Forecasting the Future

A team of scientists and engineers at a Columbus, Ohio, research institute has compiled a list of the most strategic technological trends that will shape business and the world over the next 20 years.

While some may want more crystal-ball gazing as much as another Y2K incident, they may want to consider the purpose behind the educated guesses.

“It is our responsibility to provide thought leadership which will indicate to the public the most prominent technology of the day,” says Stephen Millett, thought leader and manager of the 71-year-old non-profit Battelle Memorial Institute.

High-power energy packages

Developments such as highly advanced batteries, inexpensive fuel cells and micro electrical generators will make many products and appliances highly mobile. Decentralized power sources will be extensive, affordable and environmentally clean. These new, high-powered distributed energy systems will provide back-up if not primary energy sources for appliances, homes and vehicles. In the transition to fuel cells, we will see further improvements in batteries and small generators fuelled by natural gas.

Intelligent goods and appliances

Advances in quantum computing will lead to smaller, more powerful computers and electronics that will add amazing intelligence to appliances and other products. These products will likely include telephones with extensive phone directories, intelligent food packaging that tells your oven how to cook the food, refrigerators that help make out your shopping list and tell you where to get the best prices, and maybe even a toaster that won’t burn your toast.


Microscopic machines, measured in atoms rather than millimetres, will revolutionize several industries and perform a wide range of jobs from heating homes to curing cancer. The medical industry may benefit the most from nanomachines by 2020. Nanomachines could deliver drugs to highly localized places in the body, clean arteries and repair the heart, brain and other organs without surgery.

Super senses

One of the hot technologies today is virtual reality. In 20 years, we will be marvelling over enhanced reality.” Using sensors and electronic or genetic technology, we will be able to hear better or see further in the dark.