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Top 10 Innovation Trends That Could Change Your World

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Ethan Wolff Mann, Yahoo! Finance, Innovation Trends

With Ethan Wolff-Mann, covering Consumer Issues, Politics, Technology, and Personal Finance for Yahoo Finance!

Steve loves to read but finds that most of what he reads is either on a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.  This innovation is something he would never have imagined ten or twenty years ago.

To know more about what the future holds, Steve speaks with Ethan Wolff-Mann.  Ethan covers consumer issues, politics, technology, and personal finance for Yahoo Finance!  He discusses the top 10 innovations that could shape the next decades based on in-depth analysis by CitiGroup’s venture arm.

#1:  Solid-State Battery

Currently, rechargeable batteries have severe limitations on usage between charges—phones need to be charged every day, and cars run just a few hundred miles on one charge.  Solid-state batteries could change that for the better.

In cars, they could run for a lot longer between charges and upend the auto industry.

#2:  Anti-Aging Medicines

Man is in a constant battle with aging and age-related ailments such as arthritis.  Promising research on aging could lead to dramatically higher lifespans and healthier retirements in the future.

#3:  Autonomous Vehicle Networks (AVN)

AVNs are essentially driverless cars.  Cars will transition from something you own and park in your garage to vehicles available as and when you need them.

The first phase of AVN innovation could involve robo-taxis serving local areas in 2018-2019.  By 2020-2021, analysts believe cars will have affordable autopilot features for mainstream and highway use.

#4: Big Data And Health Care

America’s growing use of electronic health records (EHR) has resulted in a treasure trove of data.  Sophisticated data analysis will enhance the usefulness of EHR.  The analysis of big data could lead to robo-diagnoses and early disease prevention, as well as reining in runaway medical costs.

#5 Dynamic Spectrum Allocation (DSA)

Today, wireless communications are heavily regulated.  DSA could change all that and make spectrum -related issues far more exciting and efficient.

DSA has the potential to increase reliability and data security and lead to innovations in airwave use.  Analysts believe this could be as disruptive as Airbnb and Uber were to the hotel and taxi industry.

 #6: Esports

Online gaming has come a long way from video game arcades.  Gaming events are now televised online on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.  Esports draw massive global audiences, and some have surpassed “real” sports in terms of prize money.

Game hosts are making events better by the year.  This trend will only grow, and make esports a major new contender in the sports segment.

#7: 5G

3G and 4G/LTE technologies have boosted data speeds over wireless networks.  Now, 5G is poised to take it a step farther.  The real beneficiaries of 5G would be industrial and commercial users.

5G may finally make the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality.  Faster 5G wireless could propel self-driving cars and smart homes into the mainstream.

#8:  Floating Offshore Wind Farms

The energy industry is in a constant battle with environmental groups.  Floating offshore wind farms (FOWFs) could change all that.

FOWFs can be set up far from shore and solve the “not in my backyard” problem and supply sustainable green energy for our growing world.

 #9: Real Estate Market Disruptors

Financial technology (fintech) companies are taking aim at the many inefficiencies in the home buying process.

For instance, fintechs could automate the home-buying process and reduce brokerage fees from a percentage of the sale to a fixed broker fee.  Fintech’s focus on data analysis should result in a better business model for real estate transactions.

#10: Smart Voice-Activated Assistants

Kids now grow up talking to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.  Analysts see voice-activated assistants (VAAs) getting more sophisticated through AI.  In the future, expect further innovation in VAAs to do a lot more than set your alarm or play your favorite song.


Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital.  Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions.  Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.  The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.

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Steve Pomeranz: If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a voracious reader. These days, I’m reading mostly on my phone and computer. And then when I say that, I realize that 10 or 20 years ago, I would never have even thought about doing that. So I began to wonder what the next 10 or 20 years might look like, which led me to invite my next guest.
His name is Ethan Wolff-Mann, and he covers consumer issues, politics, technology, and personal finance for Yahoo Finance. And he’s going to discuss the top 10 innovations that could shape the next decades. Hey, Ethan, welcome to the show.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Thanks for having me.

Steve Pomeranz: So what is the source of this information, of this crystal ball?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: [LAUGH] So this comes from CitiGroup, and specifically, a lot of it CitiGroup’s Venture team. But what’s so interesting here is that they’ve kind of pulled out all of these areas from individuals who cover these various sectors. And what I really love about it is that, I mean, we hear so much about innovation and the future, and all these things like that, through the media, and social media, and all this stuff.  However, I think the best place to find it is often through the most kind of boring and less enthusiastic or excitable types. And a bank is a really good place to find that.

Steve Pomeranz: Right.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: So, I mean, enthusiasm only gets you so far. These people are using a lot of analysis and have a lot more going on, which actually makes me more enthusiastic.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, I hear you, I hear you. And it’s not hype, it’s not promotion, and nobody is talking about the next world changer. These are studied research to try to figure out with all the trends and ways of measuring trends. Which really gets me to this question about foretelling the future. It seems to be impossible, what makes this different besides just saying it’s research?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Well, I mean, I think having the analysis there, not only on the specific sectors but really watching the people who are ultimately going to be consuming the stuff. That is, I think, really, really key.

I mean, the big lens, which the head of Citi’s Venture group tells us to look at this is through this lens of what kind of large-scale societal, economic, tech trends are happening that you might be overlooking, or that a company might be overlooking. She gave us a great example of Microsoft completely missing the mobile train and Apple got so entrenched in the iPhone before Microsoft really knew what hit them.
So I think it’s so important not to take the eye off the ball here when it comes to that kind of thing.

