The Future Is Now
There is a tendency, especially when it comes to technology, to speak about things in the future. This only makes sense since most of us are looking years down the road.
The challenge with this is the fact that technological changes are here right now. This is having an impact on many facts of life, employment, and company profitability.
Today, I came across a few things that took place which have the potential to impact things greatly.
It is believed to be the first cross country automated trip for commercial purposes. There was a delivery of 40,000 pounds of butter for Land-O-Lakes.
This was a major accomplishment.
The truck, which traveled on interstates 15 and 70 right before Thanksgiving, had to take scheduled breaks but drove mostly autonomously. There were zero “disengagements,” or times the self-driving system had to be suspended because of a problem, Kerrigan said.
There are a lot of companies working on this technology. Embark already announced they did a test run of a semi without a driver on a highway in Florida.
Long-haul trucking is going to pushed to autonomy simply because of the profit factor involved.
“When the (freight) trucks can go long distance, that’s when there will be significant ROI” on the autonomous technology, Ives said.
A second story was along similar lines except in the grocery delivery business. This is a relatively newer market for major retailers such as Wal-Mart. That does not mean that those companies are not looking to cut costs drastically.
Wal-Mart announced that it is testing out grocery deliveries using autonomous vehicles in Houston. The technology is being provided by vehicle maker Nuro.
Essentially, you’ll order your groceries through Walmart’s app, someone at Walmart will go get the things you wanted from the shelves (until they automate that) and a self-driving car will make its way to your house. It’s not seamless: you will have to walk all the way out to the street to get your groceries out of the vehicle. The struggle is real.
This is all part of a plan to combat the moves being made by Amazon. The online behemoth is already testing a delivery robot along with quadcopter drones.
Wall Street is already seeing automation penetration at an amazing rate. In fact, this was a process that started over a decade ago. The challenge here is that high paying jobs that use to be ideally suited for uneducated individuals are going away.
Watch any financial telecast from the floor of any exchange and you will see a lot of activity in the background. These are floor traders who have been making trades for decades.
The issue here is that this is all for show. Cameras are set up where the handful of traders still remain. Most of the floor of the exchanges are barren since almost all the trading is done with computers. It is an algorithm driven industry.
When you see footage on cable news about the stock market, they’ll usually show a busy, open-outcry market on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It's really a Potemkin village. The cameras shoot where there are some live traders and support staff herded into one small area. In reality, the New York Stock Exchange floor is devoid of humans and runs primarily on technology conducting the electronic trading activities.
3d Printing is starting to alter the construction industry. Over the past few years, there were a few test buildings done using this technology as a proof-of-concept. It is so promising that Dubai is set a goal of having 1/3 of all buildings 3D printed by 2030.
The Vulcan II printer is already on the job in Mexico, working on the first 3D printed neighborhood. New Story is a non-profit organization that brings housing to those living in extreme poverty and is behind this project. The construction is being done in Mexico by printing out 500 square foot building.
At present, the individuals are living in shacks which are not only uncomfortable, but also unsafe. These houses are being printed in an area prone to earthquakes. The new structures were designed and built to better withstand the natural disturbances.
The finished houses have two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bath—a vast difference from the simple shacks common in the area. The families who will live in the homes earn a median income of $76.50 a month. “For a majority of the families, this is the first time ever that they will have indoor restrooms and plumbing and sanitation,” says Lafci. Unlike shacks, the homes are also seismically sound. The nonprofit partnered with the local government—which is providing both the land and infrastructure like new roads and electricity—to identify the 50 families in the area in the greatest need. Once New Story finishes printing the homes, the new residents own them outright.
It is a technology that seeks to completely shift the construction industry.
“The homebuilding industry is in need of a paradigm shift,” says Alex Le Roux, cofounder and chief technology officer at Icon. “We shouldn’t have to choose between things such as resiliency and affordability, or design freedom and sustainability.” The company plans to continue to print additional homes and develop the technology. In Latin America, New Story already has interest from multiple other governments that want to donate land to build similar communities, many of which have already visited the new site in Mexico. “Once people see it in person, it’s no longer a crazy idea,” says Hagler.
We often look at technologies being years into the future. Here are a few examples that are starting to be implemented into industry today. While we are in the real early stages, there is a chance we see rapid expansion quickly. There are a lot of companies working on breakthroughs since there is so much money on the line. This means that the amount invested in R&D grows exponentially.
Examples such as those cited here have the ability to impact many facets of society. Obviously, people working in those fields face disruption. Customers are looking at the possibility of having services expanded. Finally, the cost of doing business in these areas goes down.
Paying attention to what is taking place right before us alerts us to how things are being altered. Things that once took decades now can come about in only a few years.
The future is now whether we are prepared for it or not.
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