The internet is arguably one of the most life changing creations. Most of us take the Internet for granted. We have constant access to internet and can get all the information we need in seconds. We can also broadcast information and stay connected via email, social media or blogs. But a lot of the world does not have access to internet or has access to a small subset of censored internet data. Information is one of the most empowering things. Access to information can shape your thinking and help you make better informed decisions. It can expose you to different things that you did not know existed. Having access to all the academic knowledge from around the world can improve quality of education. This would lead to more knowledgable individuals making smarter decisions. In countries like Cuba where internet access is limited, expensive and censored, people have created a black market for data. There are people in Cuba that sell a 1TB hard drive loaded with content like music, movies, TV shows and other media from around the world. Some even setup WiFi hot spots and connect their hard drives so people can access the content nearby. On the other end of the spectrum, many countries in Africa don’t have internet access. There are some areas that have the ability to get 3G data connections but people don’t see a need to pay for internet access.
Technology is changing everything. Its changing how we think, how we interact, our social norms and every aspect of our life. It is also helping us progress in every field. One of the fields that has been completely changed by technology is genetic research. In the 1980s, the cost of whole genome sequencing was in millions of dollars. Over the years, the cost has been falling. In a few decades, the cost reached about $250,000. While that is still staggering, its much more affordable compared to millions of dollars. However, the cost has been falling steadily over time. It reached just $7000 a few years back and has just reached $1000 now. People can get whole genome sequencing for $1000. That is a more affordable price for people that would want their genome sequenced. Scientists and researchers have also been hoping to reach the $1000 price tag as it would make genome sequencing more accessible and would also allow us to gather more data from more people and use the data to make a difference. It can be used to understand diseases better, develop cures for the diseases and even enter the world of personal medicine. Its the beginning of the pharmaceutical revolution.
The year 2014 has ended and 2015 is upon us. The theme for 2014 was wearables, more smartphones and some advancements in TVs. We saw curved TVs, 4K TVs and more 3D TVs. Most of all, wearables were the big thing. We saw all kinds of wearables from smartwatches to fitness trackers to authentication bands. Pebble started shipping Pebble Steel, Google started shipping the LG Watch and Moto 360. Samsung’s $600 watches were down to $199 with Android wear installed. However, not a lot of people outside the tech world bought these wearables. CES is around the corner and we will likely see the trend continue. There will be more TVs (slightly cheaper this time), more wearables that people would want to buy, and home automation gadgets. As we have seen wearables get smaller, now we will see them get stylish and more fashionable so people would want to buy and wear them. We would also see more economical wearables with smartwatches in the sub-$100 range. CES will also showcase home automation and smart kitchen appliances. We will start seeing washers, dryers, refrigerators and kitchen appliances talk to each other. So 2015 might just be the year wearables start becoming common and people start getting smart appliances.
Technology has truly transformed mankind. Today, we live in a world of smartphones and clouds. Every question can be answered with a touch using Google search. You can find answers to almost anything in just a few minutes. People use Google search to find information on things ranging from physics to history. Some also look up medical information using Google search. This is about to change. Google has introduced a new venture – Google Genomics. It lets medical researchers store and evaluate genomic data in their cloud. The cost of storing and analyzing a genome has gone from millions of dollars to just under $1000 in the last 15 years. Its getting more affordable to store and analyze this data. What does this mean? It means that researchers can store more genomes and find interesting patterns in the data by analyzing a massive data sample. This can lead to all kinds of medical breakthroughs. We can cure diseases, identify likelihood of getting a disease for a given person, and even build custom medicine for a person. The ability to cheaply store and analyze this data will be a revolution in medicine.
RoboBees are micro-robots designed by Harvard University researchers that push the limits of material science, fluid mechanics and computer science. They are tiny robots that are as big as honeybees and weigh less than 1 gram. They have wings similar to those of bees and can fly. The RoboBee made its first controlled flight about a year ago and has been under development so it can fly without being controlled.
Honeybees on the other hand are just bees popular for honey. However, they are also responsible for crop pollination. They play an important part in production of the food consumed by humans. Honeybees pollinate a third of the crops, which equates to $200 Billion worth of global crops and $15 Billion in the US. While they are a vital part of the food chain, they are at a threat. Honeybees have been going missing since the last few decades and this issue has been getting a lot attention since 2005 – 2006. One of the possible reasons for this occurrence seems to be pesticides. While pesticides protect crops from pests, they are causing adverse effects on honeybees and are a factor for Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps. In the early days, BBM (Blackberry Messenger) was used by everyone but was limited to Blackberry devices. WhatsApp provided a free messaging platform for Symbian (still popular in emerging markets), Blackberry, Android, Windows Phone and iOS. It was one of the first apps to be truly cross-platform, not just iOS and Android. With Symbian and Blackberry widely used in emerging markets, it got a lot of market share. Dozens of messaging applications have emerged since then, but there are two important aspects to such an application: (1) mass adoption by networks of people, and (2) being truly cross-platform (not just Android and iOS).
