Every major industry today was started as a micro industry. Everything from steel, to photography, oil, airlines, electricity, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and search engines all worked their way into existence from a tiny starting point.
Many of the oldest ones like steel, automotive, and pharmaceuticals took centuries to grow into the massive global industries they are today. But those created with digital technologies like search engines and smart phones sprang to life in only a few years.
Countless businesses are already feeling the first waves of disruption as industry veterans are hoping to navigate the turbulent waters ahead. As always, it much easier to visualize what goes away than what comes next.
In his 2006 book, Long Tail, author Chris Anderson said, “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.”
While much of Anderson’s thinking was focused on 3D printing and flying drones, virtually every emerging technology offers an innovative playground for makers, inventors, and startup junkies.
100,000 New Micro Industries
Over the coming two decades we will be witnessing an unprecedented wave of innovation and creativity driven by new tools of production. During this time we will see an explosion of over 100,000 new micro industries that will employ hundreds of millions of people.
As example, the global market for shoes is 21 billion annually. Within five years, 5% of these will fall into the category of smart shoes. That means in just a few years we will be producing over 1 billion smart shoes every year.
During that same time we’ll begin seeing a new era of industrial grade scanners, 3D printers, thousands of new printable materials, and an equal number of new sensors and data collection devices.
This means that virtually anyone with a passion for shoes can launch their own micro footwear industry. Even carving out a tiny niche selling 2,500 smart shoes a year at $200 each is enough to launch a sustainable half-million-dollar micro industry.
In the shoe industry alone, 10,000 startups selling 2,500 shoes a year will only amount to 25 million shoes in a 21-billion shoe marketplace. That’s little more than a rounding error for the current industry.
With our evolving new pallet for shoe designers, we will likely see super niche markets for diabetic shoes, lacrosse players, steel-toed occupations, hockey players, sailors, sleep apnea, mountain climbers, gymnasts, amputees, window washers, and organ players. There may even be special shoes for every known allergy, self-navigating shoes for the directionally impaired, dog shoes, cat shoes, and shocker shoes for correcting certain additions.
The smartest of smart shoes will even come to you when you call them by name.
Since it will soon become easy to summon a driverless car, it will no longer be necessary to own one, leaving the garage empty. An empty garage tends to be a magnet for all the junk that accumulates over time, but it also represents an opportunity, an opportunity to become something else. And this will lead to a number of possible micro industries.
One option is to remodel two and three-car garages into AirBNB rentals that you operate yourself, allowing you can make a tidy extra income on the side. Another option is to work with Marriott, Hyatt, or Wyndham and create a branded rental as part of the new distributed city experience they’re working on.
An empty garage can also be rented as a startup space or creative space for painters, sculptors, inventors, or musicians. Much like a distributed hotel operation it can also be part of a distributed storage operation.
88 Examples with our New Tools of Production
The following examples are intended to give you a creative launchpad for how to think about these emerging micro industries.
Every micro industry will be defined by a few key startups that define and demonstrate a functional business model and prove a specific market segment.
1. Speed dating – Random people enter a driverless vehicle and speed around while getting to know each other.
2. Mobile retail storefronts – As an owner of a mobile retail store, you write your own rules about store hours, location, products, and service offerings.
3. Mobile grocery stores – Niche food selection services such as bread shops, fruit shops, vegetable shops, etc.
4. Mobile banks – As branch banks disappear, mobile banks may very well take their place.
5. Mobile repair businesses – Our repair culture is set to go hi-tech with things like an Apple Genius Bar on wheels, IoT installations, hacker-proofing of houses, etc.
6. Mobile medical services – Urgent care on wheels.
7. Mobile conversation salons – Lonely people are always looking for a way to fit in. With mobile conversation salons, you sign up for whatever discussion topic you’re interested in and the driverless RV will let you know how soon it can pick you up.
8. Mobile gaming teams – Gaming moves to a whole new level when 6-12 rowdy players team up in a mobile setting to play Destiny, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed. Much like flight attendants on an airplane, roving waitresses will offer an assortment of food, snacks, and cocktails to the participants.
As we move past the hobbyist era of flying drones we will witness an eruption of niche startups that will serve as the anchors for trailblazing new industries.
9. Real-time terrain modeling
10. Policing drones
11. Gaming drones
12. Security drones
13. News media drones
14. Mixed reality recording drones
15. Canary in a coalmine drones
16. Bird herding drones
Most people tend to overlook the possibilities for the less sexy ground-based drones.
