Wednesday, 22 April 2009

20 Most Important Inventions of the Next 10 Years

Things are looking pretty bleak right now. But, the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

 

Innovation from Recession


BusinessWeek asked several futurists, including Futurist.com's Glen Hiemstra, consultant David Zach, and author Howard Rheingold, to describe what they'd like to see arise from the current downturn. Notably, our experts didn't think of innovation merely in terms of products or services. These ideas will change the way humans interact with the earth — and with each other.
-- By Damian Joseph, BusinessWeek

1. Ocean-Driven Hydropower. Till now, hydropower has mostly been generated at dams. Now, turbines around the world are being designed to harness the power of the ocean. Blue Energy Canada is close to commercializing a turbine that captures energy from ocean currents, and already has purchased power agreements in India, Indonesia, and New Zealand. With a set of subway-size floating turbines, Pelamis Wave Power is converting wave power into electricity off the coast of Scotland.

 

2. Miniaturized Medical Equipment

Truly tiny implants that can test, diagnose, and even alert doctors to problems with their patients will replace costly routine visits. Researchers in the Netherlands say they've developed a pill that can be loaded with medicine and programmed to travel to a specific part of the body to unload it. A pen-size device is being developed at the University of Texas that can detect skin cancer without the need for a biopsy.

 

3. 3D Printing

It has been around for a while, but 3D printing, in which three dimensional object is created by layering and connecting successive cross sections of material, is becoming more affordable, which in itself will unleash a host of new inventions and applications, pushing beyond prototypes and models. Scientists have been experimenting using the technology to reconstruct human tissue.

 

4. Even Smarter Apps

  Mobile applications can already identify what song is playing, point you to a nearby restaurant, or manage your social networking utilities, but that was just the start. The relatively low cost of entry and the speed at which an app hits or misses creates a environment ripe for breakthrough innovation. What's next could be the first big business to arise from the downturn.

 

5. Next-Generation Bio-Fuels

The first round of biofuels caused a spike in global food prices. Now companies are developing the next generation from non-edible sources. Scientists at ADM (ADM) are creating cellulosic ethanol from corn stalks, and other companies are experimenting with switchgrass, woodchips, and the tropical grass miscanthus.

 

6. Electric Avenues

While Detroit struggles, would-be automakers are getting in on the action, with a host of electric vehicles now in various states of readiness to roll. Shai Agassi's Better Place is proposing a network of stations where drivers of electric cars can exchange dying batteries for ones freshly charged. For its part, GM's (GM) Chevy Volt is due in 2010.

 

7. Truly "On-Demand" Entertainment

As entertainment technologies converge, we're better able to watch, listen, or read anything we want any time we want. The Netflix Player by Roku streams an ever-growing library of Netflix and Amazon content directly to the TV. Apple TV offers both shows and movies for purchase or rental. Open-source media software, Boxee, aims to run on all third-party streaming boxes and plans to release its own box, too. Soon, these systems won't only be for the alpha geeks.

 

8. Nanotech Computing

In Chicago, two separate teams recently made breakthroughs that dramatically shrink the size of electronics. One team's new transistors allow for processors that will make silicon chips seem gigantic. The other came up with film material that can store the equivalent of 250 DVDs on the space of a quarter.

 

9. Cure for Cancer

Huge advances are being made that could some day eradicate cancer, AIDS, brain tumors, prostate cancer, and other diseases. Nanotech medicine provides a more targeted delivery to cells than chemotherapy or other treatments, which means doctors can lower dosages to minimize side effects.

 

Click here to see the rest on BusinessWeek.com

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