Over the last three decades, the rapid emergence of new and especially digital technology has changed almost everything about our lives in the western world. Worldwide spending on technology eclipsed $3 billion in 2019. From the way we engage each other and spend leisure time on the way we work, do business, and start new enterprises, almost all paradigms are brand new, changed radically from the way they were before digital technology became widely available and universally relied upon. To one degree or another, all commerce depends on some kind of communication, and the digital age has changed nothing more than it has changed the way we communicate. This has meant that among the most profound changes we’ve experienced have been in the way we buy and sell and trade. For this reason and others, some industries are unrecognizable beside their pre-digital incarnations, and others have leaped forward with the advantages of new capacities, new markets, new resources, and new forums. There are even buzzwords for the commercial and industrial changes that have new technologies as their catalyst: “disruption,” for one; “smart” technology for another. And while telephony, entertainment, travel, and the media have some of the clearest examples of technological disruption, others have experienced more subtle evolutions over the continuing course of the digital age. This post will explore a few of those essential industries for which new technology is, in subtle and unseen ways, having significant impacts.
The Auto Industry
Since its inception, the auto industry has been expected to change with the emergence of new technology: automobiles were for a long time new technology. And they have had the most rapid lab-to-consumer transition of almost any traded consumer product. As soon as motor vehicles were able to use new technology, vehicles for sale to the public were equipped with it. But the technological changes of the last thirty-odd years have been less mechanical and industrial and more telecommunication. That doesn’t mean that the industry hasn’t seen a great deal of change: quite the contrary. The auto industry remains at the vanguard of new tech. Bluetooth capability has given way to smart cars among consumer products; cars that integrate instantly and seamlessly with our smartphones and wireless phones seemingly default among emerging models. The way motor vehicles across the board use fuel and alternatives to fuel has changed dramatically, with electric, solar, ethanol, or hybrid options available on the majority of new vehicles for consumers and businesses. Technological advances like lane departure detection and auto-high beams for consumer vehicles, and trailer sway control for shipping and towing vehicles have redefined how cars and trucks are used in almost every aspect of transit. As cars continue to integrate with computing and telecommunication and the autonomous cars of the future continue to emerge, technology remains a driving force in the auto industry.
The Jewelry Industry
The jewelry industry is one of the world’s oldest, so the ways in which technology has impacted it are profound, even if they are not writ as large as the changes that have impacted other industries. Jewelers and jewelry stores have adopted technological advancements more slowly, but very deliberately, and in arguably the most exciting ways. Computer-aided design for drafting new products, CNC cut controls and 3D printing for fabricating them, and augmented reality applications for selling them have all changed the way jewelry is bought and sold, as well as the way jewelry stores reach new customers and markets. In addition, the propagation of online retailers for jewelry and similar products have opened up markets to new designers, pushed traditionally and established designers to adapt to new technology in order to remain competitive, and opened exciting cultural pathways that were necessary to invigorate and revolutionize the industry. Further, the technology now exists for jewelry stores to refine their stock to better represent their own dynamic brand, and for consumers to completely design and customize the jewelry goods they’re shopping for. While the great leaps of technology that we’ve experienced have lifted and changed nearly every industry, the changes in the jewelry industry have been perhaps the most thrilling. And those changes continue.
The Healthcare Industry
Every advancement in the healthcare industry throughout history has been both urgently important and based on the emergence of new technology. Healthcare is so integrated with learning, study, experimentation, and trial, that it is this industry’s technological evolution that is perhaps most difficult to track. But current advancements are having significant, life-changing and often life-saving impacts. Cloud-based electronic health records have mitigated the vital and cost-prohibitive process of tracking patient progress and health outcomes. Online, digitally-rendered electronic health records have made new data and analytics capabilities possible, have enabled consumers to participate in the tracking and monitoring of their health records, and have expedited the ability of patients to reach healthcare professionals remotely. For care that doesn’t necessarily require physical examinations – mental health therapy and simple consultations for the common cold, for example – smartphones and other computing devices have become instant clinics and vital remote triage units. Biomedical devices for heart disorders and insulin-controlled diabetes are now capable of relaying emergent health data instantly to patients, physicians, and caretakers. The emergence of new technology in the healthcare industry is a rising tide that is lifting all ships, expediting how physicians, family medicine practitioners, and clinicians care for the public, how patients engage with their own more meaningful healthcare data, and how patients make choices about their care.
The Finance Industry
Finance and economics, those twin foundations of all industry, seem so static and unvarying that their technological advancements might be unexpected. But as technology changes businesses and industries it will necessarily have to change the way those businesses and industries are funded and traded. Information about markets is instantly available, literally, and smartphones have the potential to make traders and investors of almost everyone with the ability to download an app, regardless of how much or little they can plan to invest. Financial technology and its popular portmanteau FinTech have used technology to offer new services to traditional markets and to reach across long-static demographics to offer those services in brand new and emerging markets. Unlike other industries, however, the financial industry has almost exclusively used new technology to deliver new products to consumers. From online banking and remote check cashing, to advanced fraud detection capabilities, the financial industry continues to grow by building value into its products and services. Few other industries are so consumer-centric in their use and development of technology.
