Quantum Entanglement & Other Technologies that Should Be On Your Radar

DN Staff

July 1, 2015

5 Min Read
Quantum Entanglement & Other Technologies that Should Be On Your Radar

Last year saw some major technological advances in industry and further developments on the smart factory front. It was a year that demonstrated 3D printing's potential as more than just a prototyping method, and cloud computing capabilities stretched and broadened as more companies sought to analyze and exploit Big Data.

The list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Internet of Things. Greater convergence allowed the creation of more intelligent networks, in which machines are able to communicate with each other and perform self-diagnostics with minimum human interaction. On top of all of this, last year also brought forth the world's first Internet-enabled toothbrush.

Many are safely predicting these same trends will go from strength to strength in 2015. But what other technologies should we be looking out for this year?

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Wearable tech has been around for a while, but with the Apple Watch's release in April, this could be the year it really takes off.

The UK Home Office, for example, is interested in exploiting the capabilities of the latest wearable technologies and equipping British police officers with cutting-edge gear. Google Glass and other wearable devices should give law enforcement officers more information at their fingertips -- or eyelashes -- when they're out on patrol. Exoskeletons like the ones already being tested by the US military will take the strain of heavy gear and give added support to joints when the armed forces walk their beats.

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A similar idea was implemented by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. The company prototyped a robotic exoskeleton to help shipbuilders lift heavy weights. The wearable robotic suits are made of lightweight aluminium alloy and steel and are engineered to follow the wearer's every movement. In the company's current prototype stage, Daewoo's exoskeletons can help workers lift up to 30 kg (66 lb), but the creators believe that they can increase the capacity to 100 kg (220 lb).

Straps at the feet, thigh, waist, and chest connect the user to the suit and allow the exoskeleton to move with the wearer and bear the heavy loads. A system consisting of hydraulic joints and small electric motors runs along the outside of the leg, linking to a backpack, which powers and controls the equipment.

A subsidiary of Panasonic developed a similar robotic suit designed to aid lifting and promote fluid movement. The company plans to mass-produce and sell the exoskeleton in 2015, and so this year could very well see robotic support aids used more widely beyond the medical sector.

With all of this happening, you have to wonder how long it will take before wearable technology enters the modern factory. The days of sitting at a static HMI are over; with IoT and wearable devices, workers can be fluent, mobile, and always on the ball.


Quantum Entanglement

Quantum entanglement describes the surprising interactions among subatomic particles and was dispelled as "spooky" by Albert Einstein. We all know that a camera captures light that bounces back from an object. But a recent experiment showed that light particles -- or photons -- that never strike an object can still produce its shadow, in a demonstration of a strange quantum connection with photos that do strike the object. This is because they all have to share wavelength phases with the light that hits the object, which we can then detect to see the picture.

This is a particularly tricky idea to understand fully, but essentially it means that information could be teleported across short distances. Using this method a new imaging technique could be developed for improved medical imaging in hard-to-see areas. Harmless and invisible beams of light could be passed through tissues while simultaneously creating an image with entangled visible light.

Quantum entanglement isn't quite as exciting as teleportation, but it's an amazing discovery that could inspire some innovative applications for industry.

Deep Learning

Deep learning refers to complex algorithms that allow computers to emulate human thinking; for example, seeing something and understanding what it is. There are already applications that utilize deep learning, like the app created by startup Partpic. The app allows you to immediately scan and identify spare parts without barcodes or labels. Say a motor breaks down in a factory and lacks exterior identification tags; you would simply scan the part with the app, and it will recognize the model and bring up a list of suppliers.

Large companies with vast data archives will probably be particularly keen to extract value from deep learning applications. To do so, terabytes of information will have to be processed by computers at a very speedy pace to determine what's useful and what isn't.

Is This the End?

There's a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." Higher levels of automation in manufacturing are being achieved every year, and in some cases, it's those willing to take a bit of a risk that will reap the greatest rewards.

Jonathan Wilkins is the marketing manager for European Automation, a supplier of obsolete industrial automation components.

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