We are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where a wide range of technologies are converging, transforming every aspect of life around us. Here’s our take on the seven most important.
1) Computers will become as fast as the speed of light.
The speed of computers is accelerating. Soon they will be able to process data using photons instead of electrons, paving the way for supercomputers, data centers and devices millions of times faster and more powerful than those we use today.
The University of Utah has developed an ultra-compact beam splitter capable of dividing light waves into two separate channels of information. This breakthrough brings engineers a step closer to creating silicon photonic chips that compute data with light instead of electrons.
2) Big data, bigger insight
IDC defines big data as “a new generation of technologies and architectures, designed to economically extract value from very large volumes of a wide variety of data by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery, and/or analysis.”
With big data comes the possibility of analyzing huge mountains of information to help predict complex phenomena, like weather patterns that predict natural disasters. Every minute, for example, Orange Flux vision converts 4 million items of mobile data into statistical indicators to measure traffic patterns and visits to geographical areas.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is working on big data analytics to replace human intuition. It has already used the Data Science Machine to predict which students are at risk of dropping out of online courses.
3) Big data, better health
Healthcare is a data-intensive industry. Patterns derived from big data can be used to predict epidemics, help cure disease and improve the quality of life for many.
Data from sensors implanted in the body, for example, can monitor health with bodily activity. Express Scripts in the US is using big data analysis to predict which patients are most at risk of falling off their physician-prescribed drug therapy in the areas of diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. As a result, renewal reminders and home delivery plans can be put in place. In the future, this could also be used to spot patients who may react to certain drugs or medical data that could pinpoint the development of a chronic disease.
4) 3D printing from manufacturing to health
3D printing will change the way we live. IDC expects annual global revenues for 3D printing to double to $35 billion by 2020 as healthcare, manufacturing and automotive industries adopt the technology.
Gartner predicts that 3D printing will be a critical in 35 per cent of surgical procedures requiring prosthetic and implant devices, including synthetic organs, within three years. Also, 10% of out-of-production spare parts for cars, bikes, military vehicles and drones, will be 3D-printed as companies move from “design for manufacturing” to “manufacturing of the design.” The first 3D printed car, the Local Motors Strati, was printed in just 44 hours.
5) The connected world
The Internet of Things (IoT) will bridge the gap between our real and digital worlds – and it is accelerating fast. Juniper Research estimates that there will be 38 billion connected devices by 2020, with trillions of connected sensors monitoring everything from smart appliances to air traffic.
IoT will make our offices and homes more energy efficient, improve our health and fitness through connected apps and turn our offices into digital workspaces, for example.
Our car will become our smart hub from which to control our smart offices and workplaces. By 2020, Gartner expects a quarter of a billion connected vehicles on the roads. Ford has confirmed it will be delivering high volume fully autonomous cars for share riding by 2021.
Artificial intelligence (AI) on top of IoT networks will see the arrival of robotic assistants to carry out household tasks, for example, freeing up our time for increased leisure activities.
6) The rise of blockchain
Right now, only a small part of global GDP (around 0.025 percent, or $20 billion) is held in blockchain, the technical foundation for bitcoin, according to a survey by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council.
Interest in blockchain is high because it has the potential to let anyone with Internet access make transactions without a mediator, making the process easier and cheaper. Banks are experimenting with blockchain technology. Santander is running a staff pilot using blockchain to facilitate international payments via an app.
Analyst firm IDC believes that blockchain could help governments establish data authority and information accuracy, thus reducing fraud and enhancing security for data tampering. It could also establish new relationships between government and citizens, transparently collecting and sharing data.
7) Wearing the Internet
Smart clothes are set to be the next big thing, integrating technology into what we wear and plugging us into the IoT.
Ralph Lauren is selling a shirt that interacts with the iPhone or Apple Watch to provide the user with data about their workout. Silver fibers woven into the fabric of the shirt read key metrics such as heart rate and breathing rates, streamed to the Apple device.
The opportunities for connected clothes is vast, from improving fitness and monitoring health to tracking lost children and enabling women to monitor their unborn babies during pregnancy.
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