Blockchain, once associated solely with the cryptocurrency bitcoin, has since been found to have many uses, with the potential for many more.
One of the foremost examples of digital ledger technology (DLT), blockchain can solidify supply chains and secure elections. It can make real estate transactions easier, and medical records more accessible. It can facilitate data transfers and ensure the smooth operation of the Internet of Things.
But why? What makes it so good, and why is there the expectation that it could do so much more?
In a word, security. The folks at MIT spelled it out in layman’s terms, while using bitcoin, widely considered the first digital currency, as an example. All of bitcoin’s transactions are stored in the ledger, with multiple copies shared to a network of computers, or nodes. These nodes, which are operated by so-called miners, determine the validity of every new transaction. In the case of bitcoin, for instance, they check to see that each miner seeking to complete a transaction using that particular crypto does in fact have one to spend. Valid transactions are then added to the chain as blocks.
Every block has its own cryptographic fingerprint (called a hash), and every completed transaction does so courtesy of a unique process known as a consensus protocol — i.e., the agreement between all the other nodes. Both those elements should at least theoretically make such transactions tamperproof.
The MIT crew does raise questions about how secure the network really is, and provides examples of instances when hot wallets or smart contracts, two DLT staples, have been hacked. But generally blockchain, and DLT in general, has been well-received.
Consider the following examples:
- Supply chain management: Using an online ledger removes documents, and thus inefficiency, from the equation. Consider the example of the shipment of flowers from Kenya to Rotterdam that required no fewer than 200 documents to complete. That’s a thing of the past with blockchain.
- Secure elections: It could potentially reduce fraud or, for that matter, the need to so much as travel to a polling place. In 2016 West Virginia became the first state to use DLT-based technology in a primary, a possible sign of things to come.
- Real estate transactions: With supply chains, there’s no need for hard copies anymore. All of that now exists in the blockchain network, and all parties have secure access. This is true for real estate transactions, and all manner of other transactions.
- Medical records: Electronic medical records (EMRs) are already widely used, but those stored in a blockchain would ensure the patient easier access and greater privacy, the latter of which is essential under HIPAA requirements.
- Data transfers: The cryptocurrency IOTA, believing most corporate data goes unused, has developed a DLT-based data marketplace that would allow companies to sell or share data, the idea being that it would spark innovation.
- IoT management: The world of interconnected devices — smart thermostats, lights, refrigerators, security systems, et al. — is ever-evolving, and in 2017 Cisco Systems moved to trademark a blockchain that would monitor the various devices for trustworthiness.
Clearly there is more to come. Blockchain will disrupt a great many sectors in the years to come, and we have its reliability and security to thank.
A lot of tech industry naysayers have been claiming for years that the smartwatch has maxed out its usefulness. This could not be further from the truth, as the smartwatch has continued to evolve each year since its initial launch. Here is a look at some of the major ways that smartwatch technology is developing.
- Advanced Health Monitoring
The health monitoring features on the smartwatch continue to improve year after year. This year’s model features a medical-grade heart monitoring application. The watch can already monitor sleep patterns, heart rate fluctuations, and blood pressure. Industry experts believe that in the next five years the watch might be able to detect blood sugar levels, stress levels, and even possess a cancer detection feature. Expect huge leaps in smartwatch biometrics monitoring in the years to come.
- Superior Battery Life
A major complaint regarding the smartwatch has been its battery life, with many consumers feeling like the battery should offer far more efficiency. Smartwatch innovators are currently working hard to extend the battery life by leaps and bounds. By making the smartwatch’s CPU, display technology, and other core features much more energy-efficient, it is thought that the battery life could be extended by 60 percent or more.
- Advanced Safety Features
With GPS tracking and video surveillance technology rapidly advancing lately, the smartwatch will eventually incorporate these safety-centric technologies. With a highly accurate built-in GPS tracker, parents can monitor their younger children’s whereabouts much more closely. The video surveillance and video chat features built into the smartwatch are also rapidly advancing, giving users the ability to display in real-time where they are at any given moment. Parents across the world will embrace these evolving safety features.
- They’re Becoming More Fashionable
The old days of the smartwatch were admittedly less than fashionable. The device looked fairly clunky and out of place on the wearer’s wrist. That is all changing, however, as the smartwatch is sleeker, more elegant, and more customizable than ever before. Smartwatch wearers no longer have to feel like their device is standing out due to its awkward appearance. The latest designs look like designer timepieces created by leading fashion brands.
- Advanced Damage Resistance
The early smartwatch models were prone to taking on damage quite easily as their LED screens were particularly delicate. That is not the case today, however, as the smartwatch feels like it is nearly indestructible. Advances in watch casing materials will eventually lead smartwatches to the point where they are nearly impossible to damage with heat, water, excess sunlight, or impact. Expect smartwatches in the future to feature titanium and other highly advanced composite materials.
