Tech trends that dominated 2017

Hasan Ali

Published: 30th December, 2017

A number of technologies emerged and became the topics of discussion all over the world in 2017. Technologies such as Robocop, Flying taxis, Solar Power Silo have become integral parts of the future.So, before we roll into 2018, let’s take a look back at the stuff invented this year.

Robocop joins Dubai police to fight crime

A robotic policeman, which can help identify wanted criminals and collect evidences, has joined Dubai’s police force this year and is to patrol busy areas in the city, as part of a government programme aimed at replacing some human crime-fighters with machines, reports Reuters.

If the “Robocop” experiment becomes successful, Dubai police says it wants the unarmed robots to make up 25 percent of its patrolling force by 2030. “These kinds of robots can work 24/7. They won’t ask you for leave, sick leave or maternity leave. It can work round the clock,” said Brigadier Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, director general of the Smart Services Department at Dubai Police. The first automated policeman in the Middle East, the robot on wheels is equipped with cameras and facial recognition software.


Toshiba unveils device for Fukushima nuclear reactor probe

Toshiba Corporation’s energy system unit on December 23 unveiled a long telescopic pipe carrying a pan-tilt camera designed to gather crucial information about the situation inside the reactor chambers at Japan’s tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, reports AP.

The device is 13 meters (43 feet) long and designed to give officials a deeper view into the nuclear plant’s Unit 2 primary containment vessel, where details on melted fuel damage remain largely unknown.

The Fukushima plant had triple meltdowns following the 2011 quake and tsunami. Finding details about the fuel debris is crucial to determining the right method and technology for its removal at each reactor, the most challenging process to safely carry out the plant’s decades-long decommissioning.

Japan’s stricter, post-Fukushima safety standards also require nuclear plant operators elsewhere to invest more time and money into safety measures. Kansai Electric Power Co. announced that it would decommission two idle reactors at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant in western Japan, citing the difficulty of adding all the safety requirements at the nearly 40-year-old reactors that would be needed to get approval for their restart.

Reports have said it would cost about 58 billion yen ($500 million) and take 30 years to decommission a reactor, about half the estimated cost to restart one.


Flying taxis in Dubai

Dubai staged a test flight for what it said would soon be the world’s first drone taxi service under an ambitious plan by the United Arab Emirates city to lead the Arab world in innovation, reports Reuters.

The flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter resembles a small, two-seater helicopter cabin topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers.

Meant to fly without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: back-up batteries, rotors and, for a worst case scenario, a couple of parachutes.

Volocopter is in a race with more than a dozen well-funded European and US firms, each with its own science fiction-inspired vision for creating a new form of urban transport that is a cross between a driverless electric car and a short-haul, vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft.

These include aerospace giant Airbus, which aims to put a self-piloting taxi in the air by 2020; Kitty Hawk, a company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page; and Uber, which is working with partners on its own flying taxi strategy.


Bangladesh opens first solar-powered silo.

A state-of-the-art multi-storey food warehouse was launched with a capacity to store 25,000 tonnes of food grains in Santahar of Bogra's Adamdighi in Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the silo on February 26, 2017, according to The Daily Star.

The Department of Food in Bangladesh has constructed the air-conditioned warehouse at a cost of over Tk 232 crore with financial and technical support from Japan. It will preserve food grains with the use of solar power throughout the year. The warehouse would keep food grains intact in controlled temperature for a long time. It is expected that the country would be able to build 100 percent food storage capacity by 2021.


Solar-powered device for deserts

A device that can create water out of thin air in even arid environments has been invented that could make Coleridge’s famous line “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink” a thing of the past.

Using only the power of the sun and a special material with some extraordinary properties, the device is capable of producing 2.8 litres of water in 12 hours and it can work in conditions where humidity is as low as 20 per cent, reports Independent.

Professor Omar Yaghi, who helped create the prototype water harverster, said: “we wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert, you could survive because of this device.


New Surround 360 camera

Facebook made a few announcements regarding 360-degree videos. Apart from promoting 360-degree videos on its social media platform, Facebook is also actively trying to create a standalone 360-degree video camera, reports NDTV.

At last year's F8 conference, Facebook unveiled its first Surround 360 camera which was open-sourced for developers to build their own version.

The second-gen Surround 360 looks more spherical than the spaceship-like previous model. The new Surround 360 comes in two different sizes. The big one, called x24, features 24 cameras arranged around the sphere, while the smaller model, x6, contains 6 cameras. Apart from the overall design change, the cameras now support 8K captures with six degrees of freedom (6DOF)


China unveils world’s first driverless rail transit system

A Chinese railcar-manufacturer has unveiled the world’s first Autonomous Rail Transit System (ART). The bus-rail combo rapid transit system is expected to speed up public transportation in Zhuzhou, Hunan province of China, reports The Express Tribune.

According to the manufacturer CRRC, the ART rubber wheels on a plastic core instead of steel wheels and is equipped with the company’s copyrighted technology to automatically guide the vehicle. The new technology has the advantages of being both a rail and bus transit systems and is agile and environmentally friendly.

The new ART system is also much cheaper than ordinary subway systems, which cost about 400-700 million RMB per kilometre and comes in at a fifth of electric cars which cost 150-200 million RMB per kilometre.

CRRC first began designing the ART system back in 2013. The first ART car is 31 metres in length, with a maximum passenger load of 307 people or 48 tonnes. Its top speed is 70 kilometers per hour, and can travel 25 kilometers after charging for 10 minutes.


Device promises injections without needles

A computerised system for injecting medicine without using needles has won an innovation award at the South by South West Interactive technology conference in Austin, Texas. Portal Instruments’ device, which the company hopes will be in the market within the next two years, won in the health category, reports BBC.


Elastic glue that can seal wounds in under 60 Sec

A highly-elastic glue could be the future of treating wounds inflicted in car accidents or war zones, after it was shown to successfully seal open incisions in less than one minute, reports Huffington Post.

A team of biomedical engineers, from the University of Sydney, developed the adhesive substance, which is similar to silicone sealants used around bathroom and kitchen tiles, according to Professor Weiss.

It has been most useful for sealing wounds in body tissues that continually expand and relax, such as lungs, heart and arteries that are otherwise at risk of re-opening with classic methods of stitching.

It also works on internal wounds that are often in hard-to-reach areas and have typically required staples or sutures due to surrounding body fluid hampering the effectiveness of other sealants.


400GB memory Card

Western Digital launched a new SanDisk Ultra microSD card, which it claims is the highest capacity microSD card ever, with a 400GB storage capacity, reports NDTV.

The 400GB SanDisk Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card is for mobile devices, and has been launched two years after its predecessor sporting half the storage at 200GB was introduced. The company, which launched the card at the sidelines of IFA 2017, also claims that new microSD card can give data transfer speeds of up to 100MBps. The microSDXC card will be available from SanDisk website and other major retailers at a price of $249.99 (roughly Rs. 16,000).

400GB SanDisk Ultra microSDXC card is capable of storing long durations of full-HD videos and movies, transferring up to 1,200 high-quality photographs in a minute, the company says. You can also use the microSD card to load apps on your Android devices that support ability to move apps and games to external storage.