As more of us use smartphones and wearables, it will be simpler than ever to share data with each other for mutual benefit. Some of this sharing can be done passively, such as reporting our location in order to update traffic statistics. Other data can be reported actively, such as adding our rating of a restaurant to a review site.
The smartphone app Waze is a community-based tool that keeps track of the route you are traveling and how fast you are making your way to your destination. In return for providing your data, you can benefit from the data being sent from all of the other users of the app. Waze will route you around traffic and accidents based upon real-time reports from other users.
Yelp! allows consumers to post ratings and reviews of local businesses into a database, and then it provides that data back to consumers via its website or mobile phone app. By compiling ratings of restaurants, shopping centers, and services, and then allowing consumers to search through its directory, Yelp! has become a huge source of business for many companies. Unlike data collected passively however, Yelp! relies on its users to take the time to provide honest ratings and reviews.
One of the most amazing innovations to be developed recently is the 3-D printer. A 3-D printer allows you to print virtually any 3-D object based on a model of that object designed on a computer. 3-D printers work by creating layer upon layer of the model using malleable materials, such as different types of glass, metals, or even wax.
3-D printing is quite useful for prototyping the designs of products to determine their feasibility and marketability. 3-D printing has also been used to create working prosthetic legs, handguns, and even an ear that can hear beyond the range of normal hearing. The US Air Force now uses 3-D printed parts on the F-18 fighter jet.
3-D printing is one of many technologies embraced by the “maker” movement. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, puts it this way:
In a nutshell, the term “Maker” refers to a new category of builders who are using open-source methods and the latest technology to bring manufacturing out of its traditional factory context, and into the realm of the personal desktop computer. Until recently, the ability to manufacture was reserved for those who owned factories. What’s happened over the last five years is that we’ve brought the Web’s democratizing power to manufacturing. Today, you can manufacture with the push of a button.