For those of us in the tech field, e.g. as entrepreneurs, developers, engineers, technicians, policy makers, etc, it is absolutely vital to be aware of where the industry is going. Thanks to recently held e-G8 Forum, we have some idea of key trends.
At the e-G8 Forum held towards the end of May in Paris, France, there was an interesting panel discussion on the future of the Internet, specifically transformative technologies that will be shaping our lives in the next five years. The panel comprised the following industry leaders, and David Rowan, Editor of Wired UK, moderated the session:
- Peter Chou – CEO, HTC
- Paul Hermelin – CEO, Capgemini
- Danny Hillis – Co-Chairman & CTO, Applied Minds
- Paul Jacobs – Chairman & CEO, Qualcomm
- Craig Mundie – Chief Research & Strategy Officer, Microsoft
- Michel de Rosen – CEO, Eutelsat
The paragraphs below summarise some of the panellists’ views, but the discussion itself was quite fascinating and insightful. Many more points were raised and the session can be viewed in its entirety. Highly recommended!
1. More intuitive interfaces. Generally, people enter information and interact with computing and electronic devices via a keyboard (or keypad), a mouse or a touch screen. However, Craig Mundie of Microsoft believes that computing interfaces will become even more intuitive – even more user-friendly and more closely aligned with how we as humans interact. As a result, the learning curve that is necessary to master today’s interfaces will be virtually eliminated, which will directly affect how we use technology and our expectations of what technology can do for us.
2. Real-time healthcare monitoring. As life expectancy improves, there is an increasingly aging population requiring health care. For the treatment of chronic diseases and illnesses in particular, there has been a growing emphasis on control and prevention – to anticipate or avoid any major setbacks, as well as to better controls costs. To facilitate this, monitoring systems are being developed that can directly communicate with healthcare providers on a real-time basis. Currently, there are already wireless devices, such as cameras, small enough to be ingested that allow physicians to observe activities along the alimentary canal on a screen. Within the next five years, Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm believes that the capability to place small and unobtrusive sensors either under the skin or on your person that will continuously monitor a patient’s well being will become the norm.
3. Mobile video. Mobile Internet is a major focus in the mobile/cellular space, and to varying degrees, already exists in developed countries. Referring to an earlier post, Edge, WiMAX, 3G or 4G, what’s the difference?, some 3G technologies can support broadband speeds on mobile devices, but the increasing demand for greater bandwidth and transmission speeds is driving the realisation of 4G. This demand is in turn creating an environment in which mobile video and mobile Internet can thrive, and which Peter Chou of HTC expects will lead to more customised and personalised services.
4. Near field communications. Near Field Communications (NFC) is a set of short-range technologies that enable mobile phone users to execute simple transactions such as purchases and data exchange just by waving their handsets in the vicinity of the receiver, or by touching the receiver. The technology is already available but is not yet widely used, and so far its application has been relatively limited. However Peter Chou was again of the view that NFC can be employed in far more numerous ways, such mobile ticketing, mobile couponing, in controlling access to offices and vehicles, etc.
5. Machine-to-machine communications. Richard Hillis of Applied Minds believes that the focus will be on machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and expects that in the next 5 to 10 years, all of our infrastructure will begin to operate through the Internet. As the phrase suggests, M2M communications refers to technologies that allow devices, equipment, or machines to communicate with each other. The technology is already being used to varying degrees, for example in top of the line vehicles, where the vehicle’s computer system tells the engine how to operate under various conditions, and in ultramodern households, where the appliances can all be connected with the aim of improving and anticipating the home owners’ needs. However, M2M communications will become more mainstream as wireless broadband bandwidth, in particular, becomes more accessible and affordable.
6. Personalisation of services. Thanks to services like digital downloads, pay-per-view, movies on demand and even Amazon.com recommendations, we are in the early stages of personalisation of services. Paul Hermelin of Capgemini suggests that in light of the wealth of information that vendors collect on their customers and users, this facility will become even more developed – to “utmost personalisation of services”. More importantly, consumers are already beginning to demand and expect facilities and services suited to their individuality and tastes.
7. 3D television. With the release of the movie Avatar in 2009, 3D films have now become a regular occurrence, but Michel de Rosen of Eutelsat noted that the technology is already shifting into consumer TV, and into personal computing. Prototypes are available, but the products are no way ready for mass market. However, Mr. de Rosen was more interested in the impact that 3D will have on the way we live, e.g. the way we enjoy culture and travel, and suggested that it could also have a considerably impact on remote medicine and other distance services.
Some parting considerations
Many of the trends posited by the panellists were a natural consequence of the volume of information that is currently available and will continue to be generated. However, a critical issue that must be addressed into the foreseeable future is “how to access or make available all of that content?”. The question is further compounded by the fact that most of this information will be accessed on mobile devices, but currently there are severe limitations on bandwidth, which in turn affect data speeds and service quality. Hence there are some critical infrastructural issues that must be addressed, and it is hoped that LTE Advanced will provide some real solutions.
Additionally, experts recognise that the increasing demand for bandwidth will further widening of the digital divide. High-speed broadband (HSBB), particularly wireless HSBB, will be essential for the anticipated services, but the costs of deploying the required infrastructure can be prohibitive. As a result, and noting that in most developing countries the mobile sector has singlehandedly driven telecommunications growth and take-up, the high costs of wireless HSBB may cause those countries to become even further marginalised.
The level of innovation discussed by the panellists is being led by the G8 and even the wider the G20 community. Based on some of the observations made, even those countries have challenges that must be tackled in order for the projected technological developments to be successfully implemented. Similarly, we in the Caribbean (like other developing countries) must become even more aware of the difficulties we face, and hopefully better position ourselves to address them, to protect the future of our individual countries and the region as a whole.