Guide: 10 next-gen tech trends you should know about

By Jamie Carter

Heard about how Graphene could change electronics forever, or how modern Bluetooth devices will be able to directly access the internet? Here’s your glimpse into the future of technology.

Do you know your C-RAN from your SON, your WiGig from your Bluetooth Low Energy and your MirrorLink from your machine learning? If you don’t, then dive in and educate yourself concerning the tech trends that get little attention, but are already having a big impact.


Smartphones are about to become nodes in the network. Often called D2D or ‘proximity services’, device-to-device communications is self-explanatory – and completely revolutionary. In a way it’s odd that the walkie talkie was replaced by cell phones that can’t communicate directly with one another. D2D is designed to take the strain from cellular networks by kicking in when technically possible – send an email, a photo or a video to your pal nearby and that data will go via Bluetooth Low Energy (a tech we’ll cover later on) or Wi-Fi Direct, and not via a cellular tower.


It’s pattern recognition, it’s statistical learning, it’s predicting the future, it’s artificial intelligence, and it’s hot stuff in modern computer science. Although it gets complicated, a simple definition of machine learning is when computers take the initiative with no input from humans. Well not much – the algorithms that inform the computer’s choices must first be dreamed up by data scientists since computers have no generalised analytical ability whatsoever. Machine learning is used by Siri and Cortana, by email spam filters and search engines. Its next home? The smart car, with machine learning tools for the layman after that.


Often called Centralised-RAN or Cloud-RAN, this technology is the cloud and the cellular network getting married. The Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN) – the next big thing after LTE – is a new architecture that streamlines cellular networks. An easy way for mobile operators to grow both capacity and the speed of wireless networks is by making each cell in a cell phone network virtual. The cell towers and infrastructure may remain, but by using C-RAN some components are centralised in the cloud, and shared between cells. C-RAN depends on wired links for faster data transfer.

It supports 2G, 3G and 4G, and can integrate with future cellular and wireless standards, too.


Bluetooth Low Energy is changing the Internet of Things. This latest version of the shortwavelength UHF radio wave protocol that has been part of our digital lives since the dawn of this century is set to make the IoT a practical reality.

The biggest recent change is that IoT devices can now talk to each other over Bluetooth without using a phone or computer as a conduit. The latest 4.2 specification, debuting on devices now, is pushing the IoT to new heights. The first change is that beacons can only talk to a phone if the user has given permission, the data capacity has increased 10-fold, the data transfer speed has risen by as much as 250 per cent, and devices can also get on the web directly over IPv6.


Mobile broadband knows no bounds. The high-speed data standard for smartphones is LTE-Advanced, otherwise known as 4G+ or LTE+, and it’s all about increasing speeds. LTE-Advanced services have already been launched in 45 countries, with most supporting Category 6 devices that can handle above 150 Mbps and up to 300 Mbps.

Several operators are trialling LTE-Advanced technology capable of supporting up to 450 Mbps. 4K video streaming, here we come. Most new and upcoming handsets from the likes of Apple, Samsung, LG, Huawei and Sony can handle LTEAdvanced.


High-speed wireless data transfer is what WiGig promises, which may not sound very exciting until you realise the speeds involved. WiGig – also known as 802.11ad – can push files, photos and music ten times faster than regular Wi-Fi, and can ramp up as fast as 7 Gbps.

Forget about changing your router; WiGig is all tied up with the D2D movement we’ve already mentioned. It is perfectly suited to a future where all smartphone users are filming in Full HD video, and soon in 4K. Instead of clogging up the internet, WiGig will be the fastest way to transfer such files between devices.

WeGig is increasingly being used in conjunction with 5G cellular networks, too. Expect a seamless experience when transferring a big file; you send it as normal from your phone to another, which intelligently swaps from cellular to WiGig to complete the transfer.


Batteries are delaying the revolution. Almost everything we use these days is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but every time you recharge your phone before you go to sleep at night is a reminder of the complete lack of progress being made by chemists in the back rooms of consumer electronics companies. So numerous are the devices that need rechargeable batteries that any future solution needs to be very cheap, but there are breakthroughs on the horizon.

Graphene-coated silicon has been mooted as a way of doubling the charge of a battery, while others have been working on aluminium-ion batteries and even on using sand.


It’s super-thin, superstrong and super-flexible, and it conducts electricity better than copper, and heat better than anything. It’s been called the miracle material of the twenty-first century, but graphene really could be about to shake electronics to the core. Mass production and the ‘band-gap problem’ remain, but now that graphene can be printed in ink form, there’s a growing expectation that it will, one day, utterly change computing.

Expect broadband internet that’s a hundred times faster, flexible phones, powerful RFID tags and wireless sensors, super-efficient high-speed computing that makes Moore’s Law look like laziness, and a rash of new wearables. It’s all one (or maybe two) technical breakthroughs away.


Cellular networks are in an automation boom. One of the biggest wireless trends of all is the self-organising network (SON), which essentially takes the human out of the day-today tasks of running an ever more complex network.

There are various flavours of architecture, and they’ve all primarily been created to help run 4G networks, the greater bandwidth of which means ever increasing complexity and performance needs. However, at its core SON is about saving costs for network operators by eliminating the need for manual configuration of equipment.


So far, the connected car as a coherent concept has been a mess, with most car manufacturers keen to push their own platforms for apps and integration with devices. However, the smartphone-car interface is beginning to coalesce around three operating systems that let smartphones and tablets talk to in-car infotainment systems: Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Broadcom’s MirrorLink.

With most upcoming connected cars compatible with one or all of these systems, expect industry chat to become more about processing speeds, the use of capacitive touchscreens, and the functionality of apps rather than which platform is supported.


Source: Guide: 10 next-gen tech trends you should know about

Via: Google Alert for ML