3 Tech trends to get on your radar

Tech journalist Robert Scoble is known for pinpointing tech trends. Along with coauthor Shel Israel, Scoble has written Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy. In addition to emphasizing the huge role context will play in new technology, Scoble talks about the role beacons, sensors, and wearables will have in creating the software and devices we’ll all use within the next few years.

Beacons, small pieces of hardware, are going to transform indoor spaces where cell signals are sometimes blocked. They use Bluetooth connections to send messages to smartphones and tablets. As Scoble says, sports venues are already installing them, so if you walk in with your phone, they’ll know where you are, enabling paperless ticketing or relevant promotions at food vendors, for example. At home, this could translate to lights turning on when you enter a room, while in airports it may mean updates on delays or gate information.

Because we can carry technology in our hands, the opportunities for software are endless. Our phones know where we are and whom we are with—but Scoble thinks we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of mobile apps and sensors. Both airlines and railways are using sensors on engines and the like to monitor various functions. In doing so, they can pinpoint any areas that need attention before they become a problem.

Scoble points out that new technology glasses and augmented reality devices have changed our social interactions. “You can see things,” he explains, but the other people in the conversation can’t. “It changes the social contract.” Right now, he doesn’t believe there’s enough utility to adopt.

But beyond glasses, Scoble sees far more for the future of wearables. In terms of healthcare, devices could save lives. As he says, imagine a device that takes minute samples of your blood and warn you if it notes anything problematic. Scoble doesn’t think it’s far off.

This post is part of our ongoing coverage of Microsoft Research and its Visiting Speaker Series. Microsoft Research supports its mission to educate and foster innovation and growth through inviting authors and speakers that inspire big ideas, spark new ways of doing things, or help people see things from a new perspective.