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The massive revolution you are a part of

Photo: Kate Ter Haar

You may not know it but we are in the middle of a full-blown technological revolution.

The integration and wide proliferation of internet connectivity and the ability to develop new industries have virtually exploded.

It started off with revolutionary ideas such as Ebay, Amazon and ebooks, online job advertisements and companies like Seek Limited (ASX: SEK), realestate.com.au and Domain owned by REA Group Ltd (ASX: REA) and Fairfax Media Limited (ASX: FXJ) respectively. Those companies have virtually killed physical newspapers while revolutionising their industries, but technology has gone well beyond that now.

Here are but a few more examples…

  • Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have changed the way we interact.
  • Pure online retailers have emerged such as Surfstitch Group Ltd (ASX: SRF), which was demerged from Billabong International Limited (ASX: BBG), Kogan, and GraysOnline – which is owned by Grays Ecommerce Group Ltd (ASX: GEG).
  • Gumtree – owned by Ebay, Gumtree is the closest online version of the Trading Post newspaper, allowing people to advertise products and services for sale, swap and even free. Ebay has evolved from an auction site, with most sellers now retail stores.
  • Uber and GoGet – car sharing or taxi services where ordinary people can provide taxi and transport services, revolutionising the taxi industry globally.
  • Airbnb – the ability of ordinary people to rent out a room, a full apartment or house to anyone around the world.
  • Airtasker – allows Australians to offer and bid on small jobs they need doing, such as moving furniture, a one-off clean of their house or pick up laundry.
  • Freelancer Ltd (ASX: FLN) – a marketplace allowing employers or anyone to hire out jobs to contractors around the world such as design and build a computer system or app, outsource writing a novel or develop a 3D model of a new product. Freelancer has also started moving into Airtasker’s space offering local jobs.
  • iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Netflix and the rise of streaming media, which is impacting on free-to-air television and has virtually ensured the destruction of the CD and DVD industry.
  • Online storage such as DropBox, Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud have revolutionised how and where we store files.
  • Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding – the ability to raise funds or outsource services and ideas to a large group of people.

But we probably haven’t seen anything yet.

  • Applications are moving away from standard software into the cloud. Look at accounting firm Xero Limited (ASX: XRO), which has all its software in ‘the cloud’ – which is just another term for ‘online’ or accessible via the web/internet.
  • Microsoft’s latest Office products are integrated into the cloud.
  • Our homes and electronic components are becoming more integrated into the web, with the ability to control devices from our smartphones already. That is going to continue evolving.
  • Our monetary system is evolving too. Cashless payments are already being made, and we’re likely to see widespread use of smartphones to make payments instead of credit or debit cards.
  • 3D printing is revolutionising a number of industries and it’s only getting started.
  • An estimated 47% of jobs will be automated in the next decade – but never fear, new jobs will also be created.
  • Renewable energy is growing in use while old world energy sources are being phased out. This article contains a pretty cool chart showing energy consumption over time in the US.
  • Medical research and innovation means that in some places like Switzerland, one in every two babies born today will live to more than 100. That has other consequences for society too.
  • Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending is rising and could take over the roles banks have played as financial intermediaries for centuries.

Foolish takeaway

As things evolve, investors can take advantage of these trends. Clearly, technology and telecommunications companies will be at the centre of this revolution. But it should also serve as a reminder that old industries can rapidly be replaced by newer ones and the dangers of investing in declining industries.

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Motley Fool contributor Mike King owns shares of SEEK Limited and REA Group Limited. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Xero. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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