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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 09:29 GMT
Small science to be big in 2005
Toshiba's prototype fuel cell
Toshiba and NEC have already produced small fuel cell prototypes
"Nanotechnology" will be a much more familiar word to everyone in 2005, not just scientists, say analysts.

Nanotechnologies involve the manipulation of structures at the molecular scale and can change the behaviour of materials.

It has been slowly moving into sun creams, drug delivery and computer disk drives to improve storage.

But it will soon be the cornerstone of every manufacturing industry says a Deloitte research trends report.

The Deloitte research Predictions 2005 report points to key developments to keep an eye on in the coming year.

"We find that nanotechnology is extremely poorly understood in general," David Tansley, Deloitte telcoms and technology partner, told the BBC News website.

"As soon as you mention it, people conjure up images of small robots carrying out surgery or things that are not desirable.

"It tends to be something of science fiction and something to be feared. The reality is that nanotechnologies have been around for some time."

But this year, he thinks, people will start noticing its mundane uses, like making car paint shinier, windows that clean themselves and smaller and better mobile batteries.

Nanotech can also be used to make new materials.

Snowballing interest

"What we may see happen is as the companies backing these developments begin to see a return on their investment... so we might see a wave of enthusiasm and people will start to notice that these products have an impact.

"That could create snowball of interest."

He added that research and development that had been going on for some time would "break cover" in 2005, and would bear fruit in useful and better products.

There still remains an element of fear about nanotechnologies and what impact new materials and substances might have on people and the environment.

How nanotechnology is building the future from the bottom up

Mr Tansley also said that at least two major mobile companies were set to release fuel cell-powered handsets in 2005.

Fuel cells turn the chemical energy stored in hydrogen into electrical energy to power devices.

Unlike traditional lithium ion batteries, they can be made in a variety of shapes and form.

They are also refillable, as opposed to rechargeable via electricity and last for days rather than hours.

"The form factor of early fuel cells will be significantly larger than current battery technology, but the power capacity will be significantly greater," he said.

"Whether they are bundled with handsets or not remains to be seen."

They are likely to be an option for those who need lasting power - such as emergency workers or business people- rather than mobiles that make fashion statements.

Mobile threat

Deloitte also suggests that e-mail spam, net fraud, and identity theft will continue to thrive in 2005, but the threats could spread more widely to portable gadgets.

Because of the increasing pervasiveness of mobile devices which are more sophisticated and powerful, there may be more risk to information security, said Mr Tansley.

"There is no doubt that things people store on mobile devices are attractive to criminals."

A camera with wi-fi in it
More powerful gadgets may be a temptation for some
Spim - mobile spam - VoIP (voice over internet) spam, and viruses will increase as people take more powerful technology on the move.

Other highlights of the report included the expected growth of RFID (radio frequency identification) tag use.

Radio tagging, which is gradually replacing barcoding, will be increasingly common as businesses adopt the technology to counter theft, cut waste and improve productivity.

The small chips transmit radio signals and can be embedded in products, from trainers, food transport crates, to cars, to act as tracking devices.

The combination of these technological developments will inevitably be accompanied by an element of trepidation, said Mr Tansley.

"I suspect that anxiety will increase rather than decrease in the near future and some of that will be attached to nanotech - unfairly and fairly," he said. "From a technology point of view, I think we can be fairly confident that all kinds of innovations will continue to increase computing power, make things smaller, and capture information to be processed.

"Mobiles, combined will tagging, combined with networks will provide much more information about where things are moving."

This is good news for businesses looking to cut costs, but individuals may feel more threatened by the potential for these technologies to be used negatively.

Deloitte's predictions are based on research with key analysts and industry leaders, and is meant to reflect the growing trends in technology.

Nanotechnology in our lives
1 - Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) for displays
2 - Photovoltaic film that converts light into electricity
3 - Scratch-proof coated windows that clean themselves with UV
4 - Fabrics coated to resist stains and control temperature
5 - Intelligent clothing measures pulse and respiration
6 - Bucky-tubeframe is light but very strong
7 - Hip-joint made from biocompatible materials
8 - Nano-particle paint to prevent corrosion
9 - Thermo-chromic glass to regulate light
10 - Magnetic layers for compact data memory
11 - Carbon nanotube fuel cells to power electronics and vehicles
12 - Nano-engineered cochlear implant

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