WEF’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2024

Combining computing power with virtual and augmented reality, these technologies promise rapid improvements in infrastructure and daily systems. This

Combining computing power with virtual and augmented reality, these technologies promise rapid improvements in infrastructure and daily systems. This

Published Jun 25, 2024


The World Economic Forum on Tuesday released the Top 10 Emerging Technologies report on Tuesday, which are:

1. AI for scientific discovery: While artificial intelligence (AI) has been used in research for many years, advances in deep learning, generative AI and foundation models are revolutionizing the scientific discovery process. AI will enable researchers to make unprecedented connections and advancements in understanding diseases, proposing new materials, and enhancing knowledge of the human body and mind.

2. Privacy-enhancing technologies: Protecting personal privacy while providing new opportunities for global data sharing and collaboration, “synthetic data” is set to transform how information is handled with powerful applications in health-related research.

3. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces: These innovative surfaces turn ordinary walls and surfaces into intelligent components for wireless communication while enhancing energy efficiency in wireless networks. They hold promise for numerous applications, from smart factories to vehicular networks.

4. High-altitude platform stations: Using aircraft, blimps and balloons, these systems can extend mobile network access to remote regions, helping bridge the digital divide for over 2.6 billion people worldwide.

5. Integrated sensing and communication: The advent of 6G networks facilitates simultaneous data collection (sensing) and transmission (communication). This enables environmental monitoring systems that help in smart agriculture, environmental conservation and urban planning. Integrated sensing and communication devices also promise to reduce energy and silicon consumption.

6. Immersive technology for the built world: Combining computing power with virtual and augmented reality, these technologies promise rapid improvements in infrastructure and daily systems. This technology allows designers and construction professionals to check for correspondence between physical and digital models, ensuring accuracy and safety and advancing sustainability.

7. Elastocalorics: As global temperatures rise, the need for cooling solutions is set to soar. Offering higher efficiency and lower energy use, elastocalorics release and absorb heat under mechanical stress, presenting a sustainable alternative to current technologies.

8. Carbon-capturing microbes: Engineered organisms convert emissions into valuable products like biofuels, providing a promising approach to mitigating climate change.

9. Alternative livestock feeds: protein feeds for livestock sourced from single-cell proteins, algae and food waste could offer a sustainable solution for the agricultural industry.

10. Genomics for transplants: The successful implantation of genetically engineered organs into a human marks a significant advancement in healthcare, offering hope to millions awaiting transplants.

The WEF Top 10 Emerging Technologies report is a vital source of strategic intelligence. First published in 2011, it draws on insights from scientists, researchers and futurists to identify 10 technologies poised to significantly influence societies and economies. These emerging technologies are disruptive, attractive to investors and researchers, and expected to achieve considerable scale within five years.

Frederick Fenter, the Chief Executive Editor of Frontiers, and Jeremy Jurgens, the Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, say in the foreword of the report, “Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), such as deep learning, generative AI and foundation models, enable remarkable progress in strengthening human innovation. The world is on the cusp of a science discovery revolution driven by AI.

“Uniquely able to ingest and organise vast amounts of information, AI-enabled discoveries will likely improve disease management, propose new materials and better our understanding of the body and mind. Meanwhile, synthetic data can protect personal privacy while providing new global data sharing and collaboration opportunities,” they said.

They said collaboration relies on connection, and several of the top 10 herald a shift to more adaptive, efficient and inclusive connectivity.

“Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) change shape dynamically to optimise wireless communication links; they combine meta-materials, smart algorithms and advanced signal processing to control and manipulate electromagnetic waves.

“High-altitude platform stations, through aircraft, blimps or even simple balloons, can bring mobile network access to remote regions lacking the infrastructure required to deploy ground-based systems.”

Fenter and Jurgens said such technology could bridge the digital divide, bringing internet access to over 2.6 billion people in 100 countries that still lacked internet service as of 2023.

“With the emergence of 6G systems, networks can now act as sensors, using radio signals to scan the physical world, improving communication performance and enabling integrated sensing and communication.

“Improving the state of the world also means protecting our planet and people. This year, human health saw the first genetically engineered organ from a pig implanted successfully into a human, giving hope to the millions waiting for transplants. Immersive technologies, combining computing power and virtual approaches, promise rapid improvement in the systems and physical infrastructure we rely on daily.”

They said on the environmental front, many of the top 10 demonstrated how technology can play a multifaceted role in addressing climate change, encompassing mitigation strategies, sustainable infrastructure development and promoting energy efficient solutions.

“Elastocalorics, releasing heat under mechanical stress and absorbing it upon relaxation, promise much higher efficiency and lower energy use than current technology.

“Similarly, another positive environmental development is the emergence of alternative livestock feeds, reducing agroindustry waste or residues, native crop depletion and related resource consumption.”

Fenter and Jurgens said additionally, addressing global warming head-on, engineered organisms that convert emissions into products such as biofuels offered hope for mitigating increasing carbon dioxide levels.