Health Care, Safety Top 2007 Tech Trends

February 16, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Local technologist Keith Brophy will unveil his annual Tech Trends Forecast in an event hosted by glimaWest this Thursday night at Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

For the better part of a decade, Brophy, the Cascade-based president of business development for Michigan software development firm NuSoft Solutions, has selected 10 trends from among hundreds of ideas presented to him each year that represent the coming year’s potential for technology-driven innovation and change.

Last year, Brophy focused on how technology was influencing the way people work. This year, he sees technological advances as a driving force in individual and community health and wellness.

Health Care Techo-Strategist: In November, 54-year-old Bay City resident David Savage became the nation’s third hand transplant recipient following a 15-hour, 39-physician surgery at Jewish Hospital at the Louisville Medical Center in Kentucky.

“When he first met his wife in a bar 30-plus years ago, one of the first things he told her was that he was going to get his hand back someday,” explained Brophy. “He knew that the technology would evolve to the point where he would be able to one day throw a ball to his grandkids. That kind of long-horizon solution is really going to affect the choices we make.”

Brophy expects a wave of products and services in the coming years that will allow individuals to become stewards of their health in ways not previously imagined. As health care continues to converge with information technology and genetic mapping, people will be able to make medical decisions decades before a condition appears.

“A person can meticulously map out a strategy and carry it with them as they travel through life,” he said. “Somebody born today might statistically have a life expectancy in the mid-80s, but looking at the advances yet to come and expert opinion, somebody born today may live to 120 years old.”

Automated Safety: Last month, the Department of Defense sounded an alarm concerning mysterious tracking devices found within Canadian currency circulating in the U.S. The Oakland A’s baseball club and Cisco are developing a camera system to take individual souvenir pictures of all 80,000 people in a future stadium. Law enforcement agencies across the nation are using Wi-Fi cameras and other monitoring devices.

“Communities are accepting privacy as a luxury tax for increased safety,” Brophy said. “There is a growing acceptance and pervasiveness of technology to ensure safety and security. We can capture virtually every face in a stadium, effortlessly. … We can leverage those devices for better proactive prevention.”

Techno-Togetherness: He sees a continued convergence of the way people use information, as phones, media players, Internet access and other devices unite with watches, necklaces, automobiles and clothing.

Connectivity Pervasiveness: The connectivity paradigm has essentially reversed itself, he said. “It’s shifted from pockets where you could connect, like a coffee shop or two, to pockets where you can’t connect. … This opens up whole new vistas of truly mobile applications.”

Robots: Actually a previous failed prediction, Brophy suggests that robotic devices are nearing a level of affordability and sophistication where they will be adopted by the mass market. An exciting potential use is as assistance for the disabled and elderly.

Community-wide Computer Security Disaster: Last year, the World Wide Web survived an organized hacker attack on one of its key networks. This year might be different.

“We are at high risk for a major-scale computer disaster,” Brophy said. “Instead of a hacker taking out a business, it will be a whole community or country.”

Technology Guidance as an Elected Trait of Political Leaders: If technology had been properly employed, the Bush administration might have avoided the intelligence gaffes leading to the Iraq War, and No Child Left Behind would have had significant positive impact. In the Michigan gubernatorial election, technology should have been the core issue demonstrating each candidate’s ability to lead a knowledge-based economy, he said.

The 7th Sense: Text Messaging Everywhere: Text messages could become as invasive as human thought, popping up in phones, watches and on the inside of eyeglasses, marking scheduled events and other alerts throughout the day.

Virtual Lemmings: The powerful connectivity of the Internet enables large, coordinated movement of people and thought with amazing speed — for better or for worse.

Thinking Starts at Search: Everything becomes a search portal.

“The new breed of user interface is that everything starts with search,” Brophy said. “You say what you want to have happen, and you’re directed to that. You won’t have to navigate menus; it will just take you there.”    

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