Emerson: Future Technology is Here

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 @ 11:10 AM gHale

By Gregory Hale
When you think about technology in the future, it would be possible to conjure up thoughts of remote visualization or advanced robotics or applying technologies so small the human eye can’t even see it.

If that sounds like it is too far down the road, think again. These are all technologies that have a huge future and are actually starting to see use now. “We are just in the early days of this revolution,” said Futurist Jack Uldrich Monday at the Emerson Global Users Exchange 2014, Orlando, FL.

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“Technological processes are doubling all the time,” Uldrich said. “We are at the lower left hand portion of the technology curve. Our challenge is to understand how technology can be used today.”

Some technologies Uldrich said will have a big play in the future and are starting to see some use right now:
• Google glass. “It is being used in oil and gas today. You have to figure out how to use the tool,” he said.
• 3D manufacturing
• Nanotechnology
• Robotics
• Sensors
• Genomics
• Computers
• Renewable
• Collaborative consumption

With all these technologies either in use or on the horizon, users have to be able to step back and assess the environment.

“Your world has already changed, but you might not be aware of it,” he said.

He gave as an example the color of the yield sign. He asked the audience if they knew the color of the yield sign. A good chunk of the over 3,000 people in attendance said the sign color was yellow and black. Uldrich just laughed and said the actual color of a yield sign is red and white and it has been that way since 1971.

That, he said, is a perfect example of memories etched in a person’s brain and how difficult it is to remove them.

“When we are introduced to new technology we can easily dismiss it,” he said. “What used to work for your customers may not work today.” Conversely, what works today, may not be the product or method of choice in the future.

That also means manufacturing professionals need to remain open to change. One of those changes would be to allow for reverse mentoring. That means sitting down with a young person where technology is second nature and just learn. Yes, older engineers act as a mentor on the experience side, but younger workers can also teach a thing or two about applying technology.

Another thing he talked about was when it comes to questions about the future; keep asking questions and don’t always give answers because once someone gives an answer you can end innovation.

“Right now many technologies are at the one percent stage,” Uldrich said. “In the future you will need ingenuity to create the future.”

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