The world is constantly in flux, and new developments in the social and technological spheres mean we're about to see a boom in innovation across many different industries. If you're thinking about starting a business or changing careers, or if you just want to keep up with new developments in the world, here are eight up-and-coming industries to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond.
1. Virtual Reality
Is virtual reality the next frontier of tech? Lots of people think so, and there's a good reason for that. VR equipment has only been available to mainstream consumers since 2015, but during that time, it's seen a massive increase in popularity - VR headsets have become some of the most coveted wish-list items for gamers, among other tech enthusiasts. By the time 2018 rolls around, revenue for virtual reality and its close cousin augmented reality is expected to climb to over $7 billion, and by the end of 2021, that number will explode to $75 billion.
Virtual reality is an open-ended field with tons of potential, so it's hard to predict exactly which industries will be affected by the coming VR boom. It has obvious appeal for gamers, but it also has potential applications in therapy, job training, education, digital marketing, and safety testing. And while the high price tag of VR/AR technology means it's still out of reach for many consumers, that's going to change over the next few years. Will people eventually swap their smartphones for headsets? Time will tell.
2. Family Volunteer Vacations
For some people, a vacation isn't just a chance to get away from everyday life - it's also an opportunity to make a difference in the world. The "voluntourism" industry, as it's frequently called, helps connect service-minded travelers with developing communities that could use a hand - think Peace Corps inspired without the 2-year commitment. Programs like Discover Corps, for example, are disrupting this industry by making it possible for individuals and families to experience meaningful, culturally immersive trips with two-week volunteer vacations. The voluntourism industry is growing rapidly, and as millennials get older and start having families and remote work becomes more prevalent, volunteer travel may eventually rival more traditional types of vacations for this group.
Discover Corps helps families embark on meaningful vacations. Source
3. Medical Marijuana
Due to the push for legalization in recent years, cannabis is currently one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. A total of 29 states currently permit the use of medical marijuana, and recreational use is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia.
The current legal status of marijuana throughout the U.S. Source
If the current trend continues, 2018 may see even more states pass laws legalizing marijuana. This cannabis boom is affecting more than just medical patients: by 2020, more people are projected to work in the legal marijuana industry than the manufacturing industry, and revenue is expected to grow from $7.2 billion in 2016 to over $24 billion in 2020. And since the industry is still relatively new and volatile, there's plenty of room for companies with innovative growing and plant breeding techniques to shape the market. All in all, if the public continues to favor legalization, the legal cannabis industry will most likely continue to grow and thrive.
4. Green Energy
Renewable energy might not be quite ready to eclipse fossil fuels yet, but that day is coming, and it might be sooner than we think. The green energy industry has been steadily gaining steam in the U.S. over the last ten years, following the example of renewable energy leaders Europe and China. From electric cars to rooftop solar panels, green energy is becoming an increasingly mainstream (and affordable) part of life for many people.
Today, renewable energy is a massive source of jobs in the U.S. - the industry currently employs 2.7 million people. As new wind and solar farms are built, they could provide work for the 150,000 people currently employed in the fading coal industry.
An estimated 9.8 million people work in the clean energy industry around the globe. Source
Drones started out as military technology, and they're still primarily used for military and security applications. But as drones become both more sophisticated and more affordable, we can expect to see plenty of other industries hop on the drone bandwagon. These gadgets have potential applications in areas like construction, firefighting, agriculture, and cinematography. They can be used to remotely view wildfires and flooded areas, inspect crops efficiently, and even deliver packages. And, of course, as drones get cheaper, more and more consumers are buying them as toys.
Some of the biggest potential applications for drones. Source
6. Mobility Technology
Would you take a ride in a self-driving car? It turns out that a lot of people would. While self-driving vehicles might sound like science fiction, many major auto manufacturers and tech companies are working on developing autonomous vehicles right now. In 2015, Tesla even set an ambitious goal to put the finishing touches on their autonomous driving technology by 2018. During the next couple of decades, we'll almost certainly start seeing more self-driving vehicles on the roads, and autonomous vehicles may even become the norm someday.
Biotechnology is the industry that sprang up at the intersection of biology and tech in the 1970s. It has the potential to solve a wide variety of problems in fields like medicine, agriculture, and industry, and as technology improves, biotech's potential just keeps growing. Currently, biotech is grappling with lofty problems like developing new regenerative medicine technologies, finding treatments for hard-to-treat conditions like dementia and cancer, and feeding the world by improving the yield of crops. 2018 could bring exciting biotechnology breakthroughs that will make life better for people around the world.
8. Content Marketing
It's impossible to talk about marketing today without bringing up content marketing. Content marketing is an integral part of most other aspects of digital marketing - fields like SEO, social media, and email marketing all rely on content to be effective. Original content is all but required to define your brand, bring in new buyers, and create customer loyalty. And the growth of content marketing won't be slowing down anytime soon; it's projected to continue through 2018 and beyond.
As the content marketing industry grows, marketers are finding new ways to put their content to good use. Source
It used to be enough for companies to have a blog, but in 2018, creativity and sophistication will be the name of the content marketing game. To stay competitive, companies need to start thinking like media publishers. This will translate into plenty of new opportunities - and challenges - for content marketing agencies and in-house creative teams alike.
Lots of different fields, from medicine to marketing and tech to leisure, are poised to achieve breakthroughs and revolutions next year. If you're interested in any of these industries, there's no better time than right now to get involved.
Which industries do you think will take 2018 by storm?