Technology cannot remain static, like all things upon this earth, it must evolve, change into different forms that are subject to self-replication. In fact, if you are a tech-aficionado, you probably have come across the dreaded vocabulary- ‘singularity’ with regard to technology, which refers to the point in time where technology will have progressed so much that it veers off the avenue of human intelligence and control, ultimately leading to the end of human civilization as we know it, sounds crazy, I know, but a fascinating concept, nonetheless, one I pay close attention to. In fact, technology futurist, Ray Kurzweil declares that the singularity is nigh. I would not fault that supposition considering the level of proliferation of technology in our lives, how it’s infusing itself into the fabric of human societies, I mean, literally, every minute a new technology idea is being hatched (I am thinking of one as I write this) and invented.
Ideas are the fuels that drive our global economy with innovation happening fast on multiple technology fronts. Rapid developments are in play in areas as diverse as 3D printing, Ultra HD, sensors, health care, automotive electronics, agriculture, transportation, biotech and genetic mapping. In fact, consumer electronics, one of the most innovative technological fronts in the world is at the $211 billion mark. The surge in technology is bound to benefit majority of people, but it important to note that there is a dark side to this upsurge. However, in life, we must view things from the positive angle if any progress is to be had and the maximum benefit derived for the society.
Below are some of the trends to behold in 2015 and probably the subsequent two years:
One of the most talked about new technologies is 3D printers and experts expect consumers to embrace these products. A double-digit percentage growth in unit shipments through 2018 is expected and revenue growth will flourish as well.
It will impact everything from car parts, classrooms, food to internal organs and we’re hearing of experiments that involve constructing entire cars and living rooms. Suffice it to say, 3D printers are an emerging – and exciting – addition to the CE (Consumer Electronics) landscape. As always, seeing is believing and it’s safe to assume that once people see these products in action, the only questions will involve what 3D printers can’t do and of course, the elephant in the room-cost. The 3D Printing Marketplace at the 2015 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will be double the size of what we saw in 2014, growing to more than 14,000 net square feet of exhibit space.
The sticky point over the next few years will be informing consumers of the myriad possibilities, while managing both expectations and price points. For instance, 3D printers will first be used in business environments, as tools for use, cost being less of an obstacle. Eventually, as awareness grows so will enthusiasm in the public sphere. As is typically the case with consumer electronics, innovation ensures that mouth-watering new products become more efficient and cost-effective as time gallops on.
2. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is arguably the trending topic in technology nowadays, even if universal consensus has not been reached in terms of defining exactly what “it” is. Buzzwords such as embedded technology, connectivity, convergence and notions like efficiency and activity lend insight into this mostly invisible – but very powerful – technology. Simply put, the Internet of Things enables household or more “traditional” products to connect with portable, networked devices, like PCs and smartphones. The Internet of Things is making it possible to connect anything and everything to the Internet.
Think of a product or device and chances are it’s already part of the IoT, or soon to be connected. At the 2014 International CES we saw toothbrushes, cookware and clothing using sensors to be “smart”, safe and efficient. If this sounds like space age innovation, it is, but the impetus behind this technology is efficiency and productivity. With this technology, old-fashioned and/or analog devices increasingly can connect, via sensors, over a network and share data (think: household appliances, cars and toys). I call them NETVITES ((Network Virtual Interface Through Enhanced Synapsing). At the University of California, Berkeley, researchers are even designing computers the size of a pinhead to gather data inside the brain and transmit via the skull, is it me or does that sound, tremendously exhilarating. The idea is that humans will eventually join the network, THE INTERNET OF YOU, ladies and gentlemen! Actually, the brain has got 125 trillion synapses in the cerebral cortex alone, enough stars to fill 1,500 MilkyWay Galaxies, so the idea doesn’t seem far-fetched, but ponder that!
The numbers are galactic. Each day, new reports are being generated discussing whether the IoT market will be measured in billions or even trillions by the end of this decade. IoT sensors are becoming commonplace, and before long will be expected components of virtually any device or product. Of course, as the IoT makes ceaseless connectivity a steadily ubiquitous proposition, we will need to deal with the idea of spectrum, and how it is controlled and paid for.
As one CEO puts it, “We’re seeing an explosion of connected devices that rely almost exclusively on unlicensed spectrum. The Internet of Things is proof of the skyrocketing value of unlicensed spectrum.
