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The top trends in tech

Which technologies have the most momentum in an accelerating world? McKinsey identified the trends that matter most.

As all things digital continue to accelerate, which technology trends matter most for companies and executives? To answer that question, they developed a unique methodology to identify the ten trends most relevant to competitive advantage and technology investments.

These trends may not represent the coolest, most bleeding-edge technologies. But they’re the ones drawing the most venture money, producing the most patent filings, and generating the biggest implications forhow and where to compete and the capabilities you need to accelerate performance.

Unifying and underlying them all is the combinatorial effect of massively faster computation propelling new convergences between technologies; startling breakthroughs in health and materials sciences; an array of new product and service functionalities; and a strong foundation for the reinvention of companies, markets, industries, and sectors.

In the next decade, according to entrepreneur and futurist Peter Diamandis, we’ll experience more progress than in the past 100 years combined, as technology reshapes health and materials sciences, energy, transportation, and a wide range of other industries and domains. The implications for corporations are broad. Consider the compressive effects on value chains as manufacturers combine 3-D or 4-D printing with next-generation materialsto produce for themselves what suppliers had previously provided and eliminate the need for spare parts. Watch retailers combine sensors, computer vision, AI, augmented reality, and immersive and spatial computing to wow customers with video-game-like experience designs. Imagine virtualized R&D functions in science-based industries like pharma and chemicals or a fully automated finance function in your company.

Will your organization make the most of these trends to pursue new heights of rapid innovation, improved performance, and significant achievement? Their interactive covers how fast these trends are moving toward you, their level of maturity, and their applicability across industries. It also presents the key technologies underlying each trend, along with their current applications and the disruptions they portend for companies going forward. These disruptions may be significant. A recent McKinsey survey describes how, during the pandemic, technology further lowered barriers to digital disruption, paving the way for more rapid, technology-driven change. Surveyrespondents in every sector say their companies face significant vulnerabilities to profit structures, the ability to bundle products, and operations. We’ll have more to say soon regarding the impact on specific industries—as well as the strategic questions these trends suggest for your industry, your business model, and your unique organizational capabilities. Until then, our new research helps make sense of a noisy and complex technology landscape.

About the research

Their research examines a range of factors to identify the technology trends that matter most to top executives and the companies they lead. For every trend, they calculated a momentum score based on the growth rate of the technologies underlying the trends, which they derived from an in-depth analysis of six proxy metrics: patent filings, publications, news mentions, online search trends, private-investment amount, and the number of companies making investments. They then rolled the scores of the underlying technologies into a single composite score for the trend itself. Examining composite momentum scores—together with a given trend’s industry applicability and technical maturity—can help executives recognize how much disruption a trend is likely to cause and how soon that disruption will have business implications.

The underlying metrics are diverse, the better to account for the varied perspectives each represents. The number of research publications within a field provides a leading indicator of trends as they emerge. Patent filings give a measure of the importance placed on a particular trend by corporations. The quantity of private investment, as well as the number of companies making investments, indicates whether a clear financial interest exists for a specific trend. Finally, search trends and news coverage reveal the level of public interest in a trend. Combining early indicators with measures of public and financial interest creates a holistic view of each trend and provides a good way to rank and compare their potential impact. Using the growth rate as the basis of the momentum score differentiates areas that are merely large from those that are on their way to massive. Finally, McKinsey reviewed their analytical results with external experts on McKinsey’s Technology Council, leading to a unique perspective that combines research analysis with qualitative insights from some of the leading thinkers of our time. Click here to learn more about their research.

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