‘Embeddable technology’ is next step after wearable

20 March 2014
By Edd Gent
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Chief futurist at Cisco David Evans believes embeddable technology is the future

Chief futurist at Cisco David Evans believes embeddable technology is the future

The next step after wearable technology will see humans upgrade their own bodies using microscopic computers, according to an industry expert.

David Evans, the chief ‘futurist’ at networking multinational Cisco, told the Wearable Technology Conference in London that as technology develops and shrinks, it will work its way inside humans as people begin to embed devices into their bodies before using it to upgrade and "self-evolve".

Speaking in the closing keynote address last night, Evans said that on average the same computer processing power becomes 100 times smaller each decade – referencing the 30-tonne ENIC computer built in 1946, and the fact the same level of processing power can be found in a musical greeting card today.

"We are seeing some pretty amazing things already,” he said. “Intel announced their Edison line of chips at CES earlier in the year, and what's significant is that this is essentially a fully-blown computing device on something the size of an SD card."

Evans pointed out that elements of the microchip were a similar size to strands of human DNA, and how some new chips are small enough to fit in the dimple of a golf ball.

"If you do the math and fast forward a little bit, in about two and half decades the power of your smartphone will fit into something the size of a red blood cell. It completely changes the game if humans can have red blood cell-size computing,” he said.

Evans went on to detail how he believes this level of shrinkage will change the definition of wearable technology in years to come.

"At the moment wearables can tell me what I'm doing, not how I'm doing,” he said. “But this is starting to change. Wearables are becoming aware-ables; they're becoming aware of me and they're becoming aware of their environment. I would submit that there are three things required to make a wearable become an aware-able; and they are contact, connections and context.

“Contact is about physical contact with me – if you don't touch me in some way from a technology perspective how do you know what I'm doing or what I'm giving off in terms of biometric information?

“You may have seen the Google prototype contact lens earlier this year that can detect glucose levels in the tear ducts – this is an example of something in contact with the body.

"Connections change everything. A connection makes something dumb an intelligent thing. When you give something a connection to the cloud it becomes arguably a supercomputer, and while wearables are primarily tethered to your smartphone today hopefully they will evolve and become independent devices that can connect to the cloud."

Evans went on to explain how context meant wearables have the intelligence to understand in what context users are working with a device, and cater the data it sends as a result.

"Where I think we're going in the next decade is the embeddable phase, where all this technology we wear will be embedded in our bodies. But ultimately where I think we're going in the next couple of decades is to actually move into the replacement phase; where we take perfectly good parts of our body and replace them with something a little bit better."

Using the example of infrared eyeballs for soldiers or mechanical limbs for athletes to improve reactions, Evans concluded by suggesting that wearable technology is "not just a fad" and that it will evolve beyond the devices that had been on the show for the previous two days.

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