Disruption of the Electric Utility

Today’s Evidence of Abundance is about renewable energy.

Check out the first graph below, showing the massive increase in alternative energy investments between 2004 and 2011 (over $300 billion as of 2011).

It was under $50 million just 10 years ago. That’s a 500% increase in seven years.

What has the return on that investment been?

For starters, the price per watt of solar panels has gone down precipitously. As you’ll see in the following graph, the price of solar panels has dropped 97% from 1975 to 2012.

I *love* this quote from a recent NY Times article on Renewables (Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind), “Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans.”

Not only have the prices of solar energy dropped, but our capacity for photovoltaic production has grown at an exponential rate over the last decade.

As we see in so many other areas of technology, solar power is only going to get better, cheaper and easier.

You used to have to find and consult a specialist to get solar panels installed on your rooftop. Today, it’s as easy as making a trip to your local Best Buy or Home Depot.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s evidence of abundance.

P.S. Each week, I write a blog on exciting emerging technologies and trends. Sign up at peterdiamandis.com to ensure you don’t miss them.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Today, the only constant is change…

And the rate of change is increasing.

You either disrupt yourself, or someone else will. For any company, sitting still equals death.

I believe that we are now experiencing only a tiny fraction of the rate of disruptive change we will see over the next 10 years.


Though it’s hard to even fathom, think about this for a second:

Exponential technologies don’t exist in a vacuum.

They interact with each other. They augment each other. They accelerate each other.

When they do, the emerging impact is enormous.

It’s a tsunami of change, and it’s impossible to predict what it “looks” or “feels” like.

To give you a better picture of the accelerating change coming our way, I want to define four key “Moments of Convergence” where I believe we will see the most change.

Moment 1: First, we have the continued acceleration of those exponential technologies riding on top of Moore’s law: Infinite Computing, Networks & Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Digital Manufacturing and Synthetic Biology. Each of these technologies enable exponential entrepreneurs to build products that can positively impact the lives of a billion+ people.

Moment 2: Second, we will have “Combined Interface” moments. In other words, these technologies will converge at various interfaces. For example, the intersection of Networks, A.I. and 3D printing will soon allow anyone to verbally describe their desires and have them physically materialize. Imagine having an A.I. listening to you describe what you’d like to see created, then turn it into a design file that is uploaded to the cloud, 3D printed and delivered later that day to your doorstep. Every one of us, with or without skills, becomes a master designer and manufacturer, in much the same way that Microsoft Word makes us all perfect spellers.

Moment 3: This decade, the number of digitally connected people on Earth will grow from 2 billion (in 2010) to at least 5 billion (by 2020), perhaps as many as 7 billion (if Google and Facebook have their way). These additional 3 billion+ new minds entering the global economy are now fully empowered with dematerialized, demonetized and democratized technologies ranging from Google to 3D printing and SynBio. They now have access to the technologies once coveted by the largest corporations and government labs… so what will they create? What will they build?

Moment 4: Historically, the rate of innovation on Earth has increased as peopled moved out of the countryside and concentrated in cities, where they exchanged and built on each other’s ideas. Soon, the global mind of 5 billion+ connected people will drive a frenzy of rapid iteration. Innovation cycles on new products will go from years to months to weeks. How will the intellectual property system that so many linear-thinking companies rely on, possibly handle this rate of change? It won’t; it will likely fail.

It is these four moments of disruptive convergence that will be driving the tsunami of change ahead of all of us.

Our challenge as entrepreneurs is that we are evolutionarily predisposed to be local and linear thinkers. (Our brains evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago, when our life where best described as local and linear.)

The only option we have to surf atop the tsunami, rather than be crushed by it, is constant and continuous education and emersion in these exponential technologies to understand what you can use to reinvent yourself and your business every year.

This is why I’ve committed, for 25 years, to coach a group of entrepreneurs through my Abundance 360 program, and share with them what I see as the most powerful technology going from deceptive to disruptive growth phases each year. (BTW, if you’re interested in learning more, you can apply here).

This is also why Singularity University was created. If you’ve got a second, check out this incredible trailer for a new documentary on the Founding of Singularity University, which includes Ray Kurzweil, Larry Page, Stephen Hawking and Sir Martin Reese. See it here on its Indiegogo page.

While some see this increasing rate of change as scary, I find it exhilarating. Now, more so than ever before, we can make our grandest dreams come true.

