It’s about that time of year where you can’t escape lists of the best of the previous 12 months of what’s going to be hot in the next. In order to slightly lessen the risk of being completely wrong, I’d like to offer up my thoughts for what I think the trends are going to be over the next few years. So without further ado here we go:

Automated vehicles. Google’s been running trails of its self driving car, and various other manufacturers have been sending cars around test circuits without human hands at the wheel for some time now. Recently Amazon - in an admittedly obvious, but rather well crafted publicity stunt showed how they could use drones to deliver packages. There’s clearly a need for us to move physical items around and really we don’t want to be sending a chaperone with every parcel. I could see how small drones could be amazingly useful for post or medical delivery in hard to reach places.

The self driving car is a curious case. Assuming that it can be developed to drive around without hitting anyone or anything it’ll have to fit in with people’s enjoyment of driving. Will the Jeremy Clarkson character who insists on driving himself be relegated to the granny lane while the computer aided boxes whizz past? Will driving yourself turn into a leisure activity like going for a walk?

Battery technology - I can’t pinpoint one particular technology but this has got to improve - the amount we rely on batteries, even now is staggering - and if we’re honest they don’t really deliver what’s needed. If the battery powered car is going to take off, the battery technology needs to change. I admire Tesla for pushing the idea of what a battery powered car should be but as much as I want to the idea of a battery powered car is just impractical at the moment. The idea of a petrol powered car was impractical 100 years ago too - so I’m not writing it off, but the there needs to be some innovation in the electrical storage and delivery field. It’s not just cars. Increasingly we’re going to see small devices with more sensors around us and they’re going to need power. It’s likely their batteries are going to be the things holding them back.

3D printing - This isn’t exactly new - my library has a 3D printer. But we’re still in the discovery stage. Making models and prototypes. It’ll be incredible to see “printers” capable of handling multiple materials perhaps even operating on the atomic level, building objects to spec. If these devices can operate at a suitable speed, could they take over production lines? We could see objects more specific to individual requirements without the massively increased production costs. Objects built to order, without the need to stockpile warehouses full of items you hope to sell.

Security - a lot more accounts will be hacked, hijacked and tapped. The current password system we use for online security will become unmanageable. More centralised authentication providers will start to offer services. At present these providers are the large social networks but how long people are willing to trade authentication services for personal information remains to be seen. An open standard that allows for multiple providers would be preferable. A centralised system could be pushed by governments as a way to reduce anonymity online and make people more traceable and accountable. Some countries already using banking infrastructure for authentication for government websites. If a wide-scale adoption is going to take place it needs to be an international system and by any stretch of the imagination it's going to be a monumental security task.


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