The top emerging technologies in 2019 aren’t just neat ideas. They’ll change our lives in fundamental ways - and soon. When you think about it, the growth curve of tech is mind-bending. Just over a century ago, there were no airplanes. Now we’ve been to the moon and there’s a nuclear robot car driving around on Mars, not to mention the fact that 3.3 billion people carry supercomputing communicators called smartphones in their pockets .
Every new advance brings an avalanche of surprises. Electricity, the automobile, and TV have altered every aspect of our lives. Yet those inventions each came 50 or more years apart. Today, new world-changing tech emerges every couple of years. Get ready to learn about the top 10 emerging technologies of 2019, and how they’ll interact to usher in a very different world.
Emerging technologies will change your life
Emerging technologies are new, ever-growing tech that can change the way we live. They include advances in IT, biotech, AI, nanotech, and communications science. For 2019, some of the other top contenders are 5G, Internet of Things
(IoT), robotics, drones, 3D printing, AR, biometrics, and bioplastics.
The coolest thing about emerging tech? How its parts will interact. Imagine the local building supply store drops off several palettes of shingles and a roofing robot at your door. In six hours and for less money than you’d pay a contractor, you’ve got a new roof. The robot uses advanced battery tech to work without a break, AI to make decisions, and IoT and 5G to tap into a wealth of problem-solving info on the web. We’re not there yet, but as these new technologies grow and overlap, we’ll start to see their effects in dozens of everyday applications.
The top 10 emerging technologies in 2019
In this list, you’ll get a glimpse of how each emerging tech will affect you, from AI to IoT to 5G and serverless computing. We also show the links between them to paint a picture greater than the sum of its parts.
AI won’t take over the world next year or even take your job. In fact it might make your job better
by cutting out the drudgery. It also can’t think like you do - yet. So what does AI do? This first entry on our list of emerging technologies enhances “dumb” programming by crunching huge volumes of data with fast, intelligent processing. It can spot patterns to accurately read mammograms or predict the outcome of the Kentucky Derby
AI is touching your life more and more each day behind the scenes. You will no doubt notice websites, apps, phone menus, and the software you already use getting subtly smarter and faster as AI guides it in the background. The best example? Every time you search online for something, Google’s AI gets a little better at finding what you’re looking for.
Some other ways AI is helping
include monitoring air quality, helping to improve clean power efficiency, and even stopping poachers. In Africa’s Congo Basin, a neural network of audio sensors called the Elephant Listening Project is eavesdropping on 580 square miles of jungle to stop poachers in their tracks. It would take an army of human workers working tirelessly to monitor that much acreage. But AI can remain hyper-vigilant as it listens constantly for gunshots and then reports them.
Next on our list of emerging technologies in 2019 is IoT. There’s been a lot of talk about the IoT, but most of us don’t know what to make of it yet. Do you really need an online fridge or armchair? But the IoT is so much more than that. It’s 50 billion long-lasting sensors checking everything from highway speed to soil hydration and passing info to the cloud.
This would all be pretty useless without AI because that tidal wave of real-time data would choke a human-operated system. But AI can spot the patterns in the data storm to serve up fresh, hot insights like how to feed more people with less money, who’s at risk for heart trouble, and can even track sharks and dolphins in real time.
How are you using IoT right now? If you’re like most Americans, you have a voice assistant
on your phone or in a smart speaker. You may already use it to play music, add items to shopping lists, and even order pizza with your voice.
Right now your 4G phone can download a 2-hour movie in 3 minutes. That’s fast. But in the next year or two - depending on where you live - 5G
will let you do the same in just 3 seconds. That’s blazing fast, but the point isn’t just to download movies faster.
5G telemetry will power the IoT to form lightning-fast connections joining billions of devices in a self-aware network. Unlike Skynet from the Terminator movies, we’ll use it to drive smart homes and smart cars or guide first responders in real time. Fast speeds and lots of “nodes” will let the chatter happen smoothly, without bottlenecks. That’s what makes it one of the most vital emerging technologies on our list.
Beyond 5G, wired internet connections are getting faster too. WiFi 6
at 9.6 Gbps is more than twice as fast as what you’ve probably got now. But its real power is in the bandwidth it delivers to make space for the billions of devices in the IoT.
