2018 is a time of change in technology, the likes of which we have never seen before. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the key technology innovations which are either already affecting us or are about to change the landscape very soon.
We’ve always had physical SIMs in phones so we’ll always need them – right? Wrong. Backed by Apple and now undergoing final signoff by the GSMA, the regulatory body responsible for global phone and phone company standards, the e-SIM or ‘Embedded SIM’ is going to change the way we compare and buy our phone plans. Starting later this year, you’ll sign up to a phone plan from settings, with no need to insert a physical SIM.
We get a new generation of cellular data transmission standard every decade or so and it’s time for an upgrade from 4G. 5G, however, is not just faster data. 5G standards will allow literally one million devices to connect to a network tower at once.
There is a zero latency connect time from device to network which will underpin the connection of Artificial Reality and Augmented Reality to the mobile internet. Oh, and power consumption on 5G is so low, devices connected to the Internet Of Things (see next point) will have a single battery which can last 10 years.
The Internet of Things (IOT)
5G technology will enable literally billions of devices which previously were not connected to the internet to be put online. Cheap sensors and network connection arrays mean it will make sense for any business asset (and many private assets) to be connected to the web.
Already there are products which can measure, track and communicate your child’s hydration level, in real time, which connect cows to the internet to optimize their grazing patterns and which can communicate from one connected autonomous car to another that a crash is about to happen.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Machine learning is the computer algorithm which sits behind the more recognizable name of Artificial Intelligence. AI gives computers the skills to do the same sort of ‘fuzzy’ pattern recognition that humans do – and you can’t have failed to notice it in the news recently.
The IOT will capture and log send every piece of data, from every physical item in the world worth more than $50 and 5G will transmit it to the cloud. There, AI will look for patterns and make the currently chaotic and inefficient world much, much more effective.
Mobile data has always been sold in chunks small enough to be used by smartphones but 4G network upgrades like LTE-A and LTE-B are creating new streams of capacity which the phone companies need to fill. The result is enormous growth in uptake of mobile broadband bundles with data allocations which previously would only have been delivered by fixed broadband connections. At current rates of growth and with 5G data speeds, mobile broadband could be an economically viable alternative to fixed broadband connections in the next 5 years.
Manned and autonomous drones have already revolutionized Warcraft, replacing fighter jets at a lower cost and pilot risk level. For the public, drones will change how farmers fertilize and water their crops, how the police track suspects and how countries’ intelligence agencies collect their information.
8 out of the top 22 smartphones sold last year were made in China. With specifications that match flagship releases from companies like Apple and Samsung 2 years ago, these high volume devices do 80% of what a new release device will do for a fraction (often 20%) of the price.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency being used as a risky asset at the moment, an opportunity for some spectacular gains and losses by those prepared to invest. How well the currencies will be received by national, Federal banks, when it sidesteps many of their most important functions (for example, their ability to control the money supply) remains to be seen.
The distributed ledger technology which sits beneath cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin stands every chance of outliving the currencies which currently garner most of the headlines.
Blockchains are likely to underpin many of the most important elements of documentation in our lives – offering reliable ‘proof’ of facts like citizenship and birth certificates to digital transactions.
Despite Uber’s very public accident recently, driverless cars are almost on the roads in some states of the USA. Driverless cars will lower transport costs, redistribute property wealth outside city centers by lowering commute times, reduce interest in public transport and increase productivity for the economy by making commute time productive for workers.