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What are emerging technologies and why are they relevant?

@ Framestock - stock.adobe.com
@ Framestock - stock.adobe.com

AI, IoT, VR, AR – we have all seen these acronyms before, but what do they actually stand for? And what do we mean when we say “emerging technologies”? 

Although there is no widely agreed-upon definition of "emerging technologies”, they could be simply described as new and rapidly growing breakthrough technologies. The main emerging technologies nowadays are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, big data, cybersecurity, robotics, and virtual reality (VR). They have been developed rather recently thanks to the novel possibilities of science and technology, and they hold the potential to fundamentally transform the way the economy and society function. Emerging technologies are expected to reach the plateau of productivity in 10 to 15 years, leaving them a decade to mature until penetrating the market on a large scale. 

Chances are, we have been in contact with emerging technologies without even realising it. In fact, these new solutions are already integrated into our everyday activities. For example, we put AI to work when using our smartphones for chatting with friends, scrolling through our social media feeds, looking up information or making an online shopping order. Maybe you own a voice-controlled virtual assistant that helps you with scheduling meetings, booking flights, and buying groceries – in this case, the number of automated tasks is even higher (IoT). How about virtual reality games and fun filters for photos and videos? All those technical opportunities are based on emerging technologies.

Emerging technologies already have an impact on our everyday life, but they could improve its quality even more. For example, AI can be applied in healthcare to timely detect and prevent diseases. National and local governments can use big data to make more accurate and impactful climate action plans, while 3D printing can significantly reduce carbon emissions and help to recycle used materials. Virtual and augmented reality technologies might be successfully integrated into the educational curricula, bringing more practical and experience-based learning.

The business world is also strongly affected by emerging technologies. These new technological solutions increase organisational productivity, bring fresh ideas, and support the development of new products and services. We might also expect that they will soon create new markets, where new tech-driven needs of consumers will be matched with new business solutions and vice-versa. With easily accessible online solutions and a wide variety of task automation possibilities, starting a business – especially online – is now easier than ever.

Better healthcare, improved climate goals, more practical and hands-on learning, blooming entrepreneurship across the European society – all this sounds fantastic and the good news is: it is well within our reach. But getting there is hard work. It requires awareness and understanding of emerging technologies by all members of our society: citizens, but also businesses, educators and policy-makers. The first step to achieving this is up-to-date knowledge and learning opportunities accessible to all.

Where are you on your learning journey on emerging technologies?

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