Business Unusual

Things we invented in 2017

Time Magazine November/December 2017

Time create a list of inventions they rate as the best of the year. This is inspired by that list but, to be fair, actual new inventions are so complex most of us would not understand them, so instead here are some trends that became more mainstream in 2017.

Let’s begin by acknowledging the strange fact that, while we tend to be disappointed with what we can achieve in a year, we are blown away by what we can achieve in a decade.

To illustrate that let me mention some of the items on the 2007 Time list.

The iPhone, with a two megapixel camera, that could connect to wifi and would change orientation of pictures depending how you hold it. It was the last word in mobile phones yet, by today’s standard, would not even make it as an entry level phone. Time includes the iPhone X for this years list and its name is about the only thing that the phones have in common. In less time than it takes a child to reach puberty; a brand new technology has reached maturity and global saturation with over a billion sales!

What other far fetched ideas were they dreaming about in 2007? A point-and-shoot camera that could capture images in 8 megapixels - really.

A wifi router featured in 2007 used the latest “n” generation speeds that were almost 10 times faster than the previous speeds and was a game changer for wifi adoption. The router featured this year, the Norton Core, not only triples that speed, it knows which devices are connecting to it and should it sense an IoT device has become infected, it will automatically shut down access to it. It will even manage your children's access to the data and when and for how long they may use it.

Did you hear about the LCD TVs that would be able to produce HD images? It was cutting edge in 2007; now that is entry level and even the basic, mid range LCD TV boasts 4K resolution.

Or perhaps a portable hard drive capable of storing 160Gb. You can buy a drive 10 times the size for less than R1000 now.

Back to this year’s list. The Tesla Model 3 is a good addition and possibly shows the progression of improving quality and lowering prices. The BMW i3 was on the 2014 list, followed but the Tesla Model S in 2015 and the Chevy Bolt in 2016. The incremental changes feel slow, but look this article up again in 2027 and see just how far the Model 3 design has been used by almost all manufacturers.

3D Printing and, more specifically, shoes have featured in the past - this year it is a personal 3D printed sole by Adidas to not only match its intended use, but also its user. Shoes will keeping getting incrementally better, but 3D printing will transform how things are created, including itself. Whether objects are created with materials like steel or cells, printed objects will not only be the de facto method for prototyping but actual manufacture.

The last two may seem more obscure, but they say more about the way society is changing rather than just technology.

Rihanna’s line of cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, includes makeup that suits all skin tones - typically in the US that focus has been on light skins. It is a long underserved market and may be part of a broader move to more makeup use across the board. Some brands are marketing gender neutral makeup as a way to appeal to people that don’t identify as male or female. The makeup itself is not different but its presentation is. The largest underserved market though do have a long established identity, males. But why would males want to start wearing makeup now? Here is my theory. Camera and image technology is capable of creating the best version of ourselves in photos, those are shared widely on social media. In a way it becomes like the portrait of Dorian Grey, with our real look never being able to match the stylised and perfect version of us in photos. The selfie generation may embrace more widespread use of makeup to match their digital self and that vanity would affect all of us.

There is an old story of how we should really only pay doctors while we are well and they must pay when we are ill. That may be a better arrangement and a brand called the Forward clinic is looking to embrace that, but having more routine checks, issues can be identified earlier and treated with less invasive means hopefully at much lower costs. The clinic operates more like a gym where a healthy lifestyle is encouraged and supported with means to track the main indicators of good health. Medical staff would review any data that is not within the optimum range. Doctors would intervene when something is spotted ideally before you are even aware of it.

Don’t expect that to change overnight, but like the iPhone of 2007, what wowed us at the time may soon become very normal in the not too distant future.


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