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100,000 Micro Industries Predicted for the Next 20 Years

The Futurist anticipates the burgeoning industries that could boom in the decades ahead


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Every major industry today started small. From steel to photography, oil, airlines, electricity, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and search engines all worked their way into existence from humble beginnings.

Many of the oldest, such as steel, automotive and pharmaceuticals took centuries to grow into the global behemoths they are today. But those created with digital technologies, like search engines and smart phones sprang to life in only a few years.

Countless businesses are already feeling the first waves of disruption as industry veterans are hoping to navigate the turbulent waters ahead. As always, it is much easier to visualize what goes away than what comes next.

In his 2006 book, “Long Tail,” author Chris Anderson said:

“When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.” 

While much of Anderson’s thinking was focused on 3D printing and flying drones, virtually every emerging technology offers an innovative playground for makers, inventors and startup junkies.

Over the coming two decades we will witness an unprecedented wave of innovation and creativity driven by new tools of production. During this time we will see an explosion of more than 100,000 new micro industries that will employ hundreds of millions of people.

As example, the global market for shoes is $21 billion annually. Within five years, 5 percent of these will fall into the category of smart shoes. That means in just a few years we will be producing more than 1 billion smart shoes every year.

During that same time we’ll begin seeing a new era of industrial grade scanners, 3D printers, thousands of new printable materials and an equal number of new sensors and data collection devices.

This means virtually anyone with a passion for shoes could launch their own micro footwear business. Even carving out a tiny nichem selling 2,500 smart shoes a year at $200 each, is enough to launch a sustainable half-million-dollar micro industry.

In the shoe industry alone, 10,000 startups selling 2,500 shoes a year will only amount to 25 million shoes in a $21 billion shoe marketplace. That’s little more than a rounding error for the current industry.

The smartest of smart shoes will even come to you when you call them by name.

Since it will soon become easy to summon a driverless car, it will no longer be necessary to own one, leaving the garage empty. An empty garage tends to be a magnet for all the junk that accumulates over time, but it also represents an opportunity to become something else. This will lead to a number of possible micro industries.

One option is to remodel two- and three-car garages into airbnb rentals. Another option is to work with Marriott, Hyatt or Wyndham and create a branded rental as part of a distributed city experience.

An empty garage can also be rented as a startup space or creative area for painters, sculptors, inventors and musicians. 

The following examples are intended to give you a creative launchpad for how to think about these emerging micro industries.

Every micro industry will be defined by a few key startups that demonstrate a functional business model and prove a specific market segment.

DRIVERLESS TECHNOLOGY

  1. Speed dating – Random people enter a driverless vehicle and speed around while getting to know each other.
  2. Mobile retail storefronts – As an owner of a mobile retail store, you write your own rules about store hours, location, products and service offerings.
  3. Mobile groceries – Niche food selection services.
  4. Mobile banks – As branch banks disappear, mobile banks may very well take their place.
  5. Mobile repair businesses – Our repair culture is set to go high-tech with things like an Apple Genius Bar on wheels, IoT installations, hacker-proofing of houses, etc.
  6. Mobile medical services – Urgent care on wheels.
  7. Mobile conversation salons – People are always looking for a way to connect. With mobile conversation salons, you sign up for whatever discussion topic you’re interested in and the driverless RV will let you know how soon it can pick you up.
  8. Mobile gaming teams – Much like flight attendants on an airplane, roving waitresses will offer an assortment of food, snacks, and cocktails to the participants.

FLYING DRONES

As we move past the hobbyist era of drones, we will witness an eruption of startups that will serve as the anchors for trailblazing new industries.

  1. Real-time terrain modeling
  2. Policing drones
  3. Gaming drones
  4. Security drones
  5. News media drones
  6. Mixed-reality recording drones
  7. Canary in a coalmine drones
  8. Bird herding drones

GROUND-BASED DRONES

Most people overlook the possibilities for the less sexy ground-based drones.

