19 Years Providing Weekly Foresight
The most accurate predictive report on technology and the global economy,
read by leaders in industry, finance, and government worldwide.
[Please open the attached .pdf for best viewing.]
China's Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence How China Development Bank is Rewriting the Rules of Finance; by Henry Sanderson and Michael Forsythe (Bloomberg Press, 2013).
Few outsiders understand the many techniques China uses to gain global market share. This book focuses on the funds used to purchase export deals at an unprecedented rate. mra
Having just successfully concluded our Tenth Annual SNS Predictions Dinner at the Waldorf in NYC, this year also marks the tenth in which we publish our Top 10 Predictions for the coming year.
This year, I am pleased to announce that, with the help of our sponsor Oracle, we have created a new Predictions event for our West Coast subscribers (see above). I look forward to seeing many of you there in person, some for the first time, discussing what these predictions mean and sharing a wider view of where markets will be headed next year, from Russia to the EU, from China to South America.
Before we move into this year's Top 10, let's set the landscape these will play upon.
While I will be covering this in more detail in our San Francisco gathering, the meta-view is pretty clear: China is in a more serious decline than it, or its supporters, want to admit. Russia is in free fall. South America and Australia will take a hit thanks to their China connection, and Eastern Europe and Germany will do the same thanks to their export links to Russia.
And the US will continue its improvement. Although the UK has a burgeoning startup scene in Cambridge and London, it looks to me as though it will see some downward pressure as well, with China bets not paying as planned and oil revenues from the North Sea also over-estimated; and then there is the uncertainty over their EU trading arrangements.
India, Malaysia, and Singapore may find surprising uplift during the year as alternative sourcing spots for Chinese goods, and from the friction of IP theft practices.
The SNS Big Shift effects will continue to drive most of the technology landscape, with copiers copying copiers in a new generation of zero profit in exchange for others' designs and inventions (Xiaomi, anyone?). First-stage copiers like Samsung will get to take the hit, while second-generation copiers in China will show large-scale growth (e.g., Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo).
On the innovation side, the explosion in research on SNS-labeled PRP (Pattern Recognition Processor) chips and brain-inspired neuromorphic chips, augmented by serious leaps in artificial intelligence (AI), will begin to create a completely new generation of computing hardware and software.
On the healthcare front, work on blood parameters correlated with health states will combine with the current Quantified Self movement to accelerate a transfer of power from physician to patient; longer-term, this should lead to a healthier population, at lower cost. Chip-based tests for microbes and critical blood parameters will start to move diagnosis into real-time, and should lead (longer-term) into badges that can detect pathogens in public and private spaces.
3D printing should move during this year from the mostly prototype world of today into serious manufacturing, helped by early developments in the additive manufacturing first of graphene-doped polymers and shortly thereafter of pure graphene or graphene oxide materials. (See "Takeout Window.")
Every year we publicly rank the previous year's predictions and calculate our cumulative success rate since beginning this process 10 years ago. (SNS began the process of public grading back in 1995, when, for a few years, we graded every prediction in the newsletter once per quarter, until members insisted that indeed predicting the future really is possible, and asked for an end to the practice.)
This last year actually had a higher accuracy rate than most, with a year score for 2014 of 97%, pending final numbers on pricing for smartphones, particularly in Asia. Assuming this stands, the final cumulative score for Top 10 Predictions over the decade will then be 94.7%.
Here are the predictions for last year, with our scores attached. (SNS members are encouraged to disagree, or agree, if they have any data contradicting these scores.)
Some will find it amusing that a number of our predictions for last year are now showing up as others' predictions for next year.
I. Siris Into Silos. Internet Assistants display their importance as a category by spreading out into a large number of new Siri-like products, many of which work to increase utility by going deep into vertical markets. The results are improved success in voice recognition, knowledge base utility, and customer trust and acceptance.
II. Visualization Goes Mainstream. As Big Data, Cloud Computing, and vast increases in storage and processing take hold, the role of data visualization becomes much more common in our tools. Having created systems much more advanced than the human brain in these categories, we now must find improved ways of digesting all of this information.
