2015 – Technology 2015, A private view

magic-crystal-ballPolishing the old crystal ball once more brought up plenty of glimpses of what may be on offer in the near future, and if we allow the impact from new electronics in more than just computing devices  to be counted, then it is  quite overwhelming.

Sorting what may be daydreams from the items that will become significant is also a bit of a gamble, many surprises have already come about – not least the volume of Tablets and smartphones, the growth of which has been phenomenal – but there is much more in the bag of goodies.

The way we use our computing devices have also changed and is continuing to change, the introduction of cloud computing for example will go on to change the way we deal with data storage and the security  of data, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Spark’/Telecom and Vodafone were to offer cloud products to us via their ISPs just as Microsoft offers OneDrive, and Apple their iCloud, and in addition to storing your photos in the cloud you may already make use of the Office applications on OneDrive.

cloudWhat this may mean is that cloud computing will become the norm and that having applications on your computer disappears.

Mustn’t forget mobile computing in this context, especially as the mobile phones have increased their capabilities in leaps and bounds with much more to come as part of being ‘connected’ at all times. That also means that data from these devices is stored in the cloud as is already the case with Apple’s iCloud. Other brands can be expected to follow suit.

Needless to say that as these trends grow the security of data will see significant changes to other forms of verification and may see mandatory requirements introduced.

storage mediaFor our computers with the advent of new applications and larger operating systems the storage capacity demands of our devices has grown.  In 1971 the 8” floppy disks were introduced and were seen as revolutionary. The 5-1/4”  disk followed towards end of the 1970s and then the 3 1/2” disk in around 1985. The mainframe computers of the day had drives of about 2-2.5GB and when the personal computer of 1980 appeared their storage drive to start with had 5MB capacity, by the end of the 80s capacities of 100MB were common, 20 times as much. Floppies were replaced with CD-ROM, and later with DVD-ROM, and home computers with 100GB [1024 times more] hard disks became common by 2005 . Now 1 TB [terabytes, 1TB = 1024GB] hard drives are common, and Intel expects to have solid state drives  [SSD] of 10TB available for your computer within 2 years and at breakthrough prices.

sd-memory-cardQuite an explosive growth, you’ll agree, and we mustn’t forget the small SD cards used in cameras and for storage generally because  the capacity of these cards grew. When you think of the size and lightweight and low cost it amounts to being 10,000 times cheaper than the equivalent storage device of 30 years ago. Looking ahead we should expect that this development will continue consistent with the trends of the past and we already have  SD cards of 2TB capacity. A bit frightening really as it is likely that micro-SD cards will exceed the storage capacity of the human brain. Take a slightly longer view, say 10 or 15 years and a micro-SD card could have the storage capacity of 20,000 human brains.

We have already seen the internet user numbers grow enormously helped by the smartphone, and that trend is sure to continue as phones become cheaper and access easier and wider. Particularly in African countries where landlines or fixed line phones are unavailable or unreliable.

chip_on_tip_of_finger-splMaybe you remember the early transistor radios with just 2 or 3 transistors and you may have heard of ‘Moore’s Law’ which describes the long term trend in computing power history. Thus the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit, a chip, doubles every two years. This has been the case for the past 50 years or more and is unlikely to reduce in the future. Consequently processing speed of a computer, the memory capacity, sensors and the screen pixels/resolution, all have likewise improved exponentially over the years. The dramatic impact of digital electronics has affected every aspect of our lives right down to the World economy.

Intel 3 years ago unveiled a new microprocessor using 3D transistors and since then they have managed to pack 3 billion [yes, 3 billion] of them onto a single circuit. As they operate at lower voltage and with lower leakage they have managed dramatically improved performance and energy efficiency which has lead to innovations to mobile phones, household appliances, medical devices and much else.

ChipThey are now working on the nanometre [nm] process to create even smaller and denser chips which they expect to be the size of an atom within the next 5-6 years, however there are significant challenges to overcome before that is achieved. Looking further still chips may be able to be integrated with the brain, something already achieved to allow movement of a damaged extremity using only thought; Combining artificial intelligence and human ditto could dramatically enhance our cognitive and learning abilities.

The Chinese in 2010 built the World’s fastest computer capable of 2 1/2 petaFLOPS [2.5 quadrillion or to put it another way 2 1/2 thousand million million – 1015] floating point operations per second, beating the Cray Super Computer, and in 2012 IBM built another one with a performance of 20 petaFLOPS, 8 times faster,and not to the new brainbe outdone China in 2013 came up with ‘Titan’ with a clocked performance of 33.86 petaFLOPS per second, and as if that was not enough IBM believes they can achieve exaFLOPs-scale[1018] computing by 2019. Now that is a 1000 times improvement over machines of 2010. I’ll avoid speculating on where such machine power may take us in the years to come, or if Moore’s Law holds good, what may be created.

