Prerequisites: Basic familiarity with the Raspberry Pi

Next generation technologies are those that seem as if they don’t belong to the present. They are usually developing technologies and have immense potential to change the way we live or work.

One of the biggest examples of such a technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI). While it’s not in its infancy by any means, it is still a developing technology that has already widely influenced the world.

Today, we will discuss seven such technologies. They are called Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and Extended Reality (XR).

We will discuss their current and future applications and how they might affect society.

7 Technologies Shaping Tomorrow

Here are the details on each of the seven technologies.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

OCR

To be fair, OCR is an implementation of two technologies at once: image processing and artificial intelligence. So, calling it a technology is a bit of a stretch. However, its uses are niche enough to warrant that status.

So, what is OCR? Basically, it is a technology for recognizing text in images. Normally, a computer understands text because it is encoded in a language that is understood by the computer. Typically, that encoding is ASCII or Unicode. However, text inside an image is not encoded in a machine-readable format. To the computer that text is just a bunch of pixels.

Enter OCR. OCR enables computers to understand that those pixels are actually text. So the computer is able to translate those pixels into a machine-readable format, thereby converting it to digital text.

This text can be manipulated through word processors and saved. This leads us to the applications of OCR.

Current Applications of OCR

Now that you understand the function of OCR, here are some ways in which it is used today.

  • Image to text conversion:  Image-to-text conversion is a useful application of OCR that is widely used in businesses and personal works alike. Basically, this technology can extract text from inside images. It is usually done via tools known as image-to-text converters.
  • Document Conversion: Converting handwritten documents into digital ones with OCR available, it is possible to scan a physical document and then use its image to extract its text into digital form. It can also be done with an image instead of a scan.
  • Security systems for verification: Modern security systems use OCR to quickly check whether the ID or documents of a person are valid or not. Such systems are used in Airports and government offices. Traffic monitoring systems use this system to check whether a vehicle has illegal plates or if it has been involved in a crime.

Image-to-text converters are tools that use OCR to recognize text in images and extract it. They can be found online for free. Some useful ones are Ocr.best and imagetotext.info.

So, those are some applications of OCR that are currently in use.

Future Applications of OCR

In the future, it is expected that OCR will be used in the following things.

  • Self-Driving Cars. In the near future, self-driving cars will use OCR to read road signs and take better routes if a particular way is blocked. Tesla does have self-driving cars, but it is unknown whether they use OCR or not.
  • Medical Diagnoses. In the future, it is expected that OCR will be used to draw diagnosis conclusions from X-ray and MRI images. OCR will be used to interpret the results of the X-ray and MRI scans to get a reliable diagnosis.

So, these are some future applications of OCR.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP

Machines and computers cannot understand human language. That is a fact. However, with NLP that has changed. Natural language processing enables machines to understand and interface with natural human language.

NLP is used for a variety of purposes such as manipulating text, translating languages, chatbots, and voice assistants.

Various machine learning technologies are used to power NLP systems. Currently, one of the best chatbots in existence known as ChatGPT is a great example of NLP systems in action.

This AI-powered chatbot can understand what you type and respond accordingly. It has been trained on a large database of text, so it can even generate detailed responses for short prompts.

There are numerous uses of NLP because humans have to deal with text quite a lot in their professional and personal lives.

So, you can bet that a technology that can understand and even manipulate text in various ways is going to be popular. Speaking of which, here are some current uses of NLP.

Current Applications of NLP

Some common applications of NLP are in content optimization tools. Here are some examples.

  • Paraphrasing tools. Paraphrasing is the technique of restating text without altering its meaning. With NLP it is possible for online tools to understand some given text and then paraphrase it. You can find many such tools online and some of them are even free.
  • Plagiarism Checkers. These are tools that can check whether the given text is copied from another source or not. With NLP it is possible for such tools to catch advanced forms of plagiarism such as “Paraphrased plagiarism”.
  • Grammar Checkers. Yes, with NLP machines can understand whether the given text is grammatically correct or not. NLP enables the tool to understand the various grammatical nuances of the text and check whether they are correct or not.

Those are just some examples of current uses of NLP.

