Futurists forecast the coming trends in science, technology and business and assist companies in understanding how the innovations of today will impact the industries of the future. Volvo CE recently engaged David Zach and Glen Hiemstra — known for their work with dozens of innovative fortune 500 companies — to provide expert forecasts on where the industrial industries may be headed.
“In order to build tomorrow, that means having a good sense of what tomorrow may look like,” said Stephen Roy, senior vice president for the Americas, Volvo CE. “While no one can be 100% certain about what the future has in store, these professional futurists can give us an educated guess based on the research, science and economic trends we see today. We asked students from the Columbia College of Hollywood to animate some of these forecasts so that we have a vision of the possible future from those young persons who will soon inhabit it.”
Volvo CE has provided a sample of the forecasts for each industry.
In construction buildings of all sizes are predicted to be increasingly modular, utilising more prefabricated elements. Entire rooms and their furnishings will be built in a specialized location, then installed at the job. Flying drones will monitor construction on job sites, reporting critical data and visualisations.
Construction will also see rolling drones travelling up and down building shafts and behind walls to take readings. New paint polymers will improve air quality while wall sensors monitor for chemicals, smoke and fire, and entire neighborhoods will be 3D printed, then completed with prefabricated elements.
In Road Infrastructure, is is predicted that nanotechnology will enable roadways to be built from more resilient glass-like materials. Photogenic cells along roadways will capture solar energy for transporting to local power grids.
Self-healing epoxies will enable bridges and other metal structures to “heal” themselves from damage. Roadways will have embedded censors that provide road, weather and traffic conditions, and autonomous equipment that is fully electric and emissions free will handle duty-cycle work. Sensors in construction equipment will provide data for predictive analytics and increase uptime.
In waste management and recycling it is foreseen that companies will have more responsibility over the entire lifecycles of their products and the materials used to make them, creating a more “circular economy.”
Vehicles that collect waste and recycling will be fully electric, reducing emissions and noise. Waste and recycling bins will become autonomous, driving themselves to collection points. Robots will use artificial intelligence to separate materials, “eating” some of them for energy.
The gamification of the waste management and recycling industry will lead the work to become more scientific and videogame-like, and machines that accept recyclables will show what those materials will be used for in the future.
In mining it is predicted that autonomous and remote-controlled equipment will remove humans from dangerous situations. Humans will control mining equipment from remote locations via simulators that give tactile feedback. Automated, fully electric machines will handle repetitive duty-cycle work with no emissions.
Mining will also see programmed, autonomous machines, with mining operations working around the clock. Robots will move in to pick materials from mine shafts and use artificial intelligence to sort them, and we will increasingly extract materials from the ocean, asteroids and other planets.