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Emerging technologies to address world’s challenges

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This year has revealed a variety of world-changing technologies that are poised to rattle the status quo. There’s nothing ordinary about these emerging technologies. Soon, one will be able to “cyber travel” to where he/she has to be without moving from their current location and their presence will be physically felt through handshakes, hugs etc. with other cyber travellers. Also, one can now able to have a robot as a buddy to genuinely talk to and do anything with. Yes, this is the kind of tech that is definitely breaking all boundaries, making human life easier and the environment cleaner. The future that was so enthusiastically talked about some many years ago is finally here with us and almost everyone is eager to get the new gear or tech to enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.

A new report compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) reveals some of the breakthrough innovations that are expected to radically impact the global social and economic order. According to Jeremy Jurgens, Chief Technology Officer at the World Economic Forum; “this year’s emerging technologies demonstrate the rapid pace of human innovation and offer a glimpse into what a sustainable, inclusive future will look like.” The world will experience technology that will play critical roles in finding solutions to all challenges the world is facing today, from “income inequality to climate change”.

In making the list of emerging technologies of 2019 that will positively disrupt the existing order, be attractive to investors and researchers, and achieve considerable scale within the coming years, we identified some few of such technologies

Bioplastics for a Circular Economy

The world uses a lot of plastic material which is mostly disposed of wrongly and not recycled. 88% of the World’s Ocean surface is covered in plastic and while each year 260 million tons are generated into the environment, 10% ends up in the sea, increasing the degradation further. The natural habitat is at threat due to this and damages are happening to the earth. With the worldwide call to ban plastics totally, creating these bioplastics will seek to solve major pollution problems.

Since the economic system is aiming at minimizing waste and making the most of resources, the emergence of advanced solvents and enzymes to transform woody wastes into better biodegradable plastics is a great intervention in line to save the earth. But this does not come without challenges, however, these biodegradable plastics offer a perfect example of how greener solvents and more effective biocatalysts can contribute to generating a circular economy in major industry.

Social Robots

2018’s artificial intelligence advancements had to be taking a notch higher; bringing forth Social Robots!

These Artificial Intelligence robots are designed to interact and communicate with humans and other robots by learning social behaviours and rules assigned to it. They can become a companion and assist with chores, teach children, keep the elderly company or people with health issues. These Droid friends and assistants are penetrating deeper into our lives, they play nicely and it’s a breakthrough from the engineering industry. Social robots are built to engage with people and educe an emotional connection such as one existing two beings. We should expect social robots to become more sophisticated and prevalent in the next few years.

Tiny Lenses for Miniature Devices

This is another innovation under engineering. It has become hard to make tiny lenses with traditional glass-cutting and glass-curving techniques. Engineers of his new technology have recently figured out much of the physics behind much smaller, lighter alternatives known as metalenses. These thin, flat metalenses could replace bulky glass for manipulating light.

This solves the problem of making miniature lenses for microscopes and other laboratory tools, as well as of consumer products, such as cameras, virtual reality headsets and optical sensors for the internet of things. Advances can also be made to the functionality of optical fibres.

We are looking at the application of the small-but-mighty phenomenon here, where little will be used to achieve so much more! The future isn’t blurred after all.

Disorder Proteins as Drug Targets

Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) (also referred to as natively unfolded proteins) play critical roles in a variety of cellular processes such as transcription and translation and also are linked to several human diseases. Their shape-shifting nature makes it appear as ensembles of components that constantly change configurations. IDPs drive illnesses from cancer to neurodegenerative disease. According to research, there’s not been treatments to eliminate or regulate malfunctioning IDPs.

In view of this scientists are using rigorous combinations biophysics, computational power and a better understanding of the way that IDPs function to identify compounds that inhibit these proteins, and some have emerged as bona fide drug candidates.

This new technology is disordered proteins as drug targets; a special class of proteins that offers promising targets for drugs for cancer and Alzheimer’s giving new possibilities for treating cancer and other ills.

Smarter Fertilizers to Reduce Environmental Contamination

As the world population increases, the demand for food is also on the rise hence the need to increase crop yields. Fertilizer application can help in increasing yields but the short/long term effect is harmful to the environment. The application of ammonia, urea or other substances (generates nutrient nitrogen when they react with water) and potash or other minerals (produces phosphorus in reaction to water) is not totally used or absorbed by the plants. Instead, much of the nitrogen goes into the atmosphere in greenhouse gases and the phosphorus triggers excessive growth of algae and other organisms.

The innovation is part of the sustainable approach to agriculture known as precision farming. This approach improves crop yield and minimizes excessive nutrient release by combining data analytics, AI and various sensor systems to determine exactly how much fertilizer and water plants need at any given time and by deploying autonomous vehicles to deliver nutrients in prescribed amounts and locations.

Because they still contain ammonia, urea and potash, however, the new fertilizers use more ecologically friendly sources of nitrogen and microorganisms that improve take-up by plants and less harmful to the environment.

Collaborative Telepresence

One’s presence can be physically felt at any place without even being there really. A company can have a board meeting with all members present at headquarters without being there in reality. People can shake hands, hug each other and even sign deals, this has rendered physical locations irrelevant.

Using a mix of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (AR), 5G networks and advanced sensors,people can actually feel each other’s touch; absolutely mind-blowing. Medical doctors can now remotely attend to patients, families and friends can go on vacation together. It will be funny to have employees delivering their duties from home using collaborative telepresence; this technology is limitless.

Although this tech is still emerging a number of companies a pumping a lot of resources into making this new tech available with all the advanced technologies being used.

Advanced food tracking and packaging

About 600 million people suffer food poisoning every year, according to the World Health Organization, and 420,000 die as a result. Investigators spend several days and weeks tracking the source of an outbreak and during this period many people still fall ill and enormous amounts of uncontaminated food along with the tainted items may be discarded. Finding the source can be sluggish at times because food travels through a complex path before it’s being consumed.

Two technologies have been invented to lessen both food poisoning and food waste. First is a blockchain technology that has been developed for the food industry. This is the IBM Food Trust and is already employed by major food sellers. What used to take several days or weeks to trace a source can now take a few minutes to find, solving the traceability problem.

The second tech is small sensors that can monitor the quality and safety of food in pallets, cases or individually wrapped products. These sensor tags are placed on the food and are able to tell when the item is getting to expiry or when it’s going bad by changing colour. The sensor tags change colour if a product has been exposed to above-recommended temperatures, and Insignia technologies sells a sensor that slowly changes colour after a package has been opened and indicates when the time has come to bin the food.

The combination of these two technologies will vastly improve food safety.

DNA data storage

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Data can be stored in the sequence of these letters, turning DNA into a new form of information technology. The data storage capability of a DNA is vast and expansive; a simple bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), for instance, has a storage density of about 1019 bits per cubic centimetre, according to calculations published in 2016 in Nature Materials by George Church of Harvard University and his colleagues.

Breakthrough research is using DNA-based data storage, as a low-energy alternative to computer hard drives, with huge capacity and this will keep up with the vast – and ever-increasing – quantities of data we produce.

Life’s information-storage system is being adapted to handle massive amounts of information

Utility-scale storage of renewable energy

Storing energy generated by renewables for when there is no sun or wind has been a barrier to increased take-up as renewable energy sources keep doubling up across the globe. In January 2019, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast that wind, solar and other nonhydroelectric renewables would be the fastest-growing slice of the electricity portfolio for the next two years.

A roadblock to sustainable energy solutions is coming unstuck. Cost is a major factor for the full implementation of these emerging technologies and some organisations are strategically investing in them for a good course.

However, with the emergence of these great technologies, one can only hope they will also be widely available in underserved communities to make life easier for people in those areas as well. There’s no limit to innovation.

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Technology

The Future with Internet of Things

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                                                     … Internet of Everything

We all use the internet daily for various reasons employing different standard devices such as desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets and what have you. Now a wide range of traditionally “dumb” or non-internet-enabled physical devices and everyday objects are embedded with technology. These devices can communicate and interact over the internet, and can be remotely monitored and controlled. These constitute the Internet of Things (IoT).

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was first used in 1999 by British technology forerunner Kevin Ashton in the context of supply chain management. IoT is “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment”, as defined by Gartner. IoT has come to incorporate internet on a daily basis into our personal, professional and societal lives. Indeed our common TVs are now smart TVs, we have smart appliances, smart air conditioners, smart thermostats, smart lighting and smart security just to name a few. These devices are used by individuals, enterprises and industries.

Imagine your car is able to communicate with your gate as you arrive, or the conference room set up for your staff meeting is able to regulate the room temperature based on the number of people in the room or even the sensors in the production line machinery are able to detect an anomaly. These are things that are already happening, definitely a smart way of living, making life easy.

Why do we need the Internet of Things?

IoT is basically to expand interdependency of humans to interact, contribute and communicate to things. For example, the way humans interdepend on one another for information, sometimes we do not get the information as quickly as we would want it because someone may not be available at the moment to provide it. When we expand this interdependency to things, getting the right information, at the right time and at the right place makes our work more efficient and timelier.

Recent researches show by next year; 2020 we would have over 20 billion devices using IoT. These devices cover a wide range of areas including; environmental monitoring, infrastructure management, industrial applications, energy management, medical and healthcare systems, building and home automation, transport services, and large scale deployments.

Brendan O’Brien said “IoT promotes a heightened level of awareness about our world, and a platform from which to monitor the reactions to the changing conditions that said awareness exposes us to”, hence a smarter way to manage these conditions.

