Here is a collection of buzzwords to conjure with; cloud, mobile, Big Data, consumerisation, Something-as-a-Service, wearable tech, Internet of Things. Almost certainly terms you have heard individually before, almost certainly words that each have a different meaning to each of you and doubtless, in isolation, representing major shifts in the technological landscape.
Taken as a group, these technologies are more than major; they represent the biggest revolution in information technology since the inception of the World Wide Web. Possibly even the biggest revolution in information consumption since Johannes Gutenberg carved his first brass matrix more than half a century ago.
The technologies in question have developed discretely over the past few years, although of course most of them predate their current associated “phenomenon”. The concurrent rise of other assisting technologies has acted as a catalyst and brought us to the edge of the future; virtualisation, abstraction, IPv6, and rapid expansion of available bandwidth to name the most important.
The burden of processing and storage is moving to third party-providers, PwC’s Global 100 Software Leaders report found that SaaS now makes up at least 40% of the revenue of 10 major companies listed as Global 100. Enterprises and increasingly consumers pay for computing resources as they use them rather than in advance, data moves from local and discrete to remote and correlated, content is increasingly served to the user based on the preferences and history of the person making the request. Ever more data is collected, physical, geographical, historical, technical and personal. Our technology accompanies us wherever we go and impinges on ever more aspects of our real-world life. The massive expansion of address space afforded by IPv6 facilitates the rise of the connected everything, from light bulbs to ski-goggles, watches and eyewear are all being used both to convey and to collect information. Power is shifting from corporate IT and purchasing departments, from enterprise technology vendors to the individual, the expense account and vendors who established their reputation in the consumer space.
In the very near future we will begin to experience the physical world through the filter of the web. Innovations such as Google’s Glass and its descendants or the intelligent HUD in the self-driving vehicle will ensure that we never lack for information tailored to our personal requirements, delivered on time and in context. The web will no longer be a reference resource and a mouse and keyboard experience, it will be overlaid on everything we do and everything we see and touch. And the risk is that, for the first time in history the web will begin to shrink our horizons rather than expand them. Content will be delivered based on everything that we have looked at before; service providers will increasingly filter out information that our preferences indicate does not interest us, when this is overlaid on real-life even physical content may be masked if our Content Service Provider’s cloud as calculated we would rather see something else. You’re an athlete, with no interest in bars? Fine, we’ll just cover that building with a digital advertisement for these funky new running shoes...
With this increased personalisation will come an increased desire for the possibility of anonymity, or at least an increased utility for multiple alternative internet profiles, social networking, family and friends, your gamer profile, government and various financial profiles will all have their place, as will a mechanism for switching between them securely and effectively. Of course in the wake of this tectonic technological shift will come a wealth of criminal opportunities. The challenges of responding to this concurrent exodus and deluge of information will dwarf the current challenges raised by consumerisation. In our personal lives and in business we must operate with one eye on the future attempting to anticipate not only the business advantage but also the potential pitfalls of new technology as it emerges.