Back to the tech future
The following may not drive you to draw parallels with the Minority Report, but Australia's technology analysts and research gurus are predicting a vastly different enterprise future beyond 2013 full of ubiquitous computing, helper CPUs, cryptography, machine learning and the end of the digital divide.
Apps are everything
Perhaps most contentious is the prediction that it will be thanks to the app evolution that the digital divide dies.
“The Apple apps store is the app for getting new apps. The Google app makes it easy to search for anything. The Facebook app connects you to your friends. The email app helps you to connect and correspond with your colleagues. Your phone app helps you make phone calls. Your Skype app helps you make video calls. Even your message app helps you sent text messages,” said the CSIRO's ICT and digital productivity business development manager, Geof Heydon.
“And this leads us to the point. On an iPhone, sometimes you see blue messages and sometimes you see green ones. The green ones are traditional SMS text messages and the blue ones are messages sent via the internet. However, the user pays no attention to this difference and simply no longer cares. This trend is very important.”
For Heydon, applications do what we want, when we want them to but are increasingly hiding their complexity from users.
“People can now use apps without knowing anything about computers, browsers or networks, significantly reducing the digital divide and signalling that it will soon be removed completely.”
Over at NICTA, the head of the machine learning research group, Professor Bob Williamson, said radically new technologies typically take decades to be widely deployed.
“Thus technologies that will be more widespread in the next few years already exist; an obvious candidate is the continued spread of machine learning. Now widely used in niche industries such as advertising, I expect it will continue its inroads into more productive sectors of the economy, from energy production and distribution through health,” Williamson said.
“More speculatively, perhaps in five to 10 years' time one will see machine learning being used pervasively without [as currently seems to be the case] the need for specialised data scientists to make it work – perhaps someone will figure how to make machine learning as democratic as spreadsheets did for matrix mathematics.
"Much needs to happen for this to become a reality, but I am unaware of any fundamental reason why it could not occur.”
Another long-term prediction already making some inroads into workplaces is ubiquitous computing.
“All the talk is about cloud computing but this is really an advancement of well-known computing and software architectures,” said Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda.
“What's interesting about ubiquitous computing is the computer system does not need to be 'structured' in the traditional sense, but all interconnected machines can process and manage information according to its usage profile.”
Gedda predicts that beyond 2013 transactional data - that needed to perform immediate tasks such as orders and payments - will be managed by high-performance systems and infrequently accessed data will be stored on low-power systems in ubiquitous computing models that are more automated than the current crop of manual approaches.
Citrix start-up accelerator CTO Michael Harries' prediction relates to all of the above – mobility, machine learning and ubiquitous computing – and what he terms the “helper CPU”.
“Already ubiquitous in cars, washing machines, fridges, and even toasters, minimalist computers are becoming ever more accessible, ever more capable, and wireless by default,” he said.
As costs reduce, Harries expects the use of helper CPUs to blossom and points to an Australian start-up as evidence.
“A near term example is Adbiddr, an Australian start-up bringing web analytics to real-world signs and billboards by providing a camera and wireless capability to count viewers, and indeed to provide demographic information to advertisers, just like an online advertiser.”
Less futuristic but still a monumental shift in the telco space, the rise of "over-the-top players" - or aggregators -such as Google, Facebook and Apple, will continue to disrupt the traditional communications model, according to Frost and Sullivan ANZ head of research, Audrey William.
“The market is witnessing an emergence of more OTT vendors offering good-quality solutions that allow consumers and office workers to use them for free or pay a minimal cost. We expect more of such players to get aggressive in 2013 and beyond.”
Finally, IBRS adviser James Turner nominates cryptography as a feature of IT beyond 2013.
“The big challenge that very few organisations are looking into is user authentication,” Turner said. “Authenticating the user to the service and the data is paramount whether we're talking about mobility and whatever device the user is accessing the data via, or a cloud service and wherever the data is.
"This means we need to shatter our current thinking around authentication and passwords. The last thing we want is to make it harder for the user to do their job, but we cannot release all controls.”
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