  1. Night delivery drones
  2. Food prep, cook and delivery drones
  3. Drone delivery boxes
  4. Drone repair services
  5. Data collection drones
  6. Invisible fence drones
  7. Eyes-on-the-problem drones
  8. Drone jousting matches

DRONE COMMAND CENTERS

As the drone industry matures, many organizations will transition from one-off drones to fleets of drones. These will require their own command centers to manage the duties and tasks of these machines.

  1. City command centers
  2. Police command centers
  3. University command centers
  4. Farmers/agriculture command centers
  5. Prison command centers
  6. News station command center
  7. Resort command center
  8. Theme park command center

SENSOR TECHNOLOGY

Sensors give us insight into the overall quality of the environments around us.

  1. Thermal inspection sensors
  2. Mold monitoring sensors
  3. Personal mood sensors
  4. Health monitoring sensors
  5. Sleep quality sensors
  6. Smell sensors (periodic table of smells)
  7. Harmful animal sensors
  8. Impending danger sensors

3D PRINTING

Over the coming decades we will find tens of thousands of ways to make micro improvements in all the materials, scanning and printing processes associated with 3D printing.

  1. Food printers
  2. Ice printers
  3. Select-your-ingredients candy bar printers
  4. Shoe printers
  5. Jewelry printers
  6. Clothing printers
  7. Purse printers
  8. Pillow printers

CONTOUR CRAFTING

Large-scale 3D printing used in the construction industry is called contour crafting.

  1. Gazebo printers
  2. Stage printers
  3. Bridge printers
  4. House printers
  5. Commercial building printers
  6. Statue (sculpture) printers
  7. Storage cube printers
  8. Park bench printers

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Everything we do with money today will be reinvented in the emerging cryptocurrency era.

  1. Crypto banks
  2. Crypto insurance
  3. Crypto loans
  4. Crypto coaches and advisors
  5. Crypto wealth managers
  6. Crypto cops and fraud investigators
  7. Crypto identity protection specialists
  8. Crypto tax specialists

VR-AR MIXED REALITY

The immersive and semi-immersive forms of engagement that takes place in mixed reality will begin to uncover thousands of seemingly little applications over the coming decades.

  1. VR-AR therapy – Cure phobias, stress, anxiety and traumatic experiences.
  2. VR-AR education and training – Learn by doing, but with a teacher/coach to help guide you.
  3. VR-AR news – Experience the news first hand
  4. VR-AR gaming – Thousands of new games will soon leverage the VR-AR experience.
  5. VR-AR movies – Immerse yourself in storytelling.
  6. VR-AR haptic experiences – Feel the experience via sports, dangerous situations.
  7. VR-AR vacations – Go there without being there.
  8. VR-AR coaching – Having smart people looking over your shoulder.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

If we think of AI as a talent-enhancing tool, we can begin to imagine entire new industries surrounding the creative arts.

  1. AI-enhanced songwriters
  2. AI-enhanced sculptors
  3. AI-enhanced writers
  4. AI-enhanced architects
  5. AI-enhanced VR storytellers
  6. AI-enhanced swarmbot management systems
  7. AI-enhanced puzzle-makers
  8. AI-enhanced performance artists

BLOCKCHAIN

Most people have heard of blockchain in tandem with Bitcoin’s rise as the flagship of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is more than just bitcoin, it's a method of tracking transactions using technology that could prove to be revolutionary.

  1. Blockchain voting systems
  2. Blockchain auditing systems
  3. Blockchain quality assurance systems
  4. Blockchain smart contracts
  5. Blockchain supply chain management
  6. Blockchain ethics management systems
  7. Blockchain food tracking systems
  8. Blockchain wealth management systems

Micro industries will range from manufacturing products, to collecting data, designing systems, advising, coaching, monitoring, building, disassembling, and reinventing business in unique and different ways.

With the help of thousands of collaborators, micro industries will spring to life around niches far too small for existing industries to care about. But is in these miniscule advances that great opportunities take root.

A simple coffee mug can be redesigned in thousands of different ways. The same holds true for every toothbrush, piece of clothing, ink pen, lamp, chair, and hundreds of other frequently bought consumer products.

We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace change on a massive scale will be best equipped to flourish during the coming decades.

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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