This piece was originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Mark W. Wingate, President, Maxivolt Corporation
Mark W. Wingate is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Maxivolt Corporation. He is involved globally with Standards development and disruptive technology, has trained scores of people and authored numerous technical papers, and serves as an adviser to multiple boards and committees.
As Bob Dylan’s title track song from his 1964 record says, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
As a child of the ’60s, I loved the show The Jetsons. Futuristic items like teleconferencing, robotics, drones, smartwatches, and holograms seemed so farfetched back then. Today, technologies like these can be delivered to our homes in two days or less.
Beyond Hollywood’s predictions, we are seeing other wondrous technologies enter our world.
Sensors are going to be the latest infrastructure foundation our future is built upon—just six years ago there were roughly 10 million sensors, and today there are more than 3.5 billion. Some predicted this number to be more than a trillion in less than five years. We should consider their importance to be equal to that of previous infrastructure developments like our electrical grid and highway system.
Due to artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and quantum physics, the amount of data and new technology that will be incorporated into this infrastructure over the next few years boggles the mind and is limited only by the imagination.
We are already seeing new technologies in the market that allow building owners to reduce energy utilization by quickly documenting the power consumption of every single electrical device within a facility. Soon, these technologies will proactively identify future electrical equipment failures before they even happen.
Connectivity is advancing how we look at not only luxuries but also survivability. For example, beds are already available today that monitor our vitals and transmit them to the cloud via smart thermostats. Eventually, countless lives will be saved with this technology once predictive analytics are incorporated. For heart attack victims, emergency response teams will be notified faster, but the end goal is to use the data to provide early warnings that a heart attack is likely to occur within a few days.
Where will this all lead? What else can we expect to see in tomorrow’s building infrastructure?
I think the short and simple answer is the future will look like what we want it to look like. In the end, different people want different things, and I believe our economy has the horsepower to deliver them.
Engineers have been and always will be inventive. Artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and quantum physics are all in overdrive. It is easy to imagine that moving objects from Seattle to Miami in an hour, replacing crop production in the San Joaquin Valley to just a few miles of vertical farming, and harvesting energy from space-based power stations are all within reach.
This brings us to a position where the eyes begin to glaze over. What will new technology bring us? What will be the new disruptive technologies, and how can one get ahead of the game, whether from a business perspective or an investment perspective? Because technological change tends to happen so quickly, I think the idiom of not seeing the forest for the trees is never more applicable for executives than when considering topics like these. However, if we were to take a long, hard look at the big picture, I believe most would realize that these changes are not something to be feared but, rather, embraced.
The vast majority of new technologies really boil down to two categories ... faster and more accessible. Five-column ledgers became adding machines, which became computers, which became supercomputers we carry around in our pockets. They are faster and more accessible, but they still perform the same function. The future of building infrastructure will be the same way. Just as a kid watching The Jetsons in the ’60s, the technologies will be amazing to see, but the net gain will simply be something that is faster and more accessible. ei