If you’re like most people in the IT business, keeping up with the latest technologies is not simply a hobby but rather something of an obsession. It seems that every time an advance is made in a field, the media trumpets a “major leap forward”, while experts caution that the technology is not fully developed or has been maxed out. The truth, of course, is usually somewhere in between.

While the announcement of a new technology does not guarantee that it will ever reach the market, scientists have repeatedly shown that they can solve complex mass-scaling and cost problems and work around limitations previously thought unassailable.

A great example of this is the past and current development in the field of transistors. While the amount of transistors one can fit on a circuit doubles every few years, many experts warned that we would soon reach the upper limit due to size constraints. In response, a number of clever technologies have been developed to allow this axiom to continue its onward march, including multi-core computing, nanoscale technologies, 3-dimensional circuitry and the mysterious world of quantum computing.

The developments in quantum computing, while furthest from feasibility, also offer the most tantalizing prospects for otherworldly processing power. While today’s transistors operate on a 0 OR 1 binary scale, quantum computing would allow both 0 and 1 to be processed simultaneously, as separate calculations.

At first glance, it may seem that this would merely double computing power, but it must be noted that complex computational processed often require large strings of binaries, meaning that quantum computing would offer an exponential, almost limitless array of computations to take place at once. Theoretically, developers could simulate the enormous processing power of a human brain on a single storage server. Furthermore, far fewer transistors would be needed to accomplish today’s complex computing tasks, making way for smaller and smaller circuits, more energy-efficient storage servers and even intelligent nanorobots.

Other next-generation technologies in the world of computing are making the job of the IT professional both easier and more difficult. The rapid development of cloud computing, which was hailed as the next great thing, has not yet reached its great promise, but has become a mainstream solution to storage and access issues.

Companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon have eliminated the need for multiple downloads, plug-in syncing, and data recovery with elegant, easy-to-use cloud programs. These exciting programs have pointed the way toward a future where on-device storage is a thing of the past, where ubiquitous free Wi-Fi and cloud-based computing will make data transfer and storage a seamless part of everyday life. Of course, it will also provide plenty of jobs for IT pros, as well as making life easier for customer-support specialists.

There are some drawbacks, however. The increased linkage of various accounts and devices, as well as a larger online footprint, lead many to believe that cloud computing will fall prey to hackers, identity thieves and other criminals. The recent example of  a Wiredmagazine contributor who had his Twitter account hijacked and lost all of his laptop data due to security issues with iCloud and his Amazon account serves as a cautionary tale. Cloud computing must be safe before it can move forward, and IT professionals will certainly have a role to play in this. It’s becoming more and more important to have secure data.

But what devices will we be using to conduct our cloud computing? Exciting developments in the material sciences are promising radical changes to our devices within the next decade. Some of the most fascinating current lab work relates to flexible materials.

Scientists are working hard to develop new compounds that can bend like thin plastic while maintaining the strength and durability of a metal. The promise of such technology for the near future is interesting; cell phones that are lightweight and unbreakable as well as handheld video game consoles that can be controlled by bending and twisting and foldable tablets are just a few of the applications likely to hit the market within the next few years.

All of these ideas are quite exciting. However, the long-term applications for these types of materials are where modern science becomes the stuff of our space-age fantasies. We can dream of a world where our devices shape-shift; a cell phone that can flatten into a paper-thin tablet, or video game systems that morph to fit the shape of our hand. Home accessories could be changed forever, with one utensil shifting to fit a variety of tasks. The possibilities give us a vision of a science-fiction future that might not be as fictional as we thought.

The dream of a “Star Trek” existence is not limited to shape-shifting devices, though. Advances have also been made in cloaking technologies, the robotic sciences, three dimensional printing and holographic projection that offer a glimpse into the perhaps not-so-distant future. Let’s discuss each of these briefly:


  • Current cloaking, as seen in the latest “Mission Impossible” film, involves high-definition camera projecting video on paper-thin screens to create the illusion of invisibility.
  • Future work in this field involves nanomaterials that can displace or even “trap” light so that objects can appear to be in a different place or even disappear altogether


  • Advances in traditional robotics have been well publicized for years, but it’s the small-scale robotics that are truly fascinating.
  • Some new work involves nanorobots that might be able to enter the body through the bloodstream.
  • Another interesting development is the military’s announcement of a robotic “worm” that moves just like the real thing and could be used for surveillance.

3D Printing

  • This technology already exists, but is currently only available using a few basic materials and simple product designs.

Holographic Projection

  • Look no further than the recent Tupac “concert” for proof that this technology is developing.
  • While the current iterations are not truly holographic, there is a significant amount of research and development occurring in this direction.

For IT professionals, all of these developments should be exciting. The world of the future will run on software, cloud computing, gigantic storage servers and complex electronic devices. The IT field will continue to grow and expand as these next-generation technologies hit the market. Keeping up with these developments keeps IT pros ahead of the curve and ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

Brian Jensen works with Dell. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with his family. He has a passion for learning and writing about all things technology.