Uber vs. the Law (My Money’s on Uber)

I love Uber, the ridesharing app that connects people who need rides with drivers.

Instead of my normal $35 taxi ride to LAX, an UberX car takes me for about $11.

The service is active in 108 US cities and 45 countries worldwide.

Five years ago, it didn’t exist. Today, it’s valued at over $18 billion.

It truly is an Exponential Organization.

Uber is one of a new generation of dematerializing, demonetizing and democratizing technologies that’s disrupting the status quo.

I talk about these technologies and their implications with my Abundance 360 mastermind group in January (apply here, if interested).

Simply put, Uber is a product adored by passengers and Uber drivers alike.

It uses technology to dramatically improve a broken system. It solves a pain point.

As a result, hordes have left the traditional taxis and rental car options.

Understandably, these incumbents aren’t happy, and where do they turn?


Uber’s Long, Legal Battle

I recently spent a week with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in Sicily at Google Camp.

I’d heard mention of some of the legislative challenges that Uber was facing globally, but I wasn’t really aware of the scope or scale of what was happening.

Check out this global resistance:

  • Germany: officials just slapped a nationwide ban on Uber because the drivers don’t have correct permits. Drivers will face fines of up to $323,700 per trip if Uber violates this temporary injunction.
  • Spain: Hundreds of taxi drivers went on strike in June, protesting the unregulated private service that was taking their business.
  • India: “According to the Economic Times, three Uber competitors — Meru Cabs, Easy Cab, and Mega Cab — have written to the Reserve Bank of India, complaining that Uber is violating foreign-exchange laws.”
  • Brazil: Uber might face legal problems if the government of Sao Paulo pushes for the suspension of its service. For example, a few weeks ago “three cars were found providing services through Uber in Sao Paulo and the drivers had to pay fines of $900 on average.”
  • Vancouver: The city attorney claims that the service is illegal: “Though the meter UberX uses does not look like a traditional taxi meter that measures time and distance as the ride progresses, it still fits within the definition of (a) taxi meter [under city code].”
  • United States: The taxi lobbies are putting enormous pressure on local governments to block Uber in their cities. In Milwaukee, five taxi groups are “suing the city of Milwaukee, hoping to block an ordinance that provides a path to legalization for mobile ride-booking apps.” In California, New York and DC, Uber has faced numerous cease-and-desist orders.

And yet

Regulation, the Protection of Last Resort

Laws typically favor the incumbent solutions that manifested them in the first place.

But when an industry turns to protectionist regulations to keep a more cost-effective solution out of the market, you know it’s in a death spiral.

Take the horse versus the automobiles, for example.

Many hated cars in the early 1900s because, well, they scared horses.

In fact, amazingly, at the turn of the century, a law in Pennsylvania stated:

"Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming toward him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes."

In general, the government’s major role is stabilization.

But many times when a product is so much better say 10x or more the incumbent will eventually lose. They must adapt or go extinct. Regulation can only stay the change for a short time.

And during this time of accelerating change, where the only constant is change, we will be seeing a lot of 10x improvements challenging the norm.

Look at Airbnb. Pandora. iTunes, Tesla, Craigslist. The list goes on and on.

Technologies that leverage the 6 D’s will WIN

In my mind, the companies and products that solve problems most effectively (and most cheaply) will win.

Many of these are the products that follow the 6 D’s of exponential change. To demonstrate what this means, for those not part of Abundance 360, let’s look at how Uber fits into this model:

  • Digitized: Uber digitized the taxi-calling experience, the payments process, the taxi-navigating process, the fare splitting process, and more.
  • Deceptive to Disruptive: In my mind, Uber, despite being an $18 billion company, is still in its deceptive growth stage. Just wait until we get into automated vehicles and self-driving cars. Guess who will be perfectly positioned to take over that market?
  • Dematerialized: Uber dematerialized a number of things, including the need for taxi fleets. In some cases, it dematerialized owning a car for many who elect to “Uber” everywhere instead.
  • Demonetized: Uber eliminated the annoying fees and taxes that taxis require, as well as taking “tipping” out of the picture.
  • Democratized: UberX is cheap and available to anyone with a smartphone (and the service in the area). It is democratizing transportation.

Despite their many legal challenges, Uber continues to drive and thrive.

They are growing explosively, and the company is changing the game.

And frankly, knowing Travis’ vision for Uber, we haven’t seen anything yet.

