Where’s tech going in 2014? Here are five technologies that will make headlines next year.
1. Smart locks
The key and lock have been around for thousands of years. The pin-tumbler lock, which uses varying-length pins to prevent a lock from opening without the correct key, has been around for hundreds of years.
The simple lock has proven itself to be a reliable and effective solution that didn’t need much improvement, until now. Today, many homes and small businesses are replacing their deadbolt locks with smart locks.
Rather than giving your housekeeper, neighbor, contractor or dog walker a key to your house that unlocks all your doors at anytime and is infinitely copyable, you can send them an invite via their mobile phone that will allow them to gain access to your home. Or, if your smart lock has a keypad, you can provide them with a pin number to key in.
Smart locks can be programed to only work on certain days, at certain times and for certain doors. For unexpected visits from the in-laws, you can use your smartphone to unlock your door remotely from anywhere.
2. Wearable technology
Currently, these groundbreakers look and feel geeky, clumsy and unattractive. The initial designs of wearable tech leave much to be desired, not to mention the technology’s short battery life and limited functionality.
This will change in 2014. Improvements in processors, memory, batteries and displays will create a variety of attractive and appealing products that will find their way into all of our lives.
We’re already seeing this trend in the smart watch arena.
- Sony’s Android-compatible SmartWatch line is slimmer and more stylish than many of its predecessors.
- Google’s smart watch is on its way and is expected to add Google Map wrist navigation to its list of functionality.
- For women, MEMI is a “chic iPhone-compatible smart bracelet” that looks like a piece of jewelry.
- The Apple iWatch will also likely garner instant appeal and adoption.
Don’t worry, wearable tech will come in more forms than accessories. Researchers at Microsoft are currently working on a SmartBra that, cough, can measure a woman’s stress level.
3. Curved touchscreens
Samsung’s Galaxy Round and LG’s G Flex smartphones with their curved display are just the beginning. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple a patent for a “curved touch sensor,” which suggests the company is experimenting with curved touchscreens and displays. Look for a curved display in Apple’s lineup this year.
But curved touchscreens are just the gateway to flexible and foldable displays. Samsung has already promised the launch of foldable displays in 2015.
IBeacon is an indoor positioning system that uses Low Energy Bluetooth to wirelessly locate you via your phone, smart watch, etc. inside a building. The technology is already installed in 200 million iOS devices and is now being installed on Android devices as well.
So, say you’re in a mall, or within a specific department store — iBeacon will locate you and allow stores to send you location- and context-aware product messages. IBeacon will also let you pay without ever taking out your physical wallet.
If you are like me — experiencing an uncomfortable flashback to the 2002 Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report” and, “Hello, Mr. Yakamoto! Welcome back to the Gap. How did those assorted tank tops work for you?” — let’s just hope that we’ll be able to disable this feature on our iWatch and smartphone.
5. 3D printing
Last year, we predicted that we would start to see 3D printing services being offered to business- and consumer-grade 3D printers. Fast-forward 12 months, and you guessed it, you can now buy a 3D printer at Walmart.
While 3D printing is still for the niche consumer, businesses and education are flocking to the technology. In one example, McDonald’s wants to keep a 3D printer in every restaurant to print Happy Meal toys on demand.
As manufacturers develop 3D printers more cheaply, and get them to market faster, use of this technology will grow rapidly as we’re able to create anything from McDonald’s toys to furniture with nothing more than a 3D printer and a digital 3D file.
This post originally appeared in The Tennessean.