6 technologies that may govern our lives in 2013

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Future

It’s that time of the year again: time to take stock of what’s gone by and of things to come. For the purpose of this post, I shall stick to what we need to watch out for in the new year. To be precise, what’s going to happen on the technology front in 2013.

Crystal ball gazing does not sit well with me. There’s always the chance of losing one’s shirt if the predictions don’t come true. Nevertheless, I shall carry on gamely, since the world grooves to a techno-beat.

What I am about to write here cannot be labelled “predictions”, strictly speaking. These are not some tech-gypsy’s tale or prophecies based on astral readings, but facts gathered from some solid research and close observance of on-going tech trends. It’s not really rocket science, either. Anybody with a little bit of orientation towards all things tech has a fair bit idea of what’s coming up next; the stuff is all around us man, whether you live in the United States, South Africa or India.

To begin with: this post is on tech trends that, in my opinion, shall gather steam in 2013, and are in no particular order. This is not a race, guys.

The word ‘technology’ is all-pervasive. And, perpetual. It’s not as if a particular technology will be born or will die next year like supernovas in space.

Technology today has invaded almost every aspect of our lives. It’s to be found in the PCs we use, the cars we drive, the toilets we flush, the doors we open, the pills we pop, health care, education, even the burgers we munch and the salads we crunch.

Which brings me to point number two: this post does not also refer to technology in any particular field of work. Also, I am not going to limit myself to only disruptive technologies.

Enough with the riders. Here goes:

3D

I think 2013 could easily end up being the year of three-dimensional technology or 3D as most of us know it. Look around you; it’s everywhere. In communications equipment, in the entertainment arena; television sets, hand-held video games and computing devices like the mobile phone. I am told there are TV stations beaming 3D channels. A lucky few have seen FIFA matches in 3D.

Blame it on the 2009 film Avatar but remember, there was a 3D film called House of Wax in the ‘50s, so the technology is really that old. Yet, the former may have provided the much-needed spark to re-ignite this technology race, though work on 3D was on even prior to Avatar’s release. One reason for the explosion in 3D is that between the 1950s and today, 3D tech has become so much more affordable. I remember having a conversation with a friend after watching Avatar — why do they not make all movies in 3D? In response, my friend had smirked. By the time 2013 ends, I believe there would be enough cause for him to regret his derision.

So there it is — 3D: it may have its moment in the sun in 2013.

Embedded tech and augmented and virtual reality

Now, you do not have to view 3D in isolation. It must be looked at along with two other technologies — augmented and virtual reality. Plus, embedded technology. Confused? Here’s a quick explanation: embedded tech means software or hardware that is actually put into a system or gadget. We already know of such examples — the virtual keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet is one such; your digital wrist watch is another.

Virtual reality (VR) is created on a computing device. In reality, the creation does not exist. It’s an artificial environment but looks and feels like the real one. Augmented reality (AR) takes embedded technology and combines it with the real and the virtual worlds to allow users to add information in order to embellish the whole experience.

In a sense, augmented reality is real unlike virtual reality. You add stuff to augment that reality, hence the name. For example: If you walk into a restaurant and use your iPhone camera to click a photo of the menu, and then use a smartphone app to add some caption or maybe introduce a whole new real object like a spoon over the photo of the menu card, that’s AR for you.

3D is also going to be all-encompassing. Besides IT and entertainment, you will find it being extensively used in the health sector, education, sports, and so on.

3D printing

Speaking of 3D, the new year could also be the one when 3D printing takes off commercially. By that I mean, it becomes accessible to the average person. In case you are unaware of 3D printing, it is a process by which you make (print) solid objects using certain additive materials. The 3D object is made in layers. 3D printers are now available in desk-top versions.

The cloud

What next? I think 2013 will also be a big year for cloud computing. I think a huge chunk of internet users, irrespective of the kind of computing device they use, will find themselves logging on more and more to virtual servers. The migration from dedicated, physical servers to cloud servers, may pick up super speed in 2013 — from private networks to full or hybrid cloud.

So what does this augur for us? For corporates and organisations, it means less of capital investment, more agile, flexible and interactive systems, a step-up in collaborative assignments between team members; for other end-users such as individual consumers, it would mean complete freedom from computing from a desk, low hardware and software bills, less of bloat on computer memory, among other benefits. It means no hard drives, no personal software even, just a device to connect. Of course, the entire transition is unlikely to happen by the end of next year, but it’s my gut feeling that a very big step in this direction will certainly be taken in the next 365 days.

LTE

Anyone betting on 4G LTE finally going big next year? I think 2013 will be the year when this particular technology turns teenager from child. For the layman, let me just say that 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) offers download speeds as much as 20 times more than the present-day 3G. Some experts have stuck their necks out to say such speeds would mean downloading a feature film in ten minutes.

4G adds a whole new dimension to mobile consumerisation. Faster speeds obviously means you can do things faster on your mobile computing device, which in turn means, enhanced mobility. Already, the US, parts of Europe, China have part-adopted 4G, and are in transitory stage. The rest of Asia’s being a tad slow on this front but at least, the initial movement is there. One study by Wireless Intelligence predicts that by 2017, half of the world’s mobile connections will be either 3G or 4G.

The internet of things

Now, all these technologies that I mentioned above will not only perpetuate individually in the coming year but also combine to “manage” (for lack of a better word) all the devices and appliances in our daily lives. To reiterate, not that everything’s only going to happen next year but we are on the cusp of some big things. Some maybe as big as the invention of the internet, itself.

I feel almost every device and even appliance will soon have its own connectivity to the world-wide web. 2013 may see the start of that. Let alone our computers, mobile phones, tablets, but also our cars, micro-wave ovens, shower heads, bicycles, gaming devices, airplanes, street lights, artificial limbs, even our robots, each and every one of them will sport either a GPS device, an embedded sensor, near-field communication software, image recognition software, social media applications, or all of these put together.

Which brings me to the last point of this post. Here’s a list of devices that may come to the fore in 2013:

  • 3D printers
  • 3D TVs
  • Smarter, net connected LED TVs
  • Smart glasses (like Google Glass)
  • Siri-like virtual voice assistants
  • Wireless chargers

So, there. I have done it. Now, meet me here 365 days later to discuss how much of what I said has come true.

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