Business man behind the wheel of a car.

These Disruptive Technology Examples Underscore Emerging Trend

27 Nov 2017 by Michael Lazar

This article originally appeared on March 27, 2017, and has been revised to bring our readers the most up-to-date technology information.

Disruptive technology can be defined as technology that comes along suddenly — that’s so impactful and useful that it literally disrupts entire industries that came before it. Thanks to disruptive technology trends, we now have some of the greatest gadgets, technology and software solutions in the world, all fed by consumer and business demand.

Indeed, IT disruption is a hungry beast that never sleeps. It’s changed entire industries for the better — and many times over during the past two decades. Disruptive technology examples from the early 1990s include the advent of online shopping, later dubbed “electronic commerce,” soon after shortened to simply “e-commerce.”

Yet another example of disruptive technology involves the electric vehicle, which (much later than its initial offering in the early 1900s) evolved into the electric plug-in hybrid, and then into the battery-powered hybrid. Big-name retailers such as Virgin Records and Tower Records, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were all replaced by the disruptive technologies of MP3s and online streaming services. Of course, the list doesn’t stop there.

Join us as we take a peek at several innovations that are shaping up to change everything we know yet again, and for the better.

Autonomous carpooling

In the future, you may read your newspaper on the way to work via corporate-sponsored autonomous carpooling services. Yep, driverless cars could get you and a few other co-workers to and from work safely and on time, every time. What’s more, it may even be possible to coordinate this schedule from your smartphone or smartwatch.

According to an MIT study, and evidenced by the rise of ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, the need for such services is on the rise. The majority of commuters make the drive alone to work each morning — a whopping 75.7%, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute.

“Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, which results in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money,” says Daniela Rus, professor of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in reference to ride-sharing services. “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air and shorter, less stressful commutes.” And it paves the way for the rise of autonomous vehicles.

This illustration shows the potential growth of the self-driving vehicle revolution.
Figure 1. Source: McKinsey & Co.

Figure 1 shows the potential growth of the self-driving vehicle revolution from 2015 to 2050. Era 1, spanning 2015 to 2020, is when fully autonomous vehicles are being developed for consumers. Era 2, 2020 to about 2035, ushers in consumer adoption of autonomous vehicles. In Era 3, approximately 2035 to 2050, autonomous vehicles become the primary means of transportation.

Driverless cars and commuting services could become such disruptive technology that the day and fare of the cabby would seemingly come to an end. Big names such as General Motors (GM) are investing large amounts of money in the future of driverless ride-sharing services, with GM recently investing $500 million in Lyft’s program.

Certainly, some milestones need to be reached before self-driving cars really take off. But they’re on the horizon and within grasp over the next 10 years. Would any of us really complain if we had the ability to snatch an extra 10 or 20 minutes of sleep on the way to work or get caught up on the news while eradicating the stress of the morning haul?

Cloud computing services

Easily the most disruptive technology of our time, cloud computing has successfully made downloading software from disks obsolete — we now just download it from the web or even use it online without downloading at all. The cloud has also changed the ways we access the internet, use programs, store and share files, and manage day-to-day business operations. We’ve identified popular cloud computing trends in a previous article. Combined, they’ll become a driving force for IT disruption now and well into the future.

Businesses already have access to the public mega cloud, such as Amazon Web Services. And adoption rates are higher than just about anything ever seen in computing before. Unsurprisingly, cloud spending is set to reach $266 billion in 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate of 21% over a five-year span, according to IDC.

Thanks to the cloud, some of the most popular computer programs, such as those offered by Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec, are now available on a pay-as-you-go basis at a low monthly rate, with no contracts. Endless amounts of other services — ranging from accounting to consulting, big data and more — are also readily available to businesses of all sizes via cloud subscriptions.

In essence, the advent of the cloud and its disruption of technology can be aptly compared to the crater that was created by the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs. It’s really had that big of an impact on technology. With Everything as a Service (XaaS) quickly becoming the new standard, there’s no turning back.

This infographic shows three as-a-Service "stacks": Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
Figure 2. Source: Safari

Figure 2 shows three as-a-Service “stacks”: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Below each are the components of as-a-Service models, including applications, security, databases, operating systems, etc. In IaaS, the customer is responsible to manage applications, security and databases, whereas in PaaS, the customer only manages applications. In SaaS solutions, all components are handled by the provider.

3–D printing

Although still a technology in its infancy, 3–D printing is slowly becoming part of what some tech experts refer to as “Industry 4.0.” This involves several facets, as illustrated in Figure 3. They include additive manufacturing, augmented reality, big data, autonomous robots, simulation, system integration and the Internet of Things (IoT). But some feel 3–D printing is the missing link that tethers Industry 4.0 together. 

This infographic illustrates the components of what some experts refer to as Industry 4.0. These components include additive manufacturing, augmented reality, big data, autonomous robots, simulation, system integration and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Figure 3. Source: 3DPrint

There are several reasons why 3–D printing technology could be the next big disruption in IT:

  • It enables easier prototyping with “mass customization options” that allow Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) to better compete with larger enterprises because the technology doesn’t require costly molds and other expensive fabrication tools.
  • It creates “new ecosystems” that enable a more economical and rapid means of production devoid of the high labor, raw material costs and workplace hazards that are common at most manufacturing facilities.
  • It allows for the nearly instant creation of customized parts with economy of scale.

Wearable technology

Last on our list of the most disruptive technologies of the future is wearable technology. While this technology is nothing new, it’s not that old, either. Second- and third-generation smartwatches and wearables are just making their debut, and there’s plenty more to come, from Apple’s wireless earbuds to Google’s car-starting Android smartwatch, to the Fitbit health monitoring bracelet that will likely become a staple to corporate healthcare awareness endeavors.

Newer innovations are being procured all the time: the self-heating shirt for campers, the self-cooling shirt for runners, the smart dog collar with GPS and camera, and much more. Where the future will take us is anyone’s guess. But one thing is certain: It’s an exciting time in technology. 

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