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Technologies are everything we build to interact with the world. Fire, for instance, always existed but humans found a way to control and generate it. When that happened, the method of controlling fire became a technology (at least at that moment).
Throughout time, human development and evolution were followed by novel discoveries in approaching nature, and technology, in a broader sense, is the means we used for accomplishing it (e.g., the wheel, water trenches, agriculture, etc.).
As soon as these tools became an inseparable part of our routine, the complexity of these tools was proportional to the complexity of human needs. Nowadays, technological development achieved a certain degree of independence, detached from the hands of its creator and more likely conditioned to how society makes use of these tools.
How Do We Scout Technological Objects?
The process of scouting emerging technologies (or put simply; detecting new objects worthy of observation and analysis), takes into account some criteria:
Is this object being used to solve a specific problem?
Is this object a combination of different components and segments?
Is this object being continuously updated?
These questions are the basis for determining whether we have spotted an emerging object or not. Within these questions, we also have a set of categories that stipulate more closely how we understand and perceive these objects. Our proprietary methodology looks at how emerging technologies behave in a certain environment: this is what gives us tools to define their specific category.
We work with three different categories: Technology Applications, Methods, and Domains.
To define which is the fittest category to a specific emerging technology, we observe their technical parameters, not their usages (e.g., in the case of the table, stability, flat surface). The usage given to technology is merely a consequence of its technical parameters ("book supporter" is not what defines the table, but one of its use cases).
To better understand these different categories, you are now invited to dive deeper into our methodology.
Technology Domains are at the top of the tree in our technology database. They are the springboard for the development of other technological objects such as methods and applications. The Domain pages are a great way to get started in our research. Like scientific fields of research, technology domains allow researchers to be inspired to develop and create technology methods and applications related to a specific technology domain.
Technology Domains are constantly updated by our team of technology experts and includes a description containing answers to questions that disclose common discussions associated with technological developments. For example, will AI take our jobs in the future? What are the latest signs of progress made in the AI field?
Technology Applications are technological objects in context, in service of specific purposes. The application of these objects relies upon the specs of their components, whereas the technical parameters and the segments that comprise a technology application are what define their functions and real-life applications.
Technology Applications evolve or stagnate throughout time, therefore, can be measured based on TRLs. This means that depending on their inner components' evolution, a technology application can develop or deteriorate. Also, Technology Applications are categorized according to a series of criteria, such as their relevance to Sustainability Impact and Gender Impact ratings, their relation to SDGs, Sectors, and TOPICS, as well as their association to Technology Domains. All Technology Applications are linked to the main organizations involved in their development, and a list of academic papers, scientific research, and other sources used as references.
Technology Methods are distinct from Domains and Applications because they are technical procedures or approaches —ways of using technology Applications to accomplish a certain task. Technology Methods do not evolve, and if any segment of the method happens to change, it becomes a different method, therefore, is not measured through Technology Readiness Level (TRL).
At Envisioning, we focus more on forecasting Technology Domains and Applications, but the purpose of the Technology Methods is to illustrate how technology is presently being used. Methods are associated with Technology Domains, and for accessing them, you can explore the Technology Domains page and navigate their relations and associations.
A recent addition to our methodology is the creation of Stories. Stories are narratives focused on the convergence and interplay between Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications. Put it plainly, our database of Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications function as an encyclopedia for consulting how these technological objects work, and the Stories is the place we investigate the implications of the use of these objects. In a sense, Stories are where we disclose the purposes and meaningful associations of these technological objects to our context as a society.
In the Stories area, you will find articles that examine the political, social, ecological, economic, and individual outcomes of the application of emerging technologies in certain areas or circumstances, always pointing to connections with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A few of these formats are:
Future Scenarios: Illustrative narratives based on future scenarios and the convergence of Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications designed to be provocative and inspiring. These scenarios are both argumentative and explanatory guides for rising paradigms that influence daily life.
Case Studies: A presentation or analysis of use cases, recent events, or business models to exemplify how Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications are being deployed and forecasting future perspectives and opportunities and challenges that may need to be addressed.
Ideas for Change: New business models and policies that target sustainable development, inspired by or when employing emerging technologies.
Sci-fi Chronicles (coming soon): Short fictional stories about the future. They bring up real Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications within a narrative and present their dystopic or utopic inclinations. This is science fiction meets technological development. In short, sharp, and potentially shocking stories.
Interviews (coming soon): Texts based on a structured conversation presenting an industry expert, investigating their expertise and personal take on a subject.
Articles (coming soon): Lists, essays, reviews, photo essays, and ideas for change that focus on specific themes and/or Technology Domains, Methods, and Applications.