III. Low price becomes a critical driver in global consumer electronics product creation, as emerging economies absorb a dramatically larger fraction of all devices sold. The result of bringing 100s of millions out of poverty is the creation of a new purchaser segment in consumer electronics.
IV. Sub-$100 Smartphones dominate the phone category.
V. Sub-$250 pads dominate the pad /CA category.
VI. Software Plays on a Flat Hardware Field, as we Build Out the Global Computer. This is the real mover behind everything in IT, from the blank black real estate of your cellphone and pad, to virtualized storage and servers, emulated processors, software-defined-networks and the most advanced cloud computing services. Even as hardware continues to advance, software is where most of the energy, innovation and action occur.
VII. The New Microsoft that No One Expected. Microsoft gets a new CEO, with a new power structure that encourages cooperation instead of warring factions, and which leads to improved success in consumer markets. The stock continues to climb, on an annualized basis, and Redmond starts to get some of its "mojo" back, defined by people wanting to work there.
VIII. Micromapping arrives. Various firms open the door on a brand new category in mapping, advertising, location and ID, and transactions. This MALT category launches in 2014, with small but fast-growing revenues that will become mammoth in years ahead.
IX. The Quantified Self Goes Mainstream. The idea of knowing more and more detail about your personal health and characteristics goes from being a science story to a jogger's delight to a mainstream market. Keeping track of your own health data in real time is no longer something for geeks and workout fanatics, but is accepted as a new and mainstream category of behavior, products, and preventative medicine. Doctors will have to start catching up.
X. Encryption Everywhere. The direct commercial result of Edward Snowden's leaks will be a massive move by large technology companies, both in enterprise and consumer markets, to evolve new encryption technologies and products that use them. While NSA-proofing will be the motivator, the real benefit may be improved protection of commercial IP from theft by China and other nations.
Following another annual tradition, the day before presenting them in NYC, I shared my predictions for the coming year with SNS members Bill Janeway and Cary Davis from Warburg Pincus, two of the most astute technology investors I know, and they seemed to pass with flying colors.
Here are our calls for the coming year:
I. Digital Currencies Multiply, and Go Nowhere. When will geeks learn that currencies are more than hard math problems, and require the good faith, economic strength and military power of a nation in order to warrant the trust of others? Not next year.
II. Net Neutrality Survives the onslaught of US lobbyists, but carriers are thrown a bone of some kind by old friend Tom Wheeler.
III. Pattern Recognition becomes the real goal of Predictive Analytics and Big Data collection, and PRP Chips (Pattern Recognition Processors) and a whole new ecology of tools and languages begin to arrive in developers' hands, setting the stage for a revolution in computing.
IV. Security takes its rightful place in the CEO agenda, and corporate spending on security reverses its current downward trend. The cost of building an insecure Internet is paying for security, and this is the year when all of the tickets come due at once. (Russia gains more fear and respect as a cyber warrior, and China gains more global scorn as a cyber thief of commercial IP, and the press will do a good job of confusing the two.)
V. VR remains exactly that virtual everywhere except in gaming and fringe entertainment. Just because Zuck has a good lunch date with Oculus, doesn't mean the rest of the world has not already taken a pass on this technology for decades.
VI. Amazon stumbles - as Jeff's appetite finally exceeds his reach, and customers are turned off by his megalomaniacal drive: the Fire phone debacle, off-book rocket adventures, hapless drone delivery scenarios, Hachette punishments, all lead to a loss of customer, and investor, confidence.
VII. Home Networks finally get off the launchpad, and it turns out that all people want is low energy bills, TVs everywhere and a single remote. What they don't want: talking refrigerators, things that don't work, complexity replacing reliability, more nested menus instead of real buttons, dumb things talking to other dumb things, or, worst of all, hackable home networks. Samsung and Apple lead the pack in this race.
