Tech trends 101

I could use some help with a tough project. I’m taking a business technology class this summer, which has ended up being much more challenging than I expected. We’re just a couple of weeks into the course and our professor is already having us present mini-research assignments.

My first presentation is next week. I’m supposed to highlight a trend in business technology that’s making a tangible impact. The last student explained how unmanned aerial vehicles deliver life-saving medicines to remote communities in Africa.

That was a great topic and not as boring as the very first student presentation, which covered GPS. I want to avoid boring everyone to death. Any insight into compelling trends or examples I could use would be ideal.

Presentations are easy. However, business technology is diverse a category of compelling subject matter. You could discuss everything from robotic vacuums and self-balancing hoverboards to autonomous vehicles and the Hyperloop. Since you have no shortage of material to select from, the real task is alignment. In other words, to your point, you want to present something that won’t “bore everyone to death.”

You’ll have to think about whether you want to make the right impression. It’s possible to captivate everyone’s attention and imagination with just a single topic. It’s even more difficult to carry out with larger audiences. For that reason, always consider two or more countervailing examples and/or perspectives. Rest assured that people will appreciate the variety. However, you should also know that advancing several perspectives won’t help when you do not explain them or you just propose too many to remember. Balance is key.

Sustainability is all the rage these days. So, too, is corporate social responsibility. That combination has translated into some incredible announcements. Take Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch, for instance, who reported in 2017 that “Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs … will build a mixed-use, complete community in Toronto on its eastern waterfront.” The project aims to use a diverse array of technologies to improve the conditions of what’s considered one of the most underdeveloped areas in Toronto.

Laura Bliss at CityLab published a more recent article highlighting what Sidewalk Labs has in store for the Toronto waterfront. According to her, this new waterfront development project will reimagine urban life in five dimensions:

  1. Housing
  2. Energy
  3. Mobility
  4. Social Services
  5. Shared Public Spaces

The proposed developments aren’t trivial by any means. She explains further that the integrated infrastructure preserves daytime energy from non-fossil fuel sources and recirculates it to heat and cool buildings. As you might also expect, walking and biking (as opposed to driving) became the prioritized modes of transportation throughout most of the proposed waterfront. It’s hard to resist the promised value offered by an integrated smart city.

You’d be remiss if you thought Alphabet’s efforts were in some way isolated. Thuy Ong at The Verge reported that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, plans to develop a smart city of his own outside of Phoenix, AZ. Gates used his company, Cascade Investments, as a vehicle to make the $80 million development initiative happen. Like what’s planned for Toronto’s waterfront, the smart city will offer things like high-speed public Wi-Fi, autonomous vehicles, and advanced manufacturing facilities.

Unlike Toronto, however, some people became torn about the notion of a smart city. Writer Leanna Garfield at Business Insider wrote about the controversy stirring amidst urban planners. She explains that despite what’s assumed, technology can’t overcome or compensate for geographic realities. In the case of Arizona, the water crisis that precipitated (no pun intended) by the regional drought is a major factor. Others become disappointed further by the proximity of the proposed smart city from Phoenix itself, some 40-miles away. Consider polling your audience about their opinion. You might discover some interesting perspectives.

Another compelling topic is 3D printing. You might be thinking about consumer products that make the headlines, but the history is quite complex. Otherwise known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing has its roots all the way back in the 1980’s. Things have come a long way since then. Equipment was cost-prohibitive and access to it became limited to academics or professionals. That’s no longer the case. Access has democratized. For instance, hobbyists tap into a wide range of affordable 3D printers. More important, the technology has become more usable by laypeople.

The aerospace industry is another arena making leaps and strides thanks to additive manufacturing. Now more than ever, entrepreneurs have access to well-priced equipment, but also the expertise offered by 3D printing services. Such services were an impossibility even a decade ago. Investments in additive manufacturing continue to rise, too, so imagine what might be possible a decade from now.

Michael Abrams published his thoughts about the five most important aerospace trends on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ blog. Information communication technologies (ICTs) were three projections out of the five, which implies just how influential digital tools become. From integrated smart cities to how we transport people across the world, business technology trends exist all around us. They often touch our lives whether we know it or not. Consider closing that way. Let your audience ponder the weight of your examples and consider how much they depend on technology.

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Author: Scholarship Media

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