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Disruptive Technologies of 2013

Published February 17, 2013 2:34 PM by Glen McDaniel

Most of us with our smart phone and tablets and wireless cable boxes do not generally think of technology as being disruptive or being a bad thing.

Disruptive generally suggests annoyance or interruption like a traffic jam or electrical outage that throw a monkey wrench into our plans. However Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen has coined  the term disruptive technology which is a new technology that is so radical and impactful that it displaces or "disrupts" the status quo.

Now such technology often offers significant advantages but it is considered disruptive because of its profound impact. Very often it causes a paradigm shift in terms of the way we think and do things.

In comparison, sustaining technology offers only incremental change and is easier to accept because it bears some similarity to what we are currently used to. Sustaining technology is therefore not as threatening. It is often easy to point out the ways it is similar to the status quo and it generally requires less radical adaptation.

We are used to change in our profession, to be sure. But like the rest of society we have been subject to much more dramatic changes in the last 10 to 15 years. We are not exempt from what is happening in the larger society and will increasingly adopt the technology of the day to conduct our businesses and run our laboratories.

Gartner, the well-known information technology (IT) research and advisory firm recently released a list of its top 10 disruptive technologies and trends for 2013. The list covers a wide range of technologies that will most likely disrupt IT and business-as-usual over the next twelve months.

Here are just a few of those technologies:

1. Mobile devices

According to Gartner's research, mobile devices will completely take over the computing landscape. In 2013, mobile phones are expected to overtake PCs as the devices most commonly used to access the web worldwide and by 2015, Gartner is predicting that 80% of phones will be smartphones. These are absolutely wild findings, and, if true, mean big changes in the way we all do business.

My dentist has started sending me auto-texts to remind me of my appointments and I can simply "reply" to let the let the office know I received the text and will be keeping my appointment.  There is no need to call on the telephone. My electronic medical record software emails me to let me know when something significant like a lab result has been placed in my chart. It even makes a distinction between routine and "urgent results."

2. Mobile applications and HTML 5

Anyone with a smartphone or tablet already knows how mobile websites and apps empower us to do more while on the go and to be more productive while working from a mobile device. This year, Gartner is predicting that the general trend will be away from native apps (i.e., apps specific to a certain smartphone platform like Android) and into more general web apps based on the HTML 5 standard.

Your healthcare organization may have to decide whether to retain (or develop) its own app targeted to a small number of mobile platforms or try to make apps for everyone. They will be more responsive and make an effort to give people exactly what they want from your organization.

3. Personal cloud

It used to be that all of our files were in one place, on our desktop computers at the office. Then came laptops and travel drives; and we used various ways to ensure we had the files we needed while on the go. Today, we often need the exact same document in half a dozen locations-not just laptops and desktops but mobile devices including smartphones and tablet computers.

The answer to this problem is maintaining a strong personal cloud, a personal collection of cloud services, web destinations, and apps to ensure that our files are there when we need them and that changes are saved across our devices. Gartner is predicting that this transition will be slow but inevitable, and our personal cloud will be the "glue" that holds our digital lives together.

It makes sense.  Files need to be portable and available because no single type of computing device fits all of our needs. Files will increasingly shift from our machines to the web, and apps and web-interfaces are absolutely the future of file management.

4. The Internet of Things

One important phrase that has been kicking around the online world lately is the "Internet of Things." This phrase refers to the fact that the Internet is no longer just a network, but something that a variety of real-world physical devices (the "things") all connect to.

Far beyond our smartphones, the Internet of things increasingly connects to our homes through smart appliances and televisions, and it connects to our transportation through smart cars and Wi-Fi enabled trains and planes. The Internet of things even connects to our bodies through digital health products like wristbands that measure our glucose level, track our workouts, sleep, and eating habits. The possible applications for healthacre are endless.

These devices increasingly talk to each other through localized wireless technologies like Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC), but also connect via Wi-Fi or data networks to the entire Internet.

Sure these may be disruptive in the traditional and IT contexts, but increasingly we will have to adopt them- and adapt to them- if we want to serve our customers and not be left hopelessly behind.

1 comments

I have never heard that term before but t makes  a lot of sense, You write the most interesting articles. I have been in the laboratory for ever and I can see how some of the modern technology can be seen as disruptive.  Compared to years ago change has realy speeded up so much. Technology is so advanced and is chnaging so rapidly.  Now we talk about the "latest version" of a piece of equipment. In my first lab we sued a SMAC and kept it for about 10 years at least. Now we cahnge equipment every 5 years or less.

Minerva T February 18, 2013 5:34 PM
Houston TX

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