Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy: Executive Summary, McKinsey Global Institute
Additive Manufacturing (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. Importantly, 3D printing enables on-demand production, which has interesting implications for supply chains and for stocking spare parts—a major cost for manufacturers. 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."
Advanced materials (Nanomaterials)
"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 nanometers), 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. For example, graphene and carbon nanotubes could help create new types of displays and super-efficient batteries and solar cells. Finally, pharmaceutical companies are already progressing in research to use nanoparticles for targeted drug treatments for diseases such as cancer."
Next Generation Robotics
"For the past several decades, industrial robots have taken on physically difficult, dangerous, or dirty jobs, such as welding and spray painting. These robots have been expensive, bulky, and inflexible—bolted to the floor and fenced off to protect workers. Now, more advanced robots are gaining enhanced senses, dexterity, and intelligence, thanks to accelerating advancements in machine vision, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, sensors, and actuators. These robots can be easier for workers to program and interact with. They can be more compact and adaptable, making it possible to deploy them safely alongside workers. These advances could make it practical to substitute robots for human labor in more manufacturing tasks, as well as in a growing number of service jobs, such as cleaning and maintenance. This technology could also enable new types of surgical robots, robotic prosthetics, and “exoskeleton” braces that can help people with limited mobility to function more normally, helping to improve and extend lives."
The Internet of Things (Advanced Sensors)
"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 pipes, the Internet of Things allows businesses and public-sector organizations 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 attack a major cause of rising health-care costs."
Automation of knowledge work (Pervasive Automation)
"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 instance, some computers can answer "unstructured" questions (i.e., those posed in ordinary language, rather than precisely written as software queries), so employees or customers without specialized training can get information on their own. This opens up possibilities for sweeping change in how knowledge work is organized and performed. Sophisticated analytics tools can be used to augment the talents of highly skilled employees, and as more knowledge worker tasks can be done by machine, it is also possible that some types of jobs could become fully automated."