Starting life as a prototyping technology, 3-D printing has come a long way in recent years. In fact, it’s now almost commonplace across a range of sectors including engineering, product design, manufacturing and architecture. The beauty is in its simplicity. Press print and with the help of dedicated printing software, 3-D computer models or 3-D scans of objects start to appear miraculously before your eyes as real-life objects. The downside? Until recently, 3-D printing has only been available for a limited range of materials, primarily plastic. But 2019 is set to change all that. 3-D metal printing, we’re told, is about to make a big impression. Now, instead of removing metal in large machining centers, manufacturers will be able to add it layer by layer using a compact printer. It’s the ideal solution for delicate components and one-off batches. With established players like HP launching their first offering, the market can only grow in 2019.
Offering vastly increased capacity, lower latency and faster speeds than 4G wireless communication networks, it is predicted that 5G will bring about unprecedented levels of change. That’s because, with average download speeds of around 1GBps, it should provide the infrastructure to carry vast amounts of data and make the Internet of Things an everyday reality. Fast enough to eliminate the need for a last-mile wire connection; it will also get more people online than ever before and go a long way towards improving internet access in remote areas. Smart factories, smart logistics, smart homes, and cars: 5G opens up infinite possibilities, including an enormous range of hybrid and cloud applications such as machine learning, cloud-based graphics rendering for virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming. The future is called 5G, and it’s going to change the world. Hold on tight.
Long in the making, the EU’s global navigation satellite system, Galileo, is expected to go live with a full set of satellites in 2019. Named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, the system promises to be more precise than GPS and available to all, even in sites of military of conflict. With operational satellites added to the network successively in 2011 and 2012, 2019 will see Galileo achieve its full complement of 30 satellites, three of which will be active spares. In addition to offering free basic navigation services accurate to within one vertical and horizontal meter, Galileo boasts unrivalled global Search and Rescue (SAR) capabilities, with satellites relaying distress signals to a dedicated Rescue Coordination Center. Unlike rival services, Galileo also informs those in distress that their signal has been detected and that help is on the way. It's predicted that the system will become a critical component of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and smart logistics.
If you’ve ever tried to use the mobile internet in a remote and mountainous region of the world, you know how tricky going online can be. Climbing hills, scaling trees, waving your phone around on your tiptoes – sometimes getting a few more bars of reception requires real ingenuity. But thanks to the planned launch of SpaceX’s first set of new Starlink satellites in 2019, all that may begin to change. And with half the world’s population without access to regular internet services, for many it will be a godsend. Circling the earth in low orbits, as many as 4,000 Starlink satellites are expected to be in position by 2024, with SpaceX aiming to have the first 800 spaceborne by the end of 2021. Eliminating the need for fiberoptic cables, Starlink represents a huge infrastructure shortcut that will not only prove lucrative, but also help fuel the fourth Industrial Revolution.
For some time now, we’ve been hearing about the imminent arrival of autonomous vehicles. Driverless trucks will glide along the highway in multi-vehicle platoons and, if we need a ride, we’ll just hail an autonomous car and command it to take us wherever we want to go. But while that still isn’t likely to happen tomorrow, some incremental changes are taking place to make this vision look increasingly like reality. In 2019, GM proposes to launch its fourth-generation autonomous vehicle – a taxi completely devoid of a steering wheel, floor pedals, or an instrument panel. Elsewhere, Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo, hopes to have a robotic cab out on the streets picking up passengers very soon. Other companies like Tesla and Uber are also in the race. In Europe, truck platooning is currently undergoing extensive testing on selected roadways. If all goes well, this technology could see multi-brand truck platoons bring efficiencies and cost reductions to Europe’s logistics industry as early as 2023.