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The advancements in cutting-edge technology in recent years have been spectacular, as it consolidates our societal needs and business processes with science and its application. These technological evolutions have now described human activities as simplified systems with high rates of changes, which have raised significant concerns for society as a whole. The effects of these developments have greatly influenced every aspect of human endeavour - Education, Business structures, Social interaction, Engineering and Health sector. Emerging technology has also been recognised as a potential growth innovator and in the coming years commercialisation of technology will be extended. In addition, the fact that small high-tech companies are coming up at exponential rate stimulates the awareness for business opportunities and the preparation of the society for the ensuing disruptive change.
This paper reviews how technology has shaped the way businesses communicate across the globe without crossing physical premises, send information and download vital documents instantaneously. Discussions will not be limited to just business, but also the impact on our daily lives as it relates to information and communication technology, safety and expediting processes with less human error. The Convergence of different area of science will be explored.
Emerging technology can be described as recent technical advancements that comprise innovations in various areas of science which spring up new fields of technology. These developments interactively create efficiencies in the way tasks are accomplished. These enhancements can be additive, where it improves a form of technology, or it completely replaces an existing technology. Roco et al (2004) coined an acronym that gave a broader description of emerging technology which it referred to as "NBIC" representing (a) nanoscience and nanotechnology; (b) biotechnology, including genetic engineering; (c) information technology, including advanced computing and communications; (d) Cognitive science. The potential impact of Cloud Computing on Business especially on Small/Medium Enterprises (SME) and application development will be discussed as well as societal perspective on the implementation of this technology.The Convergence of the different technologies is based at the nanoscale and integration of technology at that level. Recent developments in this field will be discussed in this paper with reference on the effects of nanotechnology on business and also the perception from the sociological or anthropological angle, explaining the impacts on different groups in the society.
2. Emerging technology #1: CLOUD COMPUTING
The term Cloud computing has become "the phrase du jour" in IT world just as other similar emerging technologies like Web 2.0, where everyone defines the term differently. "The cloud", being a metaphor for the internet, gives an indistinct meaning when blended with "computing".
Sun Systems (2009) described Cloud Computing as using information technology as a service over the network. They defined it as encapsulated services, with an Application Program Interface (API), that can be delivered over the network. This explanation covers deploying storage and computing resources as services.
A technical report by Armbrust et al (2009) gave a concise definition of cloud computing as the sum of Utility Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS).They described the hardware and software of the datacenter as the Cloud, the Public Cloud as a service similar to the pay-as-you-go where Utility Computing is the service that is being sold. They further referred to Private Clouds as the internal datacenters of an organization, which is not available for public consumption or service. Therefore Private Cloud is not an aspect of Cloud Computing.
A more inclusive view of Cloud Computing would be as a service-based offering that makes it possible to dynamically allocate resources such as applications, infrastructures, Hardware and Platform, from centralized and remote server farms, over the internet. Cloud Computing users reduce capital expenditure, which is converted to operational expenditure , as they only rent usage of the physical infrastructures from a Cloud service provider. Similar to the conventional utility services, the Cloud consumers only pay for what they use or subscribe to contract billing. Another common phrase in Cloud Computing is multitenant, where different clients from various firms share the computing power of the Cloud provider servers. This feature enables the increase in efficiency and utilization rates by 10-20% (Robert, 2008), and application development steps up as well. At higher bandwidths, centralized servers at different sites will deliver the same response times. Also complexity of security increases as a result of the nature of this distribution.
The architecture of Cloud Computing simplifies software versioning through centralized control, software installation and maintenance and the end users have more ease of access to their data and broad range of applications via a web browser, regardless of their location. Return on investment (ROI) risks can be mitigated through service level agreements (SLAs) as contracts can be called off and financial compensations can be part of the terms, while most on-premises solutions cannot guarantee return on investment even after subscription to the service has been made(Boulton, 2008). Security is another major concern in Cloud Computing but as a result of centralization of data and the onus of data security on the Cloud provider, they devote security-focused resources than most Clients can afford independently (Mills, 2009).
2.1 IMPACT ON CLOUD COMPUTING ON BUSINESS:
The effect of Cloud Computing on business will be salient on both firms and Users. For the Firms, especially the software industries will experience a great reduction in development costs. Armbrust et al (2009) implied that the experience will be similar to what played out between semiconductor and the hardware industries when the cost of processing components geometrically increased in every technology generation. They narrated that semiconductor foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) build chips for chip companies (e.g. nVidia) that is only involved in innovative chip design. Thus nVidia cuts the capital and operational costs associated with owning a chip fabrication line. On the other hand, Hardware giants like Samsung and Intel, with their own fabrication lines, can statistically multiplex the use of products of nVidia to mitigate the risk of not having enough components to amortise their operations. Similarly, Cloud providers can support the operational costs of large datacenters with the product of "fab-less" datacenter companies. This will impact on the market structures of hardware and software industries. In anticipation of this scenario, hardware and software companies are creating new alternative platforms with much higher scalability to support multiple users at internet scale (Etro, 2009). Even with the few pioneer service providers, IT firms, such as Microsoft and HP, are teaming up to build large server farms to deliver future Cloud Computing products and services (Edwards and Ricadela, 2010).
