The most widely predictable aspect of technology trends has long been the constant of escalating disruption. Since 2010, Deloitte’s tech futurists have viewed disruption largely through the lens of information technology (IT), which is rooted in the formal sciences—computer and system sciences, logic, mathematics, and statistics—to support new models that meet new needs in new markets.
Today, disruption itself is getting disrupted. And leading future-oriented organizations should now look beyond the unexpected disruptions they’ve learned and prepared to expect.
The frontier beyond IT disruption is quickly coming into view. By analyzing factors including patent and startup activity, venture capitalist funding, academic and grant investments, and changes in hiring and talent, Deloitte’s futurists identified a set of emerging technology domains that could rival IT in their disruptive and innovative potential.
Technologies in SpaceTech, BioTech, NeuroTech, ClimateTech, EnergyTech, and RobotTech—collectively known as xTech—could soon begin solving fundamental human challenges and eventually rival and even surpass IT’s influence on business innovation.
Space and aeronautical engineering is a growth opportunity as government agencies continue to yield much of their traditional business and operational domain 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 International Space Station’s distance from Earth), enable organizations to build and service communications and security infrastructure for use on Earth. Other private investment areas include deep space research, exploration, and even habitation and supporting Earth-based technologies, infrastructure, resources, and regulations.
Cellular and biomolecular engineering allows scientists to build and dissect cells, tissues, and molecules to produce therapeutic products with optimal outcomes. Molecular-scale research of complex biological systems has already yielded the complete sequencing of the human genome and tissue-engineered therapies. Emerging applications with commercial potential include synthetic biology, the process of generating 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 generating proteins, fats, and tissues.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) measure and translate brain and central nervous system activity into commands that operate external software or hardware systems to make controlling computers as natural as thinking. Today, that means assistive technologies, such as noninvasive EEG electrodes that can translate brain signals to AI-trained algorithms and transmit commands to control a device. NeuroTech’s future has revolutionary potential, with research and development (R&D) expanding from restorative, therapeutic, and assistive applications to elective placement that could help enhance human thought, capabilities, and skills and enrich our daily lives.
Autonomous and precision robots extend AI value from decision-making software to decision-making machines: robots that can understand their surroundings and take actions without special physical infrastructure. Beyond autonomous vehicles—cars, trucks, bikes, scooters—dexterous, multifunctional, intelligent precision robots may play an expanding role in industry, agriculture, medicine, and marine and space exploration. Advancements in traditional manufacturing, transportation, and logistics could grow with developments in tools including AI, Internet of Things (IoT) smart devices, edge computing, digital twins, and satellite and 5G communications.
Emerging climate technology may help organizations as they increasingly prioritize net-zero carbon-emissions policies, strategies, and business models with renewable energy, decarbonization, sustainable material development, heat abatement technologies, and supply-chain optimization. Digital technologies may 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.
Power, energy, and battery technologies may mitigate climate change while making energy more abundant, safer, or less expensive. Advances in nanotechnology and materials that are helping to improve vehicle and phone battery life could also reduce dependence 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 stabilize energy grids and make them more efficient.
The Future is Already Here
Given xTech’s growing prominence, focusing on disruptive IT would overlook a range of emerging and near-future transformational technologies with disruptive business applications.
A series of Tech Futures reports will consider these emerging frontiers, starting with pioneering advancements in space systems and aeronautical engineering: one of six xTech technology domains on the cusp of radically shifting your business model, workforce needs, and growth strategy for the decades ahead.
Learn how business technology is moving beyond IT and unlock the next frontier of business performance.