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Technological breakthroughs to watch

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How will our world look like in the next 20 years? It is obvious that technology will play a major part in how we communicate, work and live.

From 3d printers to the Internet Of Things (IOT – where common household devices will talk to each other and your computer) – the future is hard to predict, but exciting to imagine. Some new innovations that has captured my imagination recently include the following.

Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles will start becoming more commercial – and will be used more for surveillance, collecting sensor data or delivering packages.

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Malawi is currently at the forefront of a project with Unicef using drones to transport medical tests and blood samples from rural clinics to laboratories – this reducing HIV test times for infants.

This could save lives if successful. Talking about vehicles, it is predicted that vehicle to vehicle communication will be on our roads within 2-3 years. This allows vehicles to transmit information about their speed, position, direction to other vehicles in the vicinity. This then alerts drivers to the possibility of an impending collision and allows them to respond.

Do not forget that unmanned robots will become more commonplace – we are currently able to purchase robotic vacuum cleaners or household companions online.

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Google, once again, has impressed the world with its innovation by testing the use of helium balloons which will bring internet access to places where there are no cell towers or fibre. Named Project Loon, they plan to float balloons 20 kilometers in the stratosphere.

Each balloon will carry a gadget bag of solar-powered electronics – which can then connect by radio link to a telecommunications network on the ground and beam down high-speed cellular Internet coverage to smartphones and other devices.

They aim to provide internet for up to 60 percent of the world’s rural population that currently do not have it – the aim being to deliver economic and social benefits as widely as possible. And of course, increase its subscriber base by many more millions! No such things as free lunch, perhaps?

Recent research predicts that smart glasses, smart watches, and a range of motion-sensing devices will be worn by more and more people and could improve productivity by 30 percent.

By 2018, Gartner predicts that two million essential employees, such as law enforcement officers and medical staff, will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices. I have already written about how wearable smart devices will be used to transmit medical data from a patient to their doctor, enabling them to make faster professional decisions.

In the virtual reality arena, devices are becoming smaller and more mobile, enabling users to experience this via their mobile devices. How soon will it be before we see people wearing their phones on their faces – and enjoying a movie or videos in public.

I guess, the vehicle to vehicle communication will become even more important – as I have no doubt that some people will advance from texting whilst driving – to watching moves when doing the same?

Smaller and more lightweight laptops, tablets, and other devices will be on offer. Much of this progress is due to the ability of companies like Intel and Micron to stack flash memory cells vertically, which conserves space and enables devices to be smaller and thinner.

Also, with nonvolatile memory, computers can retrieve information even after being turned off and back on. I believe we will see new forms of nonvolatile memory that will enable data to be stored at less cost and less power. This will enable smaller devices to store even more data.

New storage technology will enable the blending of diverse energy sources, such as solar, wind, and traditional fossil fuel, into a seamless and uninterrupted supply of energy and reduce humankind’s carbon footprint.

And finally researchers have now developed technology (backscattering) that enables internet-connected temperature and motion sensors, cameras, and the like to communicate by using energy harvested from nearby TV, radio, cellphone, and Wi-Fi signals.

We live in interesting times indeed.

Teri Sequeira is Managing Director of SyncIT Solutions Ltd. He can be reached on teris@SyncITAfrica.com or terisequeira@hotmail.com

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