Technology has infiltrated our lives so much that nowadays it is hard to imagine how we would do without some of the stuff we didn't even have a name for just a few years ago.
When looking for a professional, do you go to A- the good old yellow pages or B- the internet? If you've answered A, you should know that you are in a minority, not as small as those who still don't carry a mobile phone but getting close. Maybe you haven't made the move (and the expense) to smart phones. Don't worry, it won't be long until you don't have a choice anymore -when the 'dumb' handset are no longer manufactured.
Do you write letters, send faxes, email?... Or do you just rely on Facebook to keep in touch with the rest of the world? No-one had heard of social media just over a decade ago. Now it's so mainstream that people are already looking for the next generation of communication tools.
So what does the future hold? It doesn't take a glass ball to foretell humanity's fortune. Keeping an eye on the technological tradeshows like the Las Vegas CES
gives a good idea of where we're heading -more or less willingly. Not only is it entertaining but, for the more entrepreneurially-minded, it's also a mine of business inspiration and opportunities.
The very smart and very connected Withings
is a company that specialises in marrying wi-fi (wireless) technologies and day-to-day objects.
Take their bathroom scales, for example: managing up to 8 users, it sends all your family's weight data to your computer, your tablet or smartphone and lets you access and analyse it remotely through the internet. Capable of giving you body mass ratios, with functionalities like diet recommendations that are exactly adapted to your actual info, it is a little revolution in itself.
A gadget? Maybe so, but with half of western women on a diet on any given day, the age of the first diet jumping down from 14 to 8 years old in the last 30 years, it's the sort of toy that's going to make their inventors (or retailers) rather rich.
The latest Withings toy is a baby monitor that's directly tuned into your smartphone or tablet. Parents are no longer limited by the range of their baby monitor. Now they can be on the other side of the world and watch their baby sleep or play. They can even interact with them through the monitor, play some soothing music when they wake or display a real light show in the bedroom. A Withings representative has been quoted to say that now you could comfortably go out to dinner while your little one slept. Of course you wouldn't want to be too far in case you got stuck in traffic in an emergency!
MIT's Technology Review
reports a significant advance in medical technology. It's no bigger than the pills you're already swallowing and yet it does much more than those: it lets your GP know whether you've remembered to take them. Science fiction? Paranoid nightmare? Not at all. The Smart Pill is just your usual medication wrapped in a capsule that includes a tiny microchip and a microscopic antenna. When the capsule you swallow mixes with the gastric juices in your digestive system, the microchip and antenna are activated and transmit information to your doctor's computer or phone about the type of pill you took and the time it entered your stomach.
Applications? Really good news for patients with Alzeimer-type conditions, or people with psychological disorders who need help with their medication schedule. It could also save the labs a lot of money on the human testing of new molecules.
There's nothing that stops the technology to be pushed a bit further, with the microchip and antenna continuing to transmit information to your doctor about your sleep, PH balance and body temperature... Applications? Great if you need the extra monitoring, a bit scary if you don't!
Talking about doctors, did you know that French people can now choose the doctor they register with according to whether they're on Twitter or not? A few gadgets like heart rate monitors or podometers can be linked to your GP's Twitter account, who receives your data in real time and can then feedback on your current condition and activity. Let's say that you're being treated for high blood pressure and decide to have a really hearty meal, your doctor can see your figures sky rocket live, and then tweet you to slow down on the wine. That is of course, provided they are not too busy doing exactly the same...
You don't need to be an MD to use Twitter though, as plants can now do it all by themselves. An American company, Botanicalls
has developed a little sensor that can be placed in any plant pot and will allow the plant to send you a tweet when it's under (or over)watered, underfed, overheated or whatever else a plant doesn't like.
Stopping at a toll to pay for the highway is now a thing of the past, A system allowing you to pay via SMS or a website is already in place North of Auckland. The technology is now widened to parking spaces and it won't be long until you can scan your number plate and pay for your parking space all in one go, then even receive a message when your time is running out. It is already a reality for a lot of European city dwellers.
In the same way, more and more businesses worldwide are adopting systems that allows customers to use their phone to pay at the till. There's nothing new there: it's been over 20 years since the Japanese have used their mobile phones to pay for the restaurant and in shops. In our part of the world, Starbucks is the first chain to use the system through their free app (not free coffee though).
TV monitors are also having their revolutions. Forget about HD or even 3D, they're already in the past. A few big brands have already come up with Ultra High Definition models, which could already be dethroned by OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology.
But that's not all! Now your TV is also watching you: with a little integrated video camera and a wireless internet connection some monitors are now able to turn themselves on to your preferred channel as you enter the room, using face-recognition technology.
The amount of data that's being sent through the said internet connection to "share" your watching preferences and habits with several unknown parties is yet to be determined, of course...
But all of that could go to the bin even before it hits the mass market as it is said that Apple is soon to release a new sort of television which will completely change the way we watch it.
Another very real and very present advance is wireless electricity. Having been researched for a few decades now, it is now available commercially. With the first completely wireless TV monitor developed by the Chinese Haier, it isn't very far until we may be able to forget about plug sockets and power-cords. For now the device is limited to a 1 yard transmission but the technology is growing fast and could soon be applied to every bit of electrical hardware in the house. The effect of all that electricity traveling in tiny radio waves all around our bodies is still to be researched. That fact won't stop its commercialisation though.
is a tiny little company with a great future ahead of itself. Inventor of the very first connected mirror: the 'Miroir' lets you listen to the radio, check the news or surf the web at the touch of a finger from your bathroom mirror. They also sell it as a real neat piece of decorative and presentation equipment for trendy businesses. Picture for example the changing-room mirrors allowing you to try on every piece of outfit without even taking off your clothes. There's no telling what the Evil Queen would have found out about the Sleeping Beauty with that kind of toy....
There is more to indicate that we could soon say goodbye to all screens and monitors. Heads-Up Display (HUD) was first developed for military aircrafts. The Corvette C5 was the first car to be equipped with the technology in 1998. It is now standard in more luxurious cars and even motorcycle helmets with HUD can be found everywhere. So what's new there? Think contact lenses! A new generation is currently being developed that will allow their wearers to have images displayed (the web, their mobile phone or whatever) into their field of vision.
The great news for contact lenses manufacturers is that even people with perfectly good eyesight could benefit from the technology... And no doubt after extensive use of the latter, they will start really needing lenses anyway!