We suspect that many of you will be too young to remember ‘Tomorrow’s World’, the BBC science programme that brought viewers the technology of tomorrow. Famously, they introduced us to CDs, demonstrating how much more resilient they are than vinyl LPs by spreading jam on them! Don’t try this at home…
The programme no longer broadcasts, which is a shame because there is just so much brilliant stuff out there that’s crying out to be ‘discovered’. One of the problems we have in the UK and Scotland today is that we just don’t have enough young people coming through in the STEM subjects and I do wonder if one of the (many) reasons for this is because we don’t do enough to enthuse them about the amazing things that technology does.
We all know about smartphones and even smartwatches, aka ‘wearable technology’, but I believe we should be taking this message further and faster. The things that we can do are truly inspiring – and we need to inspire future generations to fill the jobs that will carry our country forward.
For example, did you know that ‘they’ (i.e. technologists/scientists at BAe) are working on a ‘feeling’ skin on aircraft? This covers the body of an airplane with micro-sensors, capable of measuring wind speed, temperature, strain and movement. If successful, it will allow potential problems to be detected before they occur and it could also be applied to cars as well as aircraft, ships and indeed to lots of other devices. It could even be sprayed on to a surface like paint.
Smarter technology is even changing how people water their lawns and gardens. This may seem like the preserve of the rich, but several companies have developed smart sprinkler systems that automate your watering schedule based on the weather forecast and thus help conserve valuable water. In many parts of the world, particularly for those affected by changing climate that suffer from severe drought, this system has obvious implications for more efficient and productive agriculture.
Then there is the research and development team in China who have developed a prototype for an "Air Umbrella" that uses airflow as an invisible shield from the rain. The wand-like device will incorporate a lithium-ion battery that will power a motor, which powers the device's jet airflow. The umbrella, which will be available in three ‘sizes’ is expected to cover more than 3 feet in diameter and can cover more space if the rain is light as opposed to heavy. If all goes well, you’ll be able to buy one by the end of this year.
Finally, this is not just about doing clever things, it’s about making money. You can even get paid just for having the ideas. Across the world, myriad organisations and governments are queuing up to hand over cash as prizes in a wide number of different competitions. This year, amongst others, we’ve seen these range from the Saltire Award for anyone who can demonstrate a commercially viable wave/tidal energy technology in Scottish Waters (£10M award) to the Microsoft Innovation Competition (an award of $50K) for the best innovative software. Tomorrow’s World is not just an exciting place, it should be a highly profitable one too!
Andrew Finlayson, Associate Director, Be-IT Resourcing