Future Uses of NLP

Some uses of NLP that could crop up in the near future are as follows.

  • Healthcare. NLP could be used in healthcare in the near future. It could be used in tandem with OCR to read patient histories and provide them to the doctor in a concise manner. This information could be used to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient.
  • Education. It is possible that a sophisticated learning system that leverages NLP could be developed in the future. Such a system would be capable of checking each student’s performance and understanding the areas in which they lack. NLP would be used to study the students’ work, assignments, and tests. As online learning becomes more commonplace, such a system could become a reality sooner rather than later.
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So, these are just a few examples of future applications of NLP.

Cloud Computing

CloudComputing

Cloud computing refers to providing different computing services through the internet. The simplest way of describing cloud computing is this; imagine you can use any software without ever having to install it on your device.

You just need to connect to the internet and use that software. That is cloud computing in a nutshell.

The major benefit of cloud computing is that it lets you access resources that are not physically available to you. Cloud storage is a great example of this.

You can save files online in a secure storage and you can access that storage from any device that can connect to the internet.

Cloud computing is used to provide resource-intensive services through the use of powerful server computers.

It has major benefits for businesses as they can easily scale up or down with cloud computing.

Current Uses of Cloud Computing

Here are some ways in which cloud computing is used.

  • Providing SaaS. SaaS stands for “Software as a Service”. What this means is that instead of paying once and getting an offline version of the software, customers pay a subscription fee to keep using that software online. The advantage is that they don’t have to install it and they always get access to the latest version with all the features.
  • Online Storage. We previously discussed what cloud storage is. Currently, there are many ways of accessing cloud storage. You can use services like Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive, and Dropbox to store files online and access them via the Internet from anywhere.
  • Computing Power. With cloud computing, you can access powerful servers and have them do massive calculations that are impossible for your personal computer. This is widely used in machine learning to train models–a highly processor-intensive task that takes hours at minimum and a few days at max. However, with a server computer training models can be done in a bunch of minutes. Google Colab is the best example of this.

Future Uses of Cloud Computing

The potential future use of cloud computing is in the following.

  • Quantum computing. Quantum computing is a new type of computing that is done at the molecular level. However, due to the extreme conditions required for quantum computing, it can only be used effectively through cloud computing. When quantum computing becomes more common, you can be sure that it will be done through cloud computing.
  • Edge computing. The edge in a network refers to the end-user or any device that is ultimately using the network to get something it does not have. Edge computing refers to bringing resources closer to edge devices. The benefit is that there is less waiting time due to lower latency and that improves performance. Cloud computing can help with this by provisioning and controlling resources delegated to edge devices.

I am sure there will be plenty of other future uses for cloud computing.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT

The Internet of Things is a concept where all kinds of dumb devices can connect to the Internet and some central device on the network can use their information effectively.

The dumb devices are fitted with different kinds of sensors, and the data from the sensors is transmitted over the internet to other devices.

IoT networks have a lot of potential, they can be used to monitor different types of stuff using different sensors and collect data about them.

I am being quite vague about it, but once you see the current applications of IoT and the future ones, you will gain a better understanding.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at some of the uses of IoT.

Current Uses of IoT

Here are some ways in which IoT is used today.

  • In security systems. Smoke detectors and CCTV cameras have variants that can run on batteries and have internet connectivity. They can be monitored through a personal computer or even a mobile device. The advantage of this is that these kinds of devices can be spread over a larger area without the need for extensive wiring.
  • In smart homes. Smart homes are a concept that seeks to improve the energy usage of a normal home and increase the convenience of the residents. In a smart home, various appliances are fitted with sensors. These appliances can be remotely controlled through the internet and even programmed to do stuff automatically. For example, toasters and coffee makers could automatically start making toast and coffee at breakfast time. An air conditioner could automatically switch on when the resident enters a certain radius of their home.
  • Healthcare. IoT networks can be used to monitor multiple patients in a ward. Information such as their temperature, pulse, and oxygen level can be monitored remotely without having to keep medical staff on hand.

These are some of the ways in which IoT networks are currently being used in the world.