Cloud Computing will enable centralization of technological infrastructures in less expensive areas in terms of running business. Multitenancy will lower operational costs through sharing of computing resources among pool of clients and increase in peak-load capacity. These characteristics will encourage environmental sustainability and energy savings (Armbrust et al, 2009).
Small Firms has been able to spring up and expand at exponential rates through the Cloud service. An example is Animoto, a Facebook application that enables users to make videos with selected music and photos, increased the number of machines on Amazon Web Services (AWS) from 50 to 3500 within 3 days as a result of high demand (Etro, 2009). The Utility service on AWS enabled this upgrade which would be impossible for a firm of its size on the conventional platform. Other Cloud service providers such as Google and Microsoft have provided applications like Google Maps, SQL Data Services, Azure- Cloud Operating system etc which developers can easily add to their online services to increase functionality. This implies an overall decrease of the fixed costs of productions especially for the Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as the infrastructure is owned by the service provider. Hence the endogenous market structure will be wide as more SMEs will be in business, mark ups will be reduced, and total and average production will increase.
Another benefit will be with spiral growth of network effects as there are more possibilities of product development in the Cloud that is for the Application and web developers. There will be associated rapid adoption of changes, as applications in the cloud will be subject to modifications to accommodate new economic venues and business requirements.
Armbrust et al (2009) argued the sustenance of Cloud service in the long-run, stating that the economic model will result to a more liquid trade-off decision and also the elasticity is liable to transfer risks. Furthermore they showed that the fall in price of hardware will be at variable rates, for instance the costs of storage and computing resources will drop faster than WAN costs. They also advised that peak and average load capacity should be considered before moving services to the cloud, especially if there are variable spikes in an application demand, various operational costs and limits on real-world utilizations of infrastructures.
2.2 IMPACT ON CLOUD COMPUTING ON THE SOCIETY:
A recent survey revealed that 69% of internet users are already using a form of application that is cloud-based (Pew, 2008). But the major issues are still legitimate concerns with regards security, data privacy, user rights in the Cloud and international sovereignty. Grimes et al (2008) presented other policy implications of cloud computing which include issues on: Jurisdiction and regulation of this emerging technology, Data migration between services, Intellectual property, Net Neutrality, Monopolization of computing, liability and quality of service. He proffered solutions to some of the issues where he suggested education and policy analysis as a proactive approach. He maintained that it is imperative for Cloud Computing to succeed and that the vested stakeholders should be protected as well.
Armbrust et al (2009) added that auditability could be deployed in the cloud at a layer beyond the Virtualized users operating environment, which will fortify security of the application environment, and also centralizing software tasks that are concerned with confidentiality and auditability into one logical layer. This feature also confers virtualized capabilities.
Etro (2009) showed that cloud computing will have a positive impact in business creation but stressed that impact on employment will be limited as creation of firms will eventually lead to increase in competitiveness, followed by drop in prices. Therefore in the long-run, there will be more of re-allocation of jobs than creation of new ones.
3. Emerging technology #2: NANOTECHNOLOGY
The definition of Nanotechnology can be confusing as there are many differences which are due to academic interest or the regulatory context. The United States National Nanotechnology Institute (NNI) referred nanotechnology as the control and understanding of matter at the size of about 1 - 100nanometers [www.nano.gov]. They went further to state that it involves imaging, measuring, modelling and manipulating of matter at this dimension. Siegel et al 1999 defined nanotechnology as the application and development of materials, structures, systems and devices with fundamentally new functions and characteristics which has its size being derived in the range of about 1 - 100nanometers (nm).
Generally nanotechnology deals with the use and production of materials with purposely engineered characteristics close to the atomic or molecular level. Nanotechnology has been used to produce materials and devices with different functions in the fields of physics, medicine and energy production (Buzea et al, 2007). The term originates from "nano" which means dwarf in Greek. One nanometer is equivalent of one billionth (10-9) of a meter, which is about a hundred thousand of human hair! Potential nanotechnology applications are enormous in the next few years, as it could develop very high computing and storage capacities, battery storage, cancer therapies, glass that never needs to be cleaned and clothes that don`t stain. Nonetheless, these benefits can be fully realized if its adverse effects are controlled (Davies, 2006).