4. VR and AR
Ever been lost in a maze-like hospital or an unfamiliar city? What about inside a burning building? Augmented reality (AR) will soon act like your own personal Iron Man helmet to point you where you need to go. Google Maps just added AR to its walking directions. Hold up your phone, and it’ll show you where to turn or let you know if you’re going the wrong way.
AR and virtual reality (VR) make cool games
too, like Temple Treasure Hunt
, that lets you track down imaginary hidden treasures in your home or neighborhood . Beyond games, AR (with the help of 5G networks) is already guiding firemen in smoke-filled buildings . Closer to home, AR and VR are creating “collaborative telepresence,” a fancy term for telecommuting that feels the same as being there.
Among the coolest AR apps for your phone right now are SketchAR, which captures imaginary drawings you make on real paper with a fake pen , and Ink Hunter, which shows you what a new tattoo would look like on your skin .
5. Robotics and drones
We’ve all seen drones and robots, but these emerging technologies are still in their infancy. Drones are largely used
as camera platforms, and robots remain shackled to assembly lines and inside research labs. Lithium-ion batteries updated through nanotech may change that soon .
Drones and robots that don’t run down for days would have dozens of applications. What about a carbon-fiber exoskeleton that lets paraplegics walk again ? What about self-driving cars that can go all day without a fill-up? Or home robots that can do everything from cook you dinner to repair your car ?
6. 3D printing
There are 9 types of 3D printers in a race to see which one can do it best . 3D printing
can fabricate whole components with dozens of moving parts from materials like plastics, glass, and even metal
3D printing tolerances don’t yet compete with traditional manufacturing methods, but they’re getting better all the time. Within the next few years you may buy design copyrights instead of shoes, car parts, or computers, then pay your local 3D print
shop to run you off a copy when you need it.
7. Serverless computing
Serverless computing is one of the most powerful and subtle emerging technologies in 2019. Let’s bust the myth: serverless computing does use servers. But you as the business owner won’t need your own server. It’s a bit like owning a car vs renting a car vs calling an Uber. In old-style IT models, you need to have a server on the premises. With cloud computing, you rent a virtual server on someone else’s premises. With serverless computing, you just hire server functions as and when you need them.
The upshot? Business owners pay a lot less for a lot more computing power. That also gives consumers a shot in the arm, because healthy competition passes cost savings on to us. Need to check all the images on your server for inappropriate content? Instead of hiring teams to write code that does that for you, you’ll hire it out to serverless AI .
Blockchain is one of the most exciting emerging technologies because of what it promises to do to financial bureaucracy. Namely, it aims to make an end-run around it. With it, every kind of transaction may get faster, cheaper, easier, and more secure. Banks and other financial institutions right now lose $4 trillion every year to fraud . If you don’t think they pass that - and the cost to fight it - on to you and me, you’re dreaming.
is much harder to defraud because of how it works. It creates a chain of data of transactions stored in multiple locations. Fraudulent transactions are stopped before they happen because they don’t match info elsewhere in the chain. As banks and governments adopt blockchain tech, you and I will see our banking and borrowing costs come down.
If you saw The Minority Report with Tom Cruise, you understand biometrics. It’s the idea that you have very personal identifiers like fingerprints, palm veins, retinal veins, and even the shape of your ear canal. Emerging technology in the digital realm can scan those patterns and use them to identify you.
Why’s that cool? Because soon you won’t need 50 complex passwords to log into banks and other online services. Everything from online shopping to airport security to keyless entry will get easier, faster, and cheaper. Plus, thanks to less theft and fraud, it will be more secure. You can already use your fingerprint to access your HP Spectre x360
, among other HP laptops.
We’re up against a brick wall with plastics. We add 8 million metric tons of them to the ocean every year . The churning motion of the waves then shreds them into micro-fragments that give pesticides and other harmful chemicals a free ride into our food chain.
Enter bioplastics. While traditional plastics can take 1,000 years to decompose, bioplastics are plant-based. They biodegrade in 3 to 6 months. They still have issues - like spreading harmful chemicals - but engineers are working on those problems. That’s why bioplastics are on the list of top emerging technologies.
The emerging technology revolution
There’s no doubt the pace of tech advancement is speeding up. When Alvin and Heidi Toffler penned their 1970 book Future Shock, their idea was that change would happen so rapidly we wouldn’t be able to adjust . The flip-side of that coin? These top 10 emerging technologies are making things easier so quickly we hardly have time to complain about an inconvenience before someone invents a way around it.