, and nanorobots for chemotherapy. A Frost & Sullivan report finds that 4D printing is still in its infancy and not yet ready for widespread use, yet the potential for the technology in the medical field is significant.

“The potential of this technology to create programmable biological materials that can change shape and properties can be a foundation for enabling smart pharmacology, personalized medicine, and programmable cells and tissues that could be employed in precisely targeted treatments for a number of diseases,” the report notes.

A researcher at the University of Michigan developed a 3D printed splint that can hold open airways of newborn children for two to three years, then absorb into the body. The device was successfully implanted in four babies. Medical researchers are also looking into using 4D biomaterials to help adults correct skeletal applications like facial reconstruction or rebuilding ears.

To read the rest of the article, visit HPMegatrends.com.

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BioConvergence: How nature-inspired technology is transforming our world

After about 4.5 billion years of solid research and development, nature has developed some ingenious solutions. From transporting water and nutrients up a 300-foot-tall redwood tree to defying gravity, nature has developed some of the best known methods for life to adapt and thrive.

Researchers and scientists have been increasingly keen to study nature in search of new innovations. Sometimes, they simply present themselves. Velcro, for example was created after a Swiss scientist went on a hike in the Alps and noticed that burdock burrs were stuck on his clothes and his dog. It took him 10 years to develop velcro, but now he’s resting comfortably having given the world a new way to stick.

BioConvergence is, put simply, the study of nature and the application of natural processes and phenomena to innovation. Technically it’s the convergence of biological, physical, and computing technologies inspired by nature. This field is now developing some of the most exciting and innovative developments in science and technology, including new materials and new fabrication processes for more efficient and resilient products.

 

Researchers are drawing on BioConvergence to find efficient, diverse, and ingenious approaches to problem-solving. New solutions are needed now more than ever, as the world’s population is expected to expand to an estimated 8.5 billion people by 2030, including 1 billion new people joining the middle class and consuming more resources. Concerns over sustainability as it relates to these projected needs are prompting new approaches to how we harness energy, consume resources and produce products.

The following are some examples of how BioConvergence is transforming the world as we know it.

Nature-inspired fabrication

In a future where demand could outweigh resources, alternative materials and fabrication methods may be needed–and soon. While previously the majority of our product manufacturing relied on a subtractive and replicative fabrication, we are now seeing increasing interest and use of additive manufacturing processes, that will give us greater control and less waste in product fabrication.

This form of manufacturing allows us to spend more time focusing on the detail of materials properties and science we are actually using to make fabrication and manufacturing more efficient and to increase throughput. It also inspires us to create products with varying material customization and personalization. It’s akin to the organization of cellulose fibers in the branch of a tree give the tree branch flexibility and yield. These properties are substantially different from the material in the trunk of the same tree. It’s the same wood but their mechanical properties are different based on the function of that region of the wood. We are moving into a world where instead of removing material, we add details needed by modifying the material rather than assembling another part.

Additive manufacturing, is an area HP is helping to pioneer and advance with its Jet Fusion technology. With HP’s Jet Fusion technology, users can control a material’s properties, such as color, mechanical strength,texture, elasticity, electrical and thermal conductivity, index of refraction, opacity, and more. This technology allows for the manufacture of parts with different qualities from common material. A part can have durable, hard surfaces with low friction where contact and wear will occur, and a differing index of refraction in another area.

Bioinspired materials

Bioinspired materials are synthetic materials whose structure, properties or function mimic those of natural materials or living matter. Examples of bioinspired materials are light-harvesting photonic materials that mimic photosynthesis, structural composites that imitate the structure of nacre (aka mother-of-pearl), and metal actuators inspired by the movements of jellyfish.

With the rise of 3D printing, greater inspiration is being gleaned from nature to construct new materials, substitute existing materials and develop new fabrication processes.

“Biological systems have clearly shown that large numbers of molecules, structures, and systems in living organisms possess attractive materials properties that are beyond the reach of current nonbiological synthetic approaches,” states the Materials Research to Meet 21st-Century Defense Needs paper by the National Academies Press. “Many of these molecules, structures, systems, and natural fabrication processes could serve as the basis for synthetic materials with enhanced properties.”

The bones of a bird have inspired new forms of concrete. While a bird’s bones are somewhat hollow, they are highly resilient and efficient, rather than fragile. The Technical University Munich (TUM) is experimenting with 3D printing to create lightweight cement pipes with a network of internal supports, similar to a bird’s bones. With a focus on structural efficiency vs. structural volume. Meeting physical requirements with minimalistic design.

“The design was inspired by the bone of a bird: very thin and light, but still very stable,” said Dr. Klaudius Henke, TUM Chair of Timber Structures and Building Construction, “It would be impossible to make it using traditional methods. 3D printing will change architecture. The technology not only allows more versatile shaping, but also more variety, since each component can be individually designed without incurring any additional costs.”

DNA digital data storage

The natural world is also inspiring researchers pondering our growing data problem. By 2040, the demand for global memory is expected to exceed the projected supply of silicon, the raw material for flash memory, according to some scientists. This is based on projected use of data, which continues to be consumed each year at an exponential rate.

Scientists are seeking solutions by looking to nature’s most efficient storage unit: DNA. DNA is three dimensional, lending vastly more storage space per unit area compared to conventional hard drives, which store information on a two-dimensional surface. Through DNA digital storage, scientists found a way to store 215 petabytes, or 215 million gigabytes– roughly equivalent to all the data on the internet — in a single gram of DNA. DNA is made of nucleotides: chemical “building blocks” of phosphate, sugar and nitrogen. As a raw material, it is highly compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place.

“DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” said Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University.

Information has been extracted from DNA in bones that are 700,000 years old. And, this memory uses 100 million times less energy than storing data electronically in flash.

Energy through osmosis

A 300-foot coastal redwood tree transports water and nutrients from deep in the ground, through its trunk, out and up its bark and leaves via its nutrient transport system. This incredible feat has inspired scientists to harness the energy of osmotic reactions to produce renewable energy.

In Tofte, Norway, a prototype power plant was created that uses osmotic processes to generate carbon-free electricity. For this power plant, energy is generated as a result of the concentration gradient in places where freshwater meets dense salt water, as it does along coastlines all over the world.

“We critically need more green energy in the world,” said Skilhagen, Statkraft’s Head of Osmotic Power. “Osmotic can be a valuable contributor. It’s a base load renewable energy. You can make electricity from the combination of fresh water and sea water.”

Statkraft’s plant pulls salt water and fresh water from nearby sources and places them into adjoining chambers separated with a thin, permeable membrane. The freshwater forces its way through to the salt water, creating pressure on the salt water side that turns an energy turbine.

One day osmotic power could generate 1700 TWh of electricity per year, which is about half of the European Union’s current consumption, Skilhagen believes.

To read how computers can simulate the brain, and the rest of the article, head over to HPMegatrends.com.



I want to hear your thoughts, too! Leave a comment below or join in on the Twitter conversation by using the hashtag
#MegatrendsbyHP and tweeting me at @AndrewBolwell.

 

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