VIII. Apple Pay succeeds, establishing its leadership in the new MALT category. With Mapping improved and Micro-mapping driven by Beacon, Advertising dollars following Beacon merchandising edge, Location provided by phones and Beacons, and the final Transactions step now well in hand with Apple Pay, Apple achieves the technical and market steps necessary for domination of retail and physical space services.
IX. Encryption continues its exponential expansion: everywhere, deeper and end to end, a continuing major trend. Thank you, again, Edward, for protecting us from China and Russia, as well as ourselves.
X. Personal Health, Fitness and Lifestyle devices merge. The doctor / patient relationship begins an inevitable and irreversible shift in power and cooperation. We'll see a flood of new watches, bands and jewelry, but intelligent clothing stays fashion-niched because of price and inconsistency. New goals for the device genre: non-invasive measurement of blood pressure and glucose levels, and for the fanciful: creative visual displays of body state, such as heart rate and galvanic skin response, perhaps even a lovers' proxy touch. New creative energies in science and design rush in.
This came up during our end-of-the-evening discussion at the Waldorf Astoria Predictions Dinner. While I won't show all my dirty laundry in public (there are dozens of possible calls that don't make the final cut), I thought it would be fun to include the one that got the most laughter in New York.
This prediction did not make the final cut for 2015 although it will likely come true:
"Facebook at Work" in corporations encounters No Chance At All. In other words, less than 10% of the Fortune 100 will use Facebook for the exchange of corporate private information. Zuckerberg to corp's: Trust me! Corp's to Zuck: Are you out of your mind?
All in all, this should be a year of major scientific advances, technological leaps coming from new and often-surprising sources, a lessening of interest in social media add-ins, and a growing interest in hard science and real discoveries. The economic growth rates are shifting back toward consistency and quality, and toward nations that show real innovation, even as IP theft continues to increase. The economic and trade conflict between these Infomercantilist Nations and Inventing Nations will increase.
Your comments are always welcome.
Mark R. Anderson
To arrange for a speech or consultation by Mark Anderson on subjects in technology and economics, or to schedule a strategic review of your company, email email@example.com.
We also welcome your thoughts about topics you would like to suggest for future coverage in the SNS Global Report.
"We are convinced that this approach will present a new paradigm for implementing 3D patterns in printed electronics.
"--- So far, to the best of our knowledge, nobody has reported 3D printed nanostructures composed entirely of graphene. Several results reported the 3D printing (millimeter- or centimeter-scale) of graphene or carbon nanotube/plastic composite materials by using a conventional 3D printer. In such composite system, the graphene (or CNT) plays an important role for improving the properties of plastic materials currently used in 3D printers. However, the plastic materials used for producing the composite structures deteriorate the intrinsic properties of graphene (or CNT)." Professor Seung Kwon Seol, Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI); quoted on Nanowerk.com. (See "Takeout Window.")
"The battery 300 also exhibits a fast recovery of its voltage within a few minutes after being fully discharged and without the application of external energy." From the Nokia patent on a mind-blowing new "energy autonomous" battery; quoted on nokiapoweruser.com. (See "Takeout Window.")
"The technology is new. But the principles are longer-lasting." Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, on the company's ongoing legal effort to ignore US subpoenas for emails on Irish (or other foreign) servers; quoted in the Seattle Times.
The company was joined in its battle this week by the ACLU and a large number of technology firms.
"It is the sense of Congress that [American national security space systems] are facing a serious growing foreign threat" from both Russia and China. The National Defense Authorization Act, passed last week, which, among other things, put an end to the US practice of buying and using Russian rocket engines in US rockets; quoted in the LA Times.
Members will recall an early mention of this enigma in SNS, just after the Russian invasion of Crimea.
"I would crawl on broken glass, dragging my exposed junk to get this deal." A Needham investment bank analyst, in an email to a colleague, noting his willingness to use analysis as a sales tool to obtain the ToysRUs IPO; quoted in USAToday.
Hey, I thought the Buy Side and the Sell Side had a Chinese Wall between them. Right, guys? This quote illustrates exactly what is broken in "Bank Culture" today, including the move to weaken bank regulation in this week's US budget passage.