This is an important debate

I acknowledge the debate about technology vs. policy is an important one.

Technology can be a double-edged sword.

I want to talk with you about the implications these technologies have on jobs, on wages, on livelihoods. To have these debates together.

And it seems Uber does too.

They just hired David Plouffe, one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s key election advisers, to take charge of policy and strategy.

If you want to join me in this discussion, and learn where other technologies will become disruptive over the next few years, I’ve put together a mastermind of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives called Abundance 360. Apply here.

Each week, I write a blog on exciting emerging technologies and trends. Sign up at PeterDiamandis.com to ensure you don’t miss them.

Evidence of Abundance #10: Living Longer

Nothing matters more than your health. Healthy living is priceless. What millionaire wouldn’t pay dearly for an extra 10 or 20 years of healthy aging?

That’s why one of the most important indicators of abundance today is the massive global increase in life expectancy.

In 1820, the average lifespan was just 26 years. 26 years!

In 1900, it only marginally improved to 31 years old.

In 2010, the global average doubled to 67 years, and today in the U.S. (2014), it comes in at just over 80 years old.


We take this tremendous improvement for granted.

Heck, many of us (definitely me) have done our best work well past our 30s… and, as you might expect, this is only going to continue and improve.

Making 100 Years Old the “New 60”

One of the companies I co-founded earlier this year Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), is working on increasing the healthy, active human lifespan even further.

Our goal is to make 100 years old the “new 60.”

Imagine being able to maintain esthetics, mobility and cognition for an extra 40 years. I co-founded HLI along with Dr. Craig Venter (the first person to sequence the human genome and create the first synthetic life form) and Bob Hariri, MD/Ph.D, one of the world’s leading pioneers in stem cells.

What decisions would you make differently today if you knew you would most likely live to be 150? How would you think about your 50s, or 60s? How would you evaluate your career arcs, or investments, or even the area in which you live?

This year at Abundance 360, I’m going to focus a significant part of our conversation on the impact of longevity on business, investment and strategy. How you get access to it and how it impacts you and your family. If you’re interested in learning more about participating, apply here.

We’re about to witness some of the biggest healthcare breakthroughs humankind has ever seen. I hope you’re as excited about this as I am.

Solar Energy Revolution: A Massive Opportunity

My friend Ray Kurzweil projects the U.S. will meet 100 percent of its electrical energy needs from solar in 20 years. Elon Musk is a bit more conservative, pegging it at 50 percent in that timeframe. While the growth of solar may seem slow to some, it’s fair to say it’s in the midst of its “deceptive phase,” on the road to disruption. For example, a 30 percent increase in solar energy production per year, means 1 percent today grows to 1.3 percent in 3 years. It also means that in 20 years (7 doublings), we’ll see a 128-fold increase. Either way, if Ray and Elon are even close, there is a trillion dollars up for grabs (as well as the future of our planet), and the future is bright. Let’s take a closer look at the converging technologies driving this future… The cost of solar panels is dropping exponentially. The first and most important technological change is the falling cost per watt of silicon photovoltaic cells over the past few decades. Check out the plummeting cost from $76 in 1977, to less than $0.36 today. The International Energy Agency predicts that we will produce 662 GigaWatts of solar energy by 2035 following a $1.3 trillion investment in this area, but frankly this estimate is “highly conservative.” The second technology at play is satellite-Earth imaging, which enables companies like solar City to make rapid and accurate decisions on solar panel installations. These days, an installer can check out your rooftop on Google Earth and determine in minutes if you are a good candidate. Super-simple. Energy Storage Mechanisms Are Improving Rapidly The third key technology transforming our energy economy is battery storage. The ability to take solar energy captured during the day, and time-shift it into the night. Here to the change has been very significant, with a 50%+ reduction over the past four years, and an additional 50%+ reduction by 2020. In addition to this ongoing cost reduction, we’re about to see a massive increase in battery production. Tesla’s Gigafactory alone will produce 35 Gigawatts worth of the batteries by 2020, more than 2013’s total global battery production capacity. Electric Vehicles (EVs) Tesla’s Gigafactory also supports the production of 500,000 electric vehicles per year. The rapid rise (see below) of Electric Vehicle (EV) production will play a critical role as well.6 D’s: Tying It All Together The convergence of solar, batteries and EVs will democratize energy production and offer billions of people access to cheap, carbon-neutral energy. Looking at solar energy thru my 6 Ds paradigm of exponential technologies may offer some added insights:

