Top 3 Technology Trends to Watch Out For
Future Trends in Tech
Technology moves with such dizzying speed, and products and trends are changing all the time. The perpetually ongoing question is, what next? What can we expect to see in future, what to look out for? You mind just be interested in knowing the latest technology news, an early adopter keen to use the latest tech before anyone else, or you may want some advanced knowledge to get in there before anyone else and take advantage of changing trends, whether in business or perhaps by investing in companies at the cutting edge.
Whatever the reason, here's my take on the trends to look out for over the coming few months and years. They're quite general trends, but not specifics, but they do point the direction we're heading in which is, as always, bigger and more sophisticated.
1. Social Location Mobile (SoLoMo)
The next generation of social networking appears to be the rise of Social-Location apps. Whereas Facebook and other social networks connect you with your friends and other contacts no matter where they are located, the new trend is to connect you with your location, and the people in it. Because of the nature of it, social location networking is primarily based around mobile apps rather than websites.
Whether or not you like the idea of socializing with your neighbours and residents of the local area rather than everyone else, one thing undoubtedly that will come out of this trend is the increasing connectivity with local shops, businesses and offers. This already happens to some extent with apps like 'Foursquare' where you can check in to local shops, cafes and so on, and find out about any special offers. In future this concept may be extended. Imagine going into a shop where you like some expensive clothes, gadgets or items of furniture. You can't really afford it, but your bank knows you're in the shop looking at these things, and you get a message from your bank to say you can purchase said items on credit, pre-approved, at a very generous rate of interest. This is already being trialled in several countries. The possibilities for this are endless, but probably mean lots more adverts being served up to you!
2. The Internet of Things
The internet already connects many things computers, mobile phones, ipads, Kindles and the like, but what about fridges, central heating, your tv, digital recorder, cooker and so on? Before long, all your household gadgets will be connected to the internet. Sound crazy? Imagine telling your central heating system to turn on because you are on your way home? What about turning your oven on to pre-heat, getting the lights turned on ready for you. This is the future, tiny devices connected to your household appliances which allow you to control them remotely.
Here are some other applications that already exist on a wide scale:
- Internet connected TV recorder, which allows you to set programmes to record when you are out and about.
- Mini-bar fridge in a hotel, which automatically charges your account when you take a drink from the mini-bar
- Waste bins which tell you when they are full and need emptying
The term 'internet of things' is also applied to technology which links physical objects with digital counterparts. QR barcodes are a good example of this, as are RFID tags. You can stick/print them on to physical objects, and then people can scan them in using their mobile phones to be taken to a website about the product.
3D Printing in Action
3. 3D Printing
This is a technology which really excites me. As a teenager, I used to be an avid fan of Star Trek, and was fascinated by the idea of the Replicator. This was a device that could make literally anything, as long as the computer had the pattern for it. Presumably it did so by building objects up atom by atom. Imagine the things you could do with such a device. It has been hailed as 'bigger than the internet'.
I was amazed to learn that something similar to the Star Trek gadget now exists - the 3D Printer. OK so it doesn't build objects atom by atom, it uses a variety of materials, often in liquid or semi-molten form, and builds up objects layer by layer. 3d Printing is also called 'additive manufacturing' because objects are made by adding ingredients, as opposed to the more traditional 'subtractive manufacturing' which makes objects by taking material away (such as by drilling, sanding, carving etc). There are many different methods and materials in 3D printing, but the most common materials are plastic and metal.
3D Printers are mostly used in industry at the moment, and are still very expensive and unsophisticated, but they are getting better and cheaper all the time. As pointed out by the Economist in 2011, 3D printing will undermine economies of scale, as the per unit price for 1 will be the same as for several thousand. Smaller companies could disrupt the market, and it could have as big an effect on industry as the mass production factory line did in the early 20th century.
One example of a company that has been experimenting with 3D printing is Disney, as this article from October 2012 discusses.
3D printers are just starting to become affordable enough for home use, with models such as 'Cubify' available for close to $1,000. These use different colours of plastic to make up objects, and are backed up by an online site where people can share templates/patterns for objects. The classic example I always like is this. Imagine you lost or broke the back off your TV remote control which was keeping the battery in? What do you do? Most people just do without it (hence regularly losing batteries) or use something like sellotape. If you had a 3D printer, you could just log on to the internet, find the pattern and print yourself a new one, simple! Truly the possibilities are endless!