- CPU Advances
There will come a day when a simple smartwatch rivals the computer processing power of some of today’s personal computers. The CPUs built into smartwatches are better than ever before and they’re evolving at warp speed. With advanced smartwatch features and greater processing demand coming from consumers, the smartwatch will continue to evolve to keep pace with all of the latest apps, features, and display capabilities. Apple is even working on highly-touted nano-technology that will be incorporated into smartwatches within five years.
- Advanced Commerce Features
It is quite tedious and difficult to purchase anything with today’s smartwatch models. That is expected to dramatically change in the future. Not only are advanced e-commerce options being incorporated into the latest smartwatch apps, but eventually people will be able to use their watch to pay for non-virtual goods and services. That’s right, over the next five years smartwatches will possess features that can purchase groceries, gasoline, and other basic essentials.
As 3D printing technology advances, more industries will adopt it to further their efforts. This is especially true for medicine and healthcare, where strong nanomaterials have the ability to create more effective treatments. 3D printing represents a huge opportunity for pharmaceutical, medical device, and other healthcare-related companies to design groundbreaking drugs, rapidly produce medical implants, and streamline the way doctors and surgeons provide care to patients.
3D printing technologies have already been used in a number of applications, including cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurosurgery, and many more specific fields. So far, however, we’ve barely tapped the technology’s potential in healthcare-related applications. There are high expectations for what we can expect from this technology going forward. The most probable and most talked-about developments include:
Implantable Organs and Tissue
3D-printed organs will likely become available soon, which would be a game changer for patients in need of organs. Manufactured organs would reduce waiting time (and waiting lists), allowing surgeons to treat more people in need of life-saving operations. This also includes tissues and synthetic skins for transplanting and/or for pharmaceutical and cosmetics testing.
Custom-designed 3D-printed anatomical models are becoming useful new tools for personalized patient treatments. By integrating clinical and imaging information, surgeons will have the ability to perform individualized preoperative planning, resulting in less time spent in the operating room and fewer complications. Doctors can create 3D models of an individual patient’s anatomy, which aids in planning one’s surgical approach and allows doctors to fit prosthetics in advance.
Customized Surgical Tools and Prostheses
3D printing can be used to produce patient-specific implants or surgical guides and instruments. Customized tools and prostheses equate to better outcomes and lower costs.
Customized Pharmaceuticals and Devices
These technologies have the ability to provide unprecedented benefits to the industry, which is under increasing pressure to reduce costs and improve care. 3D drug printing can customize a drug’s outer layer to control absorption time in a patient’s system, and also allows for dosage personalization. We’ll also see faster production of new device designs and/or improvements to existing ones. Everything from hearing aids to dental implants to eyeglasses could be designed to fit and operate more effectively and be produced more quickly.
3-D printed, patient-specific models can speed student learning and make it possible to present students will a range of different physiologic and pathologic anatomy, which better prepares them for future practice and enables all schools, regardless of resources/budget, to provide such instruction. It also allows the introduction of rare pathologies to medical students that wouldn’t otherwise have exposure in such training. Likewise, 3D printing can assist doctors with educating patients on their own conditions since it’s much easier to understand 3D representations of anatomy rather than asking patients to examine 2D images from CT or MRI scans.
Clearly, 3D printing has the potential to significantly alter and improve the clinical field, making huge advancements to our medicine and healthcare. As printers evolve and safety regulations are instituted, this technology offers more and more promise for our future.
Although smart clothing hasn’t fully taken off in consumers’ collective consciousness since its launch in 2015, more companies are paving the way for the e-textiles revolution with innovative smart clothing designs. Whether you’re in need of workout clothes that will track your vitals, wearables that will keep your baby safe or even smartphone integrated business attire, the following smart clothing will change the way you pick your outfit each morning.
Staying Fit with Smart Clothing
If you’re an exercise enthusiast then you’re in luck. The majority of the smart clothing on the market right now is aimed at helping athletes stay in shape. The Hexoskin smart shirt, for example, is laced with sensors that monitor your heart rate, breathing and movements. All this information is synced back to your phone via Bluetooth to help you understand your workout routine, calories burned and even sleep quality.
Athos training clothes come with woven micro-EMG sensors to detect specific muscle activity, heart rate and breathing, all with the purpose of helping you avoid injury while at the gym. If you’re a girl and are looking for something more comfortable, there are a range of workout bras that perform similar functions. The SUPA sports bra will even keep track of UV levels, too.
Socks Are for More Than Keeping Your Toes Warm
Some people can never have enough socks. Even if you’re not a sock collector yourself, the following socks are a few you should definitely have in your wardrobe.
