50 tech trends transforming food, finance, and other industries

Written by:
March 8, 2019
Updated on March 11, 2019
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50 tech trends transforming food, finance, and other industries

Alexander Graham Bell was awarded a U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876. Nearly 100 years later on April 3, 1973, the very first mobile phone call was made. A comparatively short 34 years later, the iPhone debuted as the first-ever smartphone. The World Wide Web arrived in 1990, and today fridges, cars, and watches all carry the power of the internet and have helped to create an "Internet of things," or IoT. Technology, it seems, is advancing at a faster rate than ever before. Looking at technology as a general concept can reaffirm that the world is changing, but looking at how technology is affecting certain industries is where the nuances of change are seen. Stacker is taking a more microscopic look at how technology trends are transforming the automotive, film, finance, food, and retail industries.

If 1990 is thought of as the dawn of the internet, what will be the marker of today? When diving into the technological trends affecting various industries today, certain tech arenas kept reappearing. Robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones are pushing technological advancements across industries. The goals in utilizing these technologies seem to reverberate across industries as well. Streamlining processes, reducing waste, increasing safety, predicting financial outcomes, and increasing customization are just a few of the reasons these technologies have found their places in the researched sectors. Though it is not a stated goal, one repercussion of these technology trends may be the loss of human jobs. One notable exception to this is the farming industry, where new technologies are playing a larger role in order to account for a current shortage of workers.

In investigating these tech trends and their industry impact, Stacker used trusted trend lists such as the CB Insights retail trends and CB Insights auto and mobility reports as a starting point. From these lists, individual searches were made to find research to corroborate the trend and its prevalence in the industry. The result is 50 tech trends across five different industries with more than 50 unique sources.

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The evolution of meal kits

Direct-to-consumer meal kit subscription services have seen a general trend in growth since making their U.S. debut in 2013. The growth is expected to last until about 2023 and then slow. The meal kits, which rely on customers to order and customize via website or app, is beginning to transform into a product rather than a service, as many grocery retailers have partnered with meal kit services to offer the kits in-store. When purchased in-store and paired with grocery delivery, meal kit consumers will still be able to have the kits delivered to their door, but without the subscription.

Robotics in the food industry

Advancements in robotics are changing the food industry as machines—once designed to pick up metal—have now evolved to have the agility to pick up an egg. Nine out of 10 food processing and packaging companies used robotics in 2018. Robotics in the food industry are even being credited with increased efficiency and food safety, as well as decreased workplace injuries.

Biometric connected cars

In 2018, a biometric connected car was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show. The premise behind biometrics is that each person can be uniquely identified by his biological and behavioral data. So what is a biometric connected car? It is a car that uses an iris scanner to identify the driver, which in turn unlocks the car's operating system and subsequent connection to a smart home system.

Buy online, pick up in store

It began over 10 years ago with Best Buy, but now the option to buy online and pick up in-store has expanded to other retailers such as Walmart and Target. “Buy online, pick up in store” sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19, 2018 increased 47% over the previous year. The growing trend can be attributed to both the speed at which someone can receive these items (usually within an hour of ordering) and the elimination of worrying about porch thieves.

Food-sorting robots

By the year 2050, it is estimated that the world's population will number more than 9 billion humans. The food industry is beginning to troubleshoot what feeding that many people will require, and it's predicted to result in a minimum 70% increase in food production. Enter food sorting robots. TOMRA Sorting Solutions has developed food-sorting robots with cameras and near-infrared sensors that have been trained to view foods the way humans do and thereby sort them accordingly.


The marriage of virtual reality (VR) and the health care industry may not seem like a natural one, but a computer system called Bravemind is questioning convention. Doctors are using the system for prolonged exposure therapy. This type of therapy helps U.S. troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan relive stressful events of war in a safe environment as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Autonomous vehicles for retail deliveries

In Jan. 2019, Amazon began a pilot program for Scout, an Amazon-developed autonomous vehicle, to deliver packages in Washington state. Initially, Scout was accompanied by a human employee, but the goal was to create excitement around autonomous vehicle delivery while testing the viability of it. While some tech experts are unsure if autonomous vehicles are the future for retail, the trend seems to be moving toward experience-based retailing.

Autonomous vehicles for food and grocery deliveries

With grocery companies such as Kroger teaming up with the tech firm Nuro and Walmart running a trial with Waymo, it seems as if autonomous food deliveries are becoming an industry priority. In November 2018, Walmart announced a partnership with Ford to deliver groceries via self-driving cars in the Miami area. The goal is to learn the best way to deliver items to customers using autonomous vehicles.

