Your Next Big Thing: 5 techs driving opportunity

Written by Kara Aaserud

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Jeffrey Harrow, an Amherst, N.H.-based consultant who writes The Harrow Technology Report, predicts these five technologies will spur more startups than any others over the next five to 10 years:

1. Nanotechnology: The science of manipulating matter at the atomic level will change business at least as much as the PC has, permitting wonders such as ultra-tiny computers with phenomenal power and energy efficiency. And manufacturing costs will plunge, allowing SMEs to become players.

2. Internet telephony: Vonage’s Web-based phone network now offers “free long distance” between the U.S. and five European countries, with unlimited calls at no charge beyond a flat monthly fee. Such offerings will take off, permitting a new wave of outsourced service providers in sectors in which phone costs are critical, such as call centres.

3. Web-based applications: Software that’s accessed over the Web rather than installed on users’ PCs isn’t new, but it’s gaining traction. That could spur more startups by slashing their upfront investments in IT.

4. Internet everywhere: Wireless standards such as WiMAX promise to make high-speed Internet widely available to people on the go, facilitating location-based information services. Software firms are testing electronic compasses that tell a cellphone where it is, so a user could, say, tap into a third-party database to list every nearby Thai restaurant and download their menus, or watch trailers for films playing at cinemas in the neighbourhood.

5. Virtual displays: Super-magnifying eyeglasses now in development could make a mobile device’s tiny screen appear to be wall-sized, allowing cellphones to display complete technical manuals for installers or broadsheet newspapers for commuters.

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