  • Digitized: How we manufacture, measurem and control solar electricity has become digitized, and therefore hopped on an exponential growth path.
  • Deceptive: Today we are in the deceptive phase of solar growth. Remember, a 30% increase per year means we are only 7 doublings, or 21 years, away from a 128-fold increase.
  • Disruptive: With 5,000 times more solar hitting the Earth’s surface in a year than humanity uses today, solar has plenty of ‘head-room’ for growth. The UBS study said it well: “Our view is that the ‘we have done it like this for a century’ value chain in developed electricity markets will be turned upside down within the next 10-20 years, driven by solar and batteries.”
  • Dematerialized: a distributed, pervasive solar grid will create a far more robust and capable energy grid. Again, from the UBS report, “(Today’s) large-scale power generation, will be the dinosaur of the future energy system: Too big, too inflexible, not even relevant for backup power in the long run”.
  • Demonetized: Ultimately, energy from the Sun is free. Better yet, the poorest countries in the world are also the sunniest. Imagine a world where there is a squanderable amount of cheap and clean energy?
  • Democratized: As said above, solar scales globally, available to everyone, even in the poorest countries in the world.

It’s Time to Join the Revolution UBS continues:

"By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, i.e., not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities. It is also the most efficient way to produce power where it is consumed, because transmission losses will be minimized. Power will no longer be something that is consumed in a ‘dumb’ way. Homes and grids will be smart, aligning the demand profile with supply from (volatile) renewables."

UBS predicts the payback time for unsubsidized investment in electric vehicles plus battery storage plus rooftop solar will be around 6 to 8 years by 2020 (see below). From my perspective, solar must be considered a central driver for our future economy. How will this affect your business? Industry? Life? If this area is of interest to you, I have put together a mastermind of CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and forward-thinkers called Abundance 360 who meet on a regular basis to learn, debate and share these types of ideas. If interested, you can apply hereEach week, I write a blog on exciting emerging technologies and trends. Sign up atAbundanceHub.com to ensure you don’t miss them.

Evidence of Abundance #9: Curing Addiction and Disease

Evidence of Abundance #9: Curing Addiction and Disease

Below are two powerful graphs in “Health Abundance” I wanted to share this week.

First is the massive reduction in smoking from 45% in the 1960’s to 25% today. The bad news is that smoking is still the #1 preventable cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths. Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these combined: HIV, alcohol, car accidents and guns.

Second, is a look at the reduction of global malaria deaths, and the increase in funding allocated for research and development to cure malaria. Watch what happens all over the world when we devote funds to solve grand challenges:

As medical research continues and technology enables new breakthroughs, there will be a day when Malaria and most all major deadly diseases are eradicated on Earth.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Evidence of Abundance.

Best wishes,

Please send your friends and family to AbundanceHub.com to sign up for these blogs — this is all about surrounding yourself with abundance-minded thinkers. And if you want my personal coaching on these topics, consider joining my Abundance 360 membership program for entrepreneurs.

How to Become a Billionaire

Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people.

The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.

That’s the premise for companies launching out of Singularity University (SU).

Allow me to explain:

In 2008, Ray Kurzweil and I co-founded SU to enable brilliant graduate students to work on solving humanity’s grand challenges using exponential technologies.

This week we graduated our sixth Graduate Studies Program (GSP) class.

During the GSP, we ask our students to build a company that positively impacts the lives of 1 billion people within 10 years (we call these 10^9+ companies).

Historically if you wanted to touch a billion people, you had to be Coca Cola, GE or Siemens.Today you can be a guy and gal in a garage.

I’d love to share with you some of SU’s most interesting 10^9+ companies from the past six summers and some of the new ideas presented from the latest class.

Some great SU 10^9+ Companies

Over the past years, here are some of the exciting companies that have developed out of SU:

1. Matternet: Matternet is building a network of drones (UAVs) to transport goods in places with inefficient or nonexistent road infrastructure (think Africa). Matternet’s drones can carry 2 kg packages such as vaccines, medicine, replacement parts or other critical goods for transportation in the developing world. Sound like Amazon Prime? Yes, but Matternet was founded 2 years earlier.

2. Modern Meadow: Modern Meadow uses stems cells and 3D printing to create “leather” and “meat” products that no longer require animal slaughter. Such cultured meat massively reduces the amount of land (by 99 percent), water (by 96 percent) and energy (by 45 percent) needed in product, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent.

