Problem solvers - not gimmicks

IF there's one thing sure to frustrate most of the working population of this country it's traffic.

IF there's one thing sure to frustrate most of the working population of this country it's traffic.

Whether it’s the morning and you’re trying to get into work for an important meeting or the evening when you’re equally eager to get back home or off to the pub for a swift one, crawling bumper to bumper with a Ford Fiesta up the A1 isn’t exactly many people’s idea of fun.

But it seems that as the roads become more congested, so too the technology to help us deal with it is becoming ever more sophisticated.

Communications technology that is rapidly transforming the way we interact with each other and the world around us is set to help us move around more quickly, safely and efficiently.

Transport systems that make use of smart phone and navigation technology could soon help commuters link into a giant network that identifies accidents and pinpoints alternative routes, sending travellers real-time updates and directions to help you out of major traffic.

It also has the potential to find car parking spaces and even to help cars communicate with one another to help avoid accidents and warn drivers of impending dangers before an accident happens.

While this technology has yet to hit our streets in a major way, it demonstrates the way in which technology is helping us tackle the everyday issues that affect us all.

For the world of scientific and technological research is not, as believed by some people, a world divorced from the real world simply delving into the most obtuse problems, but is in fact addressing some of the most pressing issues affecting all of us.

Kromek, a County Durham company based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, has developed technology that is already proving crucial in the fight against terrorism. The company, which grew out of Durham University, has developed bottle scanners capable of detecting the contents of a bottle without the need to open it.

Such innovations prove the way in which technological breakthroughs can be applied to solve different problems.

A few weeks ago I talked about CfAI, another company at NETPark whose telescope parts have been used to help diagnose eye diseases.

It is important we do not belittle the value of technology, something that is valued purely for its novelty factor. Instead we must embrace technology which is helping us solve everyday problems as well as fundamental challenges facing the human race.

Stewart Watkins is managing director of County Durham Development Company

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