As we continue to use smarter, connected devices, we need enough unlicensed spectrum for them to communicate with their surroundings and one other. Innovators can then harness the power of the network to give devices more utility than they could ever have in isolation.”
Privacy is a key component in technology, because majority of the focus is connectivity and information, like when you access the internet. The internet affords us personal and professional interactions and so there are tradeoffs in terms of the information we share, willingly or contrary. Few consumers would argue that an optimized online shopping experience, or being able to digitally manage banking or health records, or customizing content streams, are anything but welcome and worthwhile developments. Of course, the issue of control is nothing if not complicated, shrouded is digital mambo jambo. To enhance how we interact and exist online, we sacrifice aspects of our privacy and individuality. Granted, most of us accept that the places we shop, socialize and work require our personal information. Understanding the trade-offs is what we give up, not to mention how the data is used by online companies can serve us remains a challenge. Additionally, there are pros and cons, particularly the unanticipated ones, of effectively living our lives online. Facebook has been the best-known real time case study of the good, the bad and the ugly repercussions of where personal space intersects with contemporary world reality.
4. Big Data Analytics
Let’s agree on one thing: There is no single correct definition of the term “Big Data.” As a concept, Big Data has been thrown around by practitioners, pundits and poseurs for years and is now a term exhausted by adnauseam use. But that does not make it any less important for understanding how the world around you really works, and how services and goods you use every day have been shaped and delivered using Big Data technologies.
Did you know that the food you eat was grown with the aid of Big Data, ah-huh? Or that the vehicle you drive can navigate thanks to the decision-making power afforded by Big Data? Your actions can be analyzed and anticipated because Big Data knows so much about you that even you might not know. To some, this is a scary revelation. To others, it is a whatever-type-of-situation. Most people, however, fall somewhere between the two.
Users realize that they have, and will continue, to benefit from Big Data. They are complicit to some degree in its collection and analysis, and yet conflicted about whether they think it is a good thing or a bad thing. If you understand one thing about Big Data, understand that the mere collection of huge volumes of information is not Big Data any more than collecting stamps from exotic locales makes you well-traveled. The “charisma” of Big Data is in the use of analytics to gain new insight.
Big Data is used for analytical purposes, pattern recognition, machine learning and predictive analytics both for your benefit and, possibly, to your detriment.
5. The Rise of the Planet of the Machines
Post the inventions of the first machine, humans have been the managers and overseers of our creations. We are directly involved in the work being done or we set our devices to a task and walk away. But now, the traditional roles are being supplemented by a new relationship. Technologies we have been developing for years are not just bearing fruit – they are in league with each other to accomplish tasks without our direct supervision.
Wireless computing, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have been in development for years. Taken alone, there have been numerous incremental amelioration. But a disruptive trend is emerging that is larger than just individual developments. It is the combination of these technologies that is creating a new paradigm. This paradigm is Big Data plus wireless plus AI plus drones and robots – it is an autonomous Internet of Things (IoT) with hands.
The rise of these technologies is powered by a combination of three core developments coming together. These synergies are not new, but they are increasingly bearing the kind of fruit that has long been predicted by futurists and sci-fi writers.
The rise of the planet of the machines is not about individual robots, but about the systems around us gaining capabilities through artificial intelligence combined with robotics and linked with the power of the pervasive cloud. Like any disruptive trend, barriers must be surmounted, such as intellectual property battles, consumer perceptions of robotics and cost issues, et cetera. But the immediate picture is one that provides the opportunities of enhancing the existing business models. Robotics is already in use in the factory and warehouse, and may find its way into the distribution chain or other points of presence in the business cycle. Artificial intelligence will enhance these applications, and where a business is using the cloud, one might consider how artificial intelligence can assist. The rise of the machines is the trend of systems gaining tremendous capability to take on physical tasks, find information and make recommendations. This rise comes from the combination of technologies that have been developing separately, but are beginning to enhance each other with remarkable results. Expect to see more of these eye-popping capabilities, from intelligent personal assistants, clever appliances to robotic chauffeurs, as researchers and engineers discover new ways to leverage these individual achievements.
I have given you the top five patterns that you are bound to behold as the year proceeds, but remember, these technological changes are always self-replicating, which essentially means, by the time I am done writing this, a new piece of tech or information regarding the same has emerged. So, join me in our human journey towards the singularity!