To the Future
If it looks to you that nanobots and skycars are only for the sci-fi movies and serials and not for the real then you need to rethink about it. There are three disruptive technologies that are going to work as a single unit within a time period of five to ten years and this conglomeration will bring about a drastic change in our lifestyles and patterns of working.
The principles on which the modern technologies are based are slowly becoming unable to sustain the growth. The cost of making technologies more and more advanced and competitive is reaching an astronomical proportion and at the same time Moore’s law suggest that it is imperative that the speed as well as power of the computer must be increased twice to its previous performance of 18 months back, which also nearing its physical limits. It will be no later than 2015 that we will have to use the same old techniques and technologies of today’s world to enhance the power and reduce the size of the latest devices.
The vice-president and research fellow at Gartner, Mr. Bob Hayward, has named a new promising research technology as embedded connectivity, which has a vast potential to boost the present technological advancement as well as support the growth of newer technologies. Sensors, nanotechnology and wireless technology are the ones which are constantly supporting this new embedded connectivity.
The devices with billions of microprocessors are the one which are going to be in the fore front of running the world of embedded technology in the near future and these devices can very easily understand its environment with the help of interconnection among each other with wireless technology and then perform in the best possible method. Scientists say, it is most likely that we will use these devices in every possible way to make our living more comfortable like, embedding or sticking these devices to our body for a quick communication, letting these devices be scattered around our streets in order to do menial tasks and also using them in the commonplace objects for helping us in our day to day chores.
All these possibilities and the principle for the new embedded technology is based on the exploitation of nanotechnology in the best possible way, which is in turn based on the best possible use of the molecules as small as under 100 nanometers in size. In standard units a nanometer is simply the one-millionth part of a millimeter, but to make it more clear understand it as 1/100,000 of the diameter of a single hair of the human and which is about the size of a unit of five atoms. This very unit is going to be the founding blocks of the future. Nanotechnology is not a step down method in which something (in this case silicon) is reduced in its size from its bigger size instead it is a build-up process in which the smallest units of the substance, i.e. atoms and molecules, are assembled with each other in order to carve out a complete silicon chip.
This unique method of using the molecules has so much potential for the future advancements that even US Government can not resist itself from claiming that by 2015 nanotechnology would alone rake in US$1 trillion by producing different products worldwide.
This nanotechnology is in the advancement stage with new researches taking place on daily basis in this field. As for an example, in case of electronic circuitry, the integrated circuits has been made as small as 65 nm in size that will greatly help in including more and more transistors for increasing the performance efficiency.
Then there is the field of molecular computing, where the computer scientists are engaged in developing the circuits that are being made on atomic level. These circuits will help in exploiting the hidden potential inside the atoms and molecules in order to produce lightening speed reactions and to produce the storage devices of unimaginable holding capacity for data.
IBM is in an advanced stage of building microchips from the nanoparticles with the help of molecular self-assembly technique. This manipulation of nanoparticles by IBM could prove to be great for the improvement in circuit performance and is most likely would enter into a pilot phase within a year or two. Six years ago, IBM has already created chips containing storage capacity on the scale of terabyte.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) is also not behind the IBM as far as nanotechnology is concerned. It has already started building the Atomic Resolution Storage products which would be of molecular size. These products would have the capability to encode one bit per atom to store 100 million times more data from the one which is supported by the current hard disks.
The whole of the semiconductor producing industry is on the verse of an overhaul by 2015 due to the above mentioned advances in nanotechnology. It doesn’t look impossible anymore to have the devices as small as a 50 cent coin to include all the capabilities of the present computers as well as include further advancements, all thanks to the production and introduction of new basic components, of only a few tens of nanometers in size, to the electronic circuitry.
Quantum information processing
Further adding up to the advancement, the quantum information processing (QIP) will substantially increase the acquisition, transmission & processing of the information around in order to materialize the complex functions including factoring of vast numbers in the pattern matching or in the cryptographic applications that is not possible under present processors capability.
This can be achieved by the mimicking of the processes of atomic interactions that made possible the proposition of quantum computing. Mr. Gartner’s Hayward said that this technique will help us create such computers that will be even faster than the present day super computers and this will not be a gradual increase rather it will be a big leap for the computers for increasing their over all performance. But there is another side of the coin too that says it is also possible that these advancement will make us more vulnerable towards the breach of our security, privacy and could also pose threats before ethical issues.