"It shows a mastery of the sycophancy that can have results in China." Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of Beijing-based media research firm Danwei, on Mark Zuckerberg's fawning performance during a visit to Facebook HQ by Lu Wei, China's chief propagandist and Internet censor, and minister of China's Cyberspace Administration.
Should we invent a new award for sucking up to enemies of free speech and dictatorial governments? Propaganda Puppy? Faceless Book? But even these don't fully suggest the level of greed involved in groveling before the keeper of the Great Firewall.
"This is really a great moment for the mission." John P. Grotzinger, mission project scientist in charge of the Mars rover Curiosity; on the discovery of methane, and, most likely, life, on the Red Planet; quoted in the New York Times.
"These remedies come just in time to enable the domestic industry to return to conditions of fair trade. The tariffs and scope set the stage of companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on US soil." Mukesh Dulani, president of SolarWorld Americas, on the final US decision to impose tariffs on Chinese and Taiwanese solar panel makers because of past dumping; quoted in the NYT.
"SEIA [the Solar Energy Industries Association] has become nothing more than a tool used by Chinese companies to try and bankrupt and destroy American solar manufacturing." Erin Clark, PetersenDean president; quoted in the NYT.
» Nokia's Patented, Printable, Self-Charging,
Graphene-Based Photon Battery
Okay, so you've heard of batteries printed on flexible materials. Cool, but, not shocking. And you've heard of graphene. Very interesting material, often covered in SNS (where, in fact, you may have first heard about it).
And that's where the "normal" in this story ends and the Wonderfully New begins.
It turns out that Nokia was issued a patent recently for a process, design, and material that allow for "energy-autonomous" devices. We should all just chew on that one for a moment. What it means, in essence, is that Nokia has developed a new battery design that is self-recharging without needing to be plugged in to some electron or energy source.
Since there are a few laws of physics that would otherwise be violated, it's important to note that this achievement relies on a minimum humidity in ambient air of about 36% + (not unusual), and recharging occurs in a process that allows the reduction of graphene oxide in the presence of water. Once this occurs, it leads to the regeneration of pure graphene during discharge. And then the process continues.
Here are excerpts from a description of the patent, and some of its language, from the Nokia Power User website (Dec. 5, 2014):
"The generation of protons is facilitated by the presence of water. The configuration of the GO electrode with the water and the higher pH media renders the battery 300 a dynamic battery. In other words, the battery 300 is capable of regenerating itself immediately after discharge through continuous chemical reactions. In particular, the battery 300 may be automatically charged back to open circuit voltage without an external energy input. The result is a low-power, energy-autonomous device."
"Another great aspect of this invention lies in the fact that the Battery may use humid air to recharge itself."
"During operation, the battery 300 can generate an open circuit voltage on the order of about 1 volt (V) when in the presence of humid air (for example, when the relative humidity is about 30%). The battery 300 also exhibits a fast recovery of its voltage within a few minutes after being fully discharged and without the application of external energy."
"Much more amazing is the fact that it even can be printed on flexible substrates for making a flexible battery or can be made highly transparent."
"The battery 300 can be made flexible using printing technology. For example, the battery 300 can be printed onto a flexible substrate. The battery 300 can also be made to have highly transparent optical properties or elastomeric properties."
Thanks to SNS member Steve Waite for bringing this to our attention.
You can find the full article here:
And here is a diagram from the patent, showing the battery itself:
What it doesn't show above, but tells us, is that being graphene, this entire autonomous battery can be printed onto a flexible substrate, and be transparent.
Summary: With all the talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), the most pressing issues have to do with sensor types, their cost, and how they will be powered. The idea of having to connect them all with wires seems shortsighted at best, and the need to power them wirelessly is also limiting.
But what if they powered themselves?
It looks like Nokia just gave the IoT a birthday the first day when future sensors became free of power tethering.
Wow. Thank you, Graphene, and thank you, Nokia.
