The most widely predictable aspect of technology trends has long been the ever-increasing disruption. Since 2010, Deloitte’s tech futurists have viewed disruption largely through the lens of information technology (IT), rooted in the formal sciences—computer and system sciences, logic, mathematics, and statistics—to support those new models that meet new needs in new markets.
Now, disruption itself is getting messy. And leading future organizations must look beyond the unexpected disruptions they have learned and prepared to expect.
The frontier beyond IT disruption is easy to see. By analyzing factors including patent and startup activity, venture capitalist funding, academic and grant investment, and changes in hiring and talent, Deloitte’s futurists identified a set of emerging technology domains that can rival IT in their disruptive and transformative potential.
SpaceTech, BioTech, NeuroTech, ClimateTech, EnergyTech, and RobotTech technologies—collectively known as xTech—can immediately begin to solve fundamental human challenges and eventually rival and even surpass IT’s influence on innovation. business.
Space and aeronautical engineering is a growth opportunity as government agencies continue to outsource much of their traditional business and operational domains to private companies, such as flights and launches, and companies invest in new transportation. Low-Earth orbit (LEO) flights, at altitudes of up to 1,200 miles (the distance of the International Space Station from Earth), enable organizations to build and maintain communications and security infrastructure for use on Earth. Other private areas of investment include deep space research, exploration, and even housing and supporting Earth-based technologies, infrastructure, resources, and regulation.
Cellular and biomolecular engineering allows scientists to construct and dissect cells, tissues, and molecules to produce therapeutic products with promising results. Molecular-scale research on complex biological systems has yielded the complete sequencing of the human genome and tissue-engineered therapies. Emerging applications with commercial potential include synthetic biology, the process of creating biological systems and synthetic life forms; genomics, the function and editing of genomes; and cellular agriculture, the production of synthetic food using cell cultures and new methods of creating proteins, fats, and tissues.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) measure and translate the activity of the brain and central nervous system into commands that act on external software or hardware systems to make controlling computers as natural as thought. Today, that means assistive technologies, such as noninvasive EEG electrodes that can interpret brain signals with AI-trained algorithms and send commands to control a device. The future of NeuroTech has revolutionary potential, with research and development (R&D) expanding from restorative, therapeutic, and assistive applications to elective placements that help improve human thinking, capabilities, and skills and improve the our daily life.
Autonomous and precision robots extend the value of AI from decision-making software to decision-making machines: robots that understand their environment and act without special physical infrastructure. Beyond autonomous vehicles—cars, trucks, bicycles, scooters—intelligent, multifunctional, intelligent precision robots may play an expanding role in industry, agriculture, medicine, and marine and space exploration. Advances in traditional manufacturing, transportation, and logistics can grow with advances in tools including AI, Internet of Things (IoT) smart devices, edge computing, digital twins, and satellite and 5G. communication.
Emerging climate technology can help organizations as they prioritize net-zero carbon-emissions policies, strategies, and business models with renewable energy, decarbonization, sustainable material development, technologies to reduce heat, and optimize the supply-chain. Digital technologies can also play an important role: IoT, AI, and big data can help organizations measure, analyze, and track carbon emissions and manage energy consumption more efficiently.
Electric, energy, and battery technologies can mitigate climate change while making energy more abundant, safer, or cheaper. Advances in nanotechnology and materials that help improve car and phone battery life can also reduce reliance on scarce and hard-to-obtain materials such as cobalt and lithium, and energy storage systems, such as pumped storage hydropower and flywheel energy storage, can help strengthen energy grids and make them more efficient.
The Future Is Here
Given the growing prominence of xTech, the focus on disruptive IT overlooks a range of emerging and near-future transformative technologies with disruptive business applications.
A series of Tech Future reports consider these emerging frontiers, starting with pioneering developments in space systems and aeronautical engineering: one of six xTech technology domains on the cusp of radically shifting your model of business, workforce needs, and growth strategy for decades to come.
Learn how business technology is moving beyond IT and opening up the next frontier in business performance.