Hardware Innovation

10 hardware breakthroughs that could revolutionize IT strategy

Advances in technology are driving the need for hardware innovations--such as better VR gear, new chip architecture, and on-the-job wearables.

Video: Getting started with drone photography

In the next five years, innovations in storage, devices, chips, and other hardware will revolutionize IT. Here are 10 emerging hardware technologies CIOs should begin to consider in their strategic roadmaps.

1: Mobile devices with hardened security

Security continues to be a major challenge with mobile devices. One option is Intel's Software Guard Extension (SGX) technology, which will support the use of secure encrypted memory spaces on commodity CPUs. The goal is to provide applications with an area of secure and protected memory and execution. This could be a boon for mobile devices, a leading source of security breaches that corporate IT must contend with. "We will see the start of a new generation of systems solutions that guarantee security even if the operating system or other infrastructure gets compromised by hackers," said Sriram Rajamani, Microsoft Research India's assistant managing director, in an eWeek piece on tech predictions.

2: New chip architectures that improve machine learning performance

As more IoT and machine-based applications enter the IT mainstream, new chip architectures will improve performance over what is presently available with graphical processing units (GPUs). These performance improvements will dramatically improve data transfers and the execution of machine-based learning and analytics.

SEE: IBM's brain-inspired chip TrueNorth changes how computers 'think,' but experts question its purpose

3: Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will continue to push themselves into commercial applications, whether it is delivering packages, taking photographic images, or surveying physical terrain that is difficult to access. They will collect IoT data through sensors and channel it into central communications.

4: Unmanned robots

Robots can carry out simple medical procedures, clean facilities, and pick and pack items in warehouses. The intelligence in these automated machines will be further increased as new technologies come onboard to collect everything that has been learned by all machines into a central data bank that any machine can access.

5: More user-friendly virtual reality gear

Bulky headsets have encumbered VR users and made them dizzy or seasick, prompting companies to avoid VR applications. That's about to change. For example, Google cardboard provides a small holder for your smart phone and delivers a full-bodied video experience that rivals those produced through older headgear. More comfortable VR headgear will pave the way for greater corporate adoption of VR.

SEE: Quick glossary: Virtual reality (Tech Pro Research)

6: New storage technology for greener power grids

Data centers will continue to go green as power companies find better ways to seamlessly blend diverse energy sources, such as solar, wind, and traditional fossil fuel, into a seamless and uninterrupted supply of energy. Today, the use of hybrid energy is difficult because sources like wind and solar can be variable. But better storage can solve this and usher in a new green era that could save data centers and other energy users an estimated $3.4 billion per year.

7: More on-the-job wearables

Jupiter research predicts that smart glasses, smart watches, and a range of motion-sensing devices could improve productivity by 30%. Gartner predicts that by 2018, two million employees, such as law enforcement officers and paramedics, will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices.

8: Local energy harvesting for Internet access

With automation and a plethora of IoT devices being added to the internet's workload, new technology is needed to add to bandwidth and ready access. University of Washington researchers have developed technology that enables internet-connected temperature and motion sensors, cameras, etc., to communicate by using only energy harvested from nearby TV, radio, cellphone, and Wi-Fi signals. A principle known as backscattering allows IoT devices to absorb energy emitted by other electronics, enabling them to reduce their internet bandwidth demands. This localized Wi-Fi consumes just 1/10,000th as much power as existing Wi-Fi chipsets.

9: More compact flash memory

3D NAND technology continues to move forward, delivering smaller and more lightweight laptops, tablets, and other devices. Much of this progress is due to the ability of companies like Intel and Micron to stack flash memory cells vertically, which conserves space and enables devices to be smaller and thinner.

SEE: All-flash arrays gaining popularity but with unique side effects

10: Nonvolatile memory

With nonvolatile memory, computers can retrieve information even after being turned off and back on. Going forward, we will see new forms of nonvolatile memory that will enable data to be stored at less cost and less power. This will enable smaller devices to store even more data.

Your take

Are some of the developments on this list already part of your company's strategic roadmap? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

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