Machine learning to examine food

In May 2018, tech start-up Hyper AI took first place at a machine learning hackathon for their proposed hyper-spectral imaging of food. This technology would be able to scan food to detect foreign objects and even deadly bacteria. In theory, this technology would significantly reduce foodborne illness.

Blockchain technology for food accountability

IBM is bringing blockchain technology to the food supply with IBM Food Trust, which promises benefits such as better food safety and freshness, less food waste, and improved supply chain efficiencies. Users of the software will receive real-time updates of the food supply chain and recalls, and thus be able to respond to recalls faster.

Autonomous navigation in farming

In order to address the farm worker shortage and growing demand for food, farms are turning to autonomous tractors. Self-driving tractors, introduced in 2016 by the companies Case IH and New Holland, can work the fields for more hours in the day than a human could. These tractors also boast great accuracy and the ability to collect data such as moisture levels and total yield.

Peer-to-peer car rentals

Sometimes likened to the “Airbnb for cars,” peer-to-peer car rentals are gaining traction. The premise behind peer-to-peer car rentals, or car sharing as it is sometimes called, is for owners to rent out their cars while they are sitting idle, ideally recouping some of their car expenses in the process. Companies such as Turo, Getaround, and JustShareIt have online and app platforms that match renters with owners.

Fruit-picking robots

Fruit picking has proven to be a somewhat problematic industry, between its difficult labor and dwindling workforce (despite increased hourly wages). Many farmers are turning to robots to harvest orchard fruit, strawberries, and cucumbers. The robots rely on image processing and robotic arms to determine which fruits or vegetables to pick. Another advantage of the robots is that they can work around the clock.

In-store beacons

Beacons have been around for years in retail stores, but Target has revolutionized them. Historically, in-store beacons are tiny Bluetooth-enabled devices that transmit coupons or specials to nearby smartphones when a particular app is installed. Target is one of few retailers to utilize its own app for communication with the beacons, but the company has taken it a step further by delivering in-store updates like a newsfeed.

Cashier-less stores

The online retail giant Amazon introduced the concept of cashier-less stores in 2018. As of Oct. 3, 2018, only four cashier=less Amazon Go stores existed, but there could be as many as 3,000 by 2021. Amazon Go stores use cameras equipped with proprietary image recognition software and artificial intelligence to track purchases placed in a customer's basket. The customer's Amazon account is then accordingly charged for the items upon exiting the store—no lines, no cashier.

Ambient commerce

Ambient commerce is the use of sensors and artificial intelligence to assist customers in a store. Amazon Go is one model of ambient commerce where in-store sensors and machine learning are utilized. Another version is taking off in China, epitomized by online giant Alibaba's physical retailers. Alibaba's physical locations rely less on in-store smart tech and more on existing smartphone technology and QR codes.

Internet of things (IoT)

In tech speak, the "Internet of things" (IoT) is the existence of everyday objects embedded with internet-ready technology for sending and receiving data. IoT is becoming prevalent across nearly all industries. In the field of health, there are sleep monitors to prevent SIDS in babies and pill caps to track a patient's dose. In the automotive industry, smart cars are linking with smart homes to enable a driver to interact with smart devices in their home while on the road.

In-vehicle commerce

In a merging of retail and the automotive industries, the race is on to equip cars with in-vehicle payment methods. The basic premise is to be able to pay for parking, gas, and food from the dashboard of your car, making the vehicle a sort of commerce engine. Visa is partnering with companies such as GM and Honda in developing a commerce-ready connected car.

In-store retail analytics

E-commerce has long been able to use algorithms to analyze retail trends and an individual's spending habits. Brick and mortar retail stores are beginning to employ high-tech devices and artificial intelligence to do the same for in-store retail analytics. Data collected from videos, sensors throughout the store, and Wifi help provide information to the retailers such as areas of high traffic. Adobe is taking it a step further by developing software that will track an individual buyer (with the buyer's permission) in the store.

Predictive artificial intelligence in the film industry

There is no crystal ball to predict a film's opening box office… or is there? Artificial intelligence created by the company Vault ML has introduced a platform called 4Cast that draws on 30 years of box office data on 400,000 films. The platform has a 75% success rate for predicting a film's box office opening, which would in theory help filmmakers assess a film's risk.

Visual search

The concept of visual search is not new to humans. If someone misplaces their wallet and needs to scan their home for it, that person is conducting a visual search. The tech version of visual search, however, is a novelty that is growing and now becoming more commonplace. Pioneers of visual search include Pinterest, Bing, and Google, which each provide a unique engine for submitting images to search instead of words.

