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A look at the technology and design innovations for the year ahead
A group of engineers and designers at Cambridge Design Partnership take a look at the year ahead, and make technology and design predictions for 2014:
James Baker, Partner: Energy – micro generation and localised storage technologies
With energy price rises now effectively guaranteed for the foreseeable future, change and innovation in all aspects of energy from generation through to consumption is inevitable. Technology will play an increasing role in changing this landscape. Distributed and micro generation technologies have arrived and are achieving increased acceptance. The next step to drive efficiency even higher will be integration of these systems with localised energy storage and control, making renewable energy more accessible and opening new markets.
James Simonds, Mechanical Engineer: Energy saving designs
I also expect to see new energy saving products on the market. Look out for new solutions in retrofit insulation for both inside and outside the house.
Reece Gale, Electrical & Mechanical Technician: Consumer – wearable tech
I think 2014 will bring some truly wearable tech to the market. We should start seeing some impressive smart watches, and augmented reality wearable glasses (Google Glass and competitors) should finally move into production.
Momentum for virtual reality will be building although this technology is in its infancy right now – Oculus Rift (gaming VR headset) has recently received the investment it needs to push to production. And I don’t think it will be long before we see a web browser for these devices.
Dom Freeman, Director of Business Development USA: Healthcare – connected devices & flexible electronics
Connected devices: Further innovations are likely in telecommunications and IT for the transmission of medical, imaging and health informatics data between different healthcare settings and sites.
Flexible electronics: Products will be built from conformable substrates for an increasingly wide range of applications, such as conformal pacemakers, smart catheters, wearable wound monitoring, embedded computers, embedded lactate sensors, embedded vital sign monitoring and wearable head trauma monitoring.
Robert Curtis, Industrial Designer: Consumer electronics – Smart car integration & home automation
Smart car integration: There are some interesting products emerging at the moment that go further than just Bluetooth calling features, with smart watches and phones that monitor a vehicle’s performance including average speeds and fuel consumption. Clearly the holy-grail is making the versatility of a smart phone (mapping, local searches, texting) accessible in a hands-free manner using voice recognition.
Home automation: People have been talking about this for years but there are finally some affordable products available, such as Wifi enabled switches that turn your home appliances and electronic devices on and off, and monitor their energy usage on your smart phone or tablet.
Ben Strutt, Partner: Consumer – e-cigarettes and product personalisation
E-cigarette and ‘reduced harm’ nicotine delivery technology: a fascinating space to be observing from a User Experience perspective, as an entire new industry has developed in little more than 3 years. The technology is fundamentally changing the way people interact with and handle the ‘inhaler’ device and accessories, and in the process redefining the parameters for what is socially, functionally and ergonomically acceptable.
Personalisation: 2012 saw UK Starbucks staff scrawl our names on our skinny hazelnut mochaccino; 2013 saw the launch of the named ‘Share a Coke’ bottle campaign. This approach relies on creating connections with the consumer that feel more tailored or unique and we will see an increasing number products and services, particularly in FMCG, that try to enhance connections and loyalty. It will be interesting to see if the strategy reaches a point of saturation, or if the quality of the business and technology solutions can continue to evolve, keeping the approach feeling fresh and consumer relevant.
Ben Crundwell, Electronics Engineer: Electronics – Apps
I would guess that tablet and handheld computing will dominate the market next year, with apps being used for almost everything we do. More specific and time-limited apps will emerge (eg a bespoke app for an event or conference) and manufacturers will start saving money by ditching remote controls and poor user-interfaces for mobile/app based control of everything from TVs to ovens and even light switches.
Mike Cane, Partner: Autonomous vehicles and Internet of Things
Internet of Things: One of the exciting possibilities of the Internet of Things is the opportunity for new business models, and I predict in 2014 many of us will buy into IoT based services. For example low cost car insurance based on data from a sensor in your car or health insurance using data from wearable biosensors in our clothing to set premiums.
Autonomous Vehicles: The technology to automate everything from aeroplanes to cars has been demonstrated in the research and military environments. Last year saw the first UK civil passenger plane flight without a pilot at the controls. There is no doubt in my mind that we will soon accept this type of automation taking control of our cars, resulting in safer and cheaper journeys with lower CO2 emissions.
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