Personally, I’d nominate “disrupt” as the word of the year for 2016 -- and the way things are looking, it’s a strong contender for 2017 as well.
Sure, we might find it easy to focus on new mobile apps, fancy consumer gadgets and new vehicles, but some of the coolest disruptions and innovations of late have occurred behind the scenes, in industries a bit less sexy.
My personal favorite at the moment is tracking technologies. Here are three cool ones we can expect to be the driving force of major changes in our lives:
The tracking technology most people are familiar with is the Global Positioning System, or GPS, satellite technology owned by the U.S. government and operated by the Air Force but now a commercial part of our everyday lives. GPS is used for purposes ranging from locating lost pets to planning road trips. In the past decade or so, GPS has gone from guiding submarines to optimizing delivery truck drivers, and its application is only expanding as more consumer devices become popular.
Why entrepreneurs should care: As smartphones reach saturation, GPS data becomes more comprehensive and will eventually affect virtually every industry. The demand for targeted advertising will skyrocket; mobile games that use a player's movements (like Pokemon Go, Ingress and Zombies, Run!) will grow in popularity; and personalization engines will be even more accurate.
Do these business models sound appealing? We thought so.
Almost all businesses and even consumers use some form of cloud computing, from Google Docs to SaaS. But a new trend is making use of all of these connections: fog computing. This new technology harnesses the internet of things (IoT) concept and combines the data coming from IoT devices to form more functional services and more sustainable infrastructure. While not a tracking technology, in the sense that GPS is, fog computing’s main benefit is that it can give data systems the ability to understand when certain changes or services are required at specific locations.
The most exciting potential applications of fog computing will use data to aggregate information for applications and services. This technology could also enable advances to eliminate everyday annoyances and dangers. These could include:
Smart traffic lights, to sense the approach of ambulance or police lights, and change traffic lights en route to a hospital or crime scene, progressively to green, spreading the signal proactively, so the emergency vehicle need not slow down.
Smart energy distribution with load-balancing applications, to prevent most blackouts and brownouts. This technology could also be a heavy lifter in the adoption of solar and wind power, as it could make sure that all buildings are served consistently.
Smart factory management, achieved using fog computing, could track progress and maintenance needs.
Why entrepreneurs should care. If you’re looking to get into the business of providing services to customers who are geographically spread out, consider investing in fog technology. This technology is still in its infancy, but as more data gadgets and features pop up on your neighbors’ wrists, wallets and phones, more opportunities will arise for your business to better serve your audience.
Tracking for livestock welfare
American consumers are becoming more concerned with the quality of the food they eat, from organic vegetables to free range livestock. However, livestock can cause significant stress to the ranchers that undertake their care. You can’t just let a 2-ton animal go wandering, no matter how profitable it will be at sale.
This conundrum, thankfully, is also shared by Australian ranchers -- who have devised a GPS system that keeps track of the animals much more thoroughly than any ranch hand on a horse could. The system allows the animals to roam free over extensive grasslands without the need for an increase in staff, and alerts human handlers if an animal shows signs of becoming sick or stuck.
While the technology is still under development, the idea of pairing GPS with biometric sensors -- think "a Fitbit for cows" -- seems a sound and ideal way to manage the problem.
Why entrepreneurs should care: Considering getting into the organic food industry, or starting a free-range ranch with animal welfare in mind? This is a trend to track.
As technology increases the amount of data that each individual creates, entrepreneurs will be able to choose from a diverse range of possible businesses to offer. A decade ago, a biometric sensor for your beef would have seemed ridiculous. Today, it’s inevitable. The future of tracking technology will lead the IoT and technology industries, and we can only guess where the possibilities will take us.