Ranked No. 7 on the list of 10 Most Promising Technology Trends,” remote sensing is starting to get its due. 

The World Economic Forum, an independent international organization which engages leaders to shape global and industrial agendas, put out the study through its Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies. The council said remote sensing is expected to see significant growth in the coming decades.

Fawwaz Ulaby, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, said remote sensing can change the world.

“Satellite remote sensing not only provides critical information for dealing with natural disasters such as hurricanes, but also feeds observations of Earth's atmosphere, land and oceans into long-term forecast models to predict the impact of carbon and methane emissions on climate change,” he said.

Ulaby has directed a number of NASA-funded projects aimed at developing high-resolution satellite radar sensors. He said the University of Michigan focuses on microwave remote sensing aimed at measuring carbon sequestration by vegetation, soil moisture distribution and related biophysical properties of the Earth's ecosystem.

The authors of the World Economic Forum study said the field of remote sensing is expected to see sustainable, worldwide growth. The study pointed out that there are numerous applications of remote sensing, and healthcare could benefit from more widespread adoption.

“Examples include sensors that continually monitor bodily function – such as heart rate, blood oxygen and blood sugar levels – and, if necessary, trigger a medical response such as insulin provision,” the study says. “Advances rely on wireless communication between devices, low power-sensing technologies and, sometimes, active energy harvesting.”

University of Michigan School of Public Health Professor Andrew Maynard, a member of the council that identified the tech trends for this year, said advances in smart technology development is necessary, as population and material demands rise.

"The council's top 10 technology trends provide unique insight into up-and-coming innovations that could change the world for the better,” he said in a press release. “The challenge is to ensure responsible development that improves lives and stimulates economies without creating new problems for the next generation."

The authors identified an additional area of remote sensing that is expected to grow in the coming decades: remote sensing on vehicles. It would allow cars to become aware of other vehicles on the road, which may help reduce crashes.

Other technology trends in the council’s top 10 are: OnLine electric vehicles, 3-D printing and remote manufacturing, self-healing materials, energy-efficient water purification, carbon dioxide conversion and use, enhanced nutrition to drive health at the molecular level, precise drug delivery through nanoscale engineering, organic electronics and photovoltaics and fourth-generation reactors and nuclear waste recycling.