Despite continued economic difficulty, 2012 saw a number of crucial technological developments, showing that recession and economic decline need not necessarily stifle the research and development budgets for businesses in the technology industries. Apple entered their first new year without Steve Jobs (who died in October 2011) but are still forging ahead with the advances made under his leadership but they are by no means alone in pushing the boundaries of technology.
Before 2012, few outside the tech-savvy population had heard of ‘The Cloud’ yet it arrived on the scene in a big way during the year. It is the concept of using the internet or an intranet as a server to store data rather than having a large centralised computer. It has allowed gamers to store save files off of their consoles (in case they run out of space or their system crashes), video tapes and recordable DVDs are a thing of the pat due to satellite and cable customers recording their favourite shows to the cloud rather on portable storage.
Discovery of The Higgs Bosun Particle
Finally the physicists at CERN in Switzerland discovered what some have called ‘The God Particle’. It’s potential for understanding our universe and for technological developments right across the board are endless considering it could demonstrate how energy becomes mass. The elusive search for unpredictable patterns that could help us better understand our world however, must wait until 2015 when the Large Hadron Collider comes back online. CERN scientists hope to discover more about the mysterious ‘dark matter’.
In the Will Smith film ‘After Earth’, the actor is observed using a tablet which he then rolls up and puts in his pocket. It may surprise you to learn that this flexible screen technology was developed in 2012. Though a fully flexible screen silicon device is still a few years away, in 2012 Nokia, Samsung and a few other hi-tech firms revealed prototypes and demonstrated commitment to developing the technology for commercial use. It is likely that the current flexible technology will be available for retail purchase in 2013.
Though solar panels are a technology that has been around since the 1970s, it has undergone several advances but 2012 saw a veritable explosion of developments in what could assist with our energy needs of the future. Amongst them is the MIT development of glass-clipping solar cells and flexible fibre optic cells that could theoretically be woven into our clothing. Another technology called ‘sun funnelling’ could improve the reliability and efficiency of this vital technology of the future.
Another technology that sounds like something from science fiction but there are now printers that can create models of prototypes. The implications for research and development are limitless and there are already commercial models available for the consumer. If you have an invention, it is now much easier and cheaper to produce by feeding your blueprint into the computer and watching the machine produce a model by setting down layers of material (such as silicone or plastic).
Ford EcoBoost Engine
The 1L engine is something almost alien to the average North American. To a European it is seen as an economical model which is better for the environment but as a vehicle with next to no acceleration behind it. It is about saving you money and it struggles at the sort of high-speeds expected of highway/motorway travelling. Yet in 2012, Ford introduced an engine model that has the more torque and equivalent power of its 1.6L engines. This allows a more efficient engine without having to compromise on a smooth journey.
GM Crash Avoidance System
Motor accidents could be a thing of the past with this system. Attaching sensors and cameras around a vehicle, the system monitors nearby objects such as vehicles in front suddenly hitting the brakes, people at the side of the road jumping out into oncoming traffic or any other potential hazards that could cause an accident and warns the driver to take action. This technology was previously available as a radar system which was prohibitively expensive but this has brought the cost down, making it affordable for most motorists.
Though the NASA Mars rover was not the first such unmanned vehicle to take data from the red planet, it has offered notable improvements over its predecessors. It was the first vehicle to stream a human voice from the planet; it also took some environmental data and uncovered the first ancient riverbed. On the fun side of exploration, it was the first vehicle to check in at social networking site FourSquare from another planet.
Ã‚ Ã‚ 9. IBM 500 mile Battery
Though this will not be commercially available for at least the next five years, researchers at IBM demonstrated a model of lithium-air battery that could in theory propel a vehicle 500 miles before it needs charging. Utilising advances in nanotechnology, this has been an on-going project for the computing giant for many years. Concerns about the range of electric cars have so far prevented mass adoption of the technology but this could prove the step that takes us away from fossil fuels.
Ivy Bridge Processor
Another giant of the tech industry, Intel, released their quad core processors in the first half of the year. As expected, they are faster than their predecessors but the beauty of the technology and the reason it is so significant is that they use less power meaning less charge time for your devices that will run them. Power efficiency is key to a lot of technologies at the moment and Intel seems to be onto a winner with this.
Some of these technologies may sound like science fiction but they were made last year and investors and R&D departments all over the world are investigating the applications of some of these technologies or making them commercially available during the course of 2013 and 2014. Who knows? You may be able to purchase a flexible mobile phone in an electrical store near you some time this year.