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Assessing Future Technologies


How do you predict the future 5-10 years in advance?  Can you?  Could someone have predicted the Apple iPhone in 1997, 10 years before it was introduced?  Or in 2002, 5 years before it was introduced?  I say it was possible.  Good thing, because part of strategic planning is doing just that.  I firmly believe that if you look around today, you will see the future.  Ideas and concepts today will be in volume production in the future.  Some ideas will take 20-40 years to reach that level, while others will take a mere 10 years.  I know this from my past–your past as well.

Take for instance the iPhone that now sells tens of millions every quarter.  The first MP3 player was introduced in 1997.  In 2003, after more than 10 years of development and earlier versions, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 2003 for SmartPhone and Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition.  I know, because I had them all.  The iPod was introduced in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007.  Not exactly the overnight success some of us in 2014 think it was.

I spent a good deal of my career in the automotive and truck business where it can take more than 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a new engine or a new vehicle model.  I’m now doing work for an aerospace supplier and can see that it takes a similar amount of time, and even more money to develop a new aircraft model.

Currently I am working with more than a dozen others for the National Research Council, a part of the National Academies of Science.  The Committee on Assessment of Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Phase Two just published a report for the 2019 time frame and is turning its attention to the 2025 and beyond time frame.  Our job is to provide information to the government on what is possible, what is likely to be in production in 2025. Stick around.  It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict the future–just insight.