It’s no secret that emerging technologies often have a considerable impact on the world, changing not just human habits and behaviors but also how we interact with the environment around us. Virtual reality, for example, immerses people in a digital audio and video experience almost entirely outside of the real world. IoT and smart devices provide us more data about what’s happening in real-time, so we can make appropriate decisions.
It makes you wonder what emerging technologies coming over the next few years will effectively redefine our world? What’s on the horizon?
1. Quantum Computing
Computers themselves haven’t had a leap forward in quite some time, at least when it comes to power and capabilities. That’s not to say the technology hasn’t advanced. But quantum computing is a relatively new concept that is leaps and bounds beyond anything that’s come before.
Just in time too. A huge boost in power will be necessary to support artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and advanced analytics — all of which have become incredibly vital in recent years.
Just what is quantum computing, though? Gartner describes it as, “the use of atomic quantum states to effect computation.”
Instead of using traditional binary bits — like ones and zeros — for storage and digital communications, quantum computers use something called qubits or quantum bits. The data that is stored in qubits can have multiple states — “all possible states simultaneously” — which means they can handle much faster and more demanding processes. This function, called superposition, allows quantum computers to deal with increased word and content length.
Another effect called entanglement, allows any data stored within qubits to be “affected by data held in other qubits, even when physically separated.” Quantum entanglement in computers is a unique phenomenon that allows pairs or groups of data to exist simultaneously. All possible outcomes exist at the same time and can be called upon near instantly.
Superposition and entanglement properties are incredibly difficult to achieve, but they’re also what allows quantum computers to be so much more advanced and powerful. Essentially, they will enable us to do some remarkable things, particularly when it comes to powering next-generation intelligence.
2. Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies
It’s hard to imagine computers were once barely able to fit inside the average room, yet now they’re slim enough to fit inside our pocket — and more powerful too. We’ve come a long way over the years, specifically when it comes to slimming down various systems and technologies. That’s exactly the case with nanomaterials and nanotechnologies — 100 nm devices that are incredibly small yet just as powerful as modern computers, if not more so.
Despite their smaller dimensions, nanomaterials have a larger surface area than similar materials which helps them retain strength and reactivity. Similar to quantum computing, they are considered to exhibit “quantum properties” which gives them an advantage over similar platforms.
The technology has many potential applications. Healthcare is the most promising. Nano-devices may be useful for diagnostics, regenerative medicine techniques, drug delivery and more. Imagine swallowing a barely visible pill that includes a high-performance nanorobot inside. The robot then enters your body and repairs damage, removing tumors or conduct other operations with minimal impact.
3. 3D Printing
Compared to some of the other technologies on this list it seems almost silly to include a more modern form of printing. But the capabilities of 3D printing are just too incredible to pass up.
For starters, modern 3D printers can work with any material from concrete to wood depending on the model. The most common printers create items out of ABS and hard plastic which, in many cases, is not any less impressive.
The 3D printing industry is worth over $3.1 billion today and the technology is used to create some truly wondrous things, like entire buildings. Homes, structures and shelters can be printed using pre-fabricated designs, on-site, where they are then assembled in a matter of hours. It speeds up the construction and development process considerably but also allows for some innovative solutions. One brick-laying 3D printer and robot can build a house four times faster than any human.
3D printing can even create organic components, including organs.
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4. Industrial IoT
The Internet of Things is a popular buzzword these days. It refers to smart home devices and connected technologies. It’s a more complex way of referring to systems that have internet access, often via wireless connectivity.
There are offshoots of the technology, such as IIoT or the Industrial Internet of Things, which is similar except applied in an enterprise or industrial setting. When applied outside of the average factory floor, the technology can really change the world. In the real world, it can have a significant impact, particularly in urban environments or locations.
You might have guessed we’re talking about “smart cities,” at this point. IoT can automate nearly everything that goes on inside the average city. Public transportation, infrastructure, energy efficiency, and resource distribution are somethings it’ll benefit. In fact, smart energy grids are starting to become more apparent as energy providers realize the benefits the technology can provide.
5. Augmented Reality
While virtual reality was mentioned in the introduction, AR or augmented reality is a different form of it. With VR, users dawn a headset and transport into digital worlds through an audio and video experience. There are other ways of providing VR experiences outside of using a headset, but it’s certainly the most common.
Augmented reality involves projecting or displaying digital content in the real world. The difference is that you don’t enter new worlds, per se, you see an enhanced version of the real one.
Consumers can use the technology to enhance common experiences. Such as an AR heads-up-display for vehicles that shows navigation information, environment and weather details and even the vehicle’s current speed on the windshield. AR presents the information in a space right in front of the driver, allowing them to keep their focus on the road while staying informed at the same time.
Professional and enterprise settings can also use augmented reality to enhance certain tasks. Imagine a construction worker wearing an AR headset that highlights various hazards or potential accident sites. An architect, on the other hand, might see a visual representation of their designs over the potential job-site. Plumbers and electricians might wear augmented reality glasses to see through walls, allowing them to identify pipes or wires.
6. Driverless Technologies
Automakers such as Tesla, General Motors, Volvo and several others have made huge strides in this department, creating near-autonomous vehicles that don’t require a human driver to operate. While some setbacks have occurred, the technology still advances at an alarming rate. It won’t be long until we see driverless vehicles on open roadways, maybe replacing human drivers entirely which will vastly increase the security and safety of the industry.
But driverless automobiles have existed for a while. We’re starting to see the technology used for other applications, as well, such as freight and transports, public transportation services and others.
Where it really sees innovation, however, is its application for entirely different means. Uber and NASA, for example, have teamed up to develop an air-traffic-control system for “flying cars” of the future. Boeing recently launched their version of a self-piloted aircraft.
It highlights the rise of the technology across the spectrum of transportation from boats and planes to standard automobiles. Not only will it help keep a lot of people safe, but it’ll also free up a lot of time, saving a wide variety of resources, including money.
These Emerging Technologies Will Change the World
These fast-developing technologies will change the world as we know it, transforming many aspects of life from medical and healthcare, all the way to how we spend our free time. Driverless vehicles, for example, might change the way we look at usual commutes.
Additional tech, such as quantum computers, will significantly advance the power and capability of our current infrastructure. Through quantum tech, you will see artificial intelligence, data analytics and automation become more advanced and applied across many industries.
Perhaps more surprising is how fast this will happen — likely over the course of the next decade, if not sooner.