Tech trends come and go, but a handy annual forecast from the IEEE Computer Society outlines those the organization thinks will make the biggest impact and see broad adoption over the coming year. While last year saw advances in quantum computing power, 3D printing and lattice cryptography for enhanced security, this year’s forecast suggests we should get ready for more personal interconnectedness to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Internet of Bodies (IoB)
IoT might be on everyone’s lips, but how about the IoB? With IoB or Internet of Medical Technology (IoMT), connected medicine won’t stop at your fingertips or reside in a device in your back pocket.
Although the BBC reported that work on Verily’s glucose-monitoring contact lenses has stopped, smart lens technology still shows promise. Tech in a wearable lens could help correct vision problems after cataract surgery, for example. Moreover, research and development on miniaturization will benefit other micro-sized projects.
Ingestible sensors already bring medical imaging into the gut less invasively than traditional scoping; clinicians follow the diagnostics with regular Bluetooth uploads. The Engineer noted that using radio waves to communicate with these devices deep within the body could see this kind of connected medicine deliver drugs or treatments directly.
The Medical Device Network reported that wearable sensors for remote and constant health surveillance could allow medical consultants to follow a patient in real time. For elusive conditions such as cardiac arrythmias, or chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus, where a quick response to change in symptoms is vital, this could be helpful.
Another type of continuous surveillance also made it to the IEEE Computer Society’s top 10 list. Social credit ranks users according to performance and “likability.” There’s a similar system at work when you hail an Uber ride; driver and passenger rankings alert users on both sides of the transaction to potential quality or service issues.
Increased interconnectedness through novel tech trends, advances in facial recognition systems and social media use make it relatively easy to rank users for reward while also highlighting bad behavior. Wired reported that China already has a number of social credit systems in place, with plans by the government for full implementation of a mandatory national system by 2020. The all-encompassing system plans to make “use of aggregated data for analysis of behavior,” spotting antisocial behaviors like jaywalking, for example. Its aim, as noted by Vox, is to “ensure a model society in which ‘sincerity and trustworthiness become conscious norms of action among all the people.'” Positive scores promise upgrades and discounts to reward sincere and trustworthy citizens.
Smarter Materials and Devices
Advances in smart materials and devices could also increase interconnectedness. For example, a major obstacle to IoT medical imaging tech is energy. Sensors might be small enough to swallow, but do they have enough power to navigate 30 feet of gut? Wired described how batteries running on gastric acid could power a sensor for early detection of gastrointestinal bleeds.
Smart materials also help deliver therapeutics precisely; targeted nanobots that release a drug load only when inside a cancer already show success in animal studies. Ingestible sensors could report pulse, body temperature, cancer biomarkers and even drug compliance in real time.
Another exciting new tech trend is the foldable screen. Lighter, smaller and more resistant to damage, Techgenix thinks the slimmer, less bulky devices offer many advantages to consumers. The Verge noted that since glass is not foldable, manufacturers are working on new polymer materials to create flexible and tough layers for screens that will not stress or crack when folded and unfolded multiple times.
As the best new tech, consumers could be getting much more in their devices. A back pocket smartphone could easily unfold into a tablet-sized display. A roll-up 55-inch TV screen may not be far away either.