2014’s Top Technology Trends in Engineering

Although flying cars that fit in suitcases and robot maids aren’t yet a reality, George Jetson wouldn’t have felt out of place with much of today’s technology. Smartphones to stay connected to everyone from daughter Judy to his boy Elroy, big data and the mobile cloud would undoubtedly feel familiar to the fictional future man.

While the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, isn’t predicting a Jetsons-style life anytime within the next year, they recently released a list of predictions for the top trends in technology for 2014. Based on an overview of the reports that will be featured in upcoming industry journals, IEEE conferences and magazines, the organization listed the following as some of 2014’s top trends.

The Growth of the Mobile Cloud

As the power of cloud computing converges with the freedom of mobile technology, the mobile cloud is poised to make a tremendous impact on how data is shared, stored and reached. As the IEEE notes, mobile memory has become a limiting factor for the technology; access to the cloud breaks the memory barrier and opens new possibilities for mobile users. By working in the cloud and not on devices, battery life is also longer, removing the invisible tethers that kept many mobile users close to power sources.

Moving Past the Internet of Things to the Web of Things

The rise of mobile technology and interactive, interconnected devices is expected to take the Internet of Things – the disparate and vast collection of things connected to the Internet but not necessarily to each other – farther down the road to an interconnected Web of Things. Communication between devices, often without the intervention of their human owner, has become fairly common, and the IEEE expects it to be an increasingly everyday occurrence. George Jetson’s nemesis Uniblab isn’t in the foreseeable future, though – the Web of Things is far from sentience, let alone taking engineers’ jobs.

Taming Big Data

Big data was the story for the early 2010s, but as technology approaches the peak of the decade, data sets that are merely big will give way to extreme data, says the IEEE. With the increase in size, speed and variety of data to manage, finding new ways to interpret and contextualize the deluge of information will be vital. New data management, processing and analytics will emerge to fill the gap between the volume of big data available and the current technology’s ability to put it into meaningful perspective.

3D Printing Makes Ideas a Reality

Creating tangible objects at the push of a few buttons is an idea that was once pure science fiction. From Star Trek’s replicator to George Jetson’s food synthesizer, the concept clearly has lasting appeal. In 2014, 3D printing technology will improve and become more accessible to a mass market. The technology has the power to reduce waste, foster creativity and increase customization options for everything from dental implants to dinosaur models. With such a potent technology also comes the possibility of misuse, a potentially thorny subject for ethicists and courts of law.

The Increasing Reach of Social Networks

Facebook is still on top of the social network heap, but it has been joined by so many other social media channels that they’re a ubiquitous presence. The unprecedented reach of social networks has put the information available on them at a premium, and that has raised privacy concerns for many. Data miners that collect shopping habits and marketing preferences, employers who delve into spring break photo albums from a decade ago and identity thieves make online privacy and security a significant growth area for 2014.

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