by John Davis – Business Development Director – NTI
It is old news that technology changes every year. However, sometimes those changes are incremental improvements. Other times the technology can change how we live our daily lives. The cell phone’s evolution is a great example of this.
You may recall having a telephone landline at home and perhaps even a time before cell phones changed our lives. Here at NTI, the eldest of us can remember having a single home phone. It was a rotary phone which required placing your finger in the hole of a circular dial and pulling it around clockwise to dial. It was moored to the telephone jack on the wall… and the telephone receiver was connected by a spiraling cord which limited your mobility while using the device. That same man remembers also that he would rely on pay phones to call someone when he was not at home, going about a normal day. And if he thought he might be in a position to take a picture, of anything at all, he better remember to take his camera (and an extra roll of film). Contrast that with NTI’s youngest employee, who graduates from college this month. He cannot remember a time when cell phones did not have a camera.
As technology consultants, we see many promising technologies. We report to our clients on those technologies that might make a difference in any given projects’ technology design. Over the years this has included preparing for the future by planning the technology before the building began. We’ve alerted our clients to the technologies that would be necessary in the near future. Planning ahead takes a different level of vision than hindsight, which is famously 20-20 vision.
We recommended a robust Wi-Fi design to answer the demand for wireless access before owners knew it was predicted to skyrocket. We helped prepare clients for new government regulations to protect an owner’s rights to video content before the law made it mandatory. When cell phone use exploded and the required bandwidth for each phone with it, we worked with clients to ensure cellular coverage in facilities. We often still present a GPON solution alternative to traditional copper cable for hotel guest rooms, with a cost analysis of the total cost of ownership. And most recently we are discussing Low Voltage LED Lighting (click the picture), and the internet of things (IoT).
The following is a list of 11 future technologies to watch. It was compiled by the self-described “futurist, Christopher Barnatt. Most of these technologies do not directly impact the design and use of technology in a new building, unless perhaps the new building is a research think tank, or a science lab at a medical university. The list of 11 technologies is for your reading pleasure, but note that while a couple of them may have been considered science fiction a decade ago, there is one that is likely to impact one or more of your future projects, perhaps even by the end of this year.
3D Printers – These were new a few decades ago, but have become more functional over time, having crept into many facets of business as we go about our normal day. These printers create real, solid objects from digital data by building them up in layers. Before Y2K, they were amazing us by creating prototypes, but by 2020 it is likely that the majority of 3D printed objects will be final products or parts.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The term has been thrown around for decades, but the reality of a “Cognitive Computing Age” in which any digital technology will be able to possess, or remotely access, some form of cognitive capacity is now a foreseeable reality. This technology is already being discussed as relevant to learning habits of guests, employees, customers, and students so to improve quality of life.
Augmented Reality (AR) – This is a way to use technology to assist with learning by compiling and then adding information and content to a visual presentation to learn more about it. It is in use today, continuing to advance in its functionality. For example: a company using it to help show how you might place furniture in your home and how it looks with different configurations and colors, or show how different colors of paint on walls, and carpet or wood flooring will look, complete with the pricing of your choices.
Big Data – This is a way to generates value from the storage and processing of very large quantities of digital information that cannot be analyzed with traditional computing techniques.
Bioprinting – Bioprinters are a specific type of 3D printer, whose product/output are living cells which might be used to permit the creation of human or other animal tissue and even entire organs.
Cloud computing – This is where computer software, user data, and processing power are accessed from the Internet “cloud” rather than a local desktop or organizational data center. This allows users to access their data and applications from any device, and also to collaborate more easily. This technology is used by many today, and by more with each passing day.
Genetic Engineering – Genetic engineering alters the traits of living organisms by changing the information encoded in their DNA. This may involve the creation of genetically modified (GM) plants, animals and micro-organisms, as well as the development of genetic medicine.
Helium-3 Power Generation – Helium-3 may be the fuel for a new generation of clean, nuclear fusion power plants. Unfortunately, helium-3 is also exceptionally rare on the Earth. There is, however, thought to be an abundant supply of helium-3 on the surface of the Moon. Some believe that mining lunar helium-3 may also become a large part of our “solution” to the issue of climate change.
Nanotechnology – Nanotechnology is the science of understanding and manipulating materials on a nanometer scale. A nanometer is just one billionth of a meter or the length of a few atoms placed end-to-end. Nanotechnology is driving IoT (the Internet of Things), which is already beginning to impact the operation of buildings (Smart Buildings, this month’s lead article) and business rather soon, adding efficiencies from the ability to have remote access to technology for any electronic device in the facility or across the campus.
Quantum Computing – Rather than storing and processing information using miniature transistors contained in silicon chips, quantum computers work with data using the quantum-mechanical states of sub-atomic particles. Due to the peculiarities of quantum mechanics, each quantum computing ‘qubit’ can store a value of both ‘1’ and ‘0’ simultaneously, thereby allowing quantum computers to move beyond the limitations of binary processing.
Synthetic Biology – Synthetic biology applies an engineering mentality to biology. Whereas “traditional” genetic engineers splice a gene or two from one existing species into another, synthetic biologists radically alter existing life for new purposes. They have also started to create new forms of life from scratch using standardized genetic components termed ‘biobricks’.
Given that the time from concept to opening day can be 2 years or more, planning for the changes that new technologies demand is critical so that the design of the technology is equipped to handle foreseeable changes. This is why NTI trademarked the phrase, Planning Before Building. It is what we do. Not all changes in technology become worthy of mentioning to our clients. Some never pan out, and many of them as evidenced in the 11 technologies listed above, do not affect our industry. However, it only takes one to start changing our lives in ways we cannot foresee… as the cell phone proved not all that long ago.