From the sounds that encourage the growth of plants to the business giants that eliminate emissions, here is a small atlas of the future with the 50 most interesting technological trends of social impact.
The economic situation does not seem very good. Digital gender gap, income inequality, climate change. Even a global pandemic. We have many problems as a society. Never despair, though: there are organizations and institutions that use creative tools to make social impact innovations that address our biggest problems. Here are the current trends that aim to solve them, drawing a better future.
1 Equal paternity and maternity leave
The first of the innovations concerns the shape of our society. The pay gap between men and women is often attributed to the work stoppages women make to raise families. But the increase in paid paternity leave could drastically reduce it by allowing women to stay in the workforce while their partners care for their little ones. By law, men and women in Iceland and Finland enjoy equal family leave. And some organizations are starting to offer innovations in this regard with generous paid paternity leave, including Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and Etsy.
2 Minimum number of women on company boards
To encourage equal pay the state of California will require all listed companies to have a female representation (depending on the number of people) on its board of directors by 2023.
3 Online platforms to increase citizen participation and dialogue with representatives
How do local politicians interact with citizens? City councils often see the same few people present. Contacting citizens directly can be expensive and time consuming. Beyond the efforts of individual entities to stream the meetings, currently one of the most advanced experiments in Europe is the much reviled (not by me) Rousseau developed by the Five Star Movement. It is not an institutional instrument (for which the work of the Minister of Innovation is expected, which will bring the first results in the spring). But it offers citizens the opportunity to introduce innovations, themes and initiatives, and include them in the decision-making process.
4 Micro insurance for people living in poverty
In some of the poorest countries in the world, many cannot afford traditional insurance premiums. This is why they are left without a safety net when, for example, they want to start a business. Among the financial innovations that can offer a solution is micro insurance: smaller premiums tailored to the needs of people living in poverty. In Rwanda, the main local insurance companies are starting to offer their very first micro-insurance products.
5 Investments in women in technology
Melinda Gates' Pivotal Ventures has invested $ 50 million in an initiative called GET, Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities, whose goal is to get more women into technology. It does so by partnering with organizations that encourage more computer science graduates and making technology centers more suitable for women.
6 Investment strategies designed for women
Unlike men, women's salaries are often reinvested in the family rather than the stock market. But that can mean that women are left in a worse financial position because the return from such investments doesn't come in the form of immediate cash. Furthermore, 86% of investment advisors are men, and they have little chance of understanding the unique financial priorities of women. The digital investment platform Ellevest addresses this problem by offering innovations in financial strategies tailored to women's salaries and for a longer lifespan.
7 Artificial lighting to encourage food growth in extreme climates
Using artificial light to encourage food growth is nothing new, but it is expanding rapidly. I even have it at home, for cherry tomatoes and basil. This technology (which uses light at certain wavelengths to help plants grow without the sun) could allow those in extreme climates to access fruits and vegetables. Agrivi is a farm monitoring platform that helps farmers use these techniques to track their activities.
8 Clothes that identify malnutrition
The bracelet paperweight it is a tool capable of identifying malnutrition in a non-invasive way. It will help health workers, caregivers, the elderly and people in developing countries.
9 Virtual reality for women's eyes
Virtual reality is geared towards men. Because? Blame for nausea, which has an impact more on women than on men. The researchers didn't quite understand why, but one reason may be in the design of the devices themselves. VR headsets need to be adjusted according to the distance between the user's eye pupils, which is often shorter for women. The default setting of the earphones offered now is often greater than a woman's eye distance. Addressing this problem could encourage adoption among female user groups, allowing women to use the innovations of this technology for play or education.
10 3D printed houses and neighborhoods
Last year, the world's first 3D printed neighborhood started popping up in Mexico. Built in the Tabasco region, the houses were designed to withstand earthquakes and replace the ones poorer residents had built themselves with metal, wood and whatever else.
Squirrel AI Learning is an adaptive learning platform in China. The platform's goal is to offer high school students personalized AI teaching. The pricing structure is reasonable, allowing poorer students to access personalized support.
12 Knowledge sharing platform to improve teaching skills
The goal of the platform Teacherly is to help colleagues around the world improve their teaching skills and share innovations and knowledge. Facilitates the sharing of best practices, learning outcomes and professional development materials. It also allows them to plan lessons together and get support, feedback and advice.
13 State forests for food use
Last year, the Atlanta city council bought the largest edible forest in the United States. 3 hectares with more than 100 fruit and nut trees for local residents, who can harvest their food and grow their own with a variety of planters. Initiatives like this can help provide affordable fruit and vegetables to people living below the poverty line. The city aims to ensure that 86% of its inhabitants live within 20km of a fresh food source by 2021.
14 Protein from algae to feed the poorest areas
Last year the producer of vegetable seafood Sophie's Kitchen won The Liveability Challenge (a competition of ideas to improve people's lives in Southeast Asia) by developing a protein made from microalgae. Available for € 1,80 per kilo, it requires only 0,02 hectares of land for production and can be used to improve nutrition through supplements, cooking oil and more.
