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'The disruptive dozen': 12 technologies with the greatest economic impact

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There are many technologies shaping and reshaping the economic landscape, but only a few rise to the category of "economically disruptive," which have the potential to dramatically change the status quo, transforming how people work and live.

Photo credit: Alyssa McKendrick

A detailed new report out of the McKinsey Global Institute points to what they see as 12 key technology developments having the greatest economic impact over the coming decade::

1) Mobile internet: "Ubiquitous connectivity and an explosive proliferation of apps are enabling users to go about their daily routines with new ways of knowing, perceiving, and even interacting with the physical world," says McKinsey. Economic impact: $3.7 trillion to $10.8 trillion annually by 2025, primarily by spreading Internet access to developing regions, as well as increased productivity.

2) Automation of knowledge work: McKinsey says this continues to be a major area of disruption, with software performing "knowledge work tasks involving unstructured commands and subtle judgments." Economic impact: $5.2 trillion to $6.7 trillion by 2025, due to greater productivity.

3) Internet of things: The rise of "networks of low-cost sensors and actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision-making and process optimization" will be a major factor in the global economy over the coming decade. Economic impact: $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion by 2025, particularly across health care and manufacturing applications.

4) Cloud technology: Prepare for widespread "use of computer hardware and software resources delivered over a network, often as a service," McKinsey predicts. Economic impact: $1.7 trillion to $8.2 trillion by 2025, in surplus from use of cloud-enabled Internet services.

5) Advanced robotics: Robots will take more giant leaps, employing "enhanced sensors, dexterity, and intelligence used to automate tasks or augment humans." Economic impact: $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion a year by 2025, from improving and extending peoples' lives, as well as automating manufacturing.

6) Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles: Over the coming decade, the roads will start to fill with "vehicles that can navigate and operate with reduced or no human intervention," and this will also add value to the global economy. Economic impact: $200 billion to $1.9 trillion annually, from freeing up drivers' time, increased road safety, and reduced vehicle operating costs.

7) Next-generation genomics: The next stage of this science will enable "fast, low-cost gene sequencing, advanced big data analytics, and synthetic biology ('writing' DNA.)" Economic impact: $700 billion to $1.6 trillion annually to the global economy by 2025, due to extended life expectancy from faster disease diagnosis and more tailored treatments.

8 ) Energy storage: McKinsey sees widespread growth of "devices or systems that store energy for later use, including batteries." Economic impact: $90 billion to $635 billion annually by 2025, arising primarily from electric and hybrid vehcciles, distributed energy, and utility grid storage.

9) 3D printing: This emerging technique, also refereed to as additive manufacturing, will change the way many consumers acquire goods, and where they are made.  Economic impact: $230 billion to $550 billion annually by 2025, mainly from consumer uses and direct manufacturing.

10) Advanced materials: Expect a whirlwind of growth in "materials designed to have superior characteristics (e.g., strength, weight, conductivity) or functionality," McKinsey says. Economic impact: $150 billion to $500 billion a year by 2025, mainly through medical advances.

11) Advanced oil and gas exploration and discovery: "Exploration and recovery techniques that make extraction of unconventional oil and gas economical." Economic impact: $95 billion to $460 billion annually by 2025, much of it in North America due to increased  "light-tight oil" (LTO) extraction from rock formations.

12) Renewable energy: McKinsey predicts a rise in electricity being supplied from renewable sources. Economic impact: $165 billion to $275 billion a year by 2025, due to additional power capacity created by solar and wind sources.

— By on May 24, 2013, 2:12 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure