Nine Technologies That Are Fundamentally Changing Society

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Harvard Business Review first introduced disruptive innovation and its disruption theory in 1995. Today, disruptor is a buzzword that pertains to a company, organization, or individual that has made bold moves or how has technology changed society or industry permanently in general through their bold ideas. Most of these “disruptors” are innovators that make use of advanced technology. They change how processes are done and leave a bold impact in society in general.

How has Technology Changed Society with These 9 Innovations

These are top 9 technologies that have fundamentally changed the world as we know it today:

1. Blockchain

Blockchain is the underlying technology of today’s cryptocurrencies. It is a flexible technology that can be used as a ledger, database, and list. It is decentralized, self-validating, and the larger it is, the more secure the data becomes. Blockchain can be used in various technologies, including logistics and food tracking and monitoring, transactions, aviationmedical record keeping and more.

This versatility allows blockchain to be used in a wide range of other technologies. Before blockchain, payment portals needed to verify the owner and source of the funds, the recipient, as well as track every transfer between the source and destination. On the back end, there are also measures to ensure that there is no double-spending, a case when money is used more than once.

The built-in nature of security and anonymity in a blockchain, and the decentralized ledger makes the whole system independent of any controlling authority.  Companies are already making use of blockchain and cryptocurrency to tokenize the rewards for the verification process.

Blockchain users are also assured that their data is secure.

2. AI and Machine Learning

The basis of today’s artificial intelligence is the large amount of data available for study. Machine learning studies the big data and teaches itself depending on the behavior of the data. This allows AI to learn on its own with just a set of initial directives. With blazing speed, a computer can play against itself multiple times in a day. It continues to play until it understands how to win and keep studying until it understands the nature of the problem.

When AI is used to solve a particular problem, it may take a while for machine learning models to understand what is happening. Researchers and scientists do not need to teach AI the algorithms because it searches for patterns and tools within the massive amount of data it uses. The data will have a pattern and machine learning will find it, then passing the knowledge to the AI engine to be used as it sees fit.

AI allows a machine to learn patterns within data and understand the meaning of these patterns. It uses the information from raw data from multiple sources and formats, and explains it in easily digestible chunks that can be actionable and relevant to the researchers. The problem is now that it appears that machines are learning on their own and this could pose a bigger challenge that scientists are not ready to deal with.

3. Cloud Computing

Software as a service (SaaS), also called “the cloud”, has moved from plain offline storage to working on the cloud using the same tools used on a standalone PC. It has allowed people to use whatever device they want to access the information and to use online tools with the same power as traditional software.

Cloud computing has made software installation obsolete, at least for most of the common apps and tools.

For the company, using cloud computing encourages collaboration. There are also operational savings from using the cloud. There is no support nor any maintenance required. The cloud service provider handles all the problems. The tools are also usually already integrated. You can make use of the spreadsheet data and import it on to a presentation. If you are presenting from the cloud, you can present the file, even as other parts are being updated.

Recently, San Francisco-based cloud computing company, Salesforce, announced that it will invest $2 billion into its Canada offices over the next five years.

4. High Bandwidth WiFi

Bandwidth will continue to grow in both speed and in scope. One technology which is expected to bring a lot of benefits in the near future is wireless mesh networks. Networks were designed to be static objects which used cables. Each device on a cable had its own IP, and that device was expected to receive and transmit through the cable it was attached to. Even WiFi used this concept where a device using the network was tied to the network.

This means that every time a device accesses a network, it has to sign in with the network device, router, switch, etc., and establish a connection before it can access the internet. For large areas, the solution would be to use an access point, which is like a WiFi repeater, or to install an extension of the network with the use of a WiFi router. Even with this solution, the mobile device treats the extension router as a different network, and goes through the authentication every time it changes connection from one router to another.

There is, however, a solution. Called the wireless mesh network, it uses WiFi transmitters which act as smart repeaters, and is considered as only one device. While within the mesh network, a laptop, smartphone or a tablet does not need to change its IP address. The various repeaters act as one WiFi router. This effectively extends the range of the router. The user does not need to authenticate every time it gets out of reach of an antenna or the main router.

This technology makes WiFi a pervasive presence. People will no longer have to worry about getting out of range of the WiFi signal. Not only is the reach longer, but the bandwidth stays strong allowing for fast internet connections.

The main beneficiary of this technology is the Internet-of-Things. These are smart devices which are usually unmanaged. When you move a smart appliance, the user will have to authenticate for the appliance to connect to a different router. In a wireless mesh network, the IoT appliance does not need to authenticate with another network device. The IoT device can be mobile and not loss connectivity.

Considering that the growth in IoT devices is expected to accelerate in the coming years, the wireless mesh network can help the growth even further.  This is also very useful for industries that use RFID devices, including logistics and security.

5. Big data

Data warehousing and data mining were tech buzzwords during the 1990s. These were used to describe how companies can keep huge amount of data and analyze them accordingly. The study of data warehousing and data mining has been supplanted by big data, which is a lot more data than what tech personnel envisioned during the 1990s.

Big data is collected from customer information, during the 1990s by telecommunications companies, and since the advent of Web 2.0, by internet companies. Companies know what their database contains but they don’t know what the information in the database means. Companies collect tons of data every day, and this is usually kept as raw data until it gets sorted out and analyzed. The data just keeps pouring in like a black hole, where every piece of information goes in and nothing goes out.

Initially, data mining entailed massaging the data into a form where intelligent queries can be done. These were done manually in an ad hoc manner, depending on the information which needed to be extracted. Nowadays, with the volume of information gathering accelerating at an even faster clip, the only way to glean any information from big data is the use of machine learning.

Using modern tools, and modern databases, machine learning allows researchers to provide computers instructions on how to distinguish significance, and to find underlying interactions and relationships. The power of machine learning is that the data is sifted through for an understanding of how it behaves. This behavior is tested against ever bigger amounts of data, until it is fully understood by the machine. The developers do not need to know how the machine does it. They only know if the machine is successful or not. When machine learning works, the computer will know the answer before the developers can even formulate the question.

6. 3D printing

3D printing promises offers a new way of doing things and , can make anyone a do-it-yourselfer. This technology allows people to print things in three-dimension and to use these as spare parts. At present, the materials are usually a form of plastic or a hard resin. The material used limits the things which can be printed and their usable lifespan. However, with new technologies and materials, improved system lifetime is also expected.

3D printed materials can be temporary solutions. They can be used  until an individual is able to  buy an original part made of sturdier materials.

This technology has uses which can make it unique for hospitals and medicine in general. Internal organs like valves, arteries and tubes can be 3D printed according to the patient’s specifications. The same is true of shoes, or automobile parts which are not exposed to high temperatures. Explorations can make use of 3D printing to create copies of needed items. The greatest impact of 3D printing is in research and development, as well as in manufacturing. It would be easier and faster to create prototypes with the use of a 3D printer.

7. Autonomous Vehicles

The next few years will see the growth of self-driving cars. These are autonomous driven vehicles which are aware of their environment and are meant to be safer alternatives to today’s cars. This is AI on multiple levels.. For a vehicle to be aware of its environment, it has to have numerous sensors to monitor the car’s performance and status. It has to have video capability to see the road ahead. It has to be able to monitor the traffic around the vehicle. If possible it also has to communicate with other vehicles (V2V) as well as with the road, signals, signs, sidewalks and everything else (V2X).

This means that the vehicle has to be able to process all these information in real time. This is where technology companies have an edge over car companies. This has also made partnershipsinevitable. Microchip makers, sensor manufacturers, AI researchers and car manufacturers have set up partnerships with each other and with others in different industries in order to have a better chance of putting their autonomous vehicles on the road. Ride-sharing companies are also placing resources into researching better and safer autonomous vehicles. The aim is to make riding a car easier and safer.

8. Biotech and Life Sciences

Genetics, microbiology and biotechnology techniques have given a new momentum for life sciences projects. Starting with the studyr on stem cells, researchers have been able to develop artificial embryos leading the way to better understand how life starts and develops. This is not life as we know it as it does not make use of eggs or sperm. Other advances in life sciences have included bio screening and predictive analytics for genomic data. These include testing for diabetes, and other possible congenital diseases, including tagging those who might be genetically prone to develop diseases.

Another thing to watch out for in 2018 is the use of next generation wearables track data and monitor vital signs. These wearables will be able to read blood sugar levels, as well as to predict the chances for a heart attack before it happens. Research into wearables also includes prevention of infant death syndrome with the use of a baby wearable.

The wearable market has a huge potential with Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Google trying to put their hardware and software advantages to good use in coming up with more in-depth monitoring capabilities. The current crop of wearables allow for heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, temperature and exercise level, as well as the ability to send these information to the doctor or to loved ones.

9. Nanotechnology

One of the most promising materials for nanotechnology is graphene, which could be stretched as thin as two carbon molecules. Nanotechnology research has made incredible leaps in materials with the blending of up to eight distinct elements. These were formerly known to be incompatible or not capable of being mixed together. However, a method was found where these eight metal and semiconductors were bound together into a small package. The discovery is like being able to combine eight kinds of lego blocks instead of just three. With eight metals there are more possibilities for nanomaterials.

Meanwhile new methods and techniques have also created new nanomachines. Researchers from the USA and Germany have come up with a tiny rotary motor about 30 nanometers in size which can move in a specific direction of up to 240 nanometers. This development paves the way to development of other nanomachines made from this 30 nanometer rotary engine.

Of more importance is a highly-absorbent nanomaterial which can be used as a field dressing. The material is in the form of an injectable hydrogel which makes it easy to administer for wounds in internal organs and can be used to plug internal wounds, thereby preventing hemorrhage.

The effect of these technologies are going to trickle down to consumers as soon as working models and prototypes are developed.

These are just a few of the most pervasive and rapidly-evolving technologies being used today. They are being applied in commerce, learning, health care, and the environment. These four key areas drive society as a whole. This generation must learn to adapt and harness the advantages of these developments; maximize their capabilities, and be prepared for the bold impacts that each one leaves on the lives of people who use the technology every day.

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