Those following SNS know that we have been agitating for the marriage of graphene and its seemingly endless properties with 3D printing technology and its potential for creating a revolution in manufacturing.
The bringing-together of these two ideas represents two-thirds of the SNS Global Trifecta Initiative as the quickest way to stop all CO2 pollution by energy plants. In fact, since our last update, several major steps have occurred moving this forward, including: the first plant in Louisiana has taken all CO2 from a smokestack and used it for commercial, chemical purposes; and a new discovery in using fuel-cell processes to absorb this CO2 and turn it into surplus energy has been announced.
I'll also note that graphene now looks like a primary constituent of fuel cells in the future, both as a membrane and perhaps also replacing some of the expensive catalysts in the cells.
This week, a new announcement came, via scientific publication, of the first successful printing of a pure graphene structure (in this case, a wire) by a 3D printer. This may not sound like much, but to my view it is everything.
Until now, all 3D printing of graphene has been essentially based on printing polymers, with small fractions of graphene added for strength. This works fine, but doesn't open the door to making use of all of pure graphene's chemical and physical characteristics.
If the world is going to print whole computers, cars, and houses with a single 3D printer and really revolutionize manufacturing, pure graphene (or something close to it) will need to be the substrate.
So: it has started.
Below is a diagram of the technique used, on a nano scale. Essentially the idea was to use the meniscus of a nano pipette filled with aqueous graphene oxide solution; at the interface with air, and at the right dispenser and pulling rate, the water evaporates during deposition, leaving GO. After printing, this can be reduced with hydrazine, leaving pure graphene.
And there you have it: the strongest and best-conducting wire ever made, printed for the first time with a 3D printer. Make sure to watch the too-short, totally unimpressive movie in the related link.
One would hardly guess this was the first day of a new age in manufacturing. But it is.
Schematic diagram of GO nanowire fabrication by pulling a micropipette filled with an aqueous GO suspension (GO sheet thickness = 0.9 0.1 nm) and stretching the meniscus during water evaporation. In the circle (lower right): FE-SEM image showing a grown rGO nanowire with r = 400 nm. (Reprinted with permission by Wiley-VCH Verlag)
From an article on Nanowerk.com:
For the first time, researchers have now demonstrated 3D printed nanostructures composed entirely of graphene using a new 3D printing technique. The research team, led by Professor Seung Kwon Seol from Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI), has published their findings in the November 13, 2014 online edition of Advanced Materials ("3D Printing of Reduced Graphene Oxide Nanowires").
"We developed a nanoscale 3D printing approach that exploits a size-controllable liquid meniscus to fabricate 3D reduced graphene oxide (rGO) nanowires," Seol explains to Nanowerk. "Different from typical 3D printing approaches which use filaments or powders as printing materials, our method uses the stretched liquid meniscus of ink. This enables us to realize finer printed structures than a nozzle aperture, resulting in the manufacturing of nanostructures."
Read more, and see the video, here:
» Peak Pricing, Not Peak Oil
Oil price collapse is now the biggest story in the global economy, bar none. SNS members remember our prediction on this, no doubt when everyone was used to price volatility and no one believed that such a fall was possible. In the short time from the October 2nd SNS written on the 1st, when oil was just over $93/bbl to now, when it is around $56 , we've already seen most of this call come true.
Here is what we said on October 2nd:
SNS was probably the first to debunk the latest "Peak Oil" cry of Wolf!, catching the trend within days, if not hours. Aren't you glad you aren't the author of that book?
Today, the world is seeing falling oil prices, even as war rages on in the Middle East. This has given some traders pause, as they are used to the tried and true "bullets = bucks" equation for one of the many ways cartels, and traders, keep the prices moving, and going up. Some New York traders are even wondering if, this time, it's different.
The advent of fracking, and new oil discoveries on and offshore, have fundamentally changed the psychology and the ground truth of the oil market. No one wants to deal with the Middle East anymore, and no one really needs to. The OPEC cartel is essentially no longer a cartel, having lost its corner on the market long ago. And the press forward with alternative energies is not good news for the oil lobby.
