I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we don’t have flying cars yet.
That said, we can now communicate nearly instantaneously across the world, using a smartphone that operates millions of times faster than NASA’s early computers. And, despite that fact that this is something we take for granted nowadays, that’s pretty neat. While there’s a certain subculture dedicated to decrying the impersonal nature of modern technology, many more realize that advancements have and continue to shape the way society works and operates.
Not only that, but with computer processing power growing exponentially, we can expect growth to continue to accelerate at breakneck speeds. With that in mind, I’d like to examine a few of the technologies that any business should watch, and the ways that they can make an impact.
Wearables have been through a rough couple of years, with the ambivalence toward Google Glass and a general lack of interest in wearable devices other than the FitBit. However, this is an example of a technology that will become more widely accepted in the coming years. When wearable devices become less obtrusive and more fashionable, there’s a better chance of them becoming widely accepted.
However, wearables in healthcare have already started making a big impact. Studying patterns in patients has allowed for doctors to anticipate and treat conditions that may not have been immediately obvious. Additionally, the boon of Big Data has allowed medical professionals to create a better picture of the assorted ailments affecting patients.
This one is a bit of a tougher sell at the moment, because VR technology is still at the point where it is fairly expensive for most individuals to access. However, VR is already starting to be used to train professionals in a safe and controlled setting. It’s a new frontier, one that has a lot of room to grow.
As the technology improves, expect to see more advanced simulations to train for things such as surgeries and technical operations. New discoveries could even be made through VR, if it reaches a certain threshold. Even now, though dismissed as a gimmick by many, it has a great deal of practical applications.
Uber, Google, Amazon, Tesla, and Wal-Mart are all competing to pioneer the field of autonomous vehicles. A society-wide change would require massive fleets of these vehicles, which these companies are ambitiously attempting to produce. Automating fleets of trucks would lead to a more efficient shipping infrastructure and, for any kind of vehicle, automation is surprisingly safe.
Even now, Uber has begun testing driverless ridesharing vehicles in certain cities. These vehicles are not fully autonomous, with a human driver ready to take over in problematic situations, but so far, integration with existing GPS technology has proven a sound and efficient way to provide transportation to others.
From plastic to metal to human tissue and even moon dust, 3D printing is a varied and highly applicable technology. On the business end of things, this technology enables retailers to customize and produce products to customer specifications, and gives customers the ability to print items that they want.
Online retailers have always been faced with the problem of how to deliver products to consumers as efficiently as possible, and 3D printing is a possible solution, though issues such as IP management will still need to be figured out.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is, unsurprisingly, on this list for its ability to revolutionize the way information is delivered and improve the connectivity of everyday products. Future “smart homes” could include appliances capable of delivering better food products and calculating diet intake, for example.
Of course, the challenge of producing IoT-enabled devices is ensuring that they provide a tangible benefit instead of just being connected. The novelty of the IoT shouldn’t distract from the goal of creating a better quality of life as non-intrusively as possible.
Computers are not only getting smaller, they’re getting faster as well. Quantum computing has been a work in progress for a long time, and every year, engineers and scientists get closer to making it viable. It revolves around keeping qubits, the basic units of quantum information, stable enough to provide an effective computing system.
Since they are currently such an unknown, it’s hard to fully anticipate the applications of quantum computing. However, it will likely prove valuable in running advanced AI, processing massive amounts of data, and improving machine learning. But, given the disparity between today’s computers and those of the 1960s, there will likely be benefits that we can only dream of now.