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Beyond Apple Watch: Which Emerging Technologies Will Impact Global Business

If the popular media provides any indication, surely the hottest current technology — or device — is the Apple Watch, which becomes available for pre-order tomorrow.

But from a global business point of view, is it the most meaningful?

It’s no secret that technology change is one of the driving forces behind business development not just today, but for decades to come. To understand which of today’s industries will become tomorrow’s winners and losers, a sound understanding of emerging technologies is imperative.

To this end, the World Economic Forum recently released an important study of the “Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015.” As the Forum notes, “Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. While never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.” [Full report here.]

To create the list, the World Economic Forum’s created a Meta- Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of 18 experts that “draws on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends” and headed by IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson.

The list includes technologies that will impact manufacturing, sustainability, agriculture, healthcare, and more — even, possibly, the question of what might happen when computers learn faster on the job than we do:

  • Fuel cell vehicles: Zero-emission cars that run on hydrogen
  • Next-generation robotics: Rolling away from the production line
  • Recyclable thermoset plastics: A new kind of plastic to cut landfill waste
  • Precise genetic-engineering techniques: A breakthrough offers better crops with less controversy
  • Additive manufacturing: The future of making things, from printable organs to intelligent clothes
  • Emergent artificial intelligence: What happens when a computer can learn on the job?
  • Distributed manufacturing: The factory of the future is online – and on your doorstep
  • ‘Sense and avoid’ drones: Flying robots to check power lines or deliver emergency aid
  • Neuromorphic technology: Computer chips that mimic the human brain
  • Digital genome: Healthcare for an age when your genetic code is on a USB stick

Of course, from a business point of view, a key question surrounding any emerging technology is whether it can affect commercial viability — and whether it can gain successful enterprise integration. This, of course, takes time, as Meyerson outlined in a talk at Northwestern University: