What's Next?

In 2006 and 2007, in my early days of teaching, I shared with my students what I thought would be the next technological breakthrough that would spur the economy to its next high. You must remember that this was a time when smartphones were limited to Blackberry 8703e, Palm Treo, T-Mobile Dash and Sony Ericsson P990i.

At that time, I said that your mobile phone (which was only good for making calls and texting) would one day within the next three to five years, become your everything – phone, SMS, email, entertainment, games … plus it will also become your bank, your credit card or charge card, your financial centre and main means of information gathering and dissemination. Today, as I write this, it doesn’t seem like a big deal that I said it in 2006. But back then, my students looked at me with a doubting look of incredulity. Then in 2008, we were all using the second generation iPhones.

Since then, my students have been asking me what the next latest technological breakthrough will be to spur economies into the next growth phase. I have always maintained that it will be some sort of nanotechnology. Personally, I was holding on to the thought that it would be in the biotechnological field.

But recent developments in glass have changed that mindset in a hurry because this has more mass market demand and will have a bigger, more sustainable business model than the healthcare space. I first mentioned this glass innovation late in 2009 along with nanotechnological advancements in this field.

Then in 2011 Hollywood got my mind racing again after watching Real Steel (starring Hugh Jackman).

I always thought that this technology was just Hollywood stuff like Real Steel and other futuristic science-fiction movies. But the technology is very real today and is already available in South Korea by Samsung and LG. Very soon, in the next five years, your smartphone will be made of this glass. In fact, that smartphone will be all glass. Amongst the leading corporations in this technology is Corning Inc. (GLW).

<– Click to watch Video

The main resource for this, by the way, is sand – the same sand that goes into making silicon chips. The glass will be embedded with photovoltaic nanotechnology so that it functions as a self contained computer. And the resources for this kind of sand is found in abundance in Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.

<–Click to watch second Video

Since the release of that second video in February this year, Corning Inc (GLW) the pioneer of this technology has seen its stock rise from $11.75 to the current $15.00 (+36%).

With this technology, another race is on to see which company will be the first to develop and patent the power source for this technology. The closest bet has been the aforementioned photovoltaic technology which has seen a surge in activity in several solar cell companies in recent months with polymer solar cells (PSCs) being the main focus for plasmonic PSCs using metal nanoparticles (NPs).

Because PSCs have many advantages, including low cost, solution processability and mechanical flexibility, PSCs can be adopted in various applications. PSCs are lightweight, inexpensive to fabricate (sometimes using printed electronics), flexible, and customizable on the molecular level and they have lower potential for negative environmental impact.

This is the tip of a gigantic iceberg which, in my opinion, will become that start of the next growth drive for mankind.

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