Future Uses of IoT Networks

Now let’s discuss some future uses of IoT that are currently being developed.

  • Smart Cities. Smart cities are a concept where energy efficiency is maximized. IoT devices in each house’s electricity meter check how much energy is being used and during what times. This can help the power factories amp up or reduce their energy production to match what is required. This is also helpful for people to easily monitor and control their own power usage and reduce their power costs.
  • Self-driving cars. In the future when self-driving cars are more common, they could use a central IoT network that would enable them to be aware of each other’s location. This could help them prevent traffic jams and smoothly reroute around each other to find the quickest route to their destination.
  • Automation in Industries. One of the biggest uses of IoT in the future will be in automation. Due to their real-time remote monitoring capabilities, IoT networks will be used for remotely controlling processes. They will also be used to monitor the production machines and predict when a particular machine will malfunction. This can be used to proactively repair worn equipment and prevent costly malfunctions.
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And these are just some of the ways in which IoT will be used in the future.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that enables machines to exhibit human intelligence. Since the intelligence is programmed and not natural, it is dubbed artificial intelligence.

Many of the technologies we have discussed in this list are actually just products of artificial intelligence. OCR and NLP are both possible due to artificial intelligence.

This is a vast field, and it has immense potential. Every day new use cases for AI are discovered. The applications are mind-boggling.

But before we discuss them, let’s learn what AI is. AI basically lets a machine understand some information and take some actions in light of that information.

For example, if a human were to be faced with a problem such as how to fix a dead light, they would do one of the following things: replace the light, open it up to fix any loose wires, check the light holder for issues or get a repair man to do it.

A human would take action after weighing their options i.e., how confident they are in the repair, how cheap or expensive a new light is, and how much would a repair man cost. Then they take the most resource-efficient route.

AI allows computers to do pretty much the same. In a simulated environment where we give the AI control of a human stand-in, it would weigh these options in much the same way and take the route that has the highest chances of success.

By the way, machine learning (ML) is just a branch of AI that lets machines learn from a known data set and apply that information to unknown data. Sounds simple but has a lot of applications as you will see now.

Current Uses of AI and ML

Here are some current uses of AI.

  • Data Analytics. Due to the proliferation of big data, it became impossible for human analysts to analyze it manually. Enter machine learning which can be trained to analyze large swathes of data and draw conclusions, provide new insights, and predict new trends. Currently, artificial intelligence for data analysis is the largest field in the tech industry, and the way it is going, it will stay that way for a long time.
  • Image Processing. One of the great uses of AI is in image processing. OCR is possible due to the advances made by AI in image processing. AI is used to recognize text inside images. It is also used to restore old, damaged photos almost 100% accurately. Image processing is used in security systems to find evidence that may have otherwise been ignored.
  • Robotics. AI is used in robotics for the automation of production. With the help of AI, robots make decisions on the fly to prevent hold-ups in the production line and deal with any irregularities that occur. This kind of decision-making is great for efficiency, and it is how many big manufacturers are able to churn out car parts, airplane parts, and other machinery quickly.

Those are just three uses of AI, there are way more uses than that both big and small. You can find them with just a little bit of research.

Future Uses of AI

Here are some uses that may occur in the future.

  • AI in Healthcare. Currently, AI is not really being used in the health industry, however, that could change in the future. AI-powered diagnostic systems could be developed that can take a patient’s history and symptoms to diagnose their health issues. It could also be used for developing a personalized treatment plan for specific patients.
  • Quality Control. While AI is used for automation, it could also evolve to be used in quality control. Products could be checked right on the assembly line for defects and errors. Such products would be removed after being identified by the AI.
  • Education. AI is playing a small part in education today, but it could play a bigger part in the future. It could be used to develop a system that analyzes a student’s needs and makes a personalized education plan for them. This plan would be tailored to maximize the student’s potential and enable them to learn effectively.

In these ways, AI could be used in the future.

Blockchain

Blockchain

Blockchain is a technology for creating digital and non-centralized databases. It is a technology that relies on advanced cryptographic puzzles to keep the database secure. It works in the following way.