17. Night delivery drones – Delivery companies will be able to achieve a 10X increase in stops per hour based on off-hour delivery times.
18. Pizza prep, cook, and delivery drones
19. Drone delivery boxes – Large mailboxes for the package delivery industry.
20. Drone repair services – When drones break down in the field, they will require a mobile/drone repair service
21. Data collection drones
22. Invisible fence drones
23. Eyes-on-the-problem drones
24. Drone jousting matches
Drone Command Centers
As the drone industry matures, many organizations will transition from one-off drones to fleets of drones. These fleet of drones will require their own unique command center to manage the duties and tasks of these machines.
25. City command centers
26. Police command centers
27. University command centers
28. Farmers/agriculture command centers
29. Prison command centers
30. News station command center
31. Ski resort command center
32. Theme park command center
Every year the MEMs and sensor industry finds new ways to detect different aspects of the world around us. These sensors give us insight into the overall quality of the environments around us.
33. Thermal inspection sensors
34. Mold monitoring sensors
35. Personal mood sensors
36. Hair health monitoring sensors
37. Sleep quality sensors
38. Smell sensors (periodic table of smells)
39. Harmful animal sensors
40. Impending danger sensors
Over the coming decades we will find tens of thousands of ways to make micro improvements in all the materials, scanning, and printing processes associated with 3D printing.
41. Food printers
42. Ice printers
43. Select-your-ingredients candy bar printers
44. Shoe printers
45. Jewelry printers
46. Clothing printers
47. Purse printers
48. Pillow printers
Large-scale 3D printing used in the construction industry is called contour crafting.
49. Gazebo printers
50. Stage printers
51. Bridge printers
52. House printers
53. Commercial building printers
54. Statue (sculpture) printers
55. Storage cube printers
56. Park bench printers
Everything we do with money today will be reinvented in the emerging cryptocurrency era.
57. Crypto banks
58. Crypto insurance
59. Crypto loans
60. Crypto coaches and advisors
61. Crypto wealth managers
62. Crypto cops and fraud investigators
63. Crypto identity protection specialists
64. Crypto tax specialists
VR-AR Mixed Reality
The immersive and semi-immersive forms of engagement that takes place in mixed reality will begin to uncover thousands of seemingly little applications over the coming decades.
65. VR-AR therapy – Cure phobias, stress, anxiety, and traumatic experiences.
66. VR-AR education and training – Learn by doing, but with a teacher/coach to help guide you.
67. VR-AR news – Experience the news first hand.
68. VR-AR gaming – Thousands of new games will soon leverage the VR-AR experience.
69. VR-AR movies – Immerse yourself into the storytelling experience.
70. VR-AR haptic experiences – Feel the experience via sports, dangerous situations,
71. VR-AR vacations – Go there without being there.
72. VR-AR coaching – Having smart people looking over your shoulder.
If we think of AI as a talent-enhancing tool, we can begin to imagine entire new industries surrounding the creative arts.
73. AI-enhanced songwriters
74. AI-enhanced sculptors
75. AI-enhanced writers
76. AI-enhanced architects
77. AI-enhanced VR storytellers
78. AI-enhanced swarmbot management systems
79. AI-enhanced puzzle-makers
80. AI-enhanced performance artists
Most people have heard about blockchain in tandem with Bitcoin’s rise as the flagship of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is more than just bitcoin, it’s a method of tracking transactions using technology that could prove to be revolutionary.
81. Blockchain voting systems
82. Blockchain auditing systems
83. Blockchain quality assurance systems
84. Blockchain smart contracts
85. Blockchain supply chain management
86. Blockchain ethics management systems
87. Blockchain food tracking systems
88. Blockchain wealth management systems
Micro industries will range from manufacturing products, to collecting data, designing systems, advising, coaching, monitoring, building, disassembling, and reinventing business in unique and different ways.
With the help of thousands of collaborators, micro industries will spring to life around niches far too small for existing industries to care about. But is in these minuscule advances that great opportunities take root.
A simple coffee mug can be redesigned in thousands of different ways. The same holds true for every toothbrush, piece of clothing, ink pen, lamp, chair, and hundreds of other frequently bought consumer products.
We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace change on a massive scale will be best equipped to flourish during the coming decades.
Thomas Frey is the Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, a Certified Speaking Professional, and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker. He works closely with his Board of Visionaries to develop original research studies, which enables him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities.
As part of the celebrity speaking circuit, Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come. His keynote talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level government officials to executives in Fortune 100 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Capital One, Bell Canada, Visa, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, International Council of Shopping Centers, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, Times of India, and many more.