Emerging Technologies likely to go mainstream in 2012 and beyond
Already in the early dawn of the 21st Century, there are exciting technologies emerging, whilst currently in development, are likely to become mainstream in the not too distant future. Some may just transform some of the everyday objects around the home, others may have much wider implications that may push us towards items in every day use. Here are my current pick of the crop. Whilst some of these may not even become mainstream, they have the potential to impact our lives at some point in the next few years.
Graphene - Miracle material for the 21st Century?
Graphene is a two dimensional carbon material derived from graphite and composed of weakly- bonded layers of carbon arranged into hexagons the size of an atom (like nano chickenwire!) . It has been declared the strongest material ever measured, with a relative strength of 200 times that of structural steel whilst three million sheets of graphene would measure just 1mm . The theoretical properties of graphene had been around for decades but it wasn't until some groundbreaking research into it's properties by Russian/UK physisists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the UK's University of Manchester won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics that the true value of the properties of Graphene were brought to a worldwide audience. The properties of graphene have been identified as a good thermal and electricity conductor which could ultimately be used as a replacement for silicon (although some industry experts believe this could be some years off) and a possible replacement for certain plastics which opens up a huge range of applications from technology, automotive, aviation and military uses.
Wireless Power - A very old solution to a modern problem?
If like me, you have spent hours crouched behind desks or TV cabinets trying to untangle a spaghetti-like mass of wires, then the answer to your prayers and frustrations could soon be along. The concept of wireless power has been around for a very long time, in fact it was produced as a concept by none other than the great electrics pioneer Nikola Tesla in the 19th Century. In practical terms it has has also been around in recent years for certain niche products (electric toothbrushes for example) but there are big pushes to push the technology into the mainstream with what now seem fairly obvious uses such as Mobile phone and tablet charging, where you could just place the item onto a mat to recharge rather than hunting around for that charger (with the right connector!). There is also a practical concept with the growing increase in Electric Cars, imagine having a charging floor in the garage, just park it up for the night and in the morning it's fully charged! Various manufacturing standards have already been set (the website for the Wireless Power Consortium provides some interesting reading @ http://www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com/)
Super Hi-Vision - The next Generation HD?
While HD Television, although rapidly growing as the de facto standard, is still in relative infancy, technology companies and broadcasters are already researching and testing the next generation of High Definition Visual systems. The London 2012 Olympics are providing a platform for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation - Britain's national broadcaster) to showcase a new Ultra High Definition system called Super Hi-Vision (SHV) that has been developed by Japan's national broadcaster HDK (with whom the BBC's R&D have been collaborating in the development). SHV is 16 times the resolution of current HD TV Standard and the BBC demo used a 22.2 multi-channel sound format! The response from jaded technology hacks to these demo's? By all accounts, they report that the new technology is nothing short of amazing, with the immersive image similar to "looking through a window" and the next best thing to being there. The biggest barrier as with most similar new technologies will be the initial cost but with the products moving out from R&D to commercial stage, I would imagine there will be a gradual adoption. Whilst there may be other similar technologies in development, Super Hi-Vision, with it's time already spent in development, is a very strong contender to become the standard and in a few years time, perhaps will be watching SHV cinema and even having SHV TV's in our living room's, although I'm not sure where we will have room to put the 22.2 surround speakers!
Electricity/Solar Microgrids - Power Solutions for the developing world?
The concept of microgrids have been around for a few years now but so far have not been widely adopted, but with some big players moving into this untapped market which has significant revenue potential, this is likely to change very quickly. The idea of microgrids are very simple - providing a mini electricity grid (usually solar powered with cheap PV Panels) into remote areas that are inaccessible to a national electricity grid. Currently, many such areas may have very limited access to a diesel generator but with increasing fuel costs, solar is already being seen as a cheaper alternative. After much research and development in such emerging technological countries such as India, these are already being installed in rural and remote areas and has the ability to improve living conditions to those areas dramatically. Current forecasts indicate that the amount of energy be generated on such microgrids could increase from current forecasts of around 349 Megawatts (as of 2011) to 1.1GW in 2017 and generate a revenue of $10.2billion!(*Source: Remote Microgrids - Pike Research)
Well there are my four main predictions, all complete speculation on my part. There will no doubt be many more innovations going mainstream in the next couple of years. With the imminent release of Microsoft Windows 8 and it's touch screen bias, there is likely to be a push towards Tablet PC's and laptop/tablet hybrids and a move away from conventional desktop PC's as prices come down. Although it could well be the beginning of the end for the faithful desktop PC, with the marketing push from the major IT sellers on so called "cloud" computing and with it, likely to see a number of large corporate customers move to "thin client" computing (almost seems like a 20 year full circle back to mainframe computing!). Inevitably, there will also be the release of a new generation of games consoles from the three big players, which should see a push on new levels of gaming technology, although early indications are the technological advance isn't as great as the previous generation with console makers consolidating existing technology into the new consoles such as HD graphics for the new Wii U , blu-ray functionally and more in build kinnect functions in the new generation Xbox (to be called 720?/Infinity/?Loop?) and Sony's PS4 (Orbis), possibly no great change other than a new quad core AMD Processor perhaps and bizarrely, no backwards compatibility with PS3 games!?! Well all will be revealed in good time and I will be watching with interest, ready to punch the air..or eat humble pie!