15 Liquid dwarf clay for desert cultivation
Norwegian society Desert Control has developed one of the best innovations. It is a blend that can be sprinkled on sand in deserts to allow it to hold water and cultivate. Just spray a mixture of water and “liquid nano clay” only half a meter deep into the sand to achieve this result. This technology could facilitate food production in poorer climates and fight desertification.
16 Clean the water with the sun
An article published in the scientific journal Chem reveals that researchers have discovered a material that can nullify disease-causing bacteria in water. It uses sunlight and a photocatalyst, works as a magnet to clean the water and ensure that no harmful bacteria or pollutants remain.
17 Anonymous feedback platforms for corporate employees
Waggl is a feedback platform that allows managers, administrators and employees to share their feelings in real time. It engages people and encourages fearless dialogue on workplace issues.
18 Sharing knowledge at work
Uman AI is a team collaboration platform: it collects company knowledge and helps colleagues proactively teach innovations related to new skills.
19 App to make the workforce feel involved and supported
limeade is an interactive platform for employees that aims to improve the employee experience. To support them in their daily lives and increase their well-being, it offers training courses, engagement tools, communication solutions, access to mentoring and more on the employee's mobile phone. The platform can encourage open dialogue in large organizations.
Making socially responsible investments means avoiding companies that sell addictive or abusive substances (such as alcohol, tobacco, etc.) and those with a negative impact on society. Better to favor companies that promote low carbon, clean technologies, gender diversity etc. Platforms like Wealthsimple allow consumers to put their money into initiatives with a good social footprint.
22 Transparent banking and fair loans
Banca Etica is an institution that lends money only to organizations that can demonstrate that they have a positive impact on society and the environment. It also aims to be more transparent and open about its activities to promote an ethical and honest way of banking.
23 Ecological concrete
A team from the University of Colorado has developed a "biological" concrete made of bacteria. The team compared the living material to concrete and concrete. It is a mixture of gravel, sand and concrete combined with water. It can replicate itself and multiply the number of bricks.
Heliogen is a solar energy company that uses AI to focus and capture more sunlight. This allows it to produce “carbon-free heat at ultra-high temperatures (up to 1500 ° C)” for use in heavy industry (construction and steel industry). A sector that produces over 20% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
25 Solar panels that follow the sun
Researchers from the University of California they developed artificial sunflowers. Known as SUNbots, these fake sunflowers are less than 1 millimeter in diameter and are made with materials that react to heat to bend in sunlight and gather more energy. This technology could make solar energy more efficient.
26 Showers that reduce water consumption by 98%
The Altered company has created a new type of shower that reduces water usage by 75% to 98%. Attach the hand shower (which rotates at high speed) to any tap, and it will transform the water produced into a "washing mist".
Like IKEA, Microsoft is committed to becoming a carbon neutral organization. Within the 2030, the company founded by Bill Gates intends to offset all carbon emissions produced during its existence.
28 Urban agriculture
UK supermarket Marks & Spencer has partnered with vertical farming unit supplier Infarm to grow herbs in-store. Urban agriculture opens up a series of possibilities for the environment, from reducing emissions to reducing transport from farms to cities, to eliminating CO2 from the air.
29 Regenerative agriculture
Organic and regenerative agriculture involves the adoption of sustainable agricultural, fishing and grazing practices. It is becoming more and more widespread. Deafal NGO, based in Milan, is an organization that gathers and educates farmers, designing agricultural plans that adopt regenerative agricultural practices.
30 AI for non-invasive monitoring of endangered animal species
Wildtrack uses AI to analyze animal footprints. By examining the traces, this technique can determine the species (of a particular rhino, for example), age and sex by measuring anatomical points ("landmarks"). Monitoring becomes more efficient and absolutely non-invasive.
31 AI to predict and monitor fires
Firemap is a tool that uses data-driven predictive modeling to identify areas of high fire risk and track existing ones. Through Firemap you can quickly access information on past fires and check the current situation and weather forecasts based on satellite tracking, as well as information on vegetation and landscapes.
32 AI to minimize fire damage
20tree.ai uses various details to identify high risk areas for fires to help governments prevent them and take the necessary steps to minimize environmental impact when they occur.
33 Artificial sounds for electric cars that help trees grow
Electric cars are fairly quiet, which means pedestrians can't hear them coming. To reduce the risk, the US and EU will soon require electric cars to make a sound when driving at low speeds. But what sound are these machines supposed to make? Well, an independent Toyota manufacturer and distributor in Uruguay called Ayax has an ingenious solution. Ayax has developed an artificial sound for electric cars that sounds at the right bandwidth and frequency to help plants grow. Initial tests show that it works.
34 Roads that charge electric vehicles
Sweden built one road charging electric cars as they pass. The roads have a built-in electric rail and vehicles can charge the batteries by lowering a movable arm attached to the underside of the car. It is safe to go through as the electricity is below the surface.
35 Seaweed panels to reduce CO2 in the city
The BioSolar Leaf panels of the London startup Arborea they grow edible seaweed to produce food ingredients while reducing CO2 levels. This technology can be used as a means of minimizing CO2 in cities as the panels take up minimal space. Algae grown on a single solar panel absorb the daily amount of CO2 like 100 trees.
36 Networked communities to repair products instead of throwing them away
iFixit is trying to help us move away from the disposable product trend by pushing for the "right to fix" our products.
This benefits not only the environment but also our portfolios. It does this by sharing online repair guides and resources to help people repair or modify anything from computers, phones, vehicles, and appliances. There are about 54.000 manuals, also in Italian: a small common sense encyclopedia.
37 Aircraft redesigned for emissions-free flights
Dutch airline KLM and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) are designing a new aircraft that consumes up to 20% less fuel than the Airbus A350. The proposed lightweight design, called “Flying-V”, will move the seats and engines directly into the wings. "Our ultimate goal is to fly without emissions"he explains Henri Werij, Dean of the Aerospace Engineering Faculty of TU Delft.
Harbour Air she managed to create a 6-seater electric plane and fly it for 15 minutes. Although not yet very useful, this development is a step in the right direction of reduced emissions for air transport.
39 Complete hotel package plus clothes
W Hotels has partnered with the company of Rent The Runway clothing rental to offer a “Closet Concierge” service, so that guests can receive their rented clothes directly in their rooms. This allows travelers to pack much smaller suitcases, reducing weight on flights and saving fuel. In the future, traveling will mean leaving with very few objects, and using homes, clothes and more directly on the spot with very little waste.
40 The action plan to bring the world to renewables by 2050
Stanford researchers have developed a detailed roadmap for addressing the global climate crisis. Their scheme (which many argue is even conservative) delves into how 143 countries can switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050 with a combined investment of $ 73 trillion. The news, huge, is that you can.
41 A barrier of bubbles to separate waste from rivers
La Great Bubble Barrier it is a process that can divert 80% of plastic waste to the sides of rivers before they have a chance to reach the ocean. Such as? With air. The system pumps air through a device placed diagonally across the river bed. The bubbles produced push the garbage to the side of the river for collection. This process is far less harmful to wildlife than physical barriers.
42 Low cost and more efficient turbines for energy production
Turbulent produces small, low-cost turbines that can be installed in rivers and streams (even with minimal height differences) to generate power. This technology can be used to supply homes and small villages with independent and continuous energy.
43 Turning excess heat from household appliances into energy
A team from the University of Hong Kong has found ways to reuse the heat produced by computers, ovens, and air conditioning drains. Researchers have developed an energy recycling cell and other innovations capable of converting this excess heat into electricity for repeated use.
British society Dendra Systemsfound a way to plant trees 150 times faster with the help of drones. Drones quickly and accurately shoot biodegradable pods into the ground. With “flying seed” innovations, Dendra Systems hopes to plant 500 billion trees.
46 Biodegradable bags from cassava
La Green hope, a company based in Malaysia, has found a way to make biodegradable bags from cassava trees. Although many biodegradable materials have emerged in recent times, these innovations are exciting. Because? Bags (created using starch in the roots of cassava trees) do not use edible materials, and therefore the production does not break food chains.
47 An AI to recycle waste
JD.com is helping people in Shanghai, China manage waste recycling through wise use of technological innovations. People can upload an image of their trash can to the JD.com app and its AI will tell them if the waste is recyclable, wet, dry, or hazardous.
48 "Circular" T-shirts
Teemill, based in the UK, is a circular clothing company that produces T-shirts with used clothing and recycles old T-shirts at the end of their cycle. Not only that: the whole process is powered by renewable energy. More circular than that!
49 A rule against the destruction of unsold goods
Last year France has the destruction of unsold consumer goods is prohibited, a costly practice that destroys up to € 900 million in products every year. Innovations are of little use if after their first use they remain on the rump forever. By 2023 brands will have to donate, reuse or recycle everything they produce.
50 Greener clothes, treated with less water
Among sustainable innovations, the tanning of skins or the treatment of clothes cannot be overlooked. Alongside intensive farming, it is the practice that produces the greatest waste of water. Wrangler is treating his denim with foam, and uses far less water than the traditional process.
51 Cockroach farms against food waste
Food waste is a big problem all over the world. But in China, cockroaches are solving the problem. On a special farm in Jinan, China, one billion cockroaches chew 45 tons of waste every day. The cockroaches are then used as powdered feed for livestock.
Together these innovations will build the "shape of things to come", to put it in the title of a novel.
Gianluca Riccio, born in 1975, is the creative director of an advertising agency, copywriter and journalist. He is affiliated with Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists. Since 2006 he directs Futuroprossimo.it, the Italian resource of Futurology.
Futuroprossimo.it is an Italian resource of futurology opened since 2006: every day news about the near future. Scientific discoveries, medical research, prototypes, concepts and predictions about the future for free.
Gianluca Riccio, copywriter and journalist - Born in 1975, he is the creative director of an advertising agency, he is affiliated with the Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists.