One of the most interesting aspects of 2018 has been the amount of change that has occurred in such a short time. There has been a remarkable amount of activity - foundings, fundings, acquisitions, and record valuations - from organizations being built on foundations of exponential technologies, including AI, blockchain, IoT, and 3D printing. These trends support the idea that technology is progressing faster than ever before.


And innovative technologies will be developed even more rapidly in 2019. Why? They’re achieving global adoption at an unprecedented rate. Consider the telephone, a game-changing technology in its day. It actually took 75 years for landline phone usage to reach 50 million users (see below).


Compare that to the adoption of mobile phones, which took 12 years to reach the 50 million user mark. It’s remarkable that Pokémon GO reached 50 million users in just 19 days, but that feat was only possible because the game is built on top of other exponential technologies, including computer processing power, mobile phones, the internet, and augmented reality.

Time too reach 50 million users

Now consider the growth of the smartphone, another breakthrough technology. The smartphone provides an important reminder for innovators: A key reason why exponential technologies accelerate so quickly is that they are built on the foundation provided by previous exponential technologies. For example, smartphones provided a foundational growth platform for many of today’s industry-leading companies, including Apple, Uber, Airbnb, and Square.


And to up the stakes a little, let’s think at the billion scale.

Smartphone adoption

Impressive growth rates, but not really on the level of today’s standards.


Today, it’s possible to introduce new technologies that reach 1 billion users instantly


For example, in 2017, Google rolled out Smart Reply technology to more than one billion Android and iOS Gmail users in an instant. Smart Reply, a machine-learning powered feature that suggests three possible replies to an email message, was developed by a Google team led by SU’s Co-Founder and Chancellor, Ray Kurzweil. One day, Smart Reply was available to a limited number of Gmail users. The next day, with the flip of a switch, a billion+ Gmail users saw Smart Reply capabilities in their inboxes.


We can expect the rate of acceleration in 2019 to be the fastest to date - and likely the slowest pace of change we’ll ever see from this point on. As exponential technologies continue to emerge and converge, things will only change faster. That’s important as you consider what steps are needed to transform your own business from a linear to an exponential organization.


In this era of rapidly accelerating transformation, organizations of all types must develop the ability to innovate rapidly. Many organizations are struggling to create the innovation-friendly cultures and continuous learning environments necessary to survive and thrive. It may seem daunting to change course so quickly, but today’s leaders must accept the challenge of learning all they can about exponential technologies and the opportunities and threats they pose to their organizations.


Here are some key exponential technology trends to watch


We’re tracking several high-impact technologies that have the potential to transform all types of industries - and transform them more quickly than ever before.


Exponential Technology Trends to Watch in 2019
Exponential TechnologyImpactLearn More
Artificial Intelligence (AI)Companies have been hyping AI for many years now, to the point where some organizational leaders may have stopped paying attention. But AI technology is improving by leaps and bounds, and the data and processing power that drive AI are becoming cheaper and easier to obtain—just a few reasons we’re entering the age of AI everywhere.Get more AI trends and insights
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality (AR/VR)AR and VR are also technologies that may be underestimated as toys for entertainment and gaming. But these technologies are improving rapidly and finding use cases in medicine, architecture, manufacturing, education, construction, and aerospace. In the near future, expect to see more AR events layered over your physical world.Report: AR-and-VR

-powered manufacturing revolution
Autonomous vehiclesA look at the A-list brands competing in this space—including Google, GM, Ford, Toyota, Tesla, and Volkswagen—suggests a large potential market. The global market is expected to reach $65.3 billion by 2027. It’s a huge financial opportunity, and the impact on our daily lives may be even more profound than the introduction of mass-produced autos a century ago.Video: From the front line of autonomous transportation
BlockchainIf there were a “Transformative Technology of 2018” award to recognize potential to transform the global economy, blockchain would be a leading candidate. The potential to eliminate third parties from transactions is driving a global market for blockchain that’s expected to grow 59% between 2016 and 2024.Video: Blockchain for good 
Data scienceIt’s been said that data is the new oil in today’s digital economy, but that may be underestimating data’s impact. Data will continue to be a key driver of the global economy going forward, and scarcity is not a concern. The outlook is also good for the future of work, as LinkedIn recently identified Data Scientist as one of the fastest-growing jobs in the world.Video: How data can change the world
Biotech, digital biologyAging populations—and interest in slowing or stopping the aging process altogether—drive this sector. The ability to build human parts to replace failing organs and tissues or edit diseases out of our genomes is driving a biotech market that’s estimated to be worth $727 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research.Watch videos from Exponential Medicine 2018
Internet of Things (IoT)IoT is not just a global network of interconnected gadgets—with the rapidly expanding range of wearables and personal devices, IoT is all of us. The growing number of global IoT-connected devices is expected to top 75 billion by 2025, according to Statista.IoT: Smarter and more connected
3D printing and digital fabrication3D printing is an exponential technology with disruptive potential far beyond what many people realize. Beyond transforming the way all types of products are designed, tested, and prototyped, 3D printing might reinvent traditional manufacturing and supply chains as well—a $1.7 trillion opportunity according toAndre Wegner.Video: The death and resurrection of an industry
RoboticsRobots and drones are becoming more affordable, efficient, and collaborative, enabling the robotics industry to achieve unprecedented growth. Collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans, like the LoweBot that can monitor inventory and help customers locate products, are leading the way.The future of Lowe’s: mixed reality and LoweBots

Exponential technology calls for exponential leaders


One thing these exponential tech trends have in common is that they’re all surrounded by a generous helping of buzz and hype. Media mentions are often a good indicator that a specific technology bears watching. But it’s critical to get beyond the buzz.


Today’s leaders must understand the importance of exponential technologies within the context of their own organization and industry. And beyond understanding exponential technology trends, it’s necessary to invest in innovation processes that fuel measurable progress and growth. In the end, that’s how today’s traditional leaders become the exponential leaders of the future. Learn how today’s leaders become exponential leaders who can adapt to any situation and drive 10X results for your organization.


To get ahead and stay ahead of this exponential pace of change, organizations must become exponential enterprises. Such organizations have built a future-focused strategy, are developing and enabling exponential leaders, and are building the products of tomorrow today. If you’re already doing work in all three of these areas, congratulations - because you are definitely leaps and bounds ahead of your peers and are on track to arrive at the future successfully. And if not, we have proven enterprise solutions to get you there.


In the meantime, get a jump on a new year of innovation. See our checklist to power up your innovation success in 2019.


Nick Davis
Nick Davis is the Vice President of Corporate Innovation at Singularity University where he directs the strategy, development, and delivery of SU’s corporate innovation solutions. Previously, Nick held leadership roles at RocketSpace, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Scalefunder, Inc. and in the US Navy where he worked in Military Intelligence.