Hayward further added that however, we try to be safe; we will not even know when we have already put our safety in risk. As of now it takes almost a month for even a super computer to breach the security provided by a DES encrypted code, but after the introduction of quantum information processing (QIP) in the computer world it would hardly take a few seconds to breach the same. On the other hand, it is also possible that it will help in strengthening the security algorithms.
Though nanotechnology is yet to be completely functional, its effects have already started appearing in our lives. The advanced sunscreens contains these nanoparticles as one of their constituents and the research for the Ambri biomedical testers, which are like cellular sensors, is going on in full fledge at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
It is widely accepted that within the next five years the use of nano-scaled sensors will appear in many products which will grant those products the ability of intelligence for several applications. For the example, development in advanced materials will make it possible to integrate the nanoparticles within a systematically synthesized material in order to provide it the desired properties. In the words of CSIRO’s Turney, this development in advanced materials will help in the production of intelligent textiles embedded with nanoparticles, which will be capable of weaving in the hot days of summer or convert into ceramics while encountering a fire.
He shows a new world to us 10 years far, which will need little interaction on the pert of human’s physical activity. Advanced materials (embedded with sensors) will be able to interact in all possible ways with the environment like, food producers would make the packaging materials with advanced materials, which would in turn contain the biosensors, providing intelligence to the packaging towards sensing the quality of the food lying within.
In the next five years anyone would be able to go into any of the supermarkets, pick up salami and then have a look on the package to know if it has gluten inside or some developed salmonella. Mr. Turney said that it would be impossible to do away with sensors in the world of embedded technology of tomorrow. Another great benefit of using these miniature sensors would be that they will consume very little power for their actions.
Now the sensors have reached a size of match head and are being worked upon to further reduce their size in order to gather more power. These sensors can be made to use the power generated by power scavengers. Power scavengers store the energy in a suitable form by converting other simple and common forms of energies like, converting the kinetic energy, produced during walking, into voltage.
Then this energy could be stored in the micro-super-capacitors that are being designed to make available thousands of times of more electricity than a standard capacitor are intended to supply. According to industry specialists, if these materials started working the organizations will begin setting up the wireless networks in a complex web form.
According to IBM’s business consulting services wireless leader, Will Duckworth, within a period of ten years the machine to machine wireless networks will give rise to the sense and respond ecosystems, for which there will be a need of WiMAX and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as well as other surveillance methods for the purpose of remote tracking.
Will Duckworth said that systems produce a lot more data than a human could produce indicating towards the business drivers like, inventory management, pollution monitoring and container tracking. The director of capital firm Australian Technology Group, Mr. John Murray shows the future of intelligent wireless networks, which will be made up of low cost devices that consume less power and collect a large amount of data to put into the information systems.
Mr. Murray said that this will make the companies able to automate their responses within the supply chain and respond in the real time without any problem. This could happen once the business’ sensory organs gets connected to the world outside the organization and then returning it to an automatic responder which will act accordingly without any intervention on the part of humans. To further automate the whole process, the robotics could be used.
It is still at least 20 years to see the microscopic nanobots functioning. They are the molecular manufacturing systems that have been depicted in many sci-fi programs and movies as the mutating swarms destroying things here and there. In reality they are nowhere to be seen for now, but it is not insane to think about them as several companies are seriously giving it a thought to build miniature robots. On the line of this thought in the year 2000, MIT’s Bioinstrumentation Laboratory, has already created a prototype of the first of its kind of nanorobot called Nanowalker. It is only the size of a sugar cube and can move almost 4,000 steps a second and that also with absolute precision. It has a chip installed in it through which it always keeps in the wireless contact with a central computer.
These nanorobots could be used as the constructor of products of surveillance, in-vitro investigation (under the body investigation) and many other services, by providing them the capability to assemble the materials atom by atom. But, before these nanorobots, we will see around us the large working robots. The autonomous systems team leader at CSIRO, Mr. Corke says that it will not be later than 10 years that we will witness the large robots doing several chores at offices, hospitals, restaurants and shopping centers.
The robots which are used today, operates in the controlled environments specifically designed for them, e.g. car assembly plants. But the efforts are on to create such robots which will no longer need to be working in such controlled environments rather they will be capable of working in the less organized world and will have to deal with the real problems of the world and its unexpected changes.