Just ask the Rockefeller family how they feel. Having been publicly rebuked a few years ago by management of the company they founded, and in which they were still the largest shareholders, they are this week divesting from all fossil fuel firms, including climate-change denier ExxonMobil. In a statement, they noted they would be investing in alternative energy sources going forward.
I've long said that the real price of oil meaning, the cost of getting it out of the ground plus making a reasonable (vs. rapacious) profit is in the $14/bbl range. With increased costs for difficulty of retrieval (deeper wells and waters) and more advanced technology, that price should be higher; perhaps it's $45-$55 today.
Here's a quick look at where prices are going:
While a chartist might see the end of this fall somewhere around $90/bbl, I am suggesting that we have much further to go.
$50/bbl should do it. How long will it take? Since I think China is hitting a real set of economic blocks, I am expecting this to be sooner, rather than later; perhaps 5 years or less, rather than 10.
And since this will change almost everything in global economics, it seems worth sharing with our members.
I don't think oil is ever coming back." SNS, October 2, 2014
And here is a chart from this week:
We are extremely proud to have made this call at $92.96/bbl. We hope we have saved or made large amounts of money for every SNS member affected by energy pricing.
SNS: the first to call the oil price crash. And while sanctions against Russia are taking their toll, the real story is the devastation on the Russian economy created by oil price collapse:
This summer, a dollar bought around 34 rubles. Now, it buys about 62.
Most endangered in the short term? Exporters of goods and services to Russia: China, Germany, Japan, and Eastern Europe.
I don't think Mr. Putin is an SNS member. Yet.
RE: "SNS: From Social to Science: The Next Trends in Investing"
I wonder how the Fed is now going to try and control myriad credit busts related to a prolonged low-priced oil environment. It also makes one wonder what other industry / market contagion effects will surface as a result of this new problem, the magnitude of each, and in what order???
The Gov't / Fed better make their moves quickly in order to prevent an intense snowball effect that is, if there are any that they can even make. Then there's the risk of further unintended consequences
This Bloomberg story on what may happen to energy companies that took on debt at very low rates, and now have reduced oil priced-revenues by which to repay them, is likely on target.
Even so, I think the overall story of lower-cost energy has to be a real win on a global basis as long as alternative energy projects continue to grow.
Oil profits are nothing less than a global tax on essentially all goods and services, worldwide, paid to just a very few. Those few have never shown responsible use, and often end up being the source of military or political conflict. The current surge in supply of hydrocarbons, if properly managed, can rid the world's businesses of this tax burden, and the world's citizens of these wars.
I am clapping.
This is a great article and resonates deeply with me.
One area that you did not cover and it would be worth a session at FiRe next year (if you don't mind me suggesting it) is Fusion. Lockheed Martin has recently made an extraordinary claim that fusion is possible with 10 years on a commercial scale (see <http://aviationweek.com/technology/skunk-works-reveals-compact-fusion-reactor-details>.
Also see the IEEE Article on Fusion:- <http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/inside-the-dynomak-a-fusion-technology-cheaper-than-coal>). If they are correct this changes everything!
Also, I know you did a session on D-Wave systems at FiRe a few years back, but I think that this is also a topic that could be revisited. My understanding is that there is a deep division between D-Wave systems and other researchers in quantum computing. The dichotomy appears to be that D-Wave has a manufacturable solution (based on adiabatic quantum computing), but there is scepticism as to whether it will give the exponential speed up in solving real machine learning / pattern recognition problems.
On the other hand, the so-called digital quantum computing does not appear to be manufacturable at any scale of value for decades to come.
Subject: Are we waking up, a little?
Now that we're #2?
[Founder, Pivot Conferences
While I was in Australia, China tried to have a professor in a Melbourne university punished for teaching things that China didn't want taught. I thought this was wayyyyy out of line, even with the close relationship between the two.
So, this current response a few months later is less surprising.
"China expresses its dissatisfaction and strong opposition" to the US budget bill passed last week, to quote a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson,