New tech trend for 2012 and beyond

Wed Jan 4, 2012 1:48pm EST
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By John Wasik

(Reuters) - Despite gloomy headlines from Europe over the past year, a new technology mash-up is emerging that could spark some exciting ideas for investors.

There is long-term growth in convergent technologies that integrate the Internet, green transportation, building-based micro-power plants and power distribution into a collaborative worldwide grid, according to author and consultant Jeremy Rifkin, founder of the Foundation on Economic Trends.

It is a development trend that stretches into the next decade and is worth investing in right now, said Rifkin.

Rifkin calls this synergistic movement the "Third Industrial Revolution," which is also the title of his latest book (

Under Rifkin's "five pillars" plan, energy would be widely distributed in much the same way information is sent through the Internet. This system would be intelligent, sending power where it needs to go. If it's designed efficiently, it will lower the cost of electricity for everyone, create jobs, reduce our reliance upon fossil fuels and aid development.

"The Third Industrial Revolution is an economic game plan," Rifkin, who has advised the European Union and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on this concept, told Reuters. "We have the science and technology to do it, but it will mean nothing unless there's a change in will."

In Rifkin's master plan, anyone can produce energy through solar, wind, geothermal or biomass and it could be distributed widely along a collaborative Internet -- like super-grid.

Commercial building owners could sell the power they produce. Homeowners would do the same -- much as they do in Europe and Japan today -- only on much larger scale.   Continued...