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Organ transplants, environment, and AI: The top transformative tech to watch in 2024

The World Economic Forum lists the top 10 developing technologies that could tackle the world’s problems.
The World Economic Forum lists the top 10 developing technologies that could tackle the world’s problems. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Pascale Davies
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The World Economic Forum lists the top 10 developing technologies that could tackle the world’s problems.


Artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated the headlines this year but it is not the only emerging technology that can help tackle the world’s challenges. 

Carbon-capturing microbes, privacy tech and livestock feeds are just some of the ten developing technologies identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that have the greatest potential to positively impact the world in the next three to five years. 

The findings by WEF were published on Tuesday in its annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies report in association with research publisher Frontiers. It draws on insights from global scientists, researchers, and futurists.

“Organisations make better choices when they understand the factors shaping the future. The report identifies technologies poised to significantly influence societies and economies,” said Jeremy Jurgens, managing director of the World Economic Forum and head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

“It also spotlights technologies with immense potential for revolutionising connectivity, addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and driving innovation across various fields”.

The top 10 technologies it highlighted for 2024 are: 

1. AI for scientific discovery

Breakthroughs in deep learning, generative AI and foundation models are game changers in scientific discoveries regarding rates of discovery and prediction.

AI for scientific discovery
AI for scientific discovery Canva

In using AI in the health sector, researchers will be able to make better connections and advancements in understanding diseases and discovering new drugs. 

2. Privacy-enhancing technologies

With AI creating and using sensitive data, such as in health care, ensuring that data is secure is essential. 

One technology that could take off this year is synthetic data, a privacy-enhancing technology that repeats patterns in data but does not contain information that can be linked to individuals or groups. It can still be used share data, which is key to scientists, without compromising an individual’s data. 

3. Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

With this technology, surfaces such as walls or mirrors can be turned into components to enhance wireless communication. It can also make wireless networks more energy efficient. 

The report predicts it could mean more reliable and efficient radio-wave communication in smart factories and vehicular networks.

4. High-altitude platform systems

High-altitude platform systems can be used to provide fixed broadband connectivity in rural areas. They operate around 20km above Earth, usually in a balloon, airship or fixed-wing aircraft form and can beat the connectivity of satellites and terrestrial towers. 

HAPS can use aircrafts such as blimps
HAPS can use aircrafts such as blimpsCanva

WEF said HAPS' innovative infrastructure could bring Internet access to over 2.6 billion people in 100 countries without connectivity, creating opportunities for education and economic growth.

5. Integrated sensing and communication

Sensing and communication devices have some functional overlap but integrated sensing and communication (ISAC) combines these capabilities in a single system.


It can collect and transmit data simultaneously, making it more cost and energy-effective. It can be used in real-world applications such as urban planning, environmental conservation and monitoring air and water quality. 

6. Immersive technology for the built world

Virtual and augmented reality combined with computing power and AI can improve the tools that could play a part in a greener future.

Virtual reality
Virtual reality Canva

One example includes digital twins, a virtual model of an object, which could help to stimulate complex outcomes. 

7. Elastocalorics

Described as “powering heat systems to work like muscles,” elastocalorics could be a more sustainable way to keep cool.

A traditional heat pump
A traditional heat pumpCanva

Elastocaloric materials such as nickel used in heat pumps are proving more energy-efficient than without them. These heat pumps can also be used for cooling in areas with limited or no electricity grid infrastructure, according to the report.  

8. Carbon capturing microbes

Organisms such as microalgae can “eat” carbon through photosynthesis. This is one way that microbes capture carbon.

The other way is via microorganisms that use renewable energy sources, such as hydrogen, to capture carbon. The CO2 is then converted into new products such as biofuel, or even animal feed. 

9. Alternative protein feeds

As traditional animal feed can lead to environmental hazards such as deforestation, there could be another way for greener agriculture.

Algae could be used to help the agriculture industry be more sustainable
Algae could be used to help the agriculture industry be more sustainableCanva

Proteins sourced from single-cells, such as algae, could be more sustainable and viable, especially as livestock feed demand increases, the report said. 

10. Organ transplant genomics

Organ transplants can be life-saving but there is an organ shortage in many countries. But genetically engineered organs could meet the demand shortage. 

The genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 is one technology that scientists are excited about. It is cheaper and faster than other DNA editing technologies and could help with organ demands.

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