By Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft UK
Although this is a much longer term trend, in 2015 we will take significant steps closer to a world of “the internet of things” where billions of connected devices surround us, tracking things like our location, well-being, as well as the state of the built environment of the world around us (from light bulbs and elevators through to trains, planes and automobiles), and those devices (or more specifically, the data they generate) are connected and brought to life by a new generation of “intelligent services”.
As we do this, something curious will start to happen – we as humans, will start to move from a world where we gravitate around the technology (i.e. I have to go to my device and instruct it to get the information or service I need) to a world where the technology gravitates around us, anticipating our needs and proactively assisting us with many elements of our day to day lives.
But specifically what are the technologies that will power this change and what might this mean to us in how we live our lives?
The Year of “mobile” (again): Every year for the last decade, some mobile device company or other has declared that _this_ year, will be the year of “mobile”. The reality has been that until now, all “mobile” really meant was being able to make crucial business calls in transit – “I’M ON THE TRAIN!” or at best, the ability to be inescapable to escape the clutches of your inbox by providing 24/7 access to your email. I’m hopeful that 2015 will be remembered as the year that finally changed, where “mobile” started to mean just that – a world of business applications providing employees access to the right information, at the right time, and crucially, in the right place.
Location, Location, Location: In 2015, through the increasing prevalence of beacons and other new location technologies, we will move our ability to track and understand location indoors. We’re all used to being able to find the location of the car park, shop or office we are looking for using the GPS embedded in our smartphone, but this technology is almost useless to us once we step inside whatever building we’re looking for. As new technologies progress and become part of our infrastructure, not only will I be able to find the office I’m looking for, once inside, I’ll be able to find the exact location of the meeting room (and potentially the person!) I’m looking for.
The rise of the office algorithm: Algorithms are increasingly powering the services we use on the internet, 2015 will see those algorithms enter the world of work, answering our emails, spotting patterns in our work and replacing “gut instinct” with cold logic. What role for humans then, in a working world where much of our cognitive capability is replaced by machines?
Wearables in the office: What happens in a world where employees wear devices that monitor stress levels, heart rate, sleep and exercise? Would employers seek to use that information to monitor their employees like insurance companies do drivers with in-car black boxes – rewarding those who exercise and sleep well or maybe spotting patterns of stress (i.e. Dave, I’ve noticed every time you meet with your boss your stress levels go through the roof!).
Flexible working for all: 2014 saw the introduction of new legislation making it compulsory for all UK businesses to put in place policies to allow flexible working for employees. Unfortunately for many though, all this really did was introduce more headaches for businesses (especially smaller companies) who found it difficult to see and adapt to the potential of real flexible working (allowing employees to choose the most appropriate location for their work every day) and instead interpreted the change as another round of bureaucracy that needed to be accommodated at their cost.
As always, these new technology trends will present their problems and challenges. None of these are new, but the new opportunity presented by a world of connected devices and intelligent assistance will make these old problems too big for us to ignore.
Context, Trust and Privacy: A world of connected devices powered by intelligent services is a world all about context. Knowing things like where I am, who I’m with, what I’m going to do next, my interests as well as who my friends and colleagues are, provides some pretty powerful context that can help anticipate the best information or service I need to make my next task successful and seamless. But I suspect as you read that last sentence, you started to pull back, recoiling at the intrusion of that kind of world might present – and that’s before I push it over the top by adding in an understanding of how much exercise you’re getting, what your heart rate and stress levels are along with how well you may have slept!.
The truth is, this kind of transformative, pre-emptive world of connected, intelligent services can only exist with access to that kind of information and the real trick for us is going to be how we are able to do it in a way that preserves and protects the rights of the individual around their own definition of their privacy and engenders trust between those providing the services and the individual providing the data. I’m convinced the key to our future success with technology lies within this crucial discussion around privacy and trust.
Security: This may seem like a blindingly obvious prediction, but I think we’ve seen a very different picture emerge in 2014 around the threat our connected world places on ourselves as individuals, our organisations, our governments and our society in general. Security is always a game of cat and mouse/whack-a-mole/arms race (pick whichever metaphor works best for you) but what I hope for in 2015 is that we will all begin to think more about the risks, and not shy away from the opportunity that technology offers, but instead be more proactive around how we minimise the threats such that we can enjoy all the incredible potential our digital world has to offer.
Finally, to bring this all together, my prediction (and hope) for 2015 is that we as humans will continue to evolve, enjoy and explore the incredible potential that technology offers, yes we will increasingly be mindful of the challenges, risks and problems that need to be overcome, but overall we will use the power and potential provided by new technologies to extend our reach further than ever before to achieve things that once we thought impossible.
Follow Dave Coplin on Twitter @dcoplin.
Tags: Future trends