Virtual Reality and 5G Wireless are Among IEEE’s Picks for Top Tech Trends

The IEEE Computer Society predicts these technologies will see traction this year

12 January 2016

Keep an eye out on these technologies, which the IEEE Computer Society forecasts will reach critical points in their development this year.


People have been talking about VR for more than 25 years but it's only recently that the technology has caught up. Faster, more-efficient chips can now produce realistic images, while high-resolution, low-latency screens show those images in a more lifelike manner. According to the IEEE Computer Society, VR technologies will take off this year due to their reliability, ease of use, affordability, and availability. And it’s already happening. 

On 6 January, virtual reality startup Oculus began taking pre-orders for its US $600 consumer headset, which lets users experience gaming and videos with new depth. Movie studio 20th Century Fox partnered last September with Oculus to bring VR to theaters. And the technology will be go beyond gaming and entertainment. In our article, “Virtual Reality: The New Training Ground for First Responders,” we reported that researchers at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, built a system to help first responders identify dangerous areas to avoid in an emergency. Look for more applications of VR to come.


With speeds expected to reach an unimaginable 7.5 gigabits per second, this next-generation wireless will enable everything from interactive cars to the Internet of Things, predict the IEEE Computer Society analysts. Compared with today’s 4G and LTE networks, researchers say 5G will achieve 1,000 times the system capacity; 10 times the energy efficiency, data rate, and spectral efficiency; and 25 times the average mobile cell throughput.

The aim is to offer seamless and universal communications between any people, anywhere, at any time by just about any wireless device. According to our article, “In the Works: Next-Generation Wireless,” standards for 5G are to be defined between now and 2018, with 5G-ready products expected to roll out in 2020. Read our interview with IEEE Fellow Theodore “Ted” Rappaport, who is leading the effort.


NFV is an emerging technology that provides a virtual infrastructure on which next-generation cloud services depend. The Computer Society says that with this technology, cloud services from telecommunications companies will be offered at greatly reduced prices, and with better reliability and convenience than their standard services. IEEE is working on many fronts to explore the benefits of NFV, which is often paired with software-defined networks.

In our special report on SDNs, we reported that the NFV concept applies CPU virtualization and other cloud computing technologies to migrate network functions from dedicated hardware to virtual machines running on general-purpose hardware. Virtualized network functions are appealing to network operators because they can be migrated and adapted to meet current demands, and at the same time, increase the utilization of network resources and decrease operating costs.


These two cybersecurity–related technologies are expected to have a milestone year. Cyber physical systems are smart systems that have cyber technologies, both hardware and software, deeply embedded in and interacting with physical components, and sensing and changing the state of the real world. These systems have to operate with high levels of reliability, safety, security, and usability since they need to meet the growing demand for applications such as intelligent transportation systems and smart buildings. The analysts say while these systems are currently being employed on a modest scale, they aren’t coming anywhere close to meeting demand.

While not a household name now, hardware capability-based security could be a significant weapon in the security arsenal of programmers, providing more data security for everyone. The society’s analysts say this type of security will provide a “finer grain protection” and defend against many of today’s successful attacks.

IEEE is tackling cybersecurity on many fronts. Through its Cybersecurity Initiative, IEEE has brought together top security specialists to thwart hackers. We covered their efforts in this 2015 special report. And another program, the IEEE Internet Initiative, is dedicated to bringing together the technical community with policymakers to discuss Internet governance, cybersecurity, and privacy.

Read the other five tech trends that the IEEE Computer Society selected.

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