The Next 30 Years

Where is technology taking us?

When you envision the future, do you picture personal robots and flying cars? Sure, such creations have been imagined before, but now people are closer than ever to making formerly whimsical notions into reality. These days, we have phones that answer our questions, songs we can sample with the push of a button and computers the size of novels— that you no longer need to read in print form. Here experts weigh in on where they think technology is taking us in the years to come.

Exploration and Technology

The greatest expeditions, from conquering Mount Everest more than 50 years ago, to James Cameron’s recent adventure in the Mariana Trench, rely on the latest technology.

People of today’s Net Generation were born into a world of computers, the Internet and content on demand. Most don’t recognize a record player and can’t comprehend life without YouTube. The pace of technology that kids have experienced throughout the past ten years is faster than any generation has ever seen.

With this in mind, the future is promising. This generation embraces change. It expects innovation. And kids today want the next thing right now. The classroom will change in 10 years and look drastically different in 30. Students could have personal robots as tutors. They might ride to school in flying cars or take vacations on the moon. While no one can predict what’s to come, we can be certain that the next generation will continue to innovate and explore the world.

-Julie Vosburgh Agnone, vice president, National Geographic Kids

Vehicle Safety

Safety innovation and automotive design have always gone hand-in-hand. Staying out of harm’s way on the road is paramount. In the 21st century, car safety continues to expand.

In the near future, an emergency vehicle security system will create the ultimate in family driving safety. Although there are such systems already in place today, a new one on the market will recognize its class of occupants, discerning whether they are babies, adults or pets. The system will then enact necessary proactive protocols for each passenger’s protection.

Protocols may include buzzers, horns and flashing lights when a child is not secure in his car seat as well as windows that lower or doors that unlock when CO2 levels or the interior temperature becomes unsafe.

The system will also automatically send people calls for help to their mobile devices and urgent texts with the GPS location of their vehicles to designated emergency contacts. This will permit efficient roadside assistance and an automatic accident response. Best of all, such a car system will be portable for use in a rental or loaner vehicle. And it installs in under five minutes. That sounds like a pretty bright future for your family’s travels.

-Beth Johnston, BabyAlert.info

Household Life

Looking ahead, parents’ lives will be as fast paced as ever. Appliances for the foreseeable future will focus on saving time and convenience.

Advanced sensors, unseen but powerful, will help to keep the food in your refrigerators fresher for longer. Washing machines will automatically adjust detergent levels and water temperature based on specific stains, fabric types and levels of soilage. Parents will no longer have to worry about the details as they maintain their busy family lifestyles.

What parents can expect is the explosion of mobile technology and connectivity that is permeating every industry, including home appliances. The home of the future will be smarter. It will be connected, efficient and healthier. The family quarters will minimize chores like never before. Imagine nutritious meals created with ingredients inventoried in your refrigerator, text messages that remind you to pick up a water filter as you drive by a home improvement retailer and an energy-saving vacation mode on your hybrid water heater being set from your smartphone while at the beach.

-Lou Lenzi, GE Appliances

Consumerism

A few years ago, the idea of shopping online in lieu of traveling to a store was hard to grasp and revolutionary. Now, it’s a way of life. While major retailers were contemplating the pros and cons, consumers were seeing the benefits of saving time, conserving fuel as gas prices soared and having an endless selection of products at their fingertips from the comfort of their homes.

I recall being in a conference room with four intelligent, high-powered executives who were split on the concept of creating an e-commerce platform for their 1,000-store retail business. The concern was that it could hurt their brick and mortar sales. However, they ended up going forward with the online format. It’s a good thing they did. Chains that didn’t follow suit are now extinct.

Fast forward a few years, we have laptops so light that you can lift one with two fingers, tablets with endless apps that simplify everyday activities and more smartphones on the market than landlines being added in new households.

The future of e-commerce can be summed up in one phrase: lightning fast. Its future is even faster approaching. Soon, handheld devices will be so powerful and quick we’ll just ask our technological personal assistants to order things, such as flowers, groceries, toys and clothing. Similar features already exist, but our devices will know from which retailers to automatically order based on our habits and spending patterns.

The bottom line: It used to be that technology was trying to catch up to us humans. Now we humans are doing our best to adapt to the new technology! All in all, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, and life will continue to be simplified because of it.

-David Seliktar, CEO, KeepAmerica.com