Technologies to Watch


Industry researchers IBISWorld recently identified 10 tech industries that have experienced significant change or growth over the past five years and which are ones to watch in the years ahead. Here the firm’s projections for the top 10 industries.


3-D printing. Debuting as a technology used only by a few manufacturers and designers to build prototypes, 3-D printing is transforming into a technology that The New York Times says is “spurring a manufacturing revolution,” with its ability to convert designs to 3-D models almost instantly. Through 2017, IBISWorld projects that industry revenue will grow at an average annualized rate of 14.0 percent to $1.3 billion, with aerospace, aircraft, engine and parts manufacturing helping to drive demand.


Enterprise software. Businesses today have unprecedented amounts of data to manage and need to connect with globally dispersed workforces and customers. The robust Internet connections that have made cloud computing possible allow firms to offer scalable, cost-effective software packages that can address businesses’ data and global needs, such as search-engine optimization, social media and mobile marketing, and facilitating internal collaboration across borders and throughout supply chains. IBISWorld expects the business analytics and enterprise software publishing industry to grow at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent to $31.5 billion over the five years to 2017.


Virtualization software. Virtualization software acts as a layer between a computer’s hardware and the software that runs on it. Multiple operating systems can be run over this layer, with each operating system representing an independent, virtual machine (VM). In particular, server virtualization is revolutionizing the IT industry.


Businesses today need to manage and maintain complex information infrastructures, and virtualized servers are simultaneously lowering costs and giving firms more flexibility in managing and expanding this infrastructure. By running multiple (typically about four) virtual servers on one physical server, firms need fewer servers and, thus, have lower associated floor space, power and cooling costs. Hardware efficiency increases dramatically with virtualized machines. Virtualization provides organizations with the flexibility to expand on demand. By cloning an existing virtual machine, a new virtual server can be up and running in minutes.


Robotics. Automakers were one of the earliest adopters of industrial robots, which are now ubiquitous within automotive manufacturing. Industrial robots are regularly used to weld joints, assemble components and handle heavy items. Continued advances, particularly in vision and navigation, are allowing them to complete tasks with greater accuracy. Industry revenue is expected to increase at a strong average annual rate of 14.9 percent to $4.2 billion in the five years to 2017. According to “The Robot Report,” vision and navigation systems are the next level in the evolution of industrial robotics as they branch out of the automotive industry and into many other areas, such as robotic surgery.


HTML5. Hypertext markup language (HTML) is the standard protocol for formatting and displaying information and documents through Web browsers. Since the advent of Web video, there has been no way to naturally integrate video with HTML. Not anymore: HTML5 integrates video and many more features, such as audio, browser storage, drag-and-drop capabilities and vector graphics. It creates a standard, consistent experience across all Web-enabled devices. Because the most-used mobile app is the Web browser, the adoption of HTML5 will make life a lot easier for mobile application developers. By programming once in HTML5, developers can now reach consumers through every mobile device. More importantly, by programming in HTML5, mobile apps may cease to become just apps. Instead, apps would exist on the Internet and would be accessed through Web browsers, fundamentally changing the nature of the smartphone app industry.


Next-gen batteries and fuel cells. Innovation will help the battery manufacturing industry charge forward, as companies focus on developing batteries that have longer life spans, produce a higher voltage, reduce emissions and improve recharge frequency and time. Already, Duracell’s patented Duralock technology allows batteries to last up to 10 years after the purchase date. Other battery advancements are occurring in the car and automobile manufacturing industry, particularly lithium-ion batteries, which are more lightweight and have greater life spans and energy densities, and hydrogen fuel cells, due to their high-energy production and zero greenhouse gas emissions. Growth in these areas is only expected to pick up in the next five years, especially with the U.S. Department of Energy’s recent launch of an Energy Innovation Hub for advanced research and development on batteries and energy storage.


4G LTE networks. The 4G refers to a specific set of international wireless standards, which state that a 4G network must offer speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps) for mobile use, or 1 gigabit per second (gbps) for low mobility situations. IBISWorld expects the number of mobile Internet connections to increase at an annualized rate of 12.1 percent to about 275 million from 2012 to 2017. The 4G LTE networks are 10 times faster, on average, than their 3G counterparts, presenting the opportunity to deliver more data-rich content to consumers, particularly video. The computing power of mobile devices will also increase: With storage and computing power stored in the cloud and accessed through robust 4G connections, smartphones and tablets will be able to far exceed their own hardware’s computing capabilities.


Near field communication. Near field communication (NFC) is short-range wireless connectivity that allows transmission of data from one device to another (or an NFC tag); it’s the technology behind “tap and go” credit-cards that are popular today. While contactless creditcard payments will remain a key market for NFC, the variety of potential uses made possible by smartphones is much wider. According to Forbes magazine, more than 550 million smartphones are estimated to implement the technology by 2016, and mobile commerce transactions are expected to total $670 billion by 2013.


Ad-serving platforms. Ad serving platforms are fueled by data. Firms like Google, Microsoft and Facebook sort through the vast amount of data to deliver targeted ads to consumers, generating huge profit margins through processes that, at this point, are almost entirely automated. And these platforms are getting more effective every day. Search engines are moving away from keyword searches and are developing and expanding their semantic search capabilities, delving deeper to ascertain a searcher’s intentions. HTML5 provides a more consistent way of analyzing data, and its “geolocation” features will provide location-based targeting capabilities to advertisers. More robust mobile Internet connections are allowing advertisers to deliver more media-rich ads to consumers and are expanding the reach of ad-serving platforms. Within the next five years, geolocation services will enable advertisers to target consumers with ads and coupons at the most opportune moment, as they pass by a store or walk down a certain aisle.


AMOLED displays. Following in the footsteps of positive trends in the light-emitting diode (LED) industry and the organic LED (OLED) industry, the high-quality and energy-efficient characteristics of active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) technology are being welcomed with open arms. Mainly used in mobile phones, media players and digital cameras, AMOLED is a thin-film display technology that has higher refresh rates, quicker response times and lower power consumption. Increasingly, AMOLED displays are also being pursued for larger electronics. In the five years to 2017, revenue for the LED manufacturing industry is projected to increase at an annualized rate of 3.4 percent to $975.8 million. Current demand for AMOLED screens is so high that the leading producer Samsung Display can’t keep up. Because most cell-phones are manufactured abroad, the United States doesn’t have a substantial stake in AMOLED technology. But if Samsung’s inability to keep up with booming demand is any indication of AMOLED’s future, it’s a technology that will remain on display in years to come, especially if it continues following the paths of its predecessors.