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2009 List: Patent Pending 2009 List: Patent Pending
Issue 014

2009 List: Patent Pending

by David Biello

January 1, 2009

Seven technologies that will change our lives more than the new iPhone.

1 Open-Source Cell phones  The open-source movement has come to the cell phone with the launch of Google's new Android operating system. It's great for gadget lovers, but even better for the millions of users in the developing world who have leapfrogged over landlines to cell-phone technology and now can get it in the form of a minicomputer with a customizable operating system.2 Crash-Proof Cars  Researchers in Europe have turned satellite navigation into a system that can warn drivers of upcoming hazards through radar or infrared hazard-sensing systems. Already, luxury cars incorporate features like warning lights in the windshield to alert drivers to an onrushing obstacle. But in 2009, these advanced safety features will start to appear in lower-cost vehicles.3 Electric Cars  Speaking of car improvements, 2009 will feature the return to prominence of the electric automobile-a sight last seen almost a decade ago. The Chevy Volt and the Tesla Model S sedan, among others, will be racing into production and showrooms, though the economic crisis is slowing their progress.4 Green Cement  Cement is one of the largest sources of CO2 in the country, but a California-based company has invented a cement that actually puts the greenhouse gas to good use, by mimicking the marine cements formed by coral, allowing it to build itself.5 Oil Sands  The record high prices for oil in 2008 spurred a boom in investment in Canada's oil sands-hydrocarbon-rich rock and sand-making this a make-or-break year for unconventional oil. Wild card: Converting oil sands to oil results in the release of three times as much globe-warming pollution as good old-fashioned crude.
6 Ubiquitous GPS  Big Brother is totally watching you. Whether in your crash-proof car, through your cell phone, or on Google Earth, your (almost) every move is being tracked somewhere. The rise of radio-frequency identification and global-positioning systems basically means an end to geographic privacy.7 Virgin Galactic Spaceport  The world's first commercial spaceport begins construction in the New Mexico desert. More Cape Canaveral than Mos Eisley, you still should be able to hitch a ride on a spacecraft by 2010-if all goes according to plan.  You just need to line up behind those intrepid souls who have already plunked down $30 million in bookings.
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2009 List: Patent Pending