Disruptive technologies are innovations that significantly change the way humans, markets, and entire industries work. They are the technologies of tomorrow and may change our lives immensely. Here is a definition of disruptive technologies and 21 examples.
Definition of disruptive technology
New technology can be sustaining or disruptive. If technology is sustaining, it adds improvements to existing technology while disruptive technologies are new ones instead.
Disruptive technologies do things and solve problems in a new and innovative way, different from what we are used to. Hence the word disruptive; to disrupt a process. Therefore, disruptive technology is not a product, but rather a process and a way of doing things.
Disruptive technology often starts from the bottom, comes from small teams, and only attracts a small audience, to begin with, and they do not need to be successful. Disruptive technology can arise, get adapted by a few, and then fail. Or it can succeed so well that it changes a paradigm or an old way of doing things.
There’s also a difference between disruptive technologies and revolutionary technologies. New technology can be revolutionary but not disruptive, such as when the automobile came (cars). While automobiles were a revolutionary innovation, they didn’t immediately make everyone stop using horses and carriages for a long time.
21 Examples of Disruptive Technologies
The disruptive technologies of our modern time are very likely to change the future, and here are a few examples of disruptive technologies.
1. Artificial Intelligence
One well-known disruptive technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI), computing algorithms that are used to gain insight, knowledge, or simulate intelligence. AI can be applied to many things such as understanding natural language, drawing logical conclusions, and much more.
The technology of AI has unlimited potential. It can be used for teaching, spam detection, more intelligent systems and games, enhancing the life of humans, working as assistants, and much more.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (IoT) are devices connected in a network using the internet, to bridge the space between the digital and physical world. For example, by connecting smart lamps, sound systems, home applications, apps in mobile phones, voice controls, and automatically detected physical movements.
IoT technology can create a new world and new lifestyles that we’ve never been able to experience before.
3. Blockchain / Cryptocurrency
Blockchain was developed to disrupt the banking sector to decentralized things, and it also adds more possibility to share resources instead of focusing on the ownership economy. Blockchain primarily disrupts financial institutions such as banks and stock brokerages.
E-commerce and online shopping has significantly changed how we shop and consume. The change is already noticeable in many branches, such as for books. Many traditional bookshops have been forced to close because people nowadays prefer to shop their books online or even read e-books. It’s the same thing with movie rentals, clothing, and much more.
5. Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality technology, if developed further, could disrupt gaming, entertainment, retailing, art, and interior design industries. It could in many ways be the future of digital experiences, bridging the gap between the physical and digital world, just as how IoT is aiming to do as well.
6. Online News sites
Traditionally, we have consumed news in the form of printed newspapers. Now, most people instead use online news sites for getting their daily dose of news, which changes the entire news & journalism sector.
7. GPS apps
Can you remember the last time you saw someone use a physical map to navigate? The invention of mobile technology and advanced street maps with GPS has truly disrupted old ways of navigating. At least for “normal” people on dry land and modern cities.
8. Web-based video streaming
Netflix, HBO, YouTube, Apple TV, and similar services, are on their way or have already disrupted cable. Services such as Netflix offer viewers much more choice and say in when and what to watch things, compared to traditional cable TV.
9. Ride-sharing services
Apps such as Uber and Bolt have disrupted the traditional taxi cabs, providing cheaper and more easily accessible rides. With the rise of self-driving and driverless cars, it’s probably very likely that we’ll be seeing even more use of ride-sharing services.
10. Augmented Reality (AR)
Everything that has a screen and can be combined with a camera or sensors could be upgraded using augmented reality. This includes anything with our phones, laptops, tablets, and even cars. New cars today already for example, already come with implemented AR technology on the windshield to display current speed, speed limits, and helpful notifications.
11. 3D Printing
3D printing products can disrupt, and in ways have already disrupted the manufacturing industry. 3D printing can be used to print entire houses, models of infrastructures in cities, body parts, and anything else that can be created using 3D models.
12. Collaborative commerce
Collaborative commerce such as Airbnb has disrupted industries such as hotels and car rentals by their ease of use and cheaper prices. In a way, ride-sharing services such as Uber may also count as collaborative commerce if such services are seen as sharing cars rather than taxi services.
13. Self-driving cars
Self-driving cars, when fully developed and connected to a smart system, can disrupt all current car industries. It may threaten everything from driving schools, car rentals, taxi cab services, to automobile stores.
14. Music streaming
The way humans listen, discover and attain music has already been disrupted by music streaming services such as Spotify and Soundcloud. This has affected the entire music industry from producers, to record labels, to shops seeking physical copies of music.
15. Instant messaging apps
Instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Signal have taken over the communication world. Communication can now be instant and cross-platform and allow people to communicate using text, audio, video, or even using interactive real-time tools.
16. Online education
Distance learning, e-books, online classes, and more, have all changed the way that education and information can be taught and learned. Online education has already disrupted people’s expectations of what should be possible or not when it comes to remote and online learning.
17. Online encyclopedias
Online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia have disrupted traditional ways of looking up information. Instead of using thick physical books, where one needs to locate and find information manually, we can with one quick Google search find any information we want.
Online encyclopedias also offer hyperlinks to other related topics and can feature formats such as videos and interactive elements to illustrate facts in addition to text.
18. Advanced Robotics
Advanced robotics may disrupt both medical industries as well as service industries. Robotics can be used to make procedures less invasive and more effective, or come in the form of prosthetics and exoskeletons. Advanced robotics can also replace humans in workplaces such as fast-food restaurants and manufacturing industries.
Cloud services strongly improve accessibility, connectedness, and collaboration. Some cloud services have already changed how we work and collaborate such as:
- Google Docs for word processing
- Figma for digital and product design
- GitHub for code
- Spotify for music library and playlists
20. Next-generation genomics & gene-modification
Technologies for modifying DNA are highly futuristic which may disrupt more than we can imagine. We could alter both plant and animal (including human) genes to get rid of diseases, weaknesses, and other things. Such technologies could improve agriculture and our access to food, as well as the overall health of newborns, and much more.
21. Renewable electricity
We are facing serious environmental issues because of fossil use for decades, and renewable electricity can be the solution to that. With even further development of renewable electricity, we may very well see a future without fossil fuels.
They affect each other
As you may have realized, many futuristic and disruptive technologies are intertwined in their development, depending on each other. As one area of technology develops, many others may follow suit or get affected by it. Many processes and new techniques and be transferred from one domain to another, which contributes to the fast technological advancements we see in modern times.
In conclusion, futuristic and disruptive technologies are capable of changing our entire lives and it’s worth keeping an eye out for what’s on the rise, especially if you want to work in the forefront of new tech. You may even have embraced multiple of these new technologies without being aware of it, which just goes to show how much of an impact they can have.