Technology works its way into your life in ways that you might not realize. The Jetsons ran on television 58 years ago and imagined a futuristic world with video calls, robot maids, and watch phones. In 2020, Zoom, Roomba, and the Apple Watch are used every day by millions of people without giving a second thought to the technologies that enable them.
Technology surrounds us in ways that you might not even appreciate. Data runs throughout your home in the data and network cabling embedded in your walls and the WiFi radio waves permeating your air. Your garage door, air conditioner, and even your septic tank can have embedded electronics to monitor and control them.
Here are nine technologies used in everyday industries:
One of the most pressing global technology trends is research into generating electricity from green, alternative energy sources. Windmills, watermills, solar, and solar thermal are all technologies that have earned a foothold in the residential power generation industry.
These technologies generate electricity for residents and businesses independent of the electric grid and often in a more environmentally friendly way than the local coal or gas-burning power plant. As a result, they lower the operator’s cost of electricity without creating any pollution by turning sunlight, moving water, or wind into electricity.
But what about turning poop into electricity? Research into microbial fuel cells suggests that it may be possible to convert your septic tank into an electric generator.
These devices use bacteria to oxidize chemicals near an anode and reduce chemicals near a cathode to generate an electric current. This is the same principle as a battery, but it uses bacteria to catalyze the reactions that generate electricity.
Most importantly, the bacteria use sewage waste found in septic tanks to produce the reactions. While microbial fuel cells would not eliminate the need for septic pumping services, this technology could reduce your power bill or even make you energy independent using nothing more than poop for fuel.
Monetizing Security Cameras
One of the fastest global technology trends is the expansion of electronic security systems. Small cameras, fast servers, and cheap storage have allowed almost every business and residence to install a security monitoring system.
While these systems are commonly viewed as an expense by the businesses that use them, there is a growing trend to find other ways of using the video footage captured by the security system to generate revenue. One way to generate revenue from security cameras is to gather information from the security camera footage and either sell the data or use the data to fine-tune the business’s operations.
- Analyze movement patterns to improve traffic flow.
- Identify which products are or are not examined by customers.
- Determine when a space is occupied to turn off lights or HVAC to save money.
Since the business has already installed the camera system for security purposes, using the images collected for a revenue-generating (or cost containment) purpose is essentially found money. A business merely invests in the software to analyze the images and it has a whole new data set for use.
Improving Water Safety
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pathways that viruses, bacteria, and parasites use to infect people. A water treatment service kills coronavirus before it can be transmitted through tap water. However, some parasites, like giardia and campylobacter have a hard outer shell that protects it in pools and hot tubs.
Global technology trends for 2020 include new ways to deliver clean and safe water. Residential ultra-violet (UV) water treatment systems will gain traction as residents install these systems in their homes to remove any pathogens missed by municipal water treatment systems. These systems will improve in price, sustainability, and energy consumption as new technologies like UV LED lamps can be used in place of older UV lamps that generate waste heat and require the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury in their manufacturing.
Delivering Health Care Safely
Due to concerns about infecting patients with pre-existing conditions with coronavirus, the use of technology to deliver health care safely will become one of the widest global technology trends.
For example, the use of telemedicine and remote doctor visits has already become commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic. Health care providers and medical technology companies will continue to develop these technologies to incorporate virtual reality to give a nurse or doctor a greater ability to examine the remote patient.
Moreover, advanced analytics can be applied to cell phone data and home automation system data to help public health officials predict disease outbreaks. And artificial intelligence can look at huge data sets of disease and disease transmission to recognize patterns and identify factors in disease transmission that might have been overlooked by human analysts.
By identifying health care workers who might contract coronavirus so they can be tested, and providing ways for health care workers to effectively interact with patients remotely, health care services can be delivered more safely. This will allow nursing home residents, hospice home health care patients, and other patients vulnerable to complications due to coronavirus to receive care for their medical issues without exposing them to the pandemic.
Finding New Ways to Provide Services
Financial necessity has driven many businesses to shut down or limited by the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home guidelines to use technology to find new lines of business or new ways of delivering their services. For example, 3-D printers have allowed manufacturers to quickly shift their manufacturing to produce face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
However, the pandemic has been especially devastating to the services industry. Theme parks, hotels, restaurants, gyms, and hair salons had to close completely. Many factors can play a part in the risk that a business faces in becoming a vector for transmission of coronavirus including:
- The proximity of workers to other workers: Factories and food processing plants could become hot spots of disease transmission because of the proximity of workers on assembly lines.
- The proximity of workers to customers: Hair salons, nail salons, and tattoo shops require workers to be in physical contact with customers.
- The proximity of customers to other customers: Theme park queues and movie theaters place customers close to each other to keep pathways open and to maximize revenue.
- The ability of customers and workers to wear PPE while the services are provided: Some services, like restaurant dining, cannot be delivered with PPE.
- Whether steps can be taken to reduce the risk without reducing the quality or safety of providing the services.
