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- Liquid Robotics is About to Grab a Big Piece of a Gigantic But Little-Known Market
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Of all the concerts I went to in my younger days, a Ramones performance I attended at the historic Fillmore auditorium more than 20 years ago is the one I remember the best.
I remember it so well because I couldn't hear for three days.
As a musician, the experience gave me an indescribable scare; though I attended more concerts, I'd learned my lesson and promised to never let that happen again.
But others haven't been so lucky.
Two decades later, volume-related hearing loss is one of the few bridges spanning the so-called "digital divide" - the gulf that separates Baby Boomers like me from the smartphone-savvy Millennials that are half our age. For older adults, too much loud music at rock concerts is a common cause. For our younger "Generation Y" counterparts, it's the "ear-bud" headphones that blast music from iPods or other mobile devices.
But the millions of Americans who currently suffer from hearing loss may finally have hope ... thanks to new "ear drops."
How many times have you studied the stock charts of Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) or Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) - and wished you could travel back in time to become an early stage investor in just those sorts of king-making companies?
We can't, of course, but I can offer the next best thing: I can tell you about the brand-new industry where the next stock like this will likely come from.
I'm talking about 3D printing.
Folks who've been following my work know that I've been predicting this sector's emergence for some time. Back in March, I told readers of our sister newsletter Money Morning that 3D printing was a $1 trillion industry in the making. In October, in a note to all of you, I followed up with a roundup report on the newest breakthroughs.
In every piece I've written, my key message was always the same: 3D printing will give tech investors the next real shot at windfall profits.
It's already playing out just as I predicted. But even I was surprised at how much money investors made off this segment last year.
Like the financial markets, the world of technology is moving faster than ever. As I look back over the top tech news stories I covered in 2012, there are four that are so huge they actually keep me up at night. The impact of these breakthroughs could be huge – and so could their payoff...
Who says high-tech stocks have hit the skids?
In a move that bodes well for 2013 stock market, high-tech IPOs have been absolutely on fire in the closing weeks of 2012.
In fact, judging by their gains, high-tech IPOs have soundly beaten the rest of the market’s new issues over the last three months. At least five soared by more than 40%.
Even the IPOs that many market watchers thought would fizzle have jumped out of the box.
The most recent is SolarCity Corp. (Nasdaq: SCTY) which debuted last week.
Instead of landing with a thud, shares of the solar panel installer soared nearly 50% on its first day of trading from a reduced offering price of $8 a share.
That left SolarCity tied for third place among IPO performers in the quarter that ends Dec. 31. Even as of late yesterday, SolarCity shares were still up by 55%.
But SolarCity is just the latest big winner. Here is a look at the other four winning high-tech IPOs based on their closing prices as of last week.
That's why industry leaders have been pursuing the promise of optical computing for decades now.
At the very least, it could lead to computer speeds that are up to 100 times faster than what we have today.
Indeed, we've figured out how to pump light through fiber optics for super-high-speed communications in computer networks and the Web. That's become routine today.
But still, no one could find a way to solve the challenge of focusing light in tiny spaces like computer chips. It's a brick wall known as the "diffraction limit." Simply stated, it means that once you get into tiny spaces - like the postage-stamp size of a semiconductor - you can no longer focus a light beam.
Two teams of computer researchers have just announced major advances that promise to make optical computing a reality in the very near future.
One comes from a famous tech leader whose shares are publicly traded; the other out of academia.
Of course, major advances in the lab often make it to the market in ways that mean profits for early investors.
This is one of those rare cases where a breakthrough happens at a prestigious university... and you could literally invest in the field today.
You may not have heard of him but he used to run a $1.4 billion unit for Sun Microsystems that dealt with federal contracts. When Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL) later acquired Sun, Vass' work there played a major role.
Before that, Vass served as an information technology (IT) honcho at the Pentagon. He had major input into some 6,800 defense IT systems with a budget of more than $35.5 billion.
As one of the nation's most senior high-tech experts, Vass now serves as CEO of a small but well-funded startup.
It's called Liquid Robotics.
And its self-propelled water bots can travel from California to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel.
But here's where the big payoff comes in for investors: each bot is packed with sensors that can gather a wide range of critical data about the world's oceans.
Believe it or not, that opens up a gigantic but little-known opportunity.
According to Vass, that potentially puts Liquid Robotics at the forefront of a $40 billion market.
And from what I can see, Vass is making all the right moves.
One to Keep an Eye OnIn fact, Vass recently launched a new unit that will target the Pentagon for sales at a time when the Navy desperately needs cheaper sources of data.
Meanwhile, just a few weeks earlier, Liquid Robotics snared both a contract and an investment from Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE:SLB), the oil services giant with a market cap of about $100 billion.
As I see it, that means Liquid Robotics is now on a clear path to issuing shares to the public in as little as three years.
Along the way, Vass is making quite a name for himself and his firm.
For investors that's a good thing, since it helps build the brand, keeping potential competitors at bay while adding value to any IPO down the road.
Turns out, Vass is in high demand these days.
While I was on the phone with one of his reps to arrange a chat with Vass, Liquid Robotics was juggling the details of a special about tracking great white sharks that ran on the Discovery Channel.
The TV show featured the firm's Wave Glider, the wave-powered marine robot that looks like a high-tech surfboard. The autonomous device has already set world records by covering some 13,000 nautical miles on the high seas.
His PR rep also was working out the details of an interview with Time magazine. All of this follows recent stories in both The New York Times and Forbes.
So, I'm glad to report that Vass was able to fit me in to his crowded schedule.
After all, Liquid Robotics is one of those startups you need to know about as a key player in what I call the Era of Radical Change.