Ten Technologies to Watch in 2005
Are we there yet? Not quite. But look for these innovations to truly arrive in the year ahead.
(Business 2.0) – COMPUTER HARDWARE
"CELL" MICROPROCESSOR: The long-awaited new chip from IBM, Sony, and Toshiba enters production next year at IBM's next-generation plant. Sony boasts that the top-secret design will deliver 100 times the processing power of today's PCs. Its first mission: Powering the quantum leap in game play expected in Sony's PlayStation 3.
NEURO-IMAGING: Magnetic resonance imaging is no longer just for detecting tumors. As researchers learn to match neural activity patterns with emotions, scanning technologies like MRI are being used to diagnose mental disorders and gauge consumer response to products and ads. Some researchers say brain scans might one day replace focus groups.
HARD-DRIVE SEARCH: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are set to extend their reach to where no commercial text-crawling algorithm has gone before: your hard drive. Consumers presumably would benefit from finding information on their own computers with Google-like speed and accuracy. But search providers will have to overcome users' fears that advertisers will be able to see what's on their drives.
INFLATION TRADING: With governments issuing more bonds whose interest payments rise and fall based on changes in inflation, there's growing demand for inflation swaps and other financial products that hedge against inflation fluctuations. In addition to bondholders and banks, pension funds—which typically have long-term inflation exposure—are expected to be big buyers.
MISSILE DEFENSE SHIELD: The Pentagon promises limited capability at first, with as many as 20 silos in Alaska and California stocked with rockets carrying exoatmospheric kill vehicles—military-speak for missile interceptors—by the end of next year. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon are doing the bulk of the work, which has a 2005 budget of $2.5 billion.
RIETER ULTRA LIGHT: Carmakers sometimes sacrifice fuel efficiency for a quiet ride. New composite liners for dashboards and trim from Rieter Automotive perform state-of-the-art sound absorption while reducing vehicle weight by about 30 pounds. Chrysler, Ford, and GM already use Ultra Light in some models. Look for it throughout Toyota's lineup next year.
DRUG-ELUTING STENTS: Like normal stents, these are placed in clogged veins and arteries to restore blood flow. Drug-eluting versions are coated with chemicals that further prevent blockages. So far Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson have FDA-approved devices, but Medtronic and others also plan to jump into a market that analysts project will reach $7 billion in three years.
RICH INTERNET APPLICATIONS: Google's new e-mail client, Gmail, is one example of browser-accessible programs with the robust functionality of desktop software. Combining the Windows-like interface of PC programs with Internet-based architecture, these apps allow websites to offer complex data manipulation and fast reaction times with minimal end-user downloads.
VIDEO OVER DSL: To stave off Comcast, EchoStar, and other companies that are stealing their customers at an alarming rate, Baby Bells want to stream video signals into homes over the same copper wires currently used for DSL and phone calls. New set-top boxes and compression algorithms could one day make video over DSL a cheap alternative to cable.
TITANIUM GRAPHITE WINGS: Tennis players and golf nuts have been using versions of this superstrong, superlight material for years. Now a composite sandwich of graphite-epoxy polymer and titanium sheets will be a key construction material for the wings of Boeing's 7E7, due to begin initial component production next year. — PAUL SLOAN AND MATTHEW MAIER