Stories can be grouped into affinity groups. This is what we call Editorial Projects. Editorial Projects are groups of Stories interconnected by a common main subject. Editorial Projects help create visions of intricate subjects and expand the limits of individual stories, thus enabling readers to access more diversified topics of a specific subject.
For example, the Tracing Infrastructure Editorial Project englobes a Case Study about Digital Twins, a Future Scenario of how a hyperlinked supply chain would look like in 2030, a List of 5 emerging technologies expected to impact supply chains in the future, and a series of related Technology Domains, Methods, Applications, and additional Stories.
In addition to the categories previously mentioned, we developed a series of metrics that work as a measurement standard to disclose the degree of development of each of the technological objects we have added to our technology database. The metrics we use are only applied for Technology Applications, as these objects can stagnate or evolve throughout time, therefore, it is worth having a standard to keep track of these changes. These metrics range from:
Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a metric that shows the development stage of a Technology Application. It ranges from 1 to 9; the higher the ranking, the more technically ready. Technology Applications can be, at the same time, scientifically ready (TRL 9) but not yet widespread throughout the globe. The TRL helps in filtering and comparing Technology Applications that are more technically developed or are too incipient depending on the objectives set for a specific project or goal.
Sustainability Impact intends to evaluate the potential impact of Technology Applications in four different sustainability dimensions: economic, ecological, social, and cross-cutting questions. Each dimension has three criteria, derived into questions and exemplified with signals that outline how these criteria might come to life. This metric work as a filter to compare and analyze Technology Applications that have a higher potential to impact the sustainability dimension of your interest
Each dimension is rated from -2 (High negative impact) to +2 (High positive impact) by the techDetector Assessment team. The arithmetic mean of the three criteria from each dimension is then used as the final dimension score. Finally, the Sustainability Impact score is calculated using the arithmetic mean of all four dimension scores.
Gender Impact intends to assess the potential gender equality outcome that the widespread use of a Technology Application might imply in the social fabric of communities. This metric work as a filter to compare and analyze Technology Applications that have a greater potential to impact the gender equality dimension of your interest. The metric was designed to measure the following three main vectors:
Does the technological footprint produced by this technology positively or negatively impact gender equality?
Can this technology enhance data monitoring systems to ensure the redistribution of opportunities and resources among all?
Does this technology tackle unconscious gender bias by alleviating preconceived societal norms and rules?
Each dimension is rated from -2 (High negative impact/ Promotes gender-based disadvantages) to +2 (High positive impact / Advances towards the goal of gender equality) by the techDetector Assessment team. All dimensions are divided into two categories (Resources, for instance, is divided into “Productive and financial resources” and “Educational resources”), and each category contains one question covering the aforementioned three main vectors.
The arithmetic mean of the two questions contained in every category is used as the final dimension score of a category. The Responsive Gender Metric score is calculated using the arithmetic mean of all categories, thus resulting in the final score concerning a dimension.
Sectors are areas of expertise within GIZ's sectoral divisions. They serve as an additional qualitative indicator to all Technology Applications, Domains, and Stories added in the techDetector. Sectors work as an additional filtering option to compare and analyze the technological objects that are fittest to your interest.
There are currently seven different sectors comprised of various topics related to sustainable development:
Climate Environment Management of Natural Resources →
Economic Development and Employment →
Governance and Democracy →
Rural Development and Agriculture →
Security Reconstruction and Peace →
Social Development →
Sustainable Infrastructure: Water, Energy & Transportation →
To make exploration in the techDetector even more straightforward, each Sector groups TOPICS related to sustainable development. The Social Development Sector, for example, has nineteen TOPICS that range from Education to Global Finance. It is important to notice that Topics might repeat in different Sectors if they are relevant to the matter.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations are a collection of 17 goals to be achieved by 2030 that evaluate the sustainable impact of sectoral practices. We use this categorization to filter the associated Stories & Applications with UN's SDGs, thus working as an additional feature to help on decision-making and evaluating the impact of the technology objects we work with.
Each Technology Application is categorized depending on the industry they are applied. This means that technological objects function depending on the economic activity they play a key role. For determining the related industries to a particular Technology Application, we take into account the following determinants:
The potential or current impact of this Technology Application in a certain or several industries;
The areas involved in the development and distribution of this particular Technology Application.
Industries are used not for isolating Technology Applications from one another, but highlighting a particular sector and creating a network of associations.
Thank you for taking the time to getting to know our methodology. If you would like to collaborate, please contact the techDetector team for more information →