3. Cambrian Genomics: Cambrian Genomics makes the first hardware/systems for laser printing DNA. Presently, researchers in academia and industry order or clone over a billion dollars per year of DNA. Cambrian Genomics plans to deliver high quality sequence verified DNA to buyers in this existing/growing worldwide market.

4. BlueOak Resources: BlueOak extracts valuable metals (copper, silver, platinum, etc) from discarded electronics (e-waste). Using existing scaled-up mining industry technologies, they capture value from the 40 million tons of e-waste that is landfilled or incinerated annually around the world, containing 70 billion dollars worth of precious and base metals.

5. Made In Space: This company has just launched the first zero-g 3D printer to the Space Station. Their hardware is able to manufacture materials and complex structures in weightlessness.

6. mirOculus: Cancer detection using microRNA biomarkers leading to the routine cancer screening will allow for early stage detection and prevention of millions of cancer deaths.

7. Organ Preservation Alliance: Transforming human organ availability through breakthroughs in cryo-preservation.

A few of this year’s 10^9+ Companies

This summer, the graduate students pitched over 20 new business concepts. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Bibak: A drone-powered landmine detector that offers an effective, cheap and versatile way to autonomously detect live mines buried in the ground.

2. TriDom: A novel way to “print” full-sized homes and buildings by attaching a 3D printer to existing cranes. The kit would transform today’s crane into a fully functional, unconstrained printer, and allow builders to cheaply/quickly build houses.

3. Besense: Smart-sensors built into women’s hygienic pads, able to measure STD’s, vitamin levels and biomarkers in menstrual blood to provide valuable health insights for women.

4. Mitera: A device that allows early cancer and disease detection from a single drop of saliva. The device uses carbon nanotubes and biomarkers to detect hostile cells. When used on a weekly basis, the device can monitor changes in the patient over time and develop personalized medical treatments based on the data.

Larry Page on Changing the World

While most of today’s entrepreneurs and VCs are thinking about the next great app, too few are working on solving humanity’s grand challenges.

In 2008, at SU’s founding conference, Larry Page stood up and made an impassioned speech that SU must focus on addressing the world’s biggest problems:

"I now have a very simple metric I use: are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? The answer for 99.99999 percent of people is ‘no.’ I think we need to be training people on how to change the world. Obviously, technologies are the way to do that. That’s what we’ve seen in the past; that’s what driven all the change."

It’s about time we all started to think at this scale.

What problem are you solving? How many lives are you positively impacting? What can you do to make the world a better place?

Each week, I write a blog on exciting emerging technologies and trends. Sign up at AbundanceHub.com to ensure you don’t miss them.

Evidence of Abundance #8: Increasing Health

Nothing is more precious than life… especially the life of your child.

Which is why my report today about “abundance” and “health” is so powerful.

Let’s start with the fact that in the U.S., infant mortality rates have plummeted significantly since 1900.

In fact, when you look at today’s numbers, they’ve never been lower.

The most dramatic change we see is in infant mortality among African-American babies.

In 1900, 180+ out of every 1,000 African-American babies died.

Today, that number is in the single digits.

The next graph shows another, important and related trend: family-size around the world is shrinking.

In many cultures, a large family to work the farm was a necessity.

And high child mortality rates meant you had extra babies to make up for those who perished.

In the 1960s, 110 countries had averages of six or more children per family.

Over the last part of the 20th century, however, we’ve seen drastic improvements in healthcare, agriculture and education.

More children are living to adulthood, and this has directly translated into smaller families.

What’s especially interesting about this graph is that the numbers continue to drop. By 2090, most families will have three children or less.

As you always hear me say, there’s never been a better time than now to be alive… and things are only getting better.

Please send your friends and family to AbundanceHub.com to sign up for these blogs — this is all about surrounding yourself with abundance-minded thinkers. And if you want my personal coaching on these topics, consider joining my Abundance 360 membership program for entrepreneurs.

Humin: The Next Billion-Dollar App?

I decided to invest in my first app.

It’s called Humin, and it launched this week (and was the #1 trending App on launch day).

It is going to make life easier (and it’s going to be the next billion-dollar company).

Allow me explain why it’s so epic…

Context is key. Where did you meet that guy?

How often do you run into someone and can’t remember when, why, or how you met them?

