On the cusp

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7 October 2016 | 0

Paul HearnsTechnology is a funny old game.

No matter how informed you are on a topic within it, stand still for five minutes and you are out of date. And yet, with the constant horizon scanning that is required in the business, there still occurs, from time to time, a feeling that something is about to happen, that something momentous is about to take place.

Like the augur counting omens, every now and then, one realises that various factors are developing to some kind of singularity or tipping point that will herald a new age, and the death of an old one.

The speed with which such things can occur is startling. Having been at the helm of ComputerScope and then TechPro for more than 10 years now, I’ve seen several. The rise of ubiquitous 64-bit computing from about 2007, the advent of the smart phone (not as many would have it from the launch of the iPhone) in about 2004, the advent of Service Oriented Architectures from about 2008 and the emergence of hypervisor virtualisation from about 2003.

“Users will be addressed personally, their preference learned and applied and their likely choices anticipated and pre-fetched. When a decision is made, various threads will collapse and systems will re-calculate, like an ignored satnav, applying all of the power of the system to anticipate, correlate, predict and advise”

These latter developments in particular have been the foundations of what is now called cloud computing, itself a term that only really emerged in about 2008.

All of these developments were characterised by the speed at which they utterly changed the landscape of technology.

Moves afoot
Looking around now, the major silicon manufacturers are all talking about fundamental changes in technology for their next moves, not some incremental gain or manufacturing benefit. Major cloud providers are building intelligence and different compute capability into their platforms to underpin a new wave of applications that will integrate intelligence and machine learning. The whole realm of IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT) promises new sources and volumes of information to play with, interpret and benefit from.

There seems to be a whole raft of developments that are poised to come together, perhaps in an as yet unforeseen way, to be a marker for a new era.

That era will be marked by automatically scaled services built around applications that are aware, intelligent and analytical, and able to draw on disparate information sources to provide a rich experience for the user, irrespective of their needs.

It does not matter whether that system is an ERP system serving data from the core of an enterprise to a user in meeting room on the other side of the globe, or traveller in a far flung place looking for a recommendation for the nearest food stand, the combination of connectivity, information availability, interpretation, context and analysis will be able to provide experiences like never before.

Users will be addressed personally, their preference learned and applied and their likely choices anticipated and pre-fetched. When a decision is made, various threads will collapse and systems will re-calculate, like an ignored satnav, applying all of the power of the system to anticipate, correlate, predict and advise.

Not so good
While elements of this have all been in place for a while, we have all had the experience of when it does not quite work as well as it should.

I researched a particular consumer item recently and, due to its distinctive nature, has left me bombarded by web ads for similar every time I open a browser, at work, at home or on the go — a truly seamless experience.

But the rich experiences of the future will be based much more around the personal assistant approach, but it will apply as much in the business world as the consumer.

At our recent TechFire on the topic of working better anywhere, Richard John of BAT described how a roll out of new end user technology was treated as a B2C project, not a B2B. This was a fundamental shift in how users were served and interacted with in such projects.

Consumer view
This type of personalisation changes how people interact with technology and goes far more toward the idea of enablement and empowerment than ever before. In his recent address to the Tech Gathering in Dublin, Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said “it is not about technology, it is about what happens with our technology in the hands of our customers, our partners, whether they be small business, multinational company, entrepreneurs or the public sector. How they can transform using technology and achieve more, is at the centre of who we are as a company.”

However, all of this is only possible through the developments mentioned, and delivered through cloud and mobile, underpinned by information, intelligently applied.

So with users now being treated as consumers, and served with intelligent applications, with scale and availability undreamt of previously, from vast and varied information sources intelligently sorted and interpreted, who knows what will happen next.

In the same way that recent developments produced a giant transport service provider that owns not a single vehicle and an accommodation service provider that that owns not a single room, and now food service providers that prepare not a single ingredient, what new businesses and models will emerge from these developments?

I’ve not a clue. If I did, I’d a be a star-up rockstar heading for Lisbon, not an old hack sitting here writing this.

 

 

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