Enough of computing power and cloud storage. In 2015 we should see the focus of business turning to empowering and engaging with people through their products and through reaching people in meaningful ways. The Social media has had, and will continue to be, a significant tool in this trend where a number of critical parts such as scientific, social, emotional and spiritual trends must be balanced in order for them to engage successfully in an intelligent way with the community.

InternetOf particular interest to Kapiti SeniorNet are the techno trends, and there are great changes to come. Smart technology, connectedness, ageing of population and health issues are all impacted, and we have received the greatest benefit from smart technology through empowerment to control our lives in ways unheard of 15 years ago. We have also become more focused on what is behind a product before buying since the internet allows us to to check reviews and comparisons as well as pricing.

The Connectedness via social software has lead to people putting their trust in information delivered through or from a virtual network and forming friendships or connections across cultures and nations which will continue to grow for now. Expect also to see a more positive attitude to people living longer since the economics of the shift will require a new mindset. It also ties in to certain Health concerns which for some issues already face large, even epidemic, levels. The change here will be gradual, but the understanding of the need for a healthy body and mind may become  more widespread in the years ahead.

Glass's LawHere is another Law you may never had heard of, Glass’s Law, which says ‘that for every 25% increase in functionality of a system there is a 100% increase in the complexity of that system’. For those of you using laptops, tablets and mobile phones battery life is a serious limiter, so with the latest and new devices being ever more complex the 2015 batteries will have new technologies to provide longer battery life, so instead of recharging every day they may last 3 to 10 days for every charge.

3D printerGrant Sidaway recently visited Kapiti SeniorNet and gave a talk and demonstration of his 3D printer which he reckons will become the new toy for home use and a serious industrial device as well.  There is little doubt that as these machines become cheaper and faster than current models they will enter the mainstream of product manufacture and could in time revolutionize industry, and shipments of 3D printers are expected to increase 98% in 2015. You may have read that a 3D printer is aboard the International Space Station so if needed spare parts can be fabricated/replicated on the spot.

robot 1The technology in quantum computing, using nano computers, opens up a whole new age of faster and more complex computing which will benefit e.g. medicine, especially surgery, and also security ,and the use of complex algorithms in the development of robotics.

On the personal scene we now have the wearable gadgets, wrist worn socalled smartwatches, smart bracelets and smart glasses, and new cars may be anything up to self-drive cars or auto pilot cars. Most likely we will see an increase in electric cars and hybrid ditto, and the hydrogen fuel cell presently undergoing testing in many places may yet see these in new cars for sale within the next few years. Volvo Cars expects to be the first to put you in a selfdrive car and are presently testing these in and around their home city, Gothenburg in Sweden, so in a few years you can go back to talking happily on the phone whilst the car looks after the driving. The new generation of smartphones may be of the virtual reality kind with 3D displays, and it is known that several manufacturers are working on this.

little robots1In our old age we may yet expect to see advanced robots to assist us in daily living ushering in a new age of machine helpers – and all without paying minimum wages – and in the home technology goes on improving the life of our appliances and their capabilities with embedded intelligence; We have seen the shift to digital from analogue TV, from the old CRT screen to LED or plasma flat screens, and more changes are on the way to combine TV and computer into one – to save you getting up from the chair – and using mobile devices to control it all.

Email may also be on the decline because younger people prefer to communicate via text and social media, no more overflowing inboxes. Needless to say that mobile device usage will continue to increase because we can now offload both processing and storage requirement to cloud based servers so devices  will be smaller yet as powerful, and with WiFi and wireless broadband connections to our ISPs we are able to utilize the devices almost anywhere. Imagine a computer run from an SD card chip no bigger than a small smartphone doing everything your desktop can do plus much more.

Project glass 1The new smart technology has provided us with a number of benefits, the greatest of which has been the empowerment of the individual, and giving us the power to make choices about who we are and do, and what we want to enhance our lives.

What we now face for the future, the smart machine era, is the most disruptive in the history of computing and we need to understand what that means and develop the necessary preconditions for  the development of this rapidly evolving technology to ensure that meaningful values become the benefit of the new IT to us all.

Snowmen PyramidAs always there are good and bad, and my Crystal ball has now gone cloudy, so to finish I have a Christmas wish and that is for the intelligent use of the amazing and bright prospects for technology  2015 and further ahead, and to wish you all a fantastic New Year with much enjoyment of your present and new computing devices.

Merry Christmas.