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Goodbye, Alexa. Hello, smart clothes

Ashish Bhatia | Updated on January 02, 2020 Published on January 02, 2020

On call:In the years ahead, telemedicine and virtual care will dominate healthcare. Doctors will be able to treat you wherever you are while they sit snug in their clinics   -  ISTOCK.COM

The decade ahead will see sensors embedded everywhere — from air purifiers, refrigerator shelves and wearables to traffic lights and vehicles

We know not what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. A cryptic conundrum? Not really. Inventive thinking and man-made technology, more than ever before, are increasingly defining and determining our tomorrow. The twinkle of the souk, the inquisitiveness of the human mind, and the overarching yearning for a good life continually ensure progressive inventions for the betterment of humankind. Here’s a little peek at what we think lies between now and tomorrow.

In the decades to come, the Internet of Things (or whatever it comes to be called) will alter both the industrial and consumer world as we know them today. The Internet connectivity umbrella is already spreading way beyond smartphones and computers and learning to chat up sensors embedded in regular appliances, devices and precincts. Smart gadgets are going to explode — in both quality and quantity — impacting people, places and things that may be beyond the realm of our comprehension here and now.

A life synchronised by a grid of sensors-everywhere-and-in-everything, “intelligent” gadgets, objects and things that “talk” to each other over all-pervasive wireless networks — all the time. No, this is no longer the stuff of sci-fi story spinners or the illusions of radical intellect. You’ll have sensors embedded ubiquitously — from air purifiers, refrigerator shelves, appliances and wearables to traffic lights, electric poles, and vehicles. You name it! So, forget Alexa and OK Google, you’ll have clothing that’ll wordlessly interact with the air conditioner to regulate the temperature of your room to automatically adjust to your requirements. IoT will give individuals, businesses, society and, all importantly, artificial intelligence the ability to remotely monitor and interact with just about everything — including the kitchen sink — in homes, offices, buildings, infrastructure, et al.

Even as you read this, for many businesses, IoT already means easier tracking of inventory levels, raising alerts, automatic order placement and scores of other benefits. Likewise, in healthcare, benefits currently range from real-time patient monitoring to advance prognosis and warning. But instead of all this being few and far between, expect it to be prevalent and the very norm — spanning every industry, from supply-chain to manufacturing to delivery, transport to power, and communications to hospitality.

Speaking of healthcare, looming in the years ahead is the dominance of telemedicine and virtual care. Doctors will be able to treat you wherever you are while they sit snug in their clinics. It will be routine to have healthcare providers monitoring your vital parameters (pulse, heart rate, temperature and so on) via wireless wearable computing devices and sensors. Live video and audio feeds will be able to provide instant communication for diagnosis and analysis on response to treatment. Forget the rising population of butler-like personal robots to serve you your whisky-soda, there will be robots in the operation theatre and robotic nurses to take care of you.

Of course your future phone will be in sync with your current state of health, prompting you about your pills and regulating your medication as required. Nothing really new, eh? However, you can expect future avatars to be all-pervasive and more sophisticated when it comes to data input — capable of reading your doc’s prescription, or more. You can expect in-built sensors to monitor and assimilate the information about your health parameters and relay them to the appropriate authorities.

What about future smartphones themselves? Well, those long-awaited foldable smartphones are already up for grabs from Samsung and Motorola. So what’s next? How about some translucent, self-cleaning aluminosilicate compound displays? Ones that roll up or stretch out into tablets when you want more real estate for your finger-flicking browsing or entertainment? Or maybe in-ear wearable nano-devices that work in conjunction with your wristwatch for all your communication needs. That smart watch? Whisper-command driven, with a projection display and even a projection keyboard.

Location awareness via your pocket gadget is already yesterday’s news. Your smartphone of the future will be mindfully aware of its immediate ambient environment. Walk into a gathering and peek at your phone... It will tell you how many of the people there are gratified by golf, or Gandhi, or Ghalib.

  • Mirror, mirror on the wall
  • A glimpse of the future
  • Artificial intelligence will step beyond today’s voice computing façade and gain some real intelligence.
  • Paper will be too scarce and expensive to use. Colour e-ink displays will rule in the form of thin tablets. Your magazine or daily newspaper will be personalised to your tastes.
  • Nanotechnology will ensure that all surfaces around the home are self-cleaning and disinfecting. Ditto for the clothes you wear.
  • Your mirror will suggest clothing to you based on your taste, mood as well as the weather forecast for the day. It could well read out and display your agenda, email and news headlines as you get ready.
  • Processors with faster heartbeats will allow for 3D holographic image processing in real time.
  • TVs with holography and virtual reality programming will step in.
  • Electronic devices will have voice, fingerprint, or retinal identification capabilities for e-transactions. Credit card numbers, ID numbers and passwords confined to quaint history books.
  • You will have personal flying cars that run on eco-friendly alternative fuels. No internal combustion engines.
  • Quantum encryption will automatically alter the contents of a message or file upon detecting intrusion.
  • Those teleporting machines that transport live people atom-by-atom? Maybe another 50 years from now.

Ashish Bhatia has been a commentator and columnist on technology for the last three decades

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Published on January 02, 2020
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