Thursday, 15 May 2008

Emerging trends

Excellent presentation by Nick Jones on Emerging trends - one of my favourite Gartner speakers - very enthusiastic, great presenter and usually has an interesting gadget in his pocket. I'm trying to get him to Sheffield, not just to talk to the department, but also to talk to the University senior management about the potenial of IT.

This was a session on emerging trends, and taking a fairly long term look - not just at technology trends, but economic and societal which will have an impact on our use of IT and the role of IT departments in the future. Innovations come from unexpected places and in unexpected ways and we need to take a broad view

Many potential developments were rattled through by Nick in his hour long talk, so here's a selection:

The Web. Used to be like an online magazine – we accessed info and read it. Web 2.0 – about community and social interactions. Groups of peers and people working together and user-created deliverables.
Web 3.0 will be about context – what I need to know here and now. Real time information. It will be proactive and take into account location, context and mood. Blurring boundaries between the virtual and real world. Interfaces will spread out into the surrounding environment. Chios will be cheap, and almost anything that can have one, will - so we'll be surrounded by intelligent objects

Cloud computing – an emerging paradigm combining several concepts. There's a technical architecture with many processes. A business model of pay by use and an acquisition model for functionality. Users don’t know or care where service is – it’s in the cloud.
Early examples alreadyv around are Amazon web services and Microsoft Livemesh. Apparently the technical and business implications of cloud computing are huge, and we were encouraged to start pilots in our own institutions. I don't really understand this at all, so will have to do some investigating when I get back.

User interfaces – evolving fast. New interfaces for old functions – eg iPhone. New sorts of interfaces – flexible screens will be here very soon. Microprojectors – by 2011 they will be abe to project an A3 image from a projector the size of a sugar cube.
The new generation of interfaces will combine information and become more social. Perhaps if your phones detects that your in an airport, and running, then it won't put a call though. Eventually the interface will shift off the device and into surrounding environment - remember those waving arms interfaces from Minority Report?

3D printing (aka fabbing). Basically these are personal manufacturing devices. I thought they were like teleportation devices - you put an object in a machine somewhere, and it comes out in another machine somewhere else! Fab at home machines are already only $3000, and the price is falling all time. I thought these were amazing devices - imagine getting your furniture from IKEA as a file, and printing it at home ready made....

Robots - Lots of work going on in this area - especailly in Japan. The Japanese seem to have a thing about robots. Several areas where these are being developed for - to carry out dull, dirty or dangerous jobs; for carrying, lifting, and rescues; home healthcare – especailly to to look after old people; humanoid robots to be receptionists, companions or co-workers.

Human augmentation. Today it's about restoring normal performance levels. Tomorrow it will be about achieving above normal performance levels – very controversial.
Is it discriminatory? Or ethical?

Power. Demand is increasing but batteries are not getting better fast enough. Innovate ways of harvesting power are being developed from vibration (your trainers will generate enough power to keep the iPod in your pocket running), and thermal body heat from sensors on your skin.

Finally Nick ran through some scenarios - a sort of "day in the life of" - for 20 years time and we were encouraged to do this in our own organisations. Make the predictions look real and use a long time frame to avoid arguments about timing. Our emphasis should be on intelligent, always-on objects and recognising that the impact on business activities will be more significant than specific technology advances.

He suggested that on Monday morning when we get back we should set up some brainstorimng sessions on 3d printing, mobile robots, cloud computing. We need to build a robust process for tracking technology innovation – scan, track, evaluate - and expand the scope of technology tracking to incorporate business and societal trends. Use scenario planning and visioning exercises to identify possible long term opportunities.

Watch out for Monday morning then.....


pj said...

a robotic oracle developer - sounds promising

Ian Waugh said...

Flexible screens and electronic paper are really exciting aren't they? Can't wait to be able to download my newspaper and display it for a couple of days on my flexible screen, just like it looks on paper.

These things that really capture the enjoyable experience of the analogue and make it digital successfully are rare, I love cover flow in iTunes for the same reason - flipping through my CD collection was half the fun!