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The big tech wish list for 2016

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The world of technology is set for big changes in 2016, but perhaps not the ones we want, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he contrast his wish list with reality.

1. Decent battery life

Battery life. It’s not much to ask for, is it? If my Nokia 6310i could last a week in 2003, why can’t my smartphones last even one full day in 2016? With luck, the big names in smartphones will master the arts of enhanced battery life as well as more efficient use of resources on handsets, but don’t count on it in 2016.

The good news is that Samsung Ventures has invested heavily in a company called Storedot, which is developing a battery that will charge fully in one minute, and last somewhat longer than current versions. But that is still a year or two from the production lines.

The very fact that a decent smartphone battery remains so elusive puts it at number one on the wishlist for 2016. Rival manufacturers may well spring a pleasant surprise on the market, so keep the checkbox open for this year.

2. Screen protectors as standard

There are few things more irritating in the smartphone world than new handsets with gorgeous screens that are scratched within days of being removed from the box. Simply because the phone didn’t come with a cover or a screen protector, and you haven’t had a chance to pick one up at a store, chances are high that it is not going to remain in pristine condition. Gorilla Glass was supposed to solve that problem, but you don’t hear that being punted as heavily among the specs these days as when it first appeared on phones, do you?

3. More reality in Virtual Reality

If you’ve had the privilege of playing with virtual reality (VR) headsets, you’ll know that they provide a wonderfully immersive experience. But there’s still one major flaw: the graphics are never entirely convincing. Pixellation, images breaking up, and unconvincing human beings are just some of the consequences. The result is that, while VR has evolved from massive cockpit-like machines to sleek headsets, the quality of the virtual environment has improved marginally. But with so much investment going into VR right now, and big promises from Samsung, HTC and Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, we can expect the next generation of headsets to start matching up to TV-like quality.

4. Big data to fix small problems

You’d think the likes of banks, telecommunications companies and government departments would have invested a little of their large technology budgets on making their mountains of customer data work for their own benefit as well as that of customers. All we really want – for now – are two things: that they show some evidence that they are able to use big data to avoid small irritations, like requiring us to submit all personal data all over again every time we apply for a new service, account or document; and that they reward us appropriately for remaining loyal customers for however many years, rands or services. Effective use of big data goes far beyond this of course, and should be saving time and money. Every tiny benefit applied regularly eventually takes on massive scale, but must start with the small efficiencies.

5. Wireless broadband that really is broad

Consumers can be forgiven for thinking wireless broadband is a con. And that is even without the debate about whether something called LTE can be marketed as something called 4G. Even 3G in some variants, like HSPA, should run at speeds of up to 21Mbps, but that is a pipe dream for mobile data users. The great wish for 2016 is that 3G really does become pervasive and consistent, and that LTE spectrum is speedily licensed in South Africa, so that we can discover true 4G.

6. Vehicle technology that feels like the future

Every year the motor manufacturers line up at CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to show off the latest vehicle technology that justifies cars become high-tech choices. Then we go to the local showroom to check out the latest cars coming off the assembly lines, only to find the technology feels like something we already had on our smartphones five years ago. The problem is that five years happens to be how far ahead manufacturers have to plan their new vehicles. It means there is a cut-off point for inclusion of the latest technology as it exists now rather than in a few years when the vehicle reaches the sales floor. The challenge, and the final item on my 2016 wish list, is for vehicle manufacturers to create a more open hardware platform in the vehicle itself to accommodate the latest communications, mapping and entertainment technology as it becomes available.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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