To take one example, restaurant dining rooms were shut down very early in the pandemic when it was discovered that the disease is carried on respiratory droplets. One diner with a cough risked infecting everyone inside the dining room as the droplets in the air fell onto food, tables, utensils, plates, cups, and other surfaces.
As these businesses transitioned to take out, delivery, and pick up services, global technology trends, such as online ordering and gig worker delivery, were used to improve the efficiency of the process. For example, a customer might order Italian food online through a delivery service that would dispatch a driver via a phone app to pick up the food and deliver it to the customer.
However, even more advanced global technology trends, like robotics and drones, may be used as the pandemic continues. Importantly, current robots and drones are not completely autonomous and, as a result, still require an operator. However, the operator can stand at a safe distance while the robot or drone completes the delivery. In other words, the risk of transmission is reduced by using a robot or drone as a go-between for the worker and the customer.
Improving Building Safety
Safety will dominate global technology trends in 2020 due to the pandemic. This is, in some ways, a natural reaction by technology companies. Technology companies will have a ready-made customer base of businesses that need technology to provide a safe environment so they can reopen.
One of the most difficult parts of the coronavirus pandemic is that the circulation of air is prone to spread the virus because it is carried on respiratory droplets. Thus, every cough, sneeze, or even spoken word can result in a spray of infected droplets hanging in the air. As air moves, it carries those droplets to other people.
In one notorious case, a person infected with coronavirus ate at a busy restaurant. Several people at the restaurant became infected with the virus and later analysis found that air conditioning played a critical role in transmission.
Every customer who was infected was in the path of the air conditioning and downwind of the infected person. No person who was outside the path of the air conditioner was infected. Thus, the air conditioner blew the droplets carrying the virus directly toward other diners and was the sole factor that determined whether someone was infected.
Thus, one of the global technology trends will be to retrofit air conditioners with features that will reduce or eliminate the risk of transmitting coronavirus. High-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters are the most effective filters widely available for home or business use. Unfortunately, even HEPA filters have openings large enough to allow a small percentage of viruses through.
When combined with UV disinfection, however, the HEPA filter catches most of the droplets carrying the virus and the UV light destroys the virus in any droplets that escape. Because of the urgency of this problem, you can expect manufacturers to incorporate these technologies into kits for air conditioning service businesses to use to retrofit air conditioners for the 32.5 million businesses in the U.S.
Refining Medical Technologies
Not all global technology trends are focused on coronavirus. Other technological developments center around refining existing technologies to improve their outcomes and effectiveness.
For example, within the past few years, laser vision correction has undergone an evolutionary change from using a laser to shave a thin layer off the eye’s lens to improve a patient’s vision to a custom reshaping of the lens to correct the patient’s specific vision problems. Through the custom reshaping, anomalies that cause astigmatism can be corrected along with near-sightedness.
This is possible through a combination of technologies.
- The shape of the patient’s lens is measured precisely using imaging technology.
- A computer calculates how the lens must be reshaped to correct the patient’s vision.
- Another computer controls precisely the location and duration of laser bursts to reshape the lens according to the calculations.
Only through the application of imaging, lasers, and mechanical control technologies can this happen. As these technologies advance, laser eye surgery and other forms of laser surgery will produce improved results.
Improving Home Technologies
Home automation has been and will continue to be one of the leading global technology trends. Home automation systems that control your lights and thermostat and secure your doors and windows are increasingly available to both new construction and existing homes. In fact, home automation may become so common that it is part of the electrical installation in every new home.
As the market for these systems evolves, technological developments will take place in a few areas:
- More devices will be controlled: As manufacturers incorporate controllers into more products, your home automation system incorporates a larger system of devices. For example, automated window shades, kitchen appliances, and door locks are becoming more common and will be incorporated into home automation systems of the future.
- Controllers will get smarter: Artificial intelligence will enable controllers to learn your habits and change their behaviors by observing you rather than requiring step-by-step programming. This will customize your home automation system to your preferences regardless of your technological abilities.
- You will have more ways to interact with the controller: Voice control was a major advance in home automation systems. Before voice control, a remote control, phone app, or tablet app was required to control your system. Now you need nothing more than a voice. In the future, your system’s cameras will watch you and anticipate your commands before you even say anything.
Advancing Home Security and Safety
Although both violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s, it has not dropped to zero, and homeowners are rightly concerned about security. These concerns have led to global technology trends in home security and home safety.
Home security leaped forward with Internet-based doorbell cameras. These devices allowed you to monitor your doors regardless of your location. As camera technology continues to evolve, cameras will become ubiquitous throughout the home. More importantly, the camera controllers will become smarter so you will receive alerts when a package is delivered but not when the neighbor’s cat crosses your porch.
Likewise, more businesses will incorporate notifications so you know when to expect them and when the person knocking on your door is a scammer or thief. For example, a garage door company may alert you when the garage door repair technician arrives so that you know the technician is legitimate.
Global technology trends are as varied as the industries they affect. As computers become faster, storage becomes cheaper, and software becomes smarter, you can expect technology to make its way into almost every device and system you interact with every day. Despite this expectation, technology has a way of surprising us. The most radical technology advances may come in the least likely of places.