MIT Tech Review’s Top 10 2009

MIT’s Technology Review has published its annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies. As always, at least half are of interest to IT folks.

There’s an intelligent software agent that aims to turn web search from finding content to undertaking actions: a new take on the quest for an intelligent personal assistant, based on military technology research. There’s a new type of power storage cell, claimed to be capable of exceptionally heavy lifting without the usual penalties: not a silver bullet, but a magnesium and antimony one. There’s new ultra-dense memory technology, from Stuart Parkin who led IBM’s memory technology research until the division was sold in 2002.

For the Web, there’s a new caching algorithm which computes directly to a disk location and aims thereby to streamline access to relatively static web content. And there’s an add-on approach to networking: the OpenFlow standard which allows policy to be overlaid on normal routing algorithms so that, for example, video could be given priority (or not!) over email. I’m not sure about Tech Review’s definition that this one “can change the way we live”, but I can see a host of commercial applications for it!

Top Ten is always a stimulating read. Take a look.

• 10 Emerging Technologies 2009, Technology Review, March-April 2009
• OpenFlow (the OpenFlow Switch Consortium)

Have you seen … Harbor Research

I’m writing an InformationSpan coverage report on emerging technology. It’s rapidly narrowed down to reviewing insight sources which are of use to technology strategists, who need to review emerging trends and novel technologies, and assess them for potential impact, and figure out what to pilot.

Among the major service providers, of course Gartner’s long established Emerging Trends and Technologies group led by Jackie Fenn holds the lead; I recently covered Jackie’s and Mark Raskino’s book Mastering the Hype Cycle. But the point of this post is to give readers a sneak preview of the report (it’s still far from finished) by highlighting a discovery.

Harbor Research reckon to focus on the “pervasive internet” or what Forrester call the X (for “Extended”) Internet – sometimes expressed as “Everything connected, everything communicating”. In writing my couple of short paragraphs, I signed up for their free access and downloaded a recent white paper called Designing the Future of Information. It’s my kind of paper. It’s strongly focussed. It covers a couple of novel technology developments, the academic groups which originated them (at MIT in this case), and their status as they come to market. It sets them in the wider context, it links to open standards, and it assesses (in this case, enthusiastically) their potential impact. It makes connections between them. And it suggests an impact from the synergy, which might not be seen looking at the technologies individually.

I’ve only one quibble, which is that the report doesn’t carry a date (except the year, in the copyright claim). This is a shame, since one of the things you need to know about a report like this is its topicality in months, not years. Otherwise, for a technology specialist, this is a rich resource. Have a look at Harbor!

Harbor Research is online at

MIT’s top 10 emerging technologies – 2008

MIT 10
MIT’s Technology Review publishes an annual hit list of ten top emerging technologies – not all of them IT, but IT is always well represented.

This year’s list includes a technology for wireless power; there are quite a number of these developments around these days, including some the TR10 missed such as Splashpower in the UK. It includes “Modelling Surprise” – not magic, but developing a scenario modelling methodology that takes into account disruptive surprises of the past. Also modelling uncertainty is probabilistic chip design, which recognises the range of computational areas where absolute precision is un-necessary and thus enables power consumption of devices to be reduced: this technology may also come into its own as component sizes continue to reduce and the physics of uncertainty come into play in mainstream design.

Sandy Pentland’s Reality Mining is also in the list: by enabling mobile devices to “recognise” each other when they’re in range, data can be gathered about the social or professional encounters between their owners. Knowledge of their personal networks can then help facilitate serendipitous meetings (think “I didn’t know you’d be here!”)

Visit TR to review the complete list.


• Technology Review’s Ten Emerging Technologies of 2008 (Tech Review, March/April 2008)