Glimpse into the future

Metaverse Background

The coronavirus pandemic has forced corporates around the world to rethink their future course of action. While the superhumans at the head of corporates cannot ensure their existence beyond human capabilities, they are ensuring that their corporates have a safe and steady future even after their existence comes to an end. The future technologies are here as the companies are increasingly shifting their paths post-pandemic. Software companies are acquiring content-based companies. Automobile and power companies are shifting to electric vehicles, batteries and charging stations. Large conglomerates are adopting green and renewable energy options. Social media companies are moving towards creating a new social universe. The world is developing faster than ever before. If are keen on having a glimpse into the future, here are a few latest trend-setting events that might tinker with your imagination about the future that is yet to come!

DNA as data storage device

Digitalization has increased post-pandemic. As the use of digital tools increases, the amount of data created by them will also increase. Emerging trends like Industry 4.0, IoT and Virtual Reality will further require data as the primary fuel for the digital world of the future. Thus, data storage can get messier, if we do not find a simpler solution, as big data centres won’t be enough to cater for the needs. And that’s when the idea of DNA as a data storage device kicks in. Experiments have shown that 1 gram of DNA can store up to 215 petabytes (million gigabytes) of data, which means all 35 Zb of digital data produced in the world in 2020 can be stored in just 163kgs of DNA.

DNA consists of adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The combinations of these bases in groups of three, symbolize an amino acid and a group of amino acids together form the protein. To store data, the different combinations of 0’s and 1’s can be encoded to form A(00), G(01), (10) & T(11). Data when synthesized into artificial DNA can be preserved for a long time. In 1994, archaeologists discovered 8,00,000-year-old fossil remains of an archaic human species known as Homo Antecessors and were able to successfully retrieve and sequence the DNA from the fossilized remains, giving the idea of how DNA can preserve ‘data’ for thousands of years. Synthesized DNA can be replicated a trillion times using polymerase chain reaction, forming as many copies of data without any considerable loss. Experiments have shown almost 100% accuracy in retrieving the encoded data. However, DNA synthesizing and sequencing are complicated techniques and involve huge costs. The DNA fountain experiment conducted by New York Genome Centre took USD 7,000 for encoding the 2Mb data file and another USD 2,000 for retrieving it. Moreover, the entire process demands a high level of human intervention, something which goes against the current trend of hyper-automation. Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington demonstrated the first fully automated system to store and retrieve data in synthetic DNA, however, the whole process took 21 hours to encode and decode the word ‘Hello’. So, it seems DNA could become a data storage device in future if researchers crack the method to reduce the time and costs.

Vertical indoor farming

According to the United Nations, the global population will nine billion mark by 2050 with 70% of people living in urban areas. Agricultural demand will rise by 60% while land and water resources will deplete owing to climate change. The situation would be frightening, however, researchers seem to have already found a viable solution – Vertical farming. Vertical farming involves a soilless farming technology that will enable the cultivation of crops anywhere, anytime with optimal use of resources. Vertical farming involves growing plants in vertically stacked layers to get maximum output with minimum use of land. The supporting medium for plants is made up of sand, gravels, perlite, cloth or natural stone fibre. Artificial light in the range of 450-650nm wavelength is required for photosynthesis which can be provided using a combination of LED lamps.

Currently, food produced in rural areas travels a long distance before it reaches the end consumer. It loses around half of its nutritional value by that time. Vertical farms can be set up in urban areas as well, such as building rooftops, abandoned warehouses and shipping containers. Besides, it can be indoor and thus, helpful in times of wars, calamities etc. However, though vertical farming seems viable, the technology is at its early stages of development. The cost of setting up one farm is around USD 82,000 per container, ten times the cost of setting up a traditional farm. Besides, the system is heavily dependent on electricity. Thus, the cost and resources to sustain vertical farming are not yet available. Further, indoor farming is currently limited to a few plants like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, eggplants and tomatoes as the root-based plants do not grow well in vertical farms. Hence, vertical farming may not be available soon, however, with time and improvements, it may become the usual way of farming in future.

Get married in Metaverse

Metaverse is a virtual environment where a person can be present with people in digital spaces. It is the internet where you are inside it, instead of merely looking at it. Mark Zuckerburg, has placed big bets on metaverse, even changing the name of the company from Facebook to Meta, as it will be the future, according to him. A future where people will shop through metaverse, enjoy movies together, spend time, virtually chat instead of merely typing, clicking and watching. It is a kind of virtual world that you can enter into using your Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets. A similar exaggerated proposition has been presented in the television series ‘Upload’. Technology is merely at its initial phase and a couple has already successfully conducted their wedding event in the metaverse! The ceremony was staged by Virbela,  a software company that specialises in building virtual environments. It is the first time they’re hosting a wedding inside the virtual world, however, they’ve been doing a lot of other exciting things for a while now. For instance, an orientation event for a Mexican Software company where new employees can attend the event, attend team-building sessions and experience the organization culture, everything in a virtual world, instead of boring presentations and webinars.

In a wedding in Metaverse, attendants can participate from any part of the world, without travelling, merely with their VR headsets. You can hold your wedding at the fanciest hotels, and your menu can have anything, and there’s no limitation on your guest list. What complements metaverse? You can receive gifts by way of Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – digital assets that will always belong to you and represent real value. All you need is to build a digital environment and VR headsets. Then, you can simply choose your avatar and join the wedding. It’s all fascinating! There’s a lot more to explore about the metaverse and this is just the beginning.

Sodium-ion batteries, instead of lithium

Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere today – smartphones, medical equipment, emergency power backups, watches, digital cameras, electric vehicles, etc. As common maybe its usage, the metal is hard to find, as it is found in places where mining is near impossible and thus, the lithium-ion batteries are becoming expensive. Besides, these batteries cannot work without a cathode which is built using Cobalt, the costliest item on the bill of material. Cobalt mainly comes from one countryThe Democratic Republic of Congo where people deal with harsh and dangerous conditions. There’s a need for more sustainable and inexpensive alternatives. Sodium, the originally supposed element to power the batteries of the future, before lithium is tested, is still an excellent candidate for building batteries. It ionizes easily and can easily shuttle between two opposite charged plates and generate current. Sodium is available in abundance and it is cheap and doesn’t require cobalt cathodes. However, it isn’t easy to pack these batteries with lots of energy and thus, commercial applications have been rare to date.

CATL, the largest battery maker in the world have announced that they have started placing sodium cells alongside lithium inside their battery packs. BLUETTI has also announced their sodium-ion batteries for fast-charging applications and low-temperature performance. Faradion is a similar company based in the UK that holds 21 patent families (eight granted) on cell materials, cell infrastructure and safety and transportation. Although the company employs only 16 full-time people, Reliance Industries has invested USD 135 million into the company and has promised an additional USD 35 million to accelerate the commercialization of its products. If the bets go right, these companies can change the landscape of electronics in the world. Maybe sodium was destined to be the element to power the batteries for humans, lithium was just a temporary fix!

The bottom line

Every leading company is at risk of losing their position, if they fail to innovate and lead the change. Technology is driving in the front seat, and its important that you make sure that you are riding the same bus.

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