January 2003 Archives

Tech Review on emerging technologies

Technology Review has an article entitled '10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World'. And they are: wireless sensor networks, injectable tissue engineering, nano solar cells, mechatronics, grid computing, molecular imaging, nanoimprint lithography, software assurance, glycomics and quantum cryptography. They sum up each trend with its current state, its potential effects and a short list of people and places working on it.

Sci-fi predicts the future

Via NTK, the London Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Festival kicks off next week, including The Douglas Adams Memorial Debate: Does science fiction predict the future?

Location, location, location

NTK has a bit this week claiming "2003 will be the year of geospatial hype" concentrating on some sites and tools devoted to turning real-world co-ordinates into data available to everyone (rather than just data available to a single company). While you might have no need for the precise x and y of your current location, the chances are someone will build a tool using this information that you will find useful. Steven Johnson also has an article up at Discover about location-oriented technology and what people are doing with it.

Geocaching, the sport where participants search for "treasure" hidden by other players using GPS devices, should have been an early indicator of this kind of stuff; it's a classic innovator activity. While it doesn't mean Geocaching will be a mainstream pastime it does suggest a new leisuretime use for a technology. The coming 3G phones will, I understand, feature some kind of location-reporting technology which could bring new tools, behaviours and activities to the masses. But these mass-market devices shouldn't blind you to the fact there's still plenty of exciting stuff happening online... this could well look like gibberish to you, but it's where I live.

Technology off the radar

IDC Research have a new report called 'Beyond the Radar Screen: Technologies of the Future'. If you have the patience to register on the site, receive the confirmation email and log in, you then need the patience to view the PowerPoint presentation and listen to the Real Audio file (the poor audio quality does give the impression this is a view of the future from several decades ago). They pinpoint ten fledgling technologies they feel will be bigger in the future than their current limited reputation signifies (Yes/No in brackets indicates whether they think the technology will be in common usage (I guess) in our lifetimes):

From a cockroach with a backpack containing implanted sensors in 1999 to a rat in 2001 to Kevin Warwick's arm-implanted sensors in 2002. (Yes)
Smart Dust
Tiny intelligent sensors, MEMs, RFID. (Yes)
Tiny carbon tubes useful for smart materials, flat panel displays, MEMs, etc. (Yes)
Molecular level machines for drug delivery, probes, etc. Could become self-replicating. (No)
Quantum Computing
Computation taking advantage of quantum mechanics for cryptography, simulation, maths, etc. (No)
Plastic Transistors
Carbon-based semi-conducting materials for flexible displays. (Yes)
Semantic Web
Structured metadata to describe content, for web searching, rights management, collaboration, sharing data. (Yes)
Grid Computing
"Uses disparate independent resources across distances with a single system image." (Yes)
Lily Pads
Interlinked Wi-Fi networks allowing cheap and flexible broadband internet access. (Yes)
Pot Pourri
A selection of other technologies such as LED headlights, heads-up display on a motorcycle helmet and a micro fuel cell for cars.

A nice summary of some technologies. I always find it hard to judge how progressed a technology is, because if you're more involved in it it seems far more real and likely to happen than the perhaps more mysterious technology. (via the always excellent Techdirt)

Progress in fabbing

A couple of years back I posted about Napster Fabbing, the fabrication of 3D objects and transmitting the instructions for doing so across the Internet (the page I linked to is broken, but the Way Back Machine has a copy). New Scientist has an article about recent progress in fabbing technology. An object is created with its electronics embedded as part of the bodywork, a technology apparently known as "flexonics." However, this does mean that these objects are disposable, as it's practically impossible to fix any broken electronics. (via BoingBoing).

The years' technology

An article at News Observer looks at predictions for technology in the year ahead. Nothing earth shattering, but if nothing else it'll be good to look back at what was seen as the important tech trends of the time: fighting email spam, blogging, WiFi, online gaming, new mobile/cell phones, open source software. (Thanks Tom.)