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There is fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run; apologies to Asa, the musician, but quite honestly that is the story of Nigeria and technology.
Yes, I know that we have had some measure of foreign-led successes here and there but it is a far cry from where we ought to be. We are very quick to issue fantastic statements of how we want to become a tech power house and empower our youths with the required skills. Am I convinced that we are ready? Not quite.
Had there been any progress? Yes of course, but we need to do much more and as I have stated here and everywhere else, “technology does not understand long speeches, so let us cut the stories and do the right things which include investing massively in technology as well as the required skills.”
Recently, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, excitedly told the whole world how government plans to build six regional innovation hubs which is a welcome development but what he failed to tell us is who would manage those hubs; same government or private companies? I will leave that gist for a future piece.
That said, I present you with some emerging technologies and trends that will most likely create the next multi-billion dollar industry. How ready are we in Nigeria to take advantage of these disruptive technologies?
Internet of Things
Simply put, Internet of Things is the network of physical-devices such as smartphones, home appliances, cars, wearable devices, and almost anything else you can think of – set up with electronics, software programme, sensor devices, and network connectivity that allows these objects to acquire and exchange information.
Some practical applications of IoT include a scenario like this: you are on the way to a meeting, your car could hook up to some traffic AP and know the best route to take. In case there is a traffic jam, your car could send a text to the other party, informing them that you will be late.
Imagine if your alarm clock awakens you at 7am and then tells your coffee maker to start preparing coffee for you? What if your wearable device which you used in your workplace can tell you when and where you were most productive and share that info with other gadgets that you used while working?
Honestly, I believe that this can bring both excitement and sadness depending on one’s school of thought but what is most important is that Nigerians and Africans should be better positioned to provide services that will meet the needs of local and international partakers of IoT. This is one reason I am throwing my weight behind the Nigeria International Technology Exhibition and Conference 2016, an annual technology conference coming up in Lagos later in June and this year’s theme is focused on the role disruptive technologies and how the Internet of Things will affect African economies.
What most of us don’t know is that the Internet of Things is already with us and a growing number of Nigerians are already playing a role in it whether consciously or unconsciously.
Simply speaking, quantum computers can find solutions to problems which are very difficult for a traditional computer to solve. Some real life applications of quantum computing will be to discover earth-like distant planets by examining huge amount of data collected by telescopes, to detect cancer early using computational model; to reduce weather related deaths by precision forecasting, to develop more powerful drugs by mapping amino acids and so on.
Some day on the column, I will write on some of the generation transforming solutions that innovations like IBM Watson has brought to the world.
3D printing is the technology of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file on your computer through a special printer. The materials of the created objects can be anything, from plastic to steel and more recently human cells. The 3D printed objects are being used extensively in healthcare, fashion, etc.
A vast majority of Nigerians are still not aware of the sort of transformation 3D printing will bring to our market.
Smart wearable tech
Wearable technology is gaining popularity at a pretty fast pace even though many would say that their usefulness are neither here nor there. Be that as it may, smart shoes, smart watches, fitness bands, smart apparels, etc., are some of the trending technologies that are changing the way we lead our everyday life.
In my opinion, certain types of wearable tech can indeed be useful. For example, a wristband that has features to monitor blood pressure and heartbeat rate would be a welcome development for someone who may have certain health issues.
Artificial intelligence and augmented reality
Artificial intelligence and augmented reality are no longer things of science fiction and will certainly transform operations in both the public and private industries in the next few years. Companies are already developing gadgets that are embedded with AI software. AI, natural language processing, and machine learning are being used to resolve various business problems. AI embedded gadgets can understand, diagnose, and solve customer problems. Augmented reality technology is another emerging technology.
Imagine stepping into your home or office and the light comes on automatically because the sensors detected your presence. Also, while seated in the office and it starts raining heavily outside, the air-conditioner automatically adjusts based on your bodily preferences.
These are some of the capabilities that can be attained through the application of Machine Learning which allows computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. This can be seen as an advanced form of Artificial Intelligence. The computer teaches through the learning of data patterns and programmes actions based on these patterns.
Indeed, it’s both an exciting and scary world ahead. Are you ready to disrupt or to be disrupted?
By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr.