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The vast majority of experts agree that our climate is changing. As a result, environmental science is set to become one of the defining fields of the next decade. And, with climate change becoming a legitimate concern, many groups and companies are already working to develop a new batch of technological solutions that will change the world in the next 10 years.

But these solutions aren’t limited to the technologies you’ve heard of. I’m not just talking about more electric cars. This is a new wave of smart gear, such as satellites that harness the power of the sun, advanced water decontamination technology, buildings that reduce pollution, and more. In the years to come, we’re likely to witness another technological revolution. Getting in on the ground floor will be the difference between companies that fail and companies that thrive.

What’s the first thing you think of when someone talks about environmental tech? Probably electric cars. And while engines that eschew fossil fuels are definitely part of the coming revolution, the real innovation we’ll see in the 2020s is vehicular autonomy.

Yes, self-driving cars are the future. They’re already making headlines, with companies like Tesla suggesting fully autonomous vehicles could basically be here already. Although the ideal scenario would be to pair this tech with all-electric vehicles, think of the reductions in fuel consumption and carbon emissions if everyone had a car that could drive itself in the most economical way possible.

I’ve already written extensively on the approach of smart vehicles because they will reshape the way we drive in the coming decade. But vehicles won’t be the only home for new smart tech.

With smart homes growing in popularity and offering tons of ways to connect all your personal devices, it’s no surprise that smart gear—what we call tech that can operate interactively or autonomously—is set to branch out into other parts of our lives, including the workplace. 

As 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity are deployed on a larger scale in major cities, connections will become even more reliable, and business applications will become more viable as well. Bringing IoT and smart tech into the workplace can improve worker productivity and relieve stress, with features such as AI-driven collaboration tools and analytics, smart assistants that can help with scheduling and reserving rooms, video conferencing software that allows for translations and transcripts, and the list goes on.

But I doubt this technology will stop there. As it expands out of our homes and into our workplaces, what’s to stop it from taking root throughout entire cities? 

A New Age of Interconnected Cities

America’s infrastructure is aging. The grid is getting old, and it’s being asked to do things it was never designed to do as demand for electricity increases. This is why many cities are pushing for upgrades—pushing for the creation of a smarter grid. 

With a smart grid, there is better communication between utilities and their customers, facilitated by networks of sensors and interconnected controls and computers that allow for more efficient transmission of power, quicker restoration during outages, reduced operations costs and peak demand, and more. Smart grids will become a necessity as cities continue to grow.

But that’s not the only way we’re redefining the core components of cities. Earlier this year, a group called ecoLogicStudio reportedly created a micro-algae cladding for buildings that can absorb CO2 and air pollution from the atmosphere, and it does this 10 times better than trees. With this micro-algae applied, a city’s buildings can act as giant air filters. 

How does algae do this? It also captures solar radiation, which triggers photosynthesis, a natural process that converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. And, as I’m sure you know, harnessing solar radiation is another vital piece in the environmental puzzle of the coming decade.

Capturing the Sun

Some of the most exciting recent advancements are with solar panel technology, which has become more efficient and widely available than ever. But a common problem with this tech remains: What happens to the power when the sun doesn’t come out?

The most intriguing answer to this question is the idea of space-based solar power, something Amzur’s own Raymond Kaiser, director of Amzur Energy, has a special interest in.

Here’s how it works: We place super-efficient solar cells on a satellite and send it into space, where it can collect the sun’s power without worrying about the weather or time of day. The satellite then converts the power into radio waves and beams the energy down to Earth, where it is converted into usable power. Even better, a project recently received funding to develop this technology.

It’s a revolutionary concept—just one of many on the horizon. But if we’re going to make any of this happen, if we’re going to build a bridge to a better future, we must work together. Our changing climate is a global issue, and we’ll need talent from all over the world and every walk of life to mitigate it. The 2020s will be the deciding time in this battle for our planet. So let’s get out there and make smart changes for a better world.

Rani Nemani

Rani Nemani, president and founding partner of Amzur Technologies, has more than 20 years of experience in programming, talent acquisition, and technology. Nemani is a problem-solver, constantly looking for the most effective way to meet a need. When she and Bala Nemani launched Amzur Technologies in 2004, their combined vision produced cutting-edge software that fulfilled a variety of needs in global talent solutions.