Steve Pomeranz: Okay, so let’s take a look at these ten areas of disruption. The first one, and some of these are really kind of boring and surprising.
[LAUGH] All solid-state batteries. Why is that relevant to us?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Right, I mean, there are so many things that are at this kind of infrastructural level that we don’t really see, we wouldn’t interact with our daily lives if and when they actually come. And solid-state batteries are one of those things. Right now, batteries can only do so much. There’s huge limitations. I mean, you may think about this when you realize your phone dies after a day.

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: And why a day? Why not a week? Why not a month?

Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Or a Tesla needs to be charged a lot more than maybe otherwise. And so, when you think about these ways to store electricity and store energy efficiently, cheaply, in a small space, all of these things, that is something that could really affect literally everything we touch.

I mean, there are batteries in so much of the things that we interact with. And if we can have a way to make that more efficient and cheaper, that would make this enormous difference. And one of the biggest places is in cars. There’s been so much question of when will electric cars, if they will ever, take on the internal combustion engine in gas cars.

And we haven’t seen that because there are so many limitations. And a lot of this comes from the fact that the battery technology just simply is not there. So, if the battery comes, I mean, that could change our entire auto industry which is, that’s just one of many things which is huge.

Steve Pomeranz: All right, yeah, well, let’s move on to some of the other things, too. So batteries, yeah. I mean, they’re ubiquitous and important, but there’s a lot more here. Anti-aging medicines, as well. So what’s going on there?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Well, this is kind of an obvious one that we are in a constant battle with aging, and we’d all like to stop that.
Not just from kind of a cosmetic standpoint, but from arthritis and various ailments. So if we can fix that, that’s an enormous market. And there are a few promising studies. This is one that there’s a larger who knows I think in this one than other stuff, but that’s definitely something to watch.

Steve Pomeranz: Now, the third one is autonomous vehicle networks. So these are driverless cars, right?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Yeah, and this is related to some other things. It’s related to the battery question because, I think, the ubiquity of electric cars would be something kind of necessary for the full autonomous nature since there is going to be so much a part of the change in technology of cars and probably would only happen with new ones first and ones that you don’t buy yourself. And also, I mean, this would require big advances in AI and machine learning and all these other things. We’ve heard a lot of talk from GM and Uber and Apple and various, Google, Waymo, all these companies that are trying to get into this. But I think it’s something that will happen but maybe not-

Steve Pomeranz: I don’t really understand it. Ethan, I don’t really understand it, I don’t understand what the big drive is, no pun intended, to not drive your own car. It sounds very Sci-Fi-ish, and you’ve seen Minority Report and other kinds of wonderful movies about this.

But I just don’t get it. Now, big data and healthcare. Now, I hear a lot and read a lot about how big data’s going to be changing everything. In what way is that going to change for us?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Well, this is one that I kind of have mixed feelings on simply because, I mean, we’re so desperate to solve issues and healthcare especially, getting the amount that we spend on healthcare down. I mean, it’s going to break 20% of our GDP in the next few years. That’s just an enormous amount to be spending on healthcare. And people think that big data and harnessing the enormous amounts of electronic health records.

Actually, the amount of data is measured in exabytes, which is a term I just learned because that’s I guess many past terabyte, gigabyte.

Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH] Well, it’s probably 1,000 terabytes.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Right, something like that. But the thing here is if we can deal with all of this data that we get and apply some sort of machine learning or some sort of way to harness it and turn it to something useful and meaningful, that will be incredibly advantageous, maybe making doctor’s lives easier with smart diagnosis. I think that’s what people ultimately want. But having smaller things and maybe just managing costs a bit. But at the same time, this is coming when we are having less trust in data collected on us, so I don’t know how that’s going to work.

Steve Pomeranz: Well, yeah, I mean, when you think of the future, you kind of always want to paint the rosiest picture, right? It’s going to make it easier to travel. We’ll be traveling at supersonic speeds, but you never really hear about some of ramifications of all that. We’re low on time, so I want to skip to one that’s going to be changing quite soon, and that is 5G. We’ve heard about it. We know what 3G is and LTE is, we see that on our phone. But how is 5G going to change things?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Well, 5G is the question of having a wireless connection that really is leaps and bounds faster than it is now. It’s something that people think will kick off the kind of Internet of Things in earnest, which people thought it was going to happen earlier with LT, but it hasn’t really.

I mean, some people have a smart house and smart locks and smart thermostats and things. But this is something that really could change things a bit, especially, and we were talking about self-driving cars. The amount of data required to make everything work would be astronomical. So a way to kind of deal with all that would be 5G.

Steve Pomeranz: Is that going to bypass Wi-fi, then, in terms of speed and availability?

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Some people think so. I’m not totally sure about that. There are, I mean, it’s cheap to use Wi-fi, and wired connections are still going to be faster than any wireless, I think. But that’s something I think we will see instead of a wi-fi thing, 5G.

Steve Pomeranz: Well, unfortunately, we’re out of time, but I’ll tell you, we will put the link on our website. So if you want to see what the others are, you can surely get them there. My guest is Ethan Wolff-Mann, and he’s from Yahoo! Finance. And if you have a question about what we just discussed, don’t forget to go to our website, which is stevepomeranz.com where you will find that link.

And you will find so many other things for you to peruse and to search for, and to enjoy and understand. That’s stevepomeranz.com. And don’t forget to sign up for our weekly update where we will send you the weekly commentaries and interviews straight to your inbox. That’s stevepomeranz.com. Once again, Ethan, thanks so much.

Ethan Wolff-Mann: Thank you.