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An Investing Megatrend: How Technological Breakthroughs are Shaping the Future

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Factors of Technological Breakthroughs

Since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, few industries have been left unaffected.

This transformational device is a prototypical example of a technological breakthrough. It was a tipping point in turning entire business models upside-down, while also impacting our everyday lives at a more fundamental level.

New growth opportunities emerged from the ensuing disruption, while many status quo solutions were rendered obsolete.

Technological Game-Changers

Today’s infographic from BlackRock highlights the pervasive and positive impact that technological breakthroughs can have on the global economy.

Technological Breakthroughs Infographic

Fueling the Flames of Innovation

According to recent data from Accenture, it’s estimated that 71% of businesses are on the brink of being disrupted.

In fact, disruptive innovation most often emerges in two scenarios:

  • New solutions to existing problems or challenges that have proven difficult to solve
  • New competitors in highly profitable sectors with historically high returns

The occurrence of technological breakthroughs can also be accelerated through several factors, including significant demographic shifts, sustained economic growth, innovative political environments, and urgent societal needs.

Technological Adoption is Speeding Up

Breakthrough inventions have always sent ripple effects throughout society, but today those ripples are travelling faster than ever.

Moore’s Law – the assertion that number of components in a dense integrated circuit (i.e., transistors, resistors, diodes, or capacitors) will double every year, while still getting cheaper – is one factor. Similar examples of staggering increases in utility for less cost can be found in a number of other instances, from DNA sequencing to data storage.

The rate of technological adoption is also speeding up. For example, consider the mobile phone─due to the price point and ease of use, the number of U.S. adults with a cell phone jumped from 10% in 1994 to over 96% in 2019. This is also evident in new technologies such as smart speakers, where the adoption rate in the U.S. is expected to double to 55% in less than 3 years.

Breakthrough Investment Opportunities

Where innovation leads, investment usually follows. However, predicting which technological innovations will have a lasting impact on society has often proved difficult.

Instead, investors can track the wider trends that often spark technological disruption, in order to unlock potential opportunities:

  1. Research and Development Funding:
    The number of investments in emerging technologies is growing. Tech company acquisitions also totalled US$278 billion by Q2 2018—a 50% increase from the year before.
  2. The Future Workforce:
    Historically, productivity gains have increased the demand for more skilled labour. Technical and soft skills are top priorities for employers for their future teams, and it it’s projected that the amount of hours that workers spend using technological skills will increase by 55% from 2016 to 2030.
  3. Shifts in Consumer Demand:
    Companies aware of these factors should seek to incorporate innovations into their platforms for a more customer-centric experience.
  4. Societal Needs:
    Persistent global social issues such as access to better healthcare are drivers of innovative solutions that offer a better quality of life. Symphony Post-Acute Network harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to be able to offer personalised healthcare for over 80,000 patients─cutting costs by more than US$13,000 per patient.

Future Impact of Technological Innovation

Technological change will likely continue to accelerate, and investors should tailor their portfolios accordingly.

At the same time, traditional barriers to entry for new competitors are consistently being eroded by these breakthroughs, sending industries into flux and creating potential new opportunities.

Humanity’s co-evolution with technology will continue to profoundly impact the economy, while improving life on Earth in unimaginable ways.

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Technology

10 Types of Innovation: The Art of Discovering a Breakthrough Product

How do companies like Amazon and Apple consistently make game-changing products? Here are 10 types of innovation, and the tactics that lead to big breakthroughs.

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The Art of Discovering Breakthrough Products

As venture capitalist Peter Thiel once put it, “competition is for losers”.

It’s inevitable that every company must be out there battling for market share, but you don’t really want to be in a situation where the competition is so stiff that any potential upside is eroded away in the process—―a scenario known as perfect competition in economics.

To avoid perfect competition, companies must strive to build an economic moat that gives them a sustainable competitive advantage over time. While these protective moats can arise from a number of different sources, in today’s information economy they most often arise from the power of innovation.

But where does innovation come from, and is there a universal framework that can be applied to help consistently make big breakthroughs?