Nanotechnology is fairly a new subject but efforts to understand and control its effects have been on-going. As nanotechnology advances and commercial applications multiply, new problems and challenges abound. The property of nanotechnology processes and materials often does not follow the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry, so therefore may exhibit toxic and adverse environmental effects. Because of its potentials, it attracts more funding more than any emerging technology. It is a multidisciplinary area of research as a result it requires team effort. For instance in the development of the new cochlear implant, electronic engineer, biomaterial experts, psychologists and mechanical engineers had to work together to realize this nano-based product.
* NANOMATERIALS - These are subfields that develop material that have distinct features arising from their nanoscale dimensions (Clarkson et al, 2004). Example of such is the carbon nanotubes which is a product of interface and colloid science. Nanomaterial can be used to produce nanomedicine, cheaper solar cells, and components of semiconductor nanoparticles used in display technologies.
* BOTTOM-UP APPROACHES - This process arrange smaller components into more complex units. This is employed in DNA construction and other nucleic acids. In chemical sysnthesis, this can be employed to design well-defined shapes such as bis-peptides (Christopher et al, 2006).
* TOP-DOWN APPROACHES - Here smaller devices are derived by using larger ones. Example of this product is the Atomic force microscope
3.1 IMPACT OF NANOTECHNOLOGY ON BUSINESS:
The Impact of recent advancements in nanotechnology on business would show that forecasts can be less accurate in predicting the future. Though similar forecasts in other areas of emerging technology such as internet and wireless communication might have been accurate, much of the predictions in nanotechnology are still imaginations yet to be realized. However the potentials of nanotechnology is still promising since if its even half-realized, can still realign the business and economics of the society at structural levels. Nanotechnology can be said to be a disruptive technology, describes it as an innovation that will increase the product or service in such a way that the market does not expect.
If the advancements in nanotechnology reach a critical point in providing innovative breakthroughs in self-assembly, most vertical businesses will be greatly influenced. The supply chains, supportive alliances and channels of distribution will be reshaped. The financial and learning institutions as well as manufacturing industries will be altered. How well we prepare the society in anticipation of this is very important as plans should be made to follow up any marked nanotechnology innovation. Just as computers and internet have become intertwined with the fundamental economic model of any viable economy, nanotechnology will be the emerging technology that shapes tomorrow`s economy. It is imperative to fast track research and development, government investment and widespread cross-industry application (Canton, 1999).
The project on emerging nanotechnologies shows that over 800 nanotech products have been rolled out and new ones made available at the rate of 3 to 4 per week [www.nanotechproject.org]. Most of these products are limited to the application of "1st generation" nanomaterials which include Carbon allotropes used in making directional adhesive material(gecko tape); Titanium dioxide for cosmetics, sunscreen and food products; silver used to produce food packaging, clothing, household appliances and disinfectants.
3.2 IMPACT OF NANOTECHNOLOGY ON THE SOCIETY:
Manipulating the atomic and molecular arrangement of matter is the basis of nanotechnology and the results has raised concerns about the effects these will have on our society, and plans to control them. For instance is Silver nanoparticles used in making socks that will reduce foot odour, when released in the wash can destroy beneficial bacteria that degrades organic matter. Another malicious nanomaterial is Carbon nanotube, which when exposed to in lethal quantities can cause a form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
There has been concerns that new developments from nanotech could produce undetectable lethal weapons, networked spy camera for use by government and rapid development of weapons fast enough to render arms races unstable. Dangers of nanotechnologies also speculated by The Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology includes potentials to disrupt many aspects of society and politics through accelerated industrial revolution, fuelled by nanotechnology, Economic disruption from an abundance of cheap products, Economic oppression from artificially inflated prices and Attempted relinquishments by outlawing technology[www.crnano.org].
Availability of nanofactory technology becomes uncontrollable when there is insufficient or fanatical regulation. The former would make the technology accessible while the later would result to high demand for nanotech devices, either which will cause meltdown of the restrictions or independent development. The end result is usually a black market beyond the control of central authorities.
The main contribution of this paper is to highlight the exciting breakthrough of applied science and the positive impact on businesses. Both technologies discussed have positive effect on the market and economics of scale. The evolution of scientific knowledge and recent technologies are envisioned and visionary ideas exploited which could guide the research to achieve extensive benefits for humanity. There is also the need to transform strategies to improve individual capabilities and overall societal outcomes. As both technologies are still developing knowledge, our present key issue should be the means to achieve a safe and regulated technological products and services in the coming years.