The networked economy is developing – we are already connected to just about anyone with networked economyInternet access using a simple keystroke. We have devices, social networks and business networks, and we leverage the idea of sharing to collaborate and use more, but make less. Our use of networks and their integration in our lives is changing how we communicate, shop, give and receive medical treatments, and find resources.

Welcome to the future of the networked economy.

1. Living in a rented world

We know that we can’t hold onto things forever, and with the call for transparency in how products are made (which country and what they’re made with), consumers are becoming more focused on the origins and afterlife of products and not expecting them to last forever. Through the popularity of collaborative sharing sites such as AirBnB.com (lodging) and Spinlister (bikes, snowboards, and skis), consumers are showcasing that they really only want to “have” things when they’re needed and to avoid carrying the burden when they aren’t needed. This is also a move away from the corporate control of goods and shifting the power into consumers’ hands. Now, what people want has most likely already been created and it can be found through networks and “borrowed” instead of bought.

2. The poor feel a little less poor and receive cash in hand – no strings attached

Most charities run by the model of avoiding giving cash directly to the less fortunate and focusing on trainings and ways to make the investment sustainable (you know, “teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” concept). But, there is one specific charity that opts for the untraditional and gives money directly to those in poor areas so they can reap the benefits of the intangible of feeling “a little less poor.” GiveDirectly, gives money to poor people without any preconditions. After completing a study of the effects of this direct chartable contribution, New York Times reported that “researchers found that children in the cash program were more likely to stay in school, families were less likely to get sick and people ate a healthier diet. Recipients also didn’t tend to blow the money on booze or cigarettes, and many even invested a chunk of what they received.” So what if we gave to the poor and deserving without expecting anything back and watched what happened? They may not build huge corporations (or maybe they will!), but we would bet on improvements in their contribution to society and their overall wellbeing.

3. Biometrics help identify us on a deeper level…and keep us safe

The United States Department of Homeland Security uses their division, The Office of Biometric Identity Management, to collect and evaluate collected biometric data and analyze it for identification. Biometrics, collected by OBIM, are linked to specific biographic information and enable a person’s identity to be established, then verified and evaluated against a watch list of known or suspected terrorists, criminals and immigration violators, by the U.S. government. This networked database allows this process to happen, which is ultimately a step in the right direction for verifying identities and reducing the risk of known terrorists. As this technology expands and becomes adopted for wider use, our biometric data might become an added level of security in evading identity theft and leading a more customized life.

4. Virtual currency becomes more lucrative

The United States dollar has over 200 years of history since the Continental Congress of the United States authorized the issuance of the US dollar on August 8, 1786. Since then, our monetary system went through changes, but not much in the terms of reform. But of course, the USD isn’t the only form of currency and international currencies change the way business is conducted across borders. So what if foreign exchange rates didn’t exist and everything shifted to the digital? That could mean that virtual currency takes over and options, such as Bitcoin, could become the currency of the future. While Bitcoin is facing some setbacks – everything from questions about regulations and companies rejecting its use – there is a lucrative option in virtual currency. As this monetary system grows out of infancy, its adoption rates could quickly rise.

5. Innovation produces energy from new sources

There is energy all around us, but we need to learn how to harness the energy and use science and innovation to turn this energy into something we can store and use for daily use. Justin Hall’s 2011 Global TED Talk references the idea that we can “stop burning up the planet and generate all the energy we need, right where we are, cleanly, safely, and cheaply.” Hall describes a new material, which could be placed on windows and can push heat away. And when in a different state, the device will and absorb light and heat. This innovative solution could help us revolutionize how we create, use, share, and consume energy.

6. Design trumps production in a networked economy

With the rapid innovation of the use and availability of 3D printing, this technology will eventually impact every single industry in some way – led by creative design, not production techniques. As an example, 3D printing will impact manufacturing as companies adopt large-scale printers and product parts are produced faster, within a more flexible and agile environment. Specifically, TechRepublic points out five industries that will be completely disrupted: food, military, electronics, toys, and automotive. The future for these industries could be focusing more time on design, and less on lengthy manufacturing processes and investments in bulky, pricey machinery.

7. Is there a doctor in the room? Surgeons can remotely control robots to conduct surgeries

In today’s technologically advanced world of healthcare, you don’t even need to physically meet your surgeon or even be in the same room to receive their precise treatment. Intuitive Surgical is a California-based company that creates teleoperated robots. Their robots have performed more than 1.5 million operations from abdominal general surgery and gynecology procedures to thoracic and lung operations.David Rosa from da Vinci creators, Intuitive Surgical, predicts that surgeons and their patients will be even farther apart – an idea that not so long ago would have seemed like a remote possibility. Imagine the doors this technology will open…

8. Virtual collaboration in healthcare brings together top remote surgeons

What if you had a unique condition that required healthcare specialists located halfway around the globe and you were unable to make (or afford) the trip? In today’s networked economy, it doesn’t really matter – you could easily be paired with a virtual team that could collaborate online and work together to assist with your treatment. This virtual collaboration has the ability to bring together top talent and specialists who could provide treatment like never before, and work together to cure some of the world’s most pressing medical mysteries.

9. What if just-in-time manufacturing became predictive manufacturing?

Right now, a smart supply chain that incorporates big data and analytics for decision-making is what companies aspire to have and use to run their companies. But, one main deterrent is the cost of implementing leadership and managers who can understand and use the predictive analytics to make smarter decisions. A Wall Street Journal piece referenced an article in the Economist that cited this concept – “Most companies see the value in using predictive analytics and big data to parse out increasingly complex issues within their supply chains, they still perceive the cost of deployment as too high.” But, there is hope because eventually, these costs will keep coming down and the availability of low-cost sensors embedded across the supply chain will lead to companies being able to implement smart supply chain management and transform just-in-time manufacturing to predictive.

10. Your next trip is into space

Space travel could be on the horizon for anyone…who knows the right people and has enough money. U.S. space tourist Dennis Tito, paid around $20 million for a week-long stay at the International Space Station. The 61-year-old space tourist was delighted with his trip and didn’t suffer any of the adverse effects that he was told he might encounter. As a former NASA engineer, Tito had enough knowledge, but it was really his millionaire status that got him into space. Could this be the future of traveling?

The implications of collaboration in the networked economy will continue to shape every aspect of the world we live in today and the changing world we will live in tomorrow. Get involved in the conversations on The Future of Business and read, watch and learn about the networked economy.