Technology charges forward

By this time next year, you will have forgotten what it was like to trip over the lamp cord and hear your favourite light source shatter to pieces on the floor.

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When was the last time that a technological breakthrough really made you gasp? Sure, everyone loves a new bit of kit like an iPhone that you can paint pictures with or a camera that can be thrown in the swimming pool. But unless you were born at the turn of the last century, you'll have missed out on life changers such as radio, aviation or even air conditioning.

This month we were all reminded that technological progress doesn't always move forward in a straight line. For me and many others, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing was a moment of wonder but also regret. We wondered at the accomplishment of humanity's greatest feat and regretted that so much time had passed without building on that achievement. But I was lifted from my woes by a discovery that, while less awe-inspiring than man on the Moon, was life-changing nonetheless. At the latest TED Global conference, the US firm Witricity announced that power cables, plastic wires, cords and alkaline batteries in the home are soon to become a thing of the past. Hooray for science.

Within a year, we could all be charging our mobile phones without plugging them in. Instead, we will simply leave them sitting on a table in our homes as they soak up power from a wall-based emitter, Witricity's chief executive told the conference. This isn't just great news for people who don't like bending down to reach the switch - having your phone charge up the second you walk into your home means that you may never be caught with a flat battery again.

And it's not just phones. The new technology will also be able to beam power to flatscreen TVs, allowing them to hang on your living room wall without a wire trailing up from the carpet. It's also hoped that wireless electricity will boost the electric car to market quicker by making cars simpler to charge. Witricity says its new technology allows energy to be sent safely through the air by carefully manipulating its frequency and transmitting it in waves. A copper antenna could be hidden behind a wall in every home, with the waves simply directed at the desired appliance.

Imagine the joy of not having to carry a bag of wires with you when you want to use your laptop, phone or iPod on holiday - or even just at a friend's house. How wonderful it will be when you can install a new speaker system without having to cover your walls with tiny hooks or cable covers. Better still, we may even see the back of those infernal multi-adapters that promised to organise your appliances neatly but simply added to the mess. The days of lamps hitting the ground with a smash after their cable is accidentally tugged might soon be over.

Now that is a breakthrough.