This year’s TR10 marks the fourth time that Technology Review has identified 10 top emerging technologies. Here is what is happening with seven of the 30 previous selections.
Technology: Flexible transistors
Description: Depositing polymer or amorphous silicon transistors on a flexible piece of plastic could be produce displays that can be rolled, folded up, and tucked away.
Recent Developments: In early February, Arizona State University used a $43.7 million U.S. Army grant to start up a flexible display research center. In December, Plastic Logic of Cambridge, England, and E Ink of Cambridge, MA, announced that they have paired to have a flexible display on the market by 2007. Philips announced a similar goal in March.
Technology: Digital rights management
Description: Technologies meant to make sure that the copyright holders of digital content are compensated when their products are distributed electronically.
Recent Developments: A reincarnated Napster is one of the biggest purveyors of Microsoft’s DRM technology, Janus. In Europe, privacy advocates are beginning to protest DRM applications that track usage of encrypted material.
Description: Sugar molecules that serve as drugs because they bind to and modify the functions of specific proteins.
Recent Developments: Sugar-based drugs like GlycoGenesyss cancer therapy GCS-100 could be on the market within three years.
Technology: RNA interference
Description: Use of a double-stranded form of RNA to turn off genes, including those that cause disease.
Recent Developments: Last November, two startups, Sirna Therapeutics and Acuity Pharmaceuticals, both began clinical trials of RNAi therapies for age-related macular degeneration. Sirna could begin clinical trials of RNAi-based asthma treatments as soon as next year.
Technology: Grid computing
Description: Software protocols enable computers ranging from PCs to supercomputers to pool their processing power, creating an easily tapped resource for tasks like massive number crunching and data analysis.
Recent Developments: The $98 million TeraGrid project now is able to perform up to 30 trillion operations a second, and is a vital tool for physicists and biologists. The Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, launched last October, links the computing resources of earthquake engineering test facilities, sensor stations, and researchers across the United States
Description: Nanoscale wires serving as new components in everything from sensors to processors.
Recent Developments: Last September, Harvard researcher Charles M. Lieber reported devices that use silicon nanowires to detect individual viruses. In March, Lieber announced that such devices could detect interactions between small molecules and proteins, which could be a substantial boon to drug discovery.
Description: Any security system that uses an individual’s physical attributes to verify identity.
Recent Developments: The International Biometrics Group reports that the market for hardware and software rose from $600 million in 2002 to $1.2 billion in 2004, with a forecast market of nearly $5 billion by 2008. A substantial portion of this could come from the U.S. Visit program, which will soon require fingerprint identification for any visitor to the U.S. with a non-immigrant Visa.