It happens to me all the time. I travel a lot and I’m meeting people constantly, and adding people to my list of contacts in my phone just doesn’t cut it anymore.

In our new world of abundant information, social networks, and exponentially improving technology, I really need more “context.”

This is why Humin is brilliant.

It organizes your relationships (i.e. contacts) in the same way you think about them — by their context – not just in alphabetical order.

For example, Humin will know when and where you met someone.

It will show you their picture and pull data from their social media profiles. It also organizes your contacts based on the city you are in and the strength of the relationship you have.

My favorite part — you can search for people with phrases like: “That guy I met at TED in Vancouver,” or “the woman who I met last week who works at Google and is from New York.” Humin finds the person that matches those criteria.

Ultimately, Humin will replace the “Contacts” apps on your phone with a much more powerful and intuitive piece of search software.

Download the iOS app here: Humin.com

Big data and machine learning win

Platforms that leverage automation and machine learning software (like Humin) will win in the long run.

At its core, Humin uses machine-learning algorithms to understand and make sense of the data surrounding your relationships.

The app learns with whom you communicate the most. It keeps track of the strength of your relationships. It can even predict when you might want to get in touch with someone again, based on where you are and how you talked to them in the past.

Time and time again, we see that automated, algorithmic platforms can make life easier by adopting to your needs.

Humin gets it right.

Interface moment: Designing for the human experience

It is also beautifully designed.

I’m not talking about just the interface. I’m talking about the human experience.

The Humin team has spent that last two years testing, iterating and testing to understand exactly how we use and want to use our contacts app.

I often talk about interface moments catalyzing an increased rate of technology adoption. A major piece of this “interface moment” is the user experience.

Humin has done a phenomenal job at refining their user experience. It’s fun and intuitive.

It’s an exponential organization!

I’ve known Humin’s founder and CEO, Ankur Jain, for a long time. He’s a member of the XPRIZE Innovation Board.

He has put together an impressive team with many features of an exponential organization, and Ankur is certainly an exponential entrepreneur.

After years of testing and data-driven decision making, Humin has finally launched.

How to download

If you’re an iPhone user, give Humin a try. I predict you’ll love it. Download the iOS app here: Humin.com

The Android version is coming soon (within the next few months). Stay tuned.

Why I invested

I’m constantly looking for the top exponential entrepreneurs and exponential startups to back with my time and money. At my Abundance 360 Summit, I’ll be sharing with my A360 community some of the hottest startups in areas like big data, machine learning, drones/robotics, crowdsourcing, and more. If you’re interested in learning more about A360 you can apply here.

Best of luck to the Ankur and the Humin team on their launch!

Each week, I write a blog on exciting emerging technologies and trends. Sign up at AbundanceHub.com to ensure you don’t miss them.

Top 10 Reasons Drones Are Disruptive

If you think today’s drones are interesting, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Drones are in their deceptive phase, about to go disruptive. Check out where they’re going…

What makes today’s “drones” possible?

The billion-fold improvement we’ve seen between 1980 and 2010 is what makes today’s drones possible, specifically in four areas:

  1. GPS: In 1981, the first commercial GPS receiver weighed 50 pounds and cost over $100K. Today, GPS comes on a 0.3 gram chip for less than $5.
  2. IMU: An Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) measures a drone’s velocity, orientation and accelerations. In the 1960s an IMU (think Apollo program) weighed over 50 lbs. and cost millions. Today it’s a couple of chips for $1 on your phone.
  3. Digital Cameras: In 1976, Kodak’s first digital camera shot at 0.1 megapixels, weighed 3.75 pounds and cost over $10,000. Today’s digital cameras are a billion-fold better (1000x resolution, 1000x smaller and 100x cheaper).
  4. Computers & Wireless Communication (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth): No question here. Computers and wireless price-performance have gotten a billion times better between 1980 and today.