There is a “chain” of “blocks” (hence blockchain), and each block holds the information of the database. Each block is secured with a really complex cryptographic puzzle.

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The longer the chain the more trustworthy and valuable that data is. In a blockchain system, the longest chain is the one whose data is considered the most trustworthy.

This unique method of securing data means there is little chance of a data breach and there is no need for a trusted third party to keep the records either.

On paper, this sounds really good, but currently, blockchain technology is being woefully misused. Instead of being used for cybersecurity, it is being used for weird things. Let’s see what they are.

Current Uses of Blockchain

  • Cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency was a fad that started sometime in the 2010s. The idea was to introduce this new digital currency that was above borders and nationality. We can’t really say whether it was successful or not because it only paved the way for crypto scams and new types of mining viruses. Hopefully, this fruitless venture will die out and we will be freed from cryptocurrency.
  • NFTs. NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens are another fad that started a few years ago. What originally started as a way for digital artists to safeguard their work against copyright infringements has become another scam. Basically, an NFT is a digital work that cannot be copied. Only one copy exists and whoever buys the NFT owns it. This transaction is stored on the blockchain and serves as the proof of ownership.

The artist who created that work will not have a copy anymore once they sell the NFT.

Anyway, these are the uses of blockchain technology.

Future Uses of Blockchain

Blockchain has a lot of potentials. It is ultimately a security measure, and it should be used as such. Therefore, some future uses of blockchain could be as follows.

  • Supply Chain Management. With the help of blockchain technology, manufacturers, sellers, and even customers could track the movement of goods through a supply chain. Since a blockchain cannot be altered, the information is guaranteed to be correct. This can help prevent fraud and needless price hikes that sellers like to use so much.
  • Voting. Rigging votes is a common tactic for corrupt governments to stay in power. However, with blockchain a digital voting system could be created that is tamper-proof. This way rigged voting would go away.
  • Real Estate. Real estate is a very expensive business and unfortunately, there is quite a lot of room for fraud. However, if a system that uses blockchain to keep records of who owns what could be created for real estate, a lot of fraud could be dealt with. For starters, it would be immediately clear who owns the land. Then any transactions made for that land would also be transparent.

Those are just a few ideas for blockchain’s future.

Extended Reality

Extended Reality

Extended reality (XR) refers to a bunch of technologies at once. The main ones are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR basically simulates a 3D space in a virtual environment.

Using some actuators you can interact with the VR world by doing actions in the real world. Your movements are translated directly into movements in the VR world.

AR on the other hand is the addition of graphics and widgets in the real world. You wear some special glasses, or a headset and it shows you visual information by adding it to the real world.

There is nothing there in reality, but the glasses will show you stuff. Here is how these technologies are used today.

Current Uses of XR

Here are some real-world uses of XR today.

  • Training. VR and AR are used to help train people to do stuff. For example, a mechanic could be trained to work on an engine in VR. The engine is simulated perfectly in VR and the trainee uses actuators to work on it. Similarly, AR is used to provide contextual data while working on a real engine. This helps reduce risk and also provides a good alternative to training on a real engine. Of course, you can extend this scenario to several things.
  • Designing and Manufacturing. AR in particular is really useful for designing and manufacturing. Digital designs can be brought to life in a 3D space and checked for errors and inconsistencies. As for the manufacturing part, AR is used to overlay information about machines and products which helps engineers to assemble them with ease.

Future Uses of XR

In the future, XR could be used in the following ways.

  • Shopping and Retail. With AR you could create a unique shopping experience where customers can “try out” clothing and accessories through AR. They can see an AR representation of the clothing overlayed on their body and see how it would look on them. This could also supplement online shopping thereby eliminating the need to go to brick-and-mortar stores entirely. However, that would require AR technology to be extremely commonplace, which it is not.
  • Navigation systems and Remote Driving. AR could be used to supplement navigation systems. A driver wearing AR glasses would see arrows pointing to their destination. Safety features could also be included that would warn the driver to slow down or stop in case of road disturbances. Drivers could also use VR technology to operate vehicles from their homes and do courier services or taxi services from their homes.

Just some personal ideas for the future of AR and VR.

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