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Less food waste and cashless societies: the changes technology could bring

Nine ways smart technology may innovate the world

Will smart technology tackle food waste? Photograph: iStock

Will smart technology tackle food waste? Photograph: iStock


Food will come under smarter scrutiny

“I see a much greater focus on methods to reduce food waste in the kitchen through automatic detection of expiry dates coupled with alerts,” says Jonathan Synnott of Ulster University. “Additionally, methods to reduce cases of food poisoning could be created by analysing tell-tale airborne particles or food appearance.”

Privacy will move centre stage

“Expect further big stories with regards to security and privacy concerns within smart devices. As a result of these stories and examples, I see tighter legislation which will demand even more transparency about what data are collected and how data are processed,” he says.

Autonomous cars will save lives

The future of cars is ACES – automated, connected, electric and shared. They could make commuting more fun, give people back time, and improve traffic congestion. They may also provide retailers with a captive audience for online purchases. The real driver will be safety. There are an estimated 6.1 million traffic accidents in the US each year, leading to 34,000 deaths a year, a fatality rate equivalent to a jet airliner crashing every three days.

Banking on voice

The race to innovate among banks and fintechs will speed up. The revised Directive on Payment Services (PSD2) already allows third-party developers to build new services around existing financial institutions and is yielding fruit. Experiments with voice-activated banking are forging ahead. We’ll all be asking Alexa for our loans.

AI will get more complex

“Artificial intelligence will learn what is normal within our environment, and make changes to make life more convenient and comfortable. It will go even further, and be used to detect anomalies, or events within the environment that require intervention,” says Synnott. It will have most profound consequences in healthcare, such as alerting carers to falls or seizures.

Expect empathy

“Also within the area of AI, I see greater emotional intelligence forming part of AI offerings. That is, devices which are able to reliably determine your state of mind – anger, fear, happiness, or confusion, and react appropriately,” says Synnot.

Devices will lend a hand

Bots will become ever more prevalent. Evondos in Finland makes sure people take their meds every day, at the correct dosage. LG’s CLOi bots provide a range of services from information to floor cleaning. According to its website, they also provide escort services but it doesn’t specify what kind.

Cash could disappear

We’re already used to just wafting our phone at everything to have payments deducted. Before too long we’ll simply have NFC (near-field communication) chips inserted at birth and be done with it. In the meantime the integration of biometric data and banking will continue.

Students get smarter

Fewer students may go to college as it increasingly comes to them through the growth in online and blended learning. On-the-job training using virtual and augmented reality could grow, as employers seek to retain and retrain workers in the fast-changing world of work instead.