The future is not easy to predict, especially at the rate technology is advancing in the 21st century. Over the next ten years, there will be a number of new technologies in our everyday lives that make living and communicating easier, cheaper and cleaner, just as there has been in the previous ten years. This article suggests five of these ideas that are already in some form of development and will likely be a reality within the decade.

Widespread Adoption of Electric Vehicles

With Tesla leading the charge for the adoption of electric vehicles, owning one is becoming more and more of a reality. However a few things must happen for this to be fully realised. First, a vehicle must be able to seat an entire family of five just as a standard sedan or wagon can. Second, it must be priced competitively, preferably no more expensive than an equivalent petrol vehicle. Lastly, the car must have a range that allows for a full day of driving.

Tesla is approaching these three requirements very quickly, with many larger manufacturers watching closely and experimenting with their own vehicles. The Model S remains outside the price range of the middle-class, but they have plans to roll out an affordable model in the very near future. Charging stations already line the United States’ Pacific Coast, allowing drivers to go from Seattle to San Diego without a drop of gas. More stations are being installed around the U.S. as well, with the ultimate goal of country-wide coverage.

With so many companies and so much money being poured into this endeavour, it is only a matter of time before near ubiquitous adoption of full-electric or electric hybrid is realised.

Electric Car
Credit: Andrew Curtis

Climate Controlled Jackets

You’ll start hearing a new term over the next few years: computerised clothing. This is clothing of any type that operates embedded computer circuits; pants, watches, sunglasses, hats or even underwear. There is constant interaction between the wearer and the computer in most cases. One likely application of this future tech will be in climate controlled jackets and military outfitting.

These jackets allow a wearer to control their own heating and cooling inside the garment. Temperatures range from extra cold for desert or jungle environments, to toasty and warm in an arctic or snowy region. The technology is made possible by a thermoelectric device called a Peltier plate, which is essentially a junction between too metals. An electrical current is forced across the plate which causes the metal to cool down on one side and heat up on the other (called the Peltier effect). This effect is already used frequently in laptops and other devices.

These garments deal with this excess heat using nanotechnology built into the plates, and early prototypes can maintain temperatures for 8 hours or more. Both the United States and India have already begun experimenting using this technology in their respective militaries, so it won’t be long before others start doing the same and the general populous begins to have access.

Climate-controlled Jacket
Credit: U.S. military

Traffic Jam Prediction and Prevention

Our roads ten years from now will look quite different from today. Without even mentioning the likes of self-driving or widespread electric vehicles, the very roads themselves are beginning to implement various technologies. From glowing painted lines to electronic charging lanes to changing road patterns based on weather conditions, driving in 2025 is going to be a vastly different experience.

With a combined effort from GPS, sensors on the roads, archived data and wirelessly connected vehicles, IBM has built systems that are designed to predict potential traffic jams up to an hour before they even form, giving drivers the chance to take a different route or hit the gym before heading home. Initial tests in New Jersey have proven quite successful, and there are major plans to roll the technology out in other cities around the world on a large scale.

Traffic Jam Prevention

Pain-Free Chemotherapy

Cancer is a truly awful disease that involves abnormal cell growth which often spreads throughout the body. The symptoms are horrible and the current treatment is not much better. The most well-known of these treatments is chemotherapy, which uses chemicals to kill cells that divide rapidly (something that most cancer cells do). Sadly, humans have many other types of cells that exhibit this same behaviour such as bone marrow and hair follicles, as such these get targeted at the same time.

A new treatment however is being developed at MIT that uses nanotechnology to target the cancer cells directly. These artificial nanoparticles are injected into a cancer sufferer and essentially make a beeline for specific cells due to a substance on their surface and its tendency to bind to a certain type of protein. The cells are killed with essentially no side effects to the body. This technology is between 5 and 10 years away at the time of writing, but should make cancer treatment immeasurably more bearable.

Credit: Bill Branson

Instant Language Translation

It has long been a dream of writers, linguists, political figures and many others to have instant language translation to and from any language at the touch of a button. The enormity of the task cannot be understated, but DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and others are seeking to provide an ultimate solution.

A major step in this technology is called BOLT (Broad Operational Language Translation). It focuses on English and Arabic in human to machine translation, human to human translation on the fly, and understanding the deep semantics of each language. This type of technology already has a foothold in Google search and on most smartphones, but over the next few years should see a major increase in usability and widespread adoption.

Language Translation