As economic catalysts, “big data,” smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution have the potential to rival electrification, telephony, the automobile, the invention of stainless steel and the radio amplifier. So claim physicist Mark Mills and Julio Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University. In the historical context of 1912, “We sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century, the co-authors writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Among other recent innovations, information technology has entered a big-data era; processing power and data storage are virtually free; and a hand-held device, the iPhone, has computing power that shames the 1970s-era IBM mainframe, they explain. “From social media to medical revolutions anchored in metadata analyses, wherein astronomical feats of data crunching enable heretofore unimaginable services and businesses, we are on the cusp of unimaginable new markets.”
The implications of the radical collapse in the cost of wireless connectivity are as big as those following the dawn of telephony, Mills and Ottino insist. “Coupled with the cloud, the wireless world provides cheap connectivity, information and processing power to nearly everyone, everywhere.”