Carnegie Mellon University
February 26, 2014

News Brief: WEF's Top 10 Emerging Technologies List Cites Carnegie Mellon Research

Contact: Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

WEF logoPITTSBURGH—The World Economic Forum has released its 2014 list of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies, which cites Carnegie Mellon University's pioneering research in one of these technologies, the quantified self.

The report, released Feb. 26 by the WEF's Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies, notes that the quantified-self movement has existed for years, based on the idea that continually collecting data on everyday activities can help individuals make better choices on health and behavior. But the emergence of the smartphone, which makes it feasible to collect and process such data for large numbers of people, elevated the quantified self this year to the WEF list of technologies that could reshape society.

Justine Cassell, director of CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and chair of the WEF's Global Agenda Council for Robotics and Smart Devices, helped compile this year's list.

"Increasingly, the personalization of mobile devices includes the ability to gather information about users through the various sensors and activity logs of the cellphones and other devices we carry, and to take that massive and diverse data set and use it to infer underlying psychological and medical states," Cassell said. "These inferences are based on so many, and so many different kinds of, data points that they can often be more accurate — and more timely — than judgments made by medical professionals."

As examples of the potential impact of the quantified self, the report notes a project by Jason Hong and John Zimmerman, both associate professors in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, who are exploring the use of smartphone data to help detect the onset of depression. Changes in sleep patterns, physical activity and people in contact via phone, email and social media may all be useful in determining if someone might be suffering from depression or if a patient is responding to therapy.

The report also cites Livehoods, a project that includes Hong and Norman Sadeh, professor in the Institute for Software Research. Livehoods uses Foursquare check-ins and other geotagged data gathered by smartphones to create maps of urban areas. These maps show how different groups of people use urban areas, reflecting communities defined as much by lifestyle as geography.

“Work such as that being conducted by Hong, Anind Dey (associate professor in HCII) and others shows the power of these approaches, and hence the important — sometimes life-saving — role that our mobile devices can play in the future," Cassell said. "I'm very pleased that the Emerging Technologies list has recognized this work."

The other technologies on the 2014 list are:

  • Body-adapted Wearable Electronics;
  • Nanostructured Carbon Composites;
  • Mining Metals from Desalination Brine;
  • Grid-scale Electricity Storage;
  • Nanowire Lithium-ion Batteries;
  • Screenless Displays;
  • Human Microbiome Therapeutics;
  • RNA-based Therapeutics; and
  • Brain-computer Interfaces.

Carnegie Mellon is one of only 25 universities in the world that have been invited by the WEF to join its Global University Leaders Forum (GULF).

Learn more about CMU's involvement in the World Economic Forum.