Stay on top or be left behind. That’s been the rallying cry for coaches in business, sports and life in general. Technologies have a way of catching up on businesses, which often focus more on keeping up with day-to-day activities and less on staying abreast of what the future might have in store. Take General Electric for a recent cautionary tale. Once the world’s biggest, the company recently announced a $1 billion investment in its software business to play catch-up with the likes of IBM.
Understanding technologies of the future is key to playing a successful role in it. Here are 10 emerging technologies with the potential to dominate the high-tech landscape in the coming decade. Many relate to the Internet of Things, which for that reason is first on the list.
The Internet of Things
The so-called “Internet of Things” is getting lots of attention these days. But what is it? If you already understand the concept of embedded systems–like those running in cars–then just add an IP stack and you’re up to speed on IoT. The Earth of 2020 will be coated by 25 billion autonomous web-connected devices that collaborate to serve mankind, according to research by Gartner. These devices will be watching homes and offices, alerting us of suspicious activities, monitoring the power grid to keep energy systems running at peak efficiency, streaming media and health alerts and ensuring that all of our environmental and automation systems keep running. The IoT is also the cloud, where most business and computing will get done in the future, and it is ripe with opportunity for solution providers.
A group of former Apple engineers sought to personalize the IoT in 2010 and make it meaningful to people’s lives. The result was Nest Labs, which had an idea so unique and useful that in January it was worth $3.2 billion to Google. The company’s flagship, the Nest Thermostat, works like a modern programmable model. However, it’s controlled with a mobile device, monitors your activity while home and away to maximize the efficiency of energy usage and communicates with the utility company to help minimize your bills and control energy prices for the general community. There’s also a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector. For managed service providers, Next and others like it offer opportunities to help customers automate their environmental systems and provide ongoing maintenance services.
Peloton is the French word for platoon, and for truck fleets it means using technology to electronically combine two or more individual vehicles into a convoy to increase safety, reduce driver fatigue and save as much as $100,000 or more in fuel costs per truck per year. Peloton Technology is a 2011 venture-funded startup that’s currently beta testing a system combining GPS, wireless communications, blind-spot video monitoring and forward collision avoidance systems similar to today’s adaptive cruise control. According to the company, its system mitigates “the most common truck accidents,” and in tests with pairs of trucks, they’ve seen fuel savings of 4.5 percent for the lead truck and 10 percent for the back rig. The system is capable of controlling larger vehicle groups and might even persuade competitive freight haulers to work together more.
You might have noticed new letters with or instead of the a/b/g/n that usually accompanies a Wi-Fi spec. Many new mobile devices now include the 801.11ac spec and its support for wireless speeds up to 1.3 Gbps. But most organizations still lack the infrastructure to make it work. This spells an opportunity for resellers to prepare customer Wi-Fi networks for the future. All that’s needed is an access point (AP) that supports the new spec. Approved in January, the 802.11ac works by expanding the capacities of the 802.11n spec. The new spec supports single-link throughput of up to 500 Mbps, doubles the number of spatial streams to eight and optionally widens the channel bandwidth from 40 MHz to 160 MHz, with a mandatory width of 80 MHz. The 802.11ac spec is backward compatible with 802.11n and operates on the same 5GHz band.