The 10 Types of Innovation

In today’s infographic, we showcase the culmination of years of in-depth research from Doblin, an innovation-focused firm now owned by Deloitte.

After examining over 2,000 business innovations throughout history, Doblin uncovered that most breakthroughs don’t necessarily stem from engineering inventions or rare discoveries.

Instead, they observed that innovations can be categorized within a range of 10 distinct dimensions—and anyone can use the resulting strategic framework to analyze the competition, to stress test for product weaknesses, or to find new opportunities for their products.

Here are the 10 types of innovation:

#Innovation TypeDescription
1.Profit ModelHow you make money
2.NetworkConnections with others to create value
3.StructureAlignment of your talent and assets
4.ProcessSignature of superior methods for doing your work
5.Product PerformanceDistinguishing features and functionality
6.Product SystemComplementary products and services
7.ServiceSupport and enhancements that surround your offerings
8.ChannelHow your offerings are delivered to customers and users
9.BrandRepresentation of your offerings and business
10.Customer EngagementDistinctive interactions you foster

From Theory to Practice

What does innovation look like in practice?

Let’s see how well-known businesses have leveraged each of these 10 types of innovation in the past, while also diving into the tactics that modern businesses can use to consistently make new product breakthroughs:.

Innovation Types #1-4: “Configuration”

According to Doblin, the first four types of innovation center around the configuration of the company, and all the work that happens “behind the scenes”.

Although innovation types in this category are not directly customer-facing, as you can see in the examples below, they can still have an important impact on the customer experience. How your company and products are organized can have a crucial downstream effect, even enabling innovations in other categories.

Configuration innovation types

Two of the most interesting examples here are Google and McDonald’s. Both companies made internal innovations that empowered their people to make important advancements further on downstream.

In the case of McDonald’s, the franchisee insight that led to the introduction of the Egg McMuffin spearheaded the company’s entire breakfast offering, which now accounts for 25% of revenues. Breakfast is also now the company’s most profitable segment.

Innovation Types #5-6: “Offering”

When most people think of innovation, it’s likely the offering category that comes to mind.

Making improvements to product performance is an obvious but difficult type of innovation, and unless it’s accompanied by a deeply ingrained company culture towards technical innovation, such advancements may only create a temporary advantage against the competition.

This is the part of the reason that Doblin recommends that companies focus on combining multiple areas of innovation together—it creates a much more stable economic moat.

Offering innovation types

Apple has a reputation for innovation, but the product ecosystem highlighted above is an underappreciated piece of the company’s strategy. By putting thought into the ecosystem of products—and ensuring they work together flawlessly—additional utility is created, while also making it harder for customers to switch away from Apple products.

Innovation Types #7-10: “Experience”

These types of innovation are the most customer-facing, but this also makes them the most subject to interpretation.

While other innovations tend to occur upstream, innovations in experience all get trialed in the hands of customers. For this reason, intense care is needed in rolling out these ideas.

Experience innovation types

In the early days of the internet, online shipping was precarious at best—but Amazon’s introduction of Amazon Prime and free expedited shipping for all members has been a game-changer for e-commerce.

Executing on such a promise was no small task, but today there are 150 million users of Prime worldwide, including some in metro areas who can get items in as little as two hours.

Making Innovations Happen in Your Organization

How can organizations approach the 10 types of innovation from a more tactical perspective?

One useful resource is Doblin’s free public list of over 100 tactics that correspond with the aforementioned framework.

The one-pager PDF provides a range of typical dimensions for approaching each type of innovation. In essence, these are all different ways you could consider when trying to differentiate your product or service—and at the very least, it provides a useful thought experiment for managers and marketers.

For those interested in learning more on this topic, Doblin also has a highly-rated book as well as other accessories that leverage the above framework.

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Visualizing the Rise of Digital Payment Adoption

By 2023, digital transaction values could reach $6.7T globally—catalyzed by digital commerce and mobile payments. COVID-19 is only accelerating this trend.

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Digital Payments: The Evolution of Currency

Over the last decade, the digital payments landscape has undergone a structural shift.

