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The Coolest Tech Trends of 2015

January 14, 2016 by Uta Spinger 216

3D-printed cars, intelligent parking, and smart glasses: the most intriguing technological innovations of the past year and what to expect for 2016.

The Human Body as a Communication System

Everyone’s talking about wearables, the term commonly used to refer to data glasses, smart watches, and fitness wristbands. Now, the world of science is taking this technology a step further by using the human body to transmit magnetic signals that enable these devices to communicate with each other. The advantage of this technique – which makes humans and their gadgets part of the same communication network – is that it requires significantly less power and is more secure than conventional methods.

Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have already tested this new communication technique on a Ph.D. student who works in the labs there. This involved coiling copper wires around the student’s arms. Because, to pass through the human body, magnetic fields require circular geometries. Devices like smart watches and fitness bands are therefore ideally suited for the human body communication technique, whereas flat sensors are not. The magnetic fields that pass through the body do not pose a health risk, say the researchers; their effects on the human body are less harmful than those of the magnetic fields that occur naturally on Earth.

Learn more: From Fiction to Functionality: Wearables at Work

3D-Printed Cars

American motor vehicle manufacturing company Local Motors presented the world’s first 3D-printed car at the Detroit Motor Show in 2015. The two-seater electric roadster, known as the “Strati”, is made almost entirely from carbon and plastic, and is powered by a Renault drivetrain. The car currently takes 44 hours to build, though the manufacturer is working to bring the printing time down closer to 24 hours. Local Motors will begin selling the world’s first series of 3D-pirinted cars, the LM3D, early in 2017.

Learn more: How 3D Printing is changing the World

Glasses Get Smart

If researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have any say in the matter, then Google Glass may no longer be the must-have product of the future. Because they’ve developed a 1mm-thick augmented reality display that can be integrated into any ordinary pair of glasses. So, instead of calling a smartphone app, users will be able to have information such as their fitness, their pulse rate, and the distance they have jogged routed from their smart glasses directly into their field of vision.

Learn more: Bosch Shares Experience with Smart Glasses

Intelligent Parking

Wouldn’t it be great if we no longer had to endure the tedious search for a parking spot and could sit back and let our cars do all the work instead? Although that day is still a fair way off, diligent researchers are on the case: Audi, for example, is using complex electronics to test this tantalizing vision in a parking garage at its headquarters in Ingolstadt.

SAP Vehicles Network, a cloud offering from SAP, on the other hand, is already a reality. It enables drivers in North America to use digital payment services or apps to share data from the Internet of Things, activate gas pumps, pay at the pump, reserve parking, open off-street parking gates, and pay for on-street parking from the car.

Drones vs. Beetles

Drones created by Chinese manufacturer DJI use a microwave radar to scan the ground below them and maintain the right distance from crops to spray the correct amount of pesticide. Analysts predict that the world of agriculture is set to become increasingly mechanized and that devices such as drones will play a key role in supplying farmers with information in real time. The digitization of agriculture (digital farming) will empower farmers to increase their productivity, and the SAP HANA Cloud Platform will support this transformation. Its aim is to collect and analyze the vast quantities of data that are generated in farming operations so that farmers can make better-informed decisions in managing their business and so that manufacturers can offer them more tailored products and services.

Learn more: Farmers’ Tablets Yield Digital Harvests

How the Apple Watch is Saving Lives

For 20 hypertension patients from Louisiana who are taking part in a trial in New Orleans, the future of modern medicine is already here. They each have an Apple Watch that alerts them when it’s time to take their life-saving medication. The wearable also displays an image of the pill they need to take so that they don’t confuse it with other meds.

SAP is also testing the Apple Watch. The German software company wants to find out if its real-time notification functions increase employee punctuality at meetings and help close sales deals by preparing personnel more effectively for customer appointments. SAP has purchased several hundred Apple Watches for testing purposes.

Learn more: 2015 Will Be the Year of the Smartwatch

Detecting Unripe Avocados

In a paper presented at the UbiComp 2015 conference, American researchers describe how their “hyperspectral” camera can predict the relative ripeness of fruits with 94% accuracy. Another really great thing about this camera is that, at around $50, it’s affordable enough to be added to a smartphone.

Back to the Future: Here Comes the Hovercraft

October 21, 2015, was “Back to the Future Day,” with fans from all over the world celebrating the date on which time-traveler Marty McFly arrived in the future in the 1980s film classic “Back to the Future II.”

While the announcement of a hoverboard like the one Marty McFly used turned out to be a hoax, it looks as if a similar technology could actually become a reality very soon. Because U.S. aero-tech development firmAerofex has announced a futuristic hovercraft called the “Aero-X ”, which rides like a motorcycle though hovering about 10 feet off the ground and can carry up to two people at a speed of 45 miles per hour. The first test “flights” will take place in 2016 and the “hoverbike” will go on the market for a price tag of $85,000 in 2017.

What was your coolest tech trend in 2015, and which innovations will take off in 2016?

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.
Top image via Shutterstock

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