A Technology Top 10 to keep changing the world

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As it does every year, the MIT Technology Review magazine (belonging to the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has chosen those emerging technologies with the potential for disruptive change in a few years.

 

Some of them are nearly final products which are already available or will be made available in a couple of years; in other cases, they will require further work for at least five years before they become the innovations of tomorrow.


The MIT Technology Review magazine, belonging to the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has turned its yearly decalogue of most disruptive technologies (breakthrough technologies) into one of the crucial events to kick-start the year.

The authors included a previous “disclaimer” in the 2015 list: “Not all breakthroughs are the same. Some become more or less useful objects; others essentially lay the foundations for innovations to appear later, and they will have to be appraised once they come up. But we would like to bet on each and every milestone in the list being worth following in the next few years”.

Come along and see: 

 

1: VIRTUAL OBJECTS

Virtual Objects

Breakthrough: a device that makes virtual objects appear in real life. 

Relevance: new opportunities for leisure and telecommunications industries

Availability: 1 to 3 years

Description: MIT focuses on a start-up, Magic Leap, that has already raised $500 million in funds for the creation of 3-D images. Microsoft is another key player in the arena. This is a device that makes virtual objects turn up in real life. Such a technology could provide opportunities in several areas: cinema, video, games, tourism and telecommunications.

 

2: UNIVERSAL INTERNET

 

Universal Internet

Breakthrough: a safe, profitable way for the provision of Internet services from the sky in those places where no internet connection is available.

Relevance: access to the internet would broaden educational and economic opportunities for millions of people who are currently offline.

Availability: 1 to 2 years.

Description: Providing internet access to the 4.300 million people that currently “live offline”. The initiative would provide them with opportunities to find their way out of poverty. To achieve that goal, Google chose Project Loon, an initiative in which ballons located at a 20-km height would create a wireless network. Facebook chose drones for that.

 

3: YOUR SMARTPHONE AS YOUR WALLET

 

smartphone as a wallet

Breakthrough: a service that makes it possible to use your smartphone as a wallet in day-to-day situations

Relevance: credit card fraud is a hindrance to economy, as it increases the cost of goods and services.

Availability: already available.

Description: turning your smartphone into your wallet, by means of a smart combination of technologies, will help avoid the increase in the cost of goods and services caused by damages and costs derived from credit card fraud. Apple, Visa, Mastercard and Google already make it possible by safely replacing credit cards using fingerprints.

 

4: SUPERPHOTOSYNTHESIS

Superphotosynthesis

Breakthrough: engineering rice plants to obtain energy from sunlight in a much more efficient manner.

Relevance: aimed at solving the issue of providing food to an ever-growing world population.

Availability: 10 to 15 years.

Description: The International Rice Research Institute and the universities of Minnesota, Cambridge and Australia are working on advanced genetic tools to drive human food-producing plants towards obtaining energy from sunlight in a much more efficient and sustainable manner. 

 

5: CULTURED NEURONS

 

Cultured Neurones

Breakthrough: 3-D groups of live neurons that may be cultured in a laboratory from human stem cells.

Relevance: researchers need new ways to understand brain diseases and to try potential treatments.

Availability: already available.

Description: a new method to grow brain cells could provide answers to the questions involved in brain diseases, dementia and other neurological disorders. Three-dimensional groups of live neurons, that may be cultured in a laboratory from human stem cells, would be created. The Institute of Molecular Biotechnology and the Massachusetts General Hospital are already working on that.

 

6: LIQUID BIOPSY

Liquid Biopsy

Breakthrough: a simple blood test to detect early-stage cancer.

Relevance: cancer kills around eight million people a year all over the world.

Availability: already available.

Description: Fast DNA sequencing machines may be key to detect early-stage cancer. The technology is already available (Chinese researchers have already achieved that) and the University of Hong Kong, Ilumina and Johns Hopkins are leading the way.

 

7: NANOARCHITECTURE

Nanoarchitecture

Breakthrough: materials with structures that may be precisely adapted to be strong while flexible and extremely light.

Relevance: lighter structural materials would permit more efficient and adaptable buildings.

Availability: 3 to 5 years.

Description: obtaining materials at the nanometric scale with structures that may be adapted in a precise manner. When combined, these materials should provide strength, flexibility and extra lightness. Besides adaptability, they provide a more sustainable and efficient architecture. Major players in the field are Caltech (NASA), HRL Laboratories and the MIT itself.

 

8: CAR-TO-CAR COMMUNICATION

car to car communication

Breakthrough: vehicles that may talk to each other in order to prevent accidents.

Relevance: more than one million people die every years as a consequence of road accidents all over the world.

Availability: 1 to 2 years.

Description: cars (any vehicle) will be able to talk to each other by means of wifi technologies. Companies and universities are working to improve traffic and avoid the tragic consequences of road accidents. General Motors and the University of Michigan are taking the lead in the field.

 

9: GLOBAL SCALE DESALINATION

Breakthrough: the sea may provide a significant amount of the drinking water supply for each country, and do so in a profitable manner.

Relevance: current drinking water supply at a global level is not enough to cater for the needs of the planet.

Availability: already available.

Description: A desalination plant in Israel is already using reverse osmosis in order to prove the economic feasibility of using sea water to cater for the water needs of the population. Available fresh water supplies will not be enough to provide for the ever-growing population in the world. Key players in the field are IDE Technologies, Poseidon Water, Desalitech and Evoqua.

 

10: INTERNET OF DNA

Internet of DNA

Breakthrough: develop technologies that make it possible for DNA databases to communicate to each other.

Relevance: the more genomes are sequenced, the larger the amount of useful information that may be used for disease research and treatment.

Availability: 1 to 2 years.

Description: Focused on the creation of a global network -made up of millions of genomes- with a communication standard between databases to help solve medical issues by means of information management. The Human Genome Project, Google and the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health are the most relevant agents working on that.

 


 

 

MIT: What lies beneath a legendary acronym

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the top university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA) is considered to be one of the most selective universities in the world. It includes five schools and a faculty, which amounts to a total of 32 academic departments with a strong emphasis on research, engineering and technological training. If the total revenue generated by companies founded by MIT alumni were to be considered, MIT would rank as the 11th world’s largest economy. 

Founded in 1861 in response to the growing industrialization in the USA, it used the polytechnical university model and underscored laboratory training. MIT researchers worked on computers, radar and the inertial navigation system in World War II and in the Cold War. Research on defence in the post-war era contributed to the quick growth of the Institute. In the last 60 years, MIT training disciplines have expanded beyond physics and engineering towards biology, economy, linguistics and management. 

Among its nearly one thousand faculty members there are (or have been) 78 Nobel Laureates, 52 National Medal of Science, 45 Rhodes Scholars and 38 MacArthur Fellows.