Spirit of Innovation speaker says Chattanooga poised to capitalize on future trends

Spirit of Innovation speaker says Chattanooga poised to capitalize on future trends

November 19th, 2015 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Keynote speaker Jack Uldrich discusses technology, change management and leadership during the Spirit of Innovation awards luncheon in the Chattanooga Convention Center on Nov. 18, 2015.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

With its high-speed Internet connections and growing number of tech startups, Chattanooga is poised to capitalize on emerging technologies that are enjoying exponential growth, a leading futurist said Wednesday.

Jack Uldrich, a Minneapolis-based business consultant who has authored 11 books on business and global trends, praised Chattanooga businesses like Bellhops, Feetz, Ark Labs, 3D Ops, Branch Technology and RootsRated for using computer apps, 3-D printing and computer sensors to build new and more efficient products and services. Such ventures are likely to grow at exponential rates as they combine in a New Economy that doubles in size every year and increases a thousand-fold every decade.

Uldrich said data storage and computer processing speeds, additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, and wearable technologies and virtual reality scanners are all technologies that are doubling every year or so and should be a thousand times faster, cheaper and smaller in another decade.

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Two men man the EPB Fiber Optic control room.

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"We've lived through exponential change in cell phones, computers and the Internet and we're going to continue to live through these exponential changes in many other areas," he said.

In the future, a tiny detection device could be put in your blood stream and warn you in advance on your cell phone if you are about to have a heart attack. Google is already developing self-driving cars by combining computer technology and detection devices. Virtual reality devices such as the Octolus VR that Facebook recently bought for $2 billion allow people to see, experience and even design their own reality looking into VR glasses.

Businesses that combine these emerging technologies can revolutionize education, manufacturing, transportation and health care, Uldrich said. In the keynote speech to this year's Spirit of Innovation luncheon, Uldrich told several hundred Chattanoogans that some of the new businesses will be like what the Gutenberg press was in the 14th century when German goldsmith Johaness Gutenberg comboned a wine press, movable type, ink and paper to create the first mass media distribution of information.

"I really believe that a revolution is coming and we are at a similar point in history where innovators and entrepreneurs are converging a number of technologies to transform the world," he said.

Combining mobile technology with data storage has allowed businesses like Uber to grow into a business valued at $51 billion. Access America in Chattanooga used similar technology to help fill the 50 percent of truck space that is empty on back hauls and built a business that, combined with Coyote in Chicago, is being acquired this year by UPS for $1.8 billion. Chattanooga-based Bellhops, which is growing with initial investments from some of the founders of Access America, is also using the shared economy to deploy thousands of movers in cities across the country.

Uldrich said Chattanooga has embraced other new technologies and capitalized on EPB's fastest-in-the-nation Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second.

New additive manufacturing possible with 3-D printers allows companies to individualize production on site, creating such businesses as the new shoe company known as Feetz, a new simulated organ maker 3D Ops and a building supply venture known as Branch Technology. The city demonstrates 3-D printing on the fourth floor of its library and is training up a new generation of coders at its Tech Town and Tech Goes Home ventures.

The number of tech startups has grown from one to 30 in Chattanooga over the past five years and a host of venture capital funds, from Lamp Post Group, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, Blank Slate Ventures, the Jump Fund and others have boosted available venture capital in the market to more than $50 million.

"You have all of the components here so I am absolutely optimistic for your future because you have it all going on," Uldrich said. "The future is going to be incredibly bright, but you have to go out and create it."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.