Voice search

As of Nov. 8, 2018, a poll showed that 41% of all adults use voice search technology daily and that 50% of users had made at least one voice search purchase in the past year. Apple's Siri introduced voice search in 2011, and it has been joined in the voice search world by Amazon Echo and Google Home. It is predicted that voice search purchases will be 20 times higher by 2022 and will be a $40 billion annual industry.

Driver assistance technologies

Though driverless cars are certainly on the horizon, the auto industry is currently applying technology to take driver error out of driving. Driver assistance technologies such as automatic emergency braking systems, back-up cameras, forward collision warning systems, lane assistance, and blind spot detection are all becoming commonplace in the automobile industry.

Robots in the weeds

There is an influx of robots in the agriculture industry, especially in the midst of a farm laborer shortage. One variety of robot that can be found in the fields is a weed-killing robot. The Swiss company ecoRobotix introduced a solar-power robot that surveys crops with cameras, identifies and sprays weeds with herbicides, and avoids spraying the actual crop. The assistance of such robots means a more sustainable use of herbicides and healthier food.


Mixed reality (MR) for financial services

In 2016, Citigroup was ahead of the curve when it came to marrying virtual reality and finances. The company experimented with Microsoft Hololens, which allowed their traders to interact with and manipulate stock data in a holographic workstation. Citigroup remains certain that these mixed reality technologies will be the future of finance.

Virtual reality home design

Last year, Macy's conducted a pilot program in three stores with a virtual reality (VR) headset that allows customers to see and rearrange 3D furniture before making a purchase. The program found that the VR furniture sales increased 60% over non-VR furniture sales, and that there was less than a 2% return rate on those purchases. Is this the future of furniture VR? Macy's seems to think so; the company soon announced plans to add virtual reality headsets to 90 more stores.

The era of streaming

To grasp the future of film and television, simply observe what streaming giants Amazon and Netflix are doing. The internet has forever changed these industries, and now the two streaming services have become trendsetters in both original productions and the distribution of small-budget films and documentaries. Subscribers are finding fewer reasons to leave their homes for a movie theater, when staying home gives them a wide range of content.

Aggregated and bundled streaming

The number of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services—such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon—is on the rise. With so many providers, it seems that aggregation and bundling of streaming services will be the future of streaming. Reelgood, launched in 2017, is one notable streaming aggregator.

Artificial intelligence recruitment

Global companies in many industries are utilizing artificial intelligence to assist in employee recruitment. Unilever is one such company that has turned to artificial intelligence to streamline recruiting. The two step process, developed by Pymetrics, involves an online component where an algorithm assesses a candidate's performance in a series of games against previous employees' performances. The second step involves a video interview which is reviewed by a machine learning algorithm that analyzes the candidate's verbal and body language to determine if they might be a good fit.

Big brother for employee hygiene

A data intelligence program is reportedly helping improve hygiene in the food industry. Developed in 2017 by the company KanKan, the program uses cameras and facial recognition to catch, record, and report food safety violations in a kitchen or anywhere an employee interacts with food.

GenomeTrakr network

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has created a pathogen identifying network called GenomeTrakr. The project maintains a real-time and cooperative database among laboratories of whole genome sequencing for over 200,000 foodborne pathogens. Whole genome sequencing can be likened to a radar gun; food supplies are scanned for pathogens, with the goal of early detection of foodborne illness.

Vehicle to vehicle communication

Though this technology cannot be truly successful until all vehicles are equipped with it, vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) promises to help avoid crashes and possibly even traffic. V2V is a wireless exchange of information between vehicles in near proximity to one another. Like many other technologies applied to the automotive industry, the goal is to reduce user error.

Truck platooning

The artificial intelligence (AI) market in the trucking industry is predicted to grow to $10.3 billion by 2030, but fully automated trucks are not quite available yet. Platooning is the first step toward AI in the trucking industry. Utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a platoon leader truck communicates with two or more trucks following closely behind it at high velocity. Driver Assisted Truck Platooning is expected to be commercially available between 2019 and 2020.

3D printing car parts

In 2015, the automotive industry accounted for 16.1% of the 3D printing market. By 2017, Audi had opened a 3D printing center that produced metal prototypes and spare but rare parts. 3D printing has a clear cost advantage in producing these niche parts, because traditional manufacturing for low volumes comes at a high cost.

3D printing in architecture

Architects have used 3D printers to make scale models since the dawn of the technology. The advancements in 3D printing have allowed for a multitude of media to be used. A recent milestone occurred in 2017, when MIT created a robotic system that completed the basic structure of a 3D printed building in less than 14 hours.

3D printing in the medical industry

The most simple application of 3D printing in the field of medicine is to create full-size models of a patient's CT scan. Ahead of an impending surgery, the surgeons can rehearse on the model, thus spending less time in the operating room. Another application is the creation of patient matched devices, such as a cranial plate or a hip joint.

3D printing consumer goods

In the retail world, there seems to be an increasing interest in customized goods, and 3D printing is offering a solution. Dolls customized to match a child with disabilities, headphones custom fit to a person's ears, and insoles and shoes customized to a person's feet are all examples of 3D printing at work in today's consumer marketplace.

3D body-scanning technology

There is a growing prevalence of 3D body-scanning in the clothing industry. The technology allows customers to use their handheld device to scan their body for accurate measurement before making a clothing purchase. Amazon is already beginning to implement the technology on a voluntary basis, and the end game could mean clothes that fit as if they were professionally tailored.

Glasses-free 3D

Though 3D technology in the film industry has been around since the early 1900s, all versions of the technology involved donning glasses to create the effect. Many attempts have been made to achieve a glasses-free 3D experience. Finally in 2017, MIT's Computer Science and Intelligence Lab made some promising progress by creating a glasses-free technology called Home3D that can create automultiscopic displays on home devices.

Artificial intelligence screenplay analysis

The film industry is utilizing artificial intelligence in a variety of predictive ways. The company ScriptBook, founded in 2015, analyzes screenplay text to predict various aspects of the film, such as target demographic and potential to succeed at the box office.

The rise of neo-banks

A niche in the banking industry has opened up for investors to create small, online-only challenger banks—or as they are known, neo-banks. Neo-banks, such as Chime in San Francisco, have been gaining more new customers monthly than Wells Fargo or Citibank. These online-only banks may be the future of banking; a recent report estimated that 10 of the bigger banks will lose $159 billion to smaller neo-banks over the next year.

Parallel, digital-only banks

With neo-banks on the rise and a younger demographic of online-only customers dictating the future of banking, bigger banks are having to compete in the online banking sphere. Banks such as Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo are in the process of developing parallel digital-only banks. The goal of these digital-only arms is to give an online-only banking option to customers that could otherwise be lured away by neo-banks.

Online lenders

Securing bank loans, or “traditional loans,” can be both a lengthy and difficult process. Online lenders have become an increasingly popular means of borrowing money. The benefits of online lending include mortgage customization, paperwork-eliminating technology, and approval in a matter of minutes. Quicken Loans, Lenda, and Penny Mac are three of the best known online lending pioneers.

Open banking

Open banking is a rising financial model that allows third parties to access a person's financial footprint in one place. Through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs), financial information is shared securely and electronically. One such application of open banking technology is in loan approvals. Instead of slogging through lengthy applications that pull financial data from different sources, a loan officer would be able access a complete and up-to-date financial assessment from an API.

Artificial intelligence in film marketing

The film industry is using artificial intelligence to understand how to better market movies. Legendary Entertainment is on the forefront of using AI for this purpose. As an investor in dozens of artificial intelligence systems, Legendary has utilized the technology to determine which clips to use in their trailers and to predict user preferences.

Agriculture drones

Though robots are revolutionizing many aspects of agriculture, one of the first robotic advancements was in drones. There are two current applications for these aerial agricultural drones. The first type of drone gathers visual images to monitor crop stress, growth, and yields. The second type delivers herbicides, fertilizer, and water to crops.

Lifeguard drones

Countries such as Australia, Spain, and Brazil have been on the cutting edge of using drones as lifeguards. In Australia, the “Little Ripper” is used to spot sharks. In Jan. 2018, it dropped a flotation device to stranded swimmers in what was considered the first sea rescue by drone. These drones will not necessarily replace human lifeguards, but will rather act as a lifeline until human lifeguards can reach the victims.

Life-saving drone deliveries

The field of medicine is no stranger to technological advancements. One such recent advancement comes by air. Tech start-up Zipline has been using drone technology to quickly deliver blood, platelets, and plasma to remote villages in Rwanda. The operations are expanding to Tanzania and will soon include vaccine delivery to remote and hard-to-traverse areas.

To drone or not to drone

Although retail delivery via drone, as promised by Amazon, has hit a few roadblocks, there is a chance that delivery drones still have a future. Innovators will just have to overcome two major sticking points: the drone's short battery life and the FAA's strict regulations, which include no flying at night or over people.

AI in HR

Companies across many industries are finding growth difficult when there is significant and constant employee turnover. In an effort to keep employees happy, many HR divisions are looking into AI systems to improve employee experience. Such AI systems are capable of doing everything from evaluating an employee's mood through the emojis they use, to tracking job performance and making suggestions prior to job reviews.

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