Balancing innovation hype with impact
Following the release of GE’s Innovation Barometer last month, social media was alight with conversations surrounding the report and themes it identified, which included:
Highlighting a number of key trends, the report raised a number of important questions, none more so than the imbalance which surrounds innovation impact and hype.
The report identified that while the spotlight attached to eye-catching innovations such as Bitcoin, the digital currency, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or additive manufacturing, has resulted in many headlines, not just in specialist media but also via mainstream news outlets, perhaps it’s time for a more balanced perspective when it comes to a rational assessment of such technologies ultimate worth?
So, while the advancements and speed of technology innovation are catapulting industry forward into an exciting new future and having a positive impact on bottom lines, what about those innovations which, unlike Bitcoin, AI and additive manufacturing aren’t causing a media frenzy?
GE refers to this in its report as:
Why are some of the most transformative innovations still lacking when it comes to surrounding hype, and what can be done to ensure such transformative innovations generate the hype they rightly deserve? As part of GEs barometer, it identified the below technologies measuring both surrounding hype and impact, as shown below:
While Bitcoin, AI and additive manufacturing, are excellent examples of where innovation continues to influence some aspects of our daily lives, it could be argued that the additional focus such technology solutions receive is out of kilter with their impact on society.
This is certainly the case when they are compared with the potential of other macro innovations that are set to be both transformative and disruptive.
GE’s report, which surveyed over 23 countries, makes for interesting reading and certainly builds the case that other less-hyped innovations such as nanotechnology, virtual healthcare diagnosis and smart cities should be what we are reading and hearing about more consistently.
So we’ve taken a look at what these innovations are, and how they might impact our lives in the future…
Nanotech involves the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules. Everything on Earth is made up of atoms—the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the buildings and houses we live in, and our own bodies. Today’s innovating scientists and engineers are finding a wide variety of ways to deliberately make materials at the nanoscale to take advantage of their enhanced properties such as higher strength, lighter weight, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity.
With many manufacturer-identified nanotech products entering our lives all the time, it is a macro innovation that is having a profound impact as we find its influence in cosmetics, cars, clothing, household appliances, medical supplies, furniture and so much more. For example, researchers in the US recently developed a coating process to make sponge-like silica latch onto toxic metals in water which can then be recovered and reused.
Virtual healthcare diagnosis
Likewise, the potential influence of virtual healthcare diagnosis cannot be underestimated. As healthcare costs continue to grow and consumer expectations rise, health systems have to change in the way they deliver care. Virtual health — the use of new and emerging digital and communications technologies to provide care and education to patients remotely — has the capability to transform the healthcare industry.
In fact, according to a 2017 global healthcare sector outlook by Deloitte, the top ten technology innovations that will bring more value for less in health care are next-generation sequencing, 3D-printed devices, immunotherapy, AI, point-of-care diagnostics, VR, social media, biosensors and trackers, convenient care and telehealth.
Finally, by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in a city and as a society we have to respond to such a challenge to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to successfully support this increased demand. This is leading to the innovative thinking behind the development of smart cities which use digital technology to promote connectivity, performance and wellbeing for citizens.
The UK government in its smart cities background paper argues that: “There is no absolute definition of a smart city, no end point but rather a process or series of steps by which cities become more “liveable” and resilient and, hence, able to respond to new challenges”.
A smart city can be defined as a city which uses information and communication technology to ensure that its critical infrastructure and the public service it offers are more interactive. And this kind of innovation is taking place on our doorstep, in Manchester, for example, there is a trial taking place where sections of the city is receiving a constant stream of data from the heating, cooling and ventilation systems to make the city more efficient in terms of energy use and maintenance costs
With this in mind, it surely cannot be argued that the associated innovations now being developed to bring about the smart and highly connected city of the future, are not worthy of more attention as they will certainly be impacting our lives just as much as any digital currency?
Perhaps it is time for the media spotlight to be shared a little more evenly and allow the general public to understand more about some of the lesser known, but no less remarkable macro innovations that are set to transform our day-to-day experiences in a profound manner. Or simply, as suggested below: