As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to take a look at some of the innovative tech primed to make a splash in the New Year. While some of these tech trends have already begun to garner attention, what will really launch them into the public consciousness is the way each seeks to rewrite the rules for its industry in order to do something new—from improving bad cell phone reception to reinventing 3D printing for a new generation of businesses.
Wireless providers traditionally operate in siloes. They have their own plans, their own defined networks, and sometimes even their own phones. As a result, reception in different locations can be inconsistent from network to network—as is evident in wireless providers' coverage maps. Multi-cell networks seek to solve that problem by overlapping two or more networks to create a “network of networks”.
One example is Google's Project Fi. The program combines two wireless networks with the option to also receive and make calls over a Wi-Fi connection, using an intelligent system to determine which connection is best at any one time. Project Fi uses existing networks, without any upgrades on the part of wireless carriers. Multi-cell networks demonstrate the power of technology to solve big problems (bad cell phone reception) without incurring large costs (upgrading the physical networks).
Until recently, most mobile devices and PCs have operated on separate platforms. As a result, it was difficult to share and edit files across different devices. In response to this issue, tech companies have begun focusing on providing a more seamless experience across a user's entire device ecosystem.
Windows 10's Continuum can essentially turn your Windows-enabled phone into a PC—and is probably the most far-reaching attempt to date to deliver a seamless experience across devices. Designed to facilitate the switch between traditional and touchscreen modes, Continuum throws out the fixed OS model for a more responsive system that's ideal for traditional PCs, touchscreen devices, smartphones, and hybrid devices.
As device manufacturers and software programmers familiarize themselves with Windows 10 Continuum (and soon Continuum for phones), and experiment with its powerful features, we should expect to see more combined functionality, more innovation, and a stronger focus on seamless experiences.
While tablets have enjoyed high adoption rates, especially among workers who travel or interact with customers on a regular basis, they've rarely functioned well as standalone solutions. Even if you owned a tablet, you still needed a laptop or desktop for more demanding or complicated projects, such as editing professional video or working with large spreadsheets. Pro-level tablets aim to end this divide by providing users with more power, more features, and the same functionalities and programs as a traditional PC.
While there is no official definition, a pro-level tablet is a tablet designed for professional environments, such as offices, hospitals, or design studios, and tends to offer:
- Increased CPU performance compared to traditional tablets
- Security features that are built in and may not be offered in consumer models
- High-definition screens and improved graphics capabilities
- Custom application compatibility
- Ruggedized design
- Heavy focus on productivity (e.g., stylus and mobile internet)
The demand for pro-level tablets is high. “Enterprise is going through a major transition away from desktops and laptops and toward mobile,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau, and these new devices offer a powerful solution. With the introduction of a number of mainstream pro-level tablets in 2015—such as the Surface 4 Pro, iPad Pro, and the new Elite x2 1012
—it seems businesses finally have the tablets to make this transition a reality.
3D printing has been a popular talking point for years now—but while the technology is well-established for modeling and prototyping, it has so far failed to make the momentous impact many analysts once predicted.
While true change will take some time, 2016 should see 3D printing take a big step forward thanks to exciting advancements currently underway, including the HP Multi Jet Fusion™ platform
. While MJF is still a new technology, it builds off decades of HP R&D investment in thermal inkjet printheads, inks, agents, precision mechanics, and material science—with the end-goal of enabling faster, reliable 3D printing with high quality at a lower cost.
The MJF process works much like traditional 3D printing processes, laying down a thin layer of material in the working area and using chemicals and energy to build a part layer-by-layer. Where it differs is in its future potential. Thanks to the use of HP Thermal Inkjet arrays to deliver multiple printing agents at faster speeds without sacrificing quality, and the use of additional agents that can transform properties at each volumetric pixel, HP Multi Jet Fusion™ technology could enable the production of functional parts with multiple properties integrated into each part.
The big themes for 2016
Each of the above innovations have two things in common. First, they represent a move towards simplicity and convenience, even as the tech gets increasingly complicated. Multi-cell networks combine disparate parts to provide one, smooth experience; while 3D printing reinvents a decades-old technology to push an industrial innovation well beyond one-off prototyping. Second, the technologies these innovations rely on are already available—and ready for you to use. Google's Project Fi became available in April 2015, pro-level tablets are on the shelves, and HP's Multi Jet Fusion™ technology is already producing amazing results
Shop new innovations today
 Google Project Fi, Network
 Microsoft Windows 10: Not all features are available in all editions or versions of Windows 10. Systems may require upgraded and/or separately purchased hardware, drivers, software or BIOS update to take full advantage of Windows 10 functionality. Windows 10 is automatically updated, which is always enabled. ISP fees may apply and additional requirements may apply over time for updates. See http://www.microsoft.com
 TabTimes.com, The State of the Tablet Market, 2014
 Based on internal HP testing of part build time, for a set of representative parts in batch process comparing HP Thermal Inkjet based Multi Jet Fusion™ technology
 HP Multi Jet Fusion™ technology leverages proprietary HP Thermal Inkjet technology, enabling lower cost systems that output similar quality to more expensive devices—such as selective laser sintering (SLS)—and speed.to the leading 3D printing technologies in the U.S.—selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling—as of October, 2014
Google is a trademark of Google Inc.
Microsoft, Windows, Continuum, and Surface are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
iPad is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc.