Uncover hidden patterns and connections in emerging technologies

“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” William Gibson.

Have you ever wondered where things come from? Who created this expression or came up with these ideas? Where did these foods originally come from? While many people today may associate strawberries with England, potatoes with Ireland and Scotland, and tomatoes with Italy, none of these foods are of European or British origin, but originally from South America, thanks to this cool interactive map (Origin of food) from CIAT display.

In an increasingly globalized world, imagine if you could see when and where new ideas, business trends, and even technologies first emerged in society, and then explore how they spread across time and space. Now, using artificial intelligence and unconventional data sources, there are many new ways to map the global birth, adoption, and diffusion of emerging technologies.

First, as a new way to explore the emergence of new technologies, we collaborated with research colleagues at Australia’s CSIRO and the University of Technology Sydney to develop a new technique for mapping the “birth date” of new technologies based on how often they are mentioned. All books published in the last century using data from Google Books. Using the list of the world’s 100 largest emerging technologies from our recently released report, Mapping Emerging Technologies, we looked at how often each technology appears in all books published each year, and found each technology by counting the number of mentions of each technology. Tech’s “birthday” year, and note when each hits its peak mentioned 10%. Unlike when a technology was invented, this is a simple and useful measure of when a technology begins to enter mainstream use. Below is a timeline of selected emerging technologies and the year of birth for each technology using this approach.

Second, the rate of adoption of the technology itself over time can also be explored through the relative volume of attention in the hundreds of thousands of new books published each year. Below we’ve created a chart showing the top 10 fastest-growing emerging technologies based on the relative number of mentions in English-language books published over the past two decades.

Emerging technologies that are growing fastest through this approach include:

  1. Distributed Acoustic Sensing – A method of using optical fibers to provide distributed strain sensing that can detect strain in long structures such as pipes and bridge spans.
  2. Application Performance Management – Monitor and manage the performance and availability of software applications.
  3. Grid Energy Storage – A range of methods for large-scale energy storage within the grid.
  4. Quantum machine learning – the integration of quantum algorithms in machine learning programs.
  5. Medical Robotics – Robots used in the medical sciences, including surgical robots.

Finally, using new data sources on global technology usage, we can see patterns in technology diffusion as new technologies are adopted in different markets. BuiltWith’s data analysis, regarding all the technologies used by most websites around the world, we can see that the fastest uptake of TikTok by advertising and corporate partners outside of China is in the Pacific region in terms of the number of websites using its technology: Vietnam, USA, Japan and Indonesia are much behind compared to European countries.

The techniques illustrated above and many more like them are examples of a new type of mapping that can help to better map the birth, growth, and uptake of new ideas and their application in the global digital economy.

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