Sensoria Fitness Socks do a great job of tracking precise data about the way you run. Its advanced textile sensors can record your steps, speed, distance traveled, altitude and even how your foot lands while walking or running. If you love running, these socks are for you.
Smart clothing isn’t just for athletes, though. Siren Socks are made with safety in mind. Designed to help prevent diabetic foot injuries, Siren Socks uses microsensors woven into the socks’ fabric to detect changes in temperature, a sign that inflammation is occurring. Since some people with diabetes can suffer from numbness in their legs, they may not notice this inflammation themselves and are at danger of developing foot ulcers. Siren Socks will alert users of possible inflammation through a smartphone notification or text message.
The Future of Baby Safety
With Sudden Infant Death Syndrome still claiming the life of 2,500 babies each year, it’s no surprise that some manufacturers of smart clothing are focusing on utilizing this tech to keep babies safe while they sleep. Whether you choose the Owlet smart baby sock or the Neopenda smart baby hat, you’ll be able to sleep soundly knowing your baby is being cared for overnight. These smart baby accessories monitor your baby’s vital signs such as breathing, heart rate and even oxygen saturation. If any of these drops to dangerous levels, you’ll be immediately notified on your smartphone. The Owlet Baby Sock 2 even integrates algorithms that can help identify chronic sleep irregularities and health problems like pneumonia, chronic lung disorders, bronchitis and heart defects.
Making Business Seamless
Samsung has been really focusing on their line of smart clothing under their wearables brand The Human Fit. In collaboration with Rogatis, they’ve even developed an NFC smart suit. Their business attire allows users to interact with their gadgets and smartphones through specific motions. If you live in Korea and decide to drop $500 for one, you’ll be able to unlock your phone without entering a password, set your gadgets to office or driving modes and even swap business cards digitally.
Google’s Project Jacquard has partnered with Levi to design a piece of wearable tech that will make day-to-day activities easier to manage. The Commuter Trucker Jacket includes touch and gesture sensitive areas in the sleeves that allow wearers to control and interact with many of their phone’s services, all without having to touch their device. Just swipe to dismiss or answer calls, or double tap to get directions through your maps app.
As more functional smart clothes like this are developed, fashion and function will become integrated, attracting more consumer attention and making our lives much easier.
Just as smartphone usage has evolved from phone calls and emails to being an essential part of an employee’s work life, wearables such as smartwatches are also continuing to enable employees to be more productive, efficient and safe. Wearables are projected to be a $60 billion part of our workforce by 2022, and usage is steadily increasing as devices grow their capabilities and employees are more comfortable using the technology.
In the sci-fi world of the future, employees are often replaced by robots and made obsolete in various scary scenarios. In reality, wearables can actually make employees more indispensable. In fields such as construction and manufacturing, wearables can enhance employees abilities as well as keep them safe. As the workforce ages and jobs become increasingly complex, wearables can amplify hearing, sight and strength and sound alarms if anything is amiss. Headsets, augmented reality (AR) and exoskeletons mean humans can basically have superpowered senses while working.
Another safety and productivity benefit is being able to track and work with employees at any time. Through wearable tech, employee locations can be easily pinpointed in the event of a disaster or other unexpected event. Sales calls and time can be logged and monitored. Research shows a 10% increase in workplace productivity when wearables are implemented. Studies also show that goals are much more readily reached both when written down and when shared, creating accountability and community.
Wearables seem to work best when utilized in task-specific ways. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) give architects and interior designers the incredible ability to create detailed simulations of projects for clients and that surgeons can perform operations even more accurately. Wearables have also proven beneficial in improving quality of life for the chronically ill via VR and for police, security and military forces using body cams.
Office applications for wearables are also increasing and creating benefits for employees who work for the same company at different locations. Office headsets for meetings, for example, can make it seem like you are at the meeting rather than hunching over a conference room speaker. Virtual assistants keep everyone on task, translation devices ease and even erase communication barriers, and you can even improve your posture with a posture tracker. Smart suits, jackets and caps are also in the works.
Another benefit of using wearables at work is simply overall employee health. Step counters and programs to incentivize their usage promote positive lifestyle changes. Fitbit reported 1.6 billion in revenue in 2017 alone and Fitbit users take 43 percent more steps than non-users. This promotion is one of the most powerful pros to workplace wearables, as it is key to prevention of health issues and general employee wellbeing.
Given the general increase in adoption and overall benefits of wearables in the workplace, it stands to reason that more innovation and ease of use will mean these devices become more commonplace over time. And since they collect data, the real-time feedback they provide allows changes and adjustments can be made and pushed out quickly. All of which means that fitbit or smartwatch you already rely on is only just the beginning.