Emerging Areas of Technology, Part 1

(tech areas that will have a profound impact on how we conduct our lives)

Technological Advances on a Global Scale

In February, 2003, MIT's Technology Review identified ten emerging areas of technology that still might have a profound impact on how we conduct our lives.

  1. Brain-Wireless Sensor Networks: Small (AA battery sized) devices called motes combine a processor, memory, and sensors to monitor their local environment, and have just enough radio power to transmit snippets of data to nearby motes to pass along to other motes, thereby creating a self-organizing network. Applications include traffic, buildings, and ecosystems.
  2. Injectable Tissue Engineering: Joints, such as hips or knees, are injected with mixtures of polymers, cells, and growth stimulants that solidify and form healthy bone and cartilage. Injectable systems are less invasive and less costly than surgical replacements.
  3. Nano Solar Cells: Tiny nanorod semiconducting crystals are added to electrically conductive polymers to create very thin sheets (200 nanometers thick), which are then sandwiched between electrodes to carry away electricity generated when struck by sunlight.
  4. Mechatronics: Mechanical systems are combined with electronic components and software which can identify and correct flaws in real time to ensure the overall system functions as intended. Although already found in aircraft and photocopiers, the falling prices of both microprocessors and sensors make them ready for prime time in the automotive world.
  5. Grid computing: The Internet links computers. Hypertext links documents. Grid protocols link everything else; such as, databases, simulation tools, and underutilized computing power. Computer grids function analogously to the electric grid. Widely dispersed on-line resources become available to focus on the problem at hand.
  6. Molecular Imaging: Multiple imaging techniques; magnetic, nuclear, and optical are combined with computer analysis to observe molecular interactions underlying biological processes. Molecular signals may indicate cancer growth, for example, long before the cancers are detectable by conventional means.
  7. Nanoimprint Lithography: Like a printing press, a hard mold is stamped into a material momentarily softened by a laser flash, creating reproducible features smaller than 10 nanometers across in less than a microsecond. The commercial challenge is to etch nanopatterns into silicon for microchips.
  8. Software Assurance: Software bugs and computer crashes are a pervasive fact of life. New tools are being developed which model and test a software design before the programmers write the code, in much the same way a bridge design is tested before the bridge is built. Another analogy is the quality movement in industry during the 1970s and 1980s, which replaced sampling and testing all products and rejecting those not meeting specifications with building quality into the product at every step of design and manufacture.
  9. Glycomics: Glycomics is an effort to understand and harness sugars that are naturally made by the human body, in order to improve health by bolstering the immune system or by arresting disease processes. Sounds easy, but there is, as of yet, no code that determines the structure of the sugars.
  10. Quantum Cryptography: Commonly used encryption of messages is based on fixed "public keys", whose codes have not been broken yet, but they will be someday. Quantum encryption creates a unique "key" for each message, and any attempt to intercept the message irrevocably alters the signal, making the message unreadable to anyone.

Compared to previous predictions, there has been a shift from computing algorithms to a fascination with the very small. There is now a focus on nanotechnology, in the same way that biotechnology did a decade ago. The biggest barrier to nanotech's promise is developing manufacturing techniques on a microscopic scale never mastered before.

Getting to know information technology

"Fluency" with information technology may require more intellectual abilities than the rote learning of software and hardware associated with "computer literacy", but the focus is still on the technology itself. Information literacy is an intellectual framework for understanding, finding, evaluating, and using information; activities that may be accomplished in part by fluency with information technology, in part by sound investigative methods, but most important, through critical discernment and reasoning.

Bush administration proposes increase in spending on information technology

Despite cuts in dozens of areas in the government, the Bush administration has proposed a 7.1 percent increase in information technology spending for fiscal 2006.

The increase of nearly $5 billion is split between the armed services and the civilian agencies, bringing the proposed IT budget to $65.2 million.

The National Science Foundation, Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs departments proposed more than 20 percent increases in IT spending, while the Housing and Urban Development and Labor departments, U.S. Agency for International Development, General Services Administration, NASA, Office of Personnel Management and Social Security Administration projected cuts in their technology budgets.

The overall funding level represents an 11 percent boost from the actual fiscal 2004 budget and is fairly consistent with last year's financial plan with the exception of increases in enterprise architecture and health care technology spending.

Information security spending proposals at 17 agencies rose $1.7 billion, a 7.2 percent hike from fiscal 2005. Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation and the Small Business Administration all received at least 10 percent increases in this area, while the Social Security Administration, Labor and Health and Human Services departments would be given smaller budgets than in fiscal 2005.

The administration requested $5 million for its e-government initiative as well as an additional $40 million from the revenues generated by GSA's General Services Fund.

A list of additonal Emerging Areas of Technology Index, Part 2.

Related topics about "technology": Biometrics: Index; Biomimetics: Index; Biopiracy; Geographic Information System (GIS): Index; Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS); Global Positioning System (GPS); Information Tech; Mechatronics; Nanotechnology; RFID; Robotics; Technological Breakthroughs; Technological Innovations; WAAS; Wireless Communications.