In the last 10 years, a lot has changed. In 2007, the idea of a smartwatch that could tell you if you have an irregular heartbeat, or that knows the best time to wake you up in the morning, seemed like science fiction. Now it is science fact. The lines between science fiction and realistic predictions for the future are blurred.
So, what about the next 10 years? Sure, you can’t always make future projections based on historical trends – but we can try our best! Here are some of my predictions for disruptive technology that will completely transform the fabric of society by 2027:
1. True wireless charging
We already have wireless charging in Android devices – notably later models of the Samsung Galaxy – but this still requires physical contact between the phone and the charging pad. Given that we have already learnt how to transfer data literally through the air (WiFi, infrared and bluetooth data transfer), why can’t we take wireless charging to the next level and transfer energy “through the air”?
Wireless power transfer has come a long way since it was introduced by Nikola Tesla in the 1890s; we now know that you can transfer power completely wirelessly with the use of magnetic fields. This is also known as Inductive Power Transfer (IPT).
Therefore, it is only a matter of time before we start applying this technology to day-to-day activities. I believe we will reach a point where you can walk in a room and your phone will start charging because of true wireless charging hotspots located in the vicinity.
Imagine the potential of this, we may reach a point where we are producing less plastics that were previously used for replacement charging cables, ports, plug pieces and power banks. True wireless charging has the potential to further reduce our carbon footprint, but may have an impact on employment in part production factories.
2. Solar panelled car windows
With new legislation on congestion and the sales of petrol and diesel powered cars, there will be an increasing amount of momentum and investment geared towards the electric motor industry (pun intended).
We already have solar glass; why can’t we then apply these transparent solar panels to the automotive industry? In light of this (…), imagine if car windows were transparent solar panels – it’s just a matter of time before somebody can integrate solar panelled windows with the rest of the electrics in hybrid and fully electric cars. Hopefully, oil rich Arab states will have shifted their attention and invested in similar technologies by then – the age of oil dependency seems to be coming to an end.
3. Apple games consoles
The existence of iPad games, iPhone games, games on the Apple TV and accessories to play these games, such as the SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller, hints at an intention by Apple to flirt with the gaming industry. The lines between electronic devices are becoming blurred.
Furthermore, Apple’s historic rival, Microsoft, has a games console and home entertainment hybrid (the Xbox One) whilst Apple does not. Apple has a track record in producing excellent hardware from both a design and a usability perspective. So what’s stopping Apple levelling-up and providing a counterpart to the Xbox and PlayStation? I am sure they will release some interesting games that will continue to frame the way we interact with people in the online space.
4. Phone-to-phone pay (“P3”?)
“Contactless” bank cards, ApplePay, and other wireless payment solutions on Android devices are very interesting indeed. In London, local authorities have taken the initiative to integrate this with the underground train payment system (Oyster), where you can literally tap your phone against the gate at tube (metro) stations to bill your card for your imminent journey.
This begs the question: why not simply allow friends and family to transfer funds between their bank accounts by bringing and touching their phones against one-another? I personally believe it is a matter of time before this is invented, applied and regularly used.
Phone-to-phone pay could mark the end of “fiat” (paper) currency and a transition towards complete banking and invisible currency. This has obvious benefits in terms of reducing materials and production costs, and therefore our carbon footprint.
Another benefit is traceability for theft, scams and losses for insurance claims. But phone-to-phone pay could equally pose security risks to hackers looking to exploit a total virtual currency world. The combination of accountability and theft could ramp up insurance prices, which is a whole conversation in itself.
5. Virtual reality laws
One of the most fascinating realms for me is virtual reality. It has rapidly been applied to gaming, movies and social media and could shape the cognitive development of children growing up with the possibility of interacting more in the online space than the real world.
Some people argue that future generations will lack basic social skills and may become reclusive. But one could also ask: why is virtual interaction any less relevant, productive and/or credible than real-world interaction? Particularly when people can choose the way in which they interact to focus on particular skills they are lacking. For example, there is a virtual reality app that allows you to have foreign language communications at your own pace.
Nonetheless, I suspect that laws will be introduced to govern the way we use VR. Just as offices have a maximum time allowed for individual screen use in order to protect employees’ eyes from monitor damage, I suspect that time spent on VR will be governed, at least in public spaces. This may not just be for health reasons, but for potential psychological reasons that may come to surface as we become more aware of the net benefits or inconveniences of significant VR use.
Furthermore, what about bullying and harassment in the VR space? Will this be regulated by laws or does VR bullying not really count as bullying because one could choose to either consent to or “leave” the VR space?
6. Regulations for artificial intelligence
Similarly, I am pretty certain artificial intelligence will become regulated in the coming years.
The other day, Facebook applied artificial intelligence to robots which had to be forcefully shut down as the robots began to develop their own language. Will laws be introduced stopping the input of particular programming functions that could potentially lead to robots, say, conspiring against humans?
What about driverless cars that have to choose between killing their passengers by moving out of the way and into, say, a wall, or killing passengers in an oncoming car? How will these ethical dilemmas be regulated in an increasingly interconnected world?
7. Problem solving bots
This leads me to my next prediction. If you are a 90s baby like me, you may be familiar with the Chess game on Microsoft Windows computers. Whilst computer programmers who created the app may not be as good as the computer at playing chess in real time, they still managed to programme the computer to produce the best response based on an opponent’s chess moves.
This principle has of course been applied to console gaming, and people choose to play the computer on difficult settings because they often don’t get the same stimulation playing against other people.
So, why can’t we begin applying these principles to tough moral decisions? I believe it’s a matter of time before somebody builds a bot that may, for example, produce the best real time responses to a nuclear crisis.
8. “Augmented reading”
Last week, on my return to the UK, my mother burst into her living room with excitement. She showed me a gadget her friend bought her from the Emirates. Basically, it’s a Quran with a rechargeable “pen” that you can hover over Arabic sentences in order for those sentences to be read out, explained and even translated.
When you hover the pen over other parts of the page, you can instruct the speaker on the pen to, say, turn its volume up or down.
I understood the excitement: for me this was very bizarre. Here we were, reading an ancient and historical book that still looked traditional but had very faint binary dots embedded into its pages. It was like living in the future: I was holding a “smart Quran”!
Naturally, this grabbed my imagination. Imagine what else this could be used for. You could carry a pen around, point at anything, and have it translated. Plus, with eReaders already on the market, and with Samsung pioneering the development of OLED flexible TV screens that you can literally roll up, it’s just a matter of time before transparent and thin interactive displays are embedded into the pages of your printed books. If you’re a Kindle user, I’ll let your imagination do the rest of the work.
9. Smart (ironless?) fabrics
This leaves us with the possibility of integrating nanotechnology into our fabrics. Perhaps smart t-shirts, sweaters and duvets that can monitor our body temperature, movement patterns, raise health alerts and even regulate temperature using electric heat or fabric perspiration. With the exponential growth of the tech ecosystem, the possibilities are endless.