  • Smarter disaster management with the ability to accurately predict natural disasters and prevent fewer damages and victims.
  • Smarter Urban Management that will aid in proper monitoring of traffic and regulate to the ever-changing flow from “rush hour” to downtime. IoT gives better and proper ways of utility distribution while also cutting down on emissions that pollute the earth. Bridges, railways, or roads can be tracked to diminish the risk of danger to road users.
  • Smarter Healthcare by providing wearable devices that monitor your body’s vital statistics like your heart rate or blood pressure, and whenever something goes wrong an alarm goes off to alert the hospital of your condition for an ambulance sent to your location.
  • Smarter Homes giving you the ability to monitor and remotely control your devices such as air conditioners, security lock, lighting system, regulate your thermostat, TV or audio system for your comfort, security, and low energy consumption.

Benefits of IoT

IoT is definitely making an impact on our personal and professional lives. The benefits of IoT speaks for itself no doubt. The benefits include:

Efficient Resource Utilisation

If a smart system/device is configured properly and fully understands how things work, the resources available to it will be fully utilised. For example, voice assistants like Apple’s Homepod or Amazon’s Alexa can provide answers to your questions without you needing to pick up your phone or turn on your computer.

Minimising Human Effort

The concept of Smart Homes is growing very fast with this benefit. A smart home/office is able to do a lot of things for you without you making a single effort, your interaction with such devices will be minimal. Like, regulate the temperature in the room, increase or dim the lighting system and lock and unlock doors. You can relax and have a good time.

Saves time

Definitely, anything that reduces human effort, and utilises resources available will save time as well, which gives you additional time to accomplish other activities.

Development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) through IoT

Your smart device is able to learn things about you by swiftly gathering data on the things you like or dislike and modifies services to your preferences. According to Kevin Lindsay, “more personalized connections are better connections. More personalised means more relevant, more interesting, less distracting and more enjoyable.” AIs such as Google Assist, Siri, Cortana and Alexa are all examples.

Improved Security

The security integrated into these IoT is very huge so the overall security with respect to everything will increase multiple times. The connection of these devices and objects to the internet is a whole new ballgame that puts security, interoperability, power/processing capabilities, scalability and availability into question in order to successfully deploy an IoT system and its connected devices. With that in mind features like device registration, device authentication/authorization, device configuration, device provisioning, device monitoring and diagnostics, device troubleshooting have been put together by device management companies to help integrate, organize, monitor and remotely manage internet-enabled devices at scale, whiles offering features critical to maintaining the health, connectivity and security of the IoT devices.

Features of IoT

Internet of Things is one major technology in the world that can help any other technology reach its full potential. To connect, analyse and integrate, are the main ways as to how IoT works.

Connect

The device is virtualised using a standardised integration of devices with the IoT enterprise, with a high-speed messaging system to enable reliable, secure and bi-directional communication between devices and the cloud and finally endpoint management to manage the endpoint identity, metadata and lifecycle states of all devices.

Analyse

Real-time analyses of incoming data streams with event aggregation, filtering and correlation mark the streaming process in the analysis stage. Apart from this, raw data is enriched with contextual information to generate composite streams. An event store queries and visualises the massive amount of data with integrated Business Intelligence (BI) Cloud Service support to enable big data analysis.

Integrate

Critical IoT data and events can be dispatched dynamically to applications through Enterprise Connectivity to a corresponding Service Provider using Representational State Transfer (RESTful) Application Program Interface (API) based integration with Cloud and IoT devices. In addition to this, most importantly is the command and control. If there is no way to send messages to the device from enterprise or mobile apps independent of device connectivity then the device or system itself is not useful.

Predictions about how big the Internet of Things are going to be and how it is going to take over everything (Internet of Everything) in the year 2020 started over a decade ago.

Flatworld Solutions predicts that by 2020 IoT will connect 21 billion devices. According to them; “the Internet of Things has taken the technology world by storm. And its limitless applications have fuelled its popularity. Hence, every year more and more devices are getting connected with IoT”

Symantec Corporation envisages more cities will become smart. “Consumers won’t be the only ones using IoT devices. Cities and companies will increasingly adopt smart technologies to save time and money.”

Artificial intelligence will become a trend, “…every smart device connected to the internet will learn its user’s patterns and habits and will respond accordingly through learning.” Chris Albert revealed in 2018.

5G networks will make their presence felt, foresees Fredric Paul. Although these IoT devices rely on low-powered, low-data-rate networks, 5G will have a big impact high-end IoT applications linked to robotics and automation, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).

We are in 2019, and so far this is an absolute reality. Definitely slow in catching up in the developing countries but far ahead in advanced countries. So what does the future hold for us? We are moving from just the Internet of Things to the “Internet of Everything.”

A smart world ready to be conquered with millions of opportunities to be grabbed in this field as McKinsey predicts the IoT market will be worth $581B for ICT-based spend alone, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 7 and 15% by 2020.

By 2021, IoT spending will reach $6 trillion predicted by Flatworld Solution. Big money is already been seen in this technology space as the world has recognised “Internet of Things’ ability to enhance customer experience. Hence there will be no dearth in funding and capital for IoT.”

So brace yourself, and welcome to the world of “Internet of Everything!”

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