Consumer behaviors are changing—moving towards contactless and cashless transactions. Meanwhile, as the magnitude of COVID-19 grows, these trends have only accelerated.

Today’s infographic navigates the digital payments ecosystem, exploring its history and innovative technologies, and how it continues to grow as a solution of choice for trillions of dollars of transactions each year.

Digital Payments Timeline

The origins of digital payments began over 25 years ago with then 21 year-old entrepreneur Dan Kohn in Nashua, New Hampshire, who sold a CD over the internet via credit card payment.

  • 1994: First online purchase is made
    A CD of Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales is sold for $12.48 on NetMarket.
  • 1997: First mobile payments and first contactless payments
    Coca-Cola installs two vending machines in Helsinki that accept payment by text message.
  • 1999: Paypal launches electronic money transfer service
    Early on, PayPal’s user base grew nearly 10% daily. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and venture capitalist Peter Thiel were among its co-founders.
  • 2003: Alibaba launches Alipay in China
    Today, the mobile payment platform has witnessed stunning growth — leveraging digital wallets accepted by merchants in over 50 countries and regions.
  • 2007: M-PESA creates the first payments system for mobile phones
    Kenya-based M-PESA launched its mobile banking and microfinancing service. Today, it has over 37 million active users on its platform across Africa.
  • 2009: Bitcoin enables secure, untraceable payments
    Satoshi Nakamoto develops the first decentralized payment network in the world.
  • 2013: WeChat Pay is rolled into the popular messaging platform
    By 2018, it surpasses 800 million monthly active users.
  • 2014: Apple Pay launches
    By 2023, over $2 trillion of mobile payment transactions could be authenticated by biometric technology.

As technological advances continue to unfold, advances in digital payment technologies are creating ripple effects globally.

Geographical Differences in Adoption

Unsurprisingly, the sheer volume of digital payments has continued to grow at a double-digit pace, now surpassing the $4.1 trillion mark.

How do cashless payments break down across different countries?

CountryDaily Average Volume of Cashless Payments Average Annual Cashless Payments Per Person
Singapore 13M831
South Korea 77M547
Sweden15M529
Netherlands24M505
U.S.444M495
UK82M448
Canada40M393
Belgium12M372
France64M363
Switzerland7M299
Germany61M269
Russia95M237
Spain24M185
Brazil95M166
China543M142
Italy18M111
Turkey17M77
Indonesia30M42
Mexico14M40
India67M18

Source: BIS

Singapore has the highest number of cashless payments per individual, averaging 831 cashless payments annually. The country’s robust e-commerce market is supported by high-speed, reliable internet and a young, tech-savvy population.

With e-commerce spending accounting for about 6% of South Korea’s national GDP, it is another leading purveyor of a cashless society. Meanwhile, Sweden is projected to become a cashless nation as early as 2023.

Pivotal factors—including core infrastructure, consumer behavior and rising revenues—provide a glimpse into the rapidly changing payment horizon.

The Future of Digital Payments

As transactions rise, a number of other technological innovations could be instrumental to shaping the evolution of the digital payments industry:

  1. Messaging-app payments
    Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat can leverage the reach of billions of users.
  2. Voice-activated commands
    Paying for gas, groceries, or retail via voice could soar.
  3. Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments
    Bank of America and Visa are investing heavily into P2P partnerships.
  4. Cryptocurrencies
    Over one million transactions take place daily on average.
  5. Biometric payments
    Smartphone biometric security features could spur traction across digital payments.
  6. Facial recognition
    May soon replace QR codes across retail, transit, and airports in China.
  7. Crypto wallet adoption
    Blockchain wallet users are predicted to soar to 200 million by 2030.
  8. Hardware & in-store interfaces
    Square, Stripe, and Clover are driving new mobile processing integrations.
  9. The $4.1T digital payments ecosystem is facing a notable transition, catalyzed by a wave of global advancements and disruption. As the industry continues to widen its reach, consumers and investors alike can benefit from the shift towards a cashless economy.

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