The Machining and Manufacturing Industry
It is in the machining and manufacturing industries that we find the hard, nuts and bolts, boots on the ground examples of new technology in action. It has always been that way. New, safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective ways to build the machines that manufacture and the ways in which that manufacturing happens are the nearly exclusive domain of the machining and manufacturing industry. Now more than ever, those methods are leaping forward. From smart machines to advanced robotics and beyond, technology is transforming manufacturing. Manufacturing and machining have always had the objective of minimizing human manipulation of manufacturing processes, and the advancement of both efficiency and safety when human intervention in machine manufacturing has been necessary. Contemporary manufacturing is more precise, more efficient, more versatile, and faster than ever before, and s using human resources for greater and more creative purposes than pulling levers and clearing jammed textiles. The integration of cloud computing, the emerging potential of the Internet of Things, and the seemingly infinite ways in which smart devices and robotics can be applied are pushing the limits of manufacturing. From machines that communicate with demand sources, shipping sources, and each other without human intermediaries, to long-term temporary power sources that benefit from new diesel tank protection technology, the machines that make the machines and that help us make the machines will continue to be the front line in technological leaps and surges.
The Building, Repair, and General Contracting Industries
This is a broad category but this industry and the businesses subset in it have all seen technology make impactful changes in the way they create, repair, and problem solve within the public demands for their services. For every kind of contractor from carpenters and construction firms who build and augment houses and other structures, to the plumbers who equip those buildings with necessary indoor piping and the landscapers who maintain and beautify those properties, new technology means new ways to meet demands and solve problems. Mobile solutions and emerging software are expediting the traditionally tedious process of moving from design to construction for general contractors. The ability to equip crews with better safety training culled from a broader range of digital resources means safer job sites and reduced labor costs. Cloud computing, mobile data management, and the emerging software that modifies and delivers these technologies have impacted almost every aspect of the general contracting industry, from personnel management to site and job analytics. Contractors are experimenting with new materials that are safer, more cost-effective, more eco-friendly, or all three of these, and landscapers are integrating hydroseeding and hydrograss technologies into their designs and exterior maintenance. Contractors, builders, plumbers and others from the general contracting, repair, and building industries have been slow to adopt and integrate emerging technologies historically, but now that the industry has begun to integrate these important developments, their use of them is gaining momentum.
The Real Estate Industry
Few industries have taken the technological gauntlet and run with it like the real estate industry. Augmented reality applications have made full, panoramic property walkthroughs of available homes and apartments are now available at the click of a link. Broad and detailed images of homes, neighborhoods, and regions are available to dedicated seekers and cursory tire kickers before they even have to involve a realtor or agency. The ability to complete formerly protracted real estate purchases almost entirely online from beginning to end has opened up markets for new buyers, vacation property seekers, and traditional investors like never before. Desktop sites, mobile sites, and apps exclusive to brands and agencies proliferate. Constant contact with potential customers allows real estate agents to develop relationships and tailor new offerings to the needs and demands of potential homeowners. The use of new technology is taking hold, as well: Nearly three-quarters of new real estate searches are completed online, and an even higher percentage of communications between agents and potential buyers are conducted via text messages. Home seekers are able to research a neighborhood’s, schools, demographics, crime rates, history, landmarks, attractions, climate, and a host of other important factors without ever leaving home or consulting an agent. For realtors, this means that initial contacts are usually with educated and dedicated buyers. Few industries have acknowledged, identified, and realized the full potential of technology the way the real estate industry has.
The Digital Marketing Industry
This one may seem obvious – digital marketing is a huge part of the advancement of new technology, but also didn’t really exist before the proliferation of digital technology – but it has advanced in ways that are definitely worth noting. Businesses spend over $120 billion on digital marketing each year, integrate social media closely into their brands, and hire departments to engage with customers and potential customers on a person-to-person level. No marketing strategy is as effective at developing a company’s brand as is digital marketing, and brand development has become as important to a company’s success as effective customer service and quality products and services. Digital marketing is by definition ahead of the technological curve, waiting for its uses to catch up with its potential.
Technology has always changed things. The world moves forward and rarely stops. Some industries have ushered in new technologies, especially digital technologies, while others have leaped forward with the realized potential of new tech. Other industries seem tailor-made for the advantages of the digital age, while others have benefitted more quietly. Regardless, no industry is unchanged in some way by the continuing emergence of new technology. The industries listed above are inspiring for the unique, dynamic, and successful way they have used but not been obscured by the many great advantages of the digital age.