The research on robotics systems are heading in a particular development in order to provide these devices with special sensors that can make these devices have some common logical skills as well as the ability to perceive their surroundings and then respond to it. Mr Corke said that after another five to ten years it is possible that we will be receiving our mails from these classes of machines or will see them stacking the store shelves. Another benefit of these machines will be that they will come at far less cost than the cost of hiring human labor. The larger counterparts of these machines could be used in the mines. It should also be known that the most of the funds to develop these kinds of machines comes from the mining industry and from the organizations which want some flying robots in order to regularly inspect and check their assets like, power lines and the areas which are difficult for humans to reach.
There are several big organizations that are funding research on a lager scale, either individually or in collaboration with some other companies, for the invention of next generation of transport system. Some of those interested organizations are: Boeing, NASA and some comparatively smaller organizations like, Moller International, who are interested in the development of skycars for their own uses.
NASA Vehicle Systems Program’s personal air vehicle sector manager, Mr. Mark Moore says that it will be about when and where we want to travel and more specifically how we wish to travel. We are trying to develop a different class of transporting vehicles that will be quite, easy to operate and more importantly affordable to own. These will be small aircrafts and it would be just the matter of choice if someone wants to se them as their future transportation or not.
Mr. Moore revealed that currently there are several different researches that are going on in different parts of the world and each of the researching organization is working on some different aspects of the technology, which they think are more important. NASA is considering about developing skycars also called personal air vehicle (PAV), for the communication between the distance of 160 km to 800 km, which will allow its workers to stay in their choice of regional areas and travel from there to their working area of urban airfields without any delay. These skycars are not being mooted for the purpose of getting about the city.
Moore is expecting that these flying cars would be available at the price of less than US$100,000 within next 10 years. These flying cars are most likely to be equipped with the NASA’s EquipPT automated functionality (Easy-to-use, quiet Persomal Transportation). Moore said that a difficult part of these skycars would be the training to fly them which would be very intense in nature. So, to make this an easy task to fly it, the research is also going on to instill some automation towards the flying capability of the skycars in them. For this purpose to be achieved, it becomes necessary that the automation system respond correctly to the weather conditions and to other vehicles in the vicinity of the skycar. These automation systems should also be able to compensate for any untoward technical failure.
NASA is also on the path of creating a dedicated highway-network in the sky itself, under the scheme of Small Aircraft Transportation System, which will be controlling the traffic in air with the help of global positioning system (GPS) and a set of broadband satellites, whose function would be to monitor the path and the positioning of each of the flying units.
It is still more than 25 years from now to see any vehicle able to be used for all kinds of transportation, although the prototype skycars have already been created and is with us. Moller has started receiving deposits in order to register one of the M400 Skycars. These Skycars are going to be rolled on in early 2005. The first owner of such Skycar will have to pay US$995,000, having the capacity to accommodate four passengers at a time. These Skycars will run on the conventional fuels like, petrol, alcohol or the recycled cooking oil.
But there is another technology on anvil that will remove any need for moving physically from one place to another and the technology is videoconferencing tools. The Polycom’s country manager, James Anderson says that the potential of vastly increased bandwidth, interactive holography systems and the thee-dimensional video projection is destined to completely change the fashion in which we use to communicate these days. Although, it is more than a decade for the videophones to see the light of the day as a standard business tool, the dream of producing the practical holographic videoconferencing through the researches of several different organizations is yet 20 year late. MIT’s Spatial Imaging Group or 3D visualization company, Actuality Systems is one of those organizations. Anderson says that there is no reason to be disappointed though, as by then we will be able to look at the life-sized holograms in the three-dimension, which will be able to move all around the room in its full motional capacity. The business managers scattered all over the world will very easily interact with each other as they are just sitting in front of each other.
But well before the system starts working in reality; it will be possible for anyone to communicate through the mobile phones while projecting the hologram of oneself on to a screen from where the other party could see it. Otherwise the people could also use headgear as one of the means of visualization tools.
The venture capitalists like Michael Panaccio (the founder of Starfish Ventures), made it clear that several of these wonderful inventions would not be a result of some completely unique technologies rather they will be the result of gradual advancements in the current technologies. They will certainly be astounding if seen from the present scenario of the world, yet they would have their roots attached somewhere to the technologies of the today’s world itself.