When using a utility application for Mail or IM, its easy to switch to a better application. With messaging, it does not make sense to switch when five of your contacts are using it versus hundreds on the other platform. So people are not likely to switch. What developers also forget is that Android and iOS are the major OSes, but only in North America. Asian and South American markets are still dominated by Symbian and Blackberry devices with Android gaining market share rapidly. Also when messaging patterns for WhatsApp is analyzed, its heavily used for international communication. When all of you contacts are in the US, you could use texting as most carriers now offer unlimited free texting. But for international messaging, apps like WhatsApp are used primarily. This means that supporting platforms in those markets is as important as iOS support.
Facebook has become the world’s largest community with almost a Billion users. It connects people from all over the world. Its where people share personal thoughts and photos. But Facebook has big problems that are being uncovered. When you have 100 friends posting updates everyday, you can see it all in the News Feed. When you have 300 friends posting 5 updates everyday, its 1500 posts. That is a lot to see in a day. So Facebook developed an algorithm called EdgeRank, that filters out content so you can see the content that matters most. While EdgeRank has worked well so far, there are many problems with it. First, it shows you more content from people you interact with. So if you like or comment on posts from a person, you will see more posts from that person. If you don’t interact with posts from certain people, they will stop showing up over time. If people don’t see content that they want to see, then they will stop coming to the site, killing their active user numbers and advertising revenue.
Smartphones are at the center of everyones life. They have transformed from a communication device to a lifestyle accessory that manages everything from social life to finances. As smartphone reach a high adoption rate in developed nations like US, Canada and Europe, there is a huge opportunity to bring them to emerging markets. India and China have a combined population of over 2 Billion. While popular smartphones have high price points which work in the developed world, emerging markets need a smartphone at a lower price point. Local smartphone makers like Micromax and Xiaomi have sprung up in these countries and are gaining huge market share in emerging markets.
While Mobile World Congress this year has been about LTE updates in Europe and Samsung unveiling more wearables, Nokia announced its line of Nokia X Android phones (after being acquired by Microsoft) at a price below $100. While this is a good step for Nokia, Mozilla’s Firefox OS phones are being made for developing nations which would be sold for $25. Of course, the $25 Firefox OS phone is not yet released. If Mozilla is able to meet the $25 price point, it can gain significant market share in Latin America and African regions. This can make it harder for other makers to penetrate into these markets. While Nokia expects its Nokia X phone to do well in emerging markets, the local makers have already gained some market share and popularity in the regions and it would be interesting to see adoption rates for the new line of devices. As Mozilla and Nokia enter the emerging markets, other makers are expected to announce a range of smartphones targeted at emerging markets this year.
The year 2013 has come and passed by and we have entered 2014. Technology has progressed from smartphones to smart-devices, mainly wearables. Devices like FitBit and Nike FuelBand have gained some popularity and the Pebble smart watch has encouraged other manufacturers to enter the smart watch market. This year’s CES is all about these transitions. Belkin has announced a refreshed line-up in its WeMo smart devices category. Pebble unveiled the Pebble Steel smart watch. There are also some updates in the 4K television area and Samsung has announced its bendable-TV. While there is very limited 4K content, manufacturers are making 4K video cameras to enable content creation. But 2014 is likely to be a year of smart-devices, led by a flood of smart watches.
Android is one of the most popular smartphone operating systems. What makes Android so wide spread? Any device manufacturer can build smartphones with Android. HTC, Motorola, ASUS, Acer and countless regional manufacturers. While this made Android one of the major smartphone operating systems, there are often complaints about its consistency across carriers and devices. When Google releases Android 4.4 KitKat, it is first made available to Google Devices (Nexus brand devices), followed by Google Play devices (unlocked developer devices) and finally other devices. Some devices like HTC phones can get an update early, and other HTC phones can get an update months later. Verizon devices can get an update sooner than T-Mobile users. The nature of the updates can be very inconsistent based on the device model and carrier. This is because when Google announces a new version of Android, it has to go to chip manufacturers like NVIDIA and Qualcomm that make drivers for the system. Then its passed to phone manufacturers that add customizations and finally to carriers that add even more customizations. It goes back and forth till its tested and approved by everyone. Finally, its pushed as an update. HTC has released an infographic explaining the process, for those who want to know what goes on behind the scenes.