During the past year, many tech subjects have been covered on this website, some were good news, others may have given cause for concern, but in the world of technology amazing things will always happen. Of most concern has been the speed at which some innovations have moved, the disruption caused, the robotics, the artificial intelligence impact on society, and so are we likely to see more of the same for 2017?
There are several new technologies which are accelerating their spread and can be expected to become prominent in 2017.
One of these is the interconnecting of devices via the Internet of Things, i.e. your smartphone and any number of household items like your refrigerator, washing machine or dryer, robot vacuum cleaner, your TV, heating system in your house, lights and security system and more, all controlled via the phone. Such connections starting in the USA was forecast to reach around 4 billion connected devices next year and predicted to rise to maybe 20 billion in just 4 years’ time.
Another one I expect to see increasing use of is payment by smartphone; already in use is Apple Pay and Samsung Pay and Google is not very far behind. Their use will increase both trust in and awareness of impact of smartphones, and will gradually overtake the use of the established payment methods using the NFC [Near Field Communication] chip built into it, and like your credit card the smartphone just has to be waved within 1 to 2 cm above the payment terminal to establish communication between the two thus facilitating the transfer of information to make the payment.
You may be familiar with the term ‘4G’ meaning 4th Generation mobile networks or wireless system which is now well established in New Zealand. But now ‘5G’ knocks on the door and in the US AT & T communications expect to be in 5G this coming year. Why? Because 5G aims at providing higher capacity than 4G which will make it possible for more people to stream high-definition media many hours per day with their mobile devices when out of reach of Wi-Fi spots. What is more is that 5G provides improved support of device to device communication [the Internet of Things again] with lower cost, battery usage and latency than 4G.
Communication via cable has been via copper wire and now that Fibre is about to become available across a large part of NZ I expect to see Kapiti fully fibre enabled in 2017. A considerable part of the commercial part of Kapiti already enjoys this service.
I have written about robotics before and the development will go on. So far their use has been largely in industrial areas where reliability and constancy were the main objective, but greater sophistication will allow for robots to be use in the medical sphere for e.g. medical assessment.
Automation will continue to grow and we might see more in the agricultural sector and in e.g. fish farming. Not forgetting the automation of our cars and electrification of vehicles. Expect to see sales of e-vehicles to grow to millions next year and wonder on the impact on fuel companies and the reduction in the use of oil.
Added to that last scenario is also the sliding cost of Solar panels which may come down to around $2 per panel and become of serious interest even in a country like ours with up to 70% of our power from renewable sources.
eCars are now being road tested by Ford, VW Group, Nissan, Baidu, BMW, Hyundai, Toyota, Renault, Volvo, GM and Mercedes. Tesla is also testing an Autopilot for their vehicles.
You may also have wondered about the drones, these little flying machines with a camera attached or delivering pizza, or in the USA delivering parcels from Amazon. Imagine now using them instead of police cars to control the street and photographing an incident for the police to attend. Somehow I think that this may not be here in 2017, but once autonomous cars are on the road, and battery life has improved, it could be a good bet.
Talking about filming I imagine that Google have seriously thought about their map updating and the cost difference between helicopter use and drone ditto for the view from above.
Google just bought a company called Skybox which uses small and relatively inexpensive satellites for photographing and videoing Earth on a daily basis. Google plan to use satellites to beam internet connection from space and thus provide, or offer, affordable high-speed internet services to locations which presently lack adequate fibre optic cabling infrastructure.
This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning VR or Virtual Reality. It has yet to become the craze expected at its launch, but this coming year will see some amazing new models coming out and the prices coming down a tad. For users with compatible smartphones a headset may well be on the Christmas wish list and whilst it is intended for entertainment it is also possible to see that it won’t be long before it appears in the educational sector. VR in the classroom will allow students access to a ‘real world’ experience from the safety of the classroom.
What about computers? I see two things happening, one is better screen display, brighter and better colours, the other arising from unhappy personal earthquake experience is shatterproof and flexible screens. There is, however, a big change on the cards in the internals, the move from silicon chips to carbon nanotubes or ‘graphene’ to provide speeds 5 times greater by 2020. This change to the microchips will also allow for wider application of the Internet of Things when your house, contents, car, et al are web connected.
This change by the way will also impact on and accelerate the birth of Artificial Intelligence, and indeed rapid tech adoption will centre on new technologies that bridge the digital/physical divide like AR [augmented reality], the IoT and AI.
If you are a user of a smartphone then recharging the battery is almost a daily task so look forward to wireless charging being built in to your armchair, table, lamps, car or desk for always having your smartphone in working order.
There are still other subjects flickering in the crystal ball, for example security, 3D printing and of course algorithms. Where are they taking us in 2017? Well, for now it is a bit like the earthquakes, we are prepared, but we don’t quite know when or where, so for now I shall look forward to Christmas and wish you and yours a fantastic 2017 in peace and tranquillity and secure connectedness with Kapiti SeniorNet.