10 Industries Using Today’s Drones:

  1. Agriculture: Drones watch for disease and collect real-time data on crop health and yields. This is an estimated $3B annual market size.
  2. Energy: Energy companies monitor miles of pipeline and oil rigs with autonomous drones.
  3. Real Estate and Construction: Drones photograph, prospect and advertise real estate from golf courses to skyscrapers; they also monitor construction in progress.
  4. Rapid Response and Emergency Services: Drones aid in search and rescue operations ranging from forest fire fighting to searching for people buried in rubble or snow using infrared sensors.
  5. News: It’s faster and safer to deploy drones to cover breaking news/disaster/war zones than news crews.
  6. Package/Supply Delivery: Companies like Matternet (founded at Singularity University) are building networks of UAVs to deliver food and medical supplies to remote villages around the world.
  7. Photography/Film: Visual artists use drones to capture beautiful new images and camera angles.
  8. Scientific Research/Conservation: Drones assist in everything from counting sea lions in Alaska to conducting weather and environmental research to tracking herd movements on the Savannah in Africa.
  9. Law Enforcement: Drones can be used during hostage situations, search and rescue operations, bomb threats, when officers need to pursue armed criminals, and to monitor drug trafficking across our borders.
  10. Entertainment/Toys: Good old fun.

So, Where Next?

What happens in the next 10 years when drones are 1000x better? Or 30 years from now when they are 1,000,000,000x better? What does that even mean, or look like? Here are some directions for your imagination:

  • Smart and Autonomous: Drones will have a mind of their own… thinking, doing, navigating, avoiding, seeking, finding, sensing and transmitting.
  • Microscopic and Cheap: Think about drones the size of a housefly, sending you full-motion HD video. Think swarms of drones (hundreds) where losing half of your swarm won’t matter because another hundred are there to replace them. How much will they cost? I would be shocked if they price doesn’t plummet to less than $10 each… maybe $1.

Top Future Drone Applications?

  1. Pollination: Imagine bee-sized drones pollinating flowers (in fact, we’re actually doing this now);
  2. Personal security: In the future, your children will have a flotilla of micro-drones following them to school and to playgrounds at all times, scanning for danger;
  3. Action sports photography: Imagine 100 micro-drone-cameras following a downhill skier capturing video from every angle in real time;
  4. Asteroid prospecting and planetary science: On a cosmic scale, my company Planetary Resources is building the ARKYD 300 — effectively a space drone with 5km per second delta-V. PRI plans to send small flotillas of four to six A300 drones (with onboard sensors) to remote locations like the asteroids or the moons of Mars;
  5. Medical in-body drones: On the microscopic scale, each of us will have robotic drones traveling through our bodies monitoring and repairing;
  6. High Altitude “Atmospheric Satellite” Drones: Google recently announced Project Loon to provide a global network of stratospheric balloons, and then acquired Titan Aerospace to provide for solar powered aerial drones, both of which could blanket the entire planet to provide low-cost Internet connectivity, anytime, anywhere; and,
  7. Ubiquitous surveillance: Combined with facial recognition software and high-resolution cameras, drones will know where everybody and everything is at all times. Kiss privacy goodbye. Are you a retailer? Want to know how many people are wearing your product at any time? Future imaging drones will give you that knowledge.
  8. Military and Anti-terrorism: Expect a significant increase in defense-related applications of drones in war zones and in your local backyard, sensing and searching for dangers ranging from biological to radiation.

So, What are the Challenges?

Technical challenges aside, we’ll have to address many sociopolitical challenges before drones become disruptive.

There are concerns over privacy and spying, interference with planes/helicopters, drones aiding illegal activities, safety and potential crashes, noise and cluttering the skies, theft and commercial use.

I recommend looking at the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to get a glimpse of the legal landscape surrounding drones.

This bill expires in September of 2015.

In other words, pending major legislative changes, expect 2015 to be a big year for drones.

Why are drones going to be disruptive?

Besides all of the use cases outlined above, drones represent an interesting convergence of three exponential technology areas:

  1. The Internet of Everything: Drones will be a key part of our trillion-sensor future, transporting a variety of sensors (thermal imaging, pressure, audio, radiation, chemical, biologics, and imaging) and will be connected to the Internet. They will communicate with each other and with operators.
  2. Advanced Battery Technology: Increases in energy density (kilowatt-hours per kilogram) will allow drones to operate for longer periods of time. Additionally, solar battery technology is allowing high-altitude drones to fly for weeks at a time without landing.
  3. Automation Software and Artificial Intelligence: Hundreds of teams around the world are working on automation systems that a) make drones easier for untrained users to fly, but more importantly, b) allow drones to fly and operate autonomously.

This is just the start.

At my Abundance 360 Executive Summit in January 2015, we’ll discuss this in much more detail and talk about potential investment opportunities in this arena. If you’re interested in joining me, there are only a few slots left. Apply here.

All the best,

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