2015 according to the futurologists
Welcome back to Future Week on Pocket-lint. We thought we'd leave our final piece of Day 1 to the experts to have their say on what life will be like in 2015. We took five different future gazers and strategists with different specialities and fields of interest and asked them them to tell us about what we can expect from technology in 5 years' time. This, is what they said.
The Social Media Expert
Saul Parker, Face Research Director - Saul is a social media and strategist and expert working for co-creation planning agency Face. They deliver insight, plans and innovation to brands including Google, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Boots. This is Saul's view on 2015:
Ubiquitous pillar providers
The four big technology players – Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook - will continue to dominate but crucially will begin to look more and more alike in terms of their offer. By 2015 each will structure themselves around some comparable pillar services:
1) real time search
2) rich media content in the form of music and video (with free and subscription models simultaneously)
3) internet browsing
4) data manipulation tools (office and media applications)
As a result of this convergence in terms of offer, each of the pillar providers will try to differentiate around hardware (where Apple will tend to lead), relevance (a Google stronghold), access to content (an Apple and Microsoft battleground), quality of product (again an Apple and Microsoft fight) and prevalence/ubiquity (a Facebook trait).
We will see Facebook browsing and web search, Google syndication of media content, and Facebook office applications in the next couple of years.
The internet of things will continue to grow apace, and increasingly everything will have an IP address, with internet capabilities built in to electronic devices at the point of manufacture. Remote control and monitoring of household appliances is set to become commonplace in the next few years. We’re already setting our Sky+ boxes via our iPhones, and we’ll be controlling our heating, washing machines and ovens remotely by 2015.
Using cloud storage for data will extend to the point that by 2015 hard data storage will be a rarity. Using mobile devices and fixed in-home and public portals, we will plug into the cloud from anywhere to access our media content, personal data, finances and communications. Ultimately we will have something resembling our own roving IP address that we can use to plug into the system and access cloud data wherever we go.
Financial connections will increasingly take the form of electronic transfer within the cloud between people or institutions along the lines of PayPal exchange, so that traditional banks will find their role in everyday transactions severely reduced. Netbooks are the harbinger of this age of cloud living and ultra high speed mobile internet through the 4G network will make this experience a tangible reality.
Haptic navigation and manipulation
The trend for visual navigation systems as evidenced in devices like the iPhone and iPad, and browsing applications like Cool Iris, will continue to grow in significance. Cloud living is a key driver for the relevance of this trend - as our data becomes increasingly remote from us in the physical sense, tactile data manipulation helps us to retain a sense of connectedness, giving us a physical sense of interaction with our "stuff".
Microsoft is poised to gain huge traction in this space with Project Natal for Xbox 360 - a gestural hands-free gaming environment launching at the end of 2010 - and the same 3D camera tracking technology that powers it will form the basis of browsing applications to access all manner of data, from searching the Internet to surveying images.
The continued evolution of tablet technology is relevant here, as iPad style devices will become a convergent middle ground that will take over from both iPod-size and netbook-size devices, offering a combination of multi media player (audio, video, text), browsing and creativity.
The IPTV industrialist
Suranga Chandratillake, Founder of blinkx - Blinkx is the world’s largest online video search engine and its founder, Suranga Chandratillake, is an expert in the IPTV and online video space. As well as masterminding his own venture, he has also helped advise on Project Canvas. This is his version of 2015 technology:
The Million Channel Experience?
Everyone talks about the channel explosion -- in fewer than 15 years, our TV viewing options have multiplied from 5 channels, to the 500 strong cable and satellite reality we know today, and as internet television comes of age, many believe that the Web will open up a million channel experience, scattered across a vast content universe.
I disagree. My vision is of a single channel future. 5 years from now, I believe that each of us will have our own personal channel, which we can take with us wherever we go. Bid a fond farewell to those fruitless quests through 500 stations for something that interests you. The future lies in a personalised river of information and content, which flows seamlessly with us throughout our day, across a variety of interconnected devices.
In 2015 when you turn on the news over breakfast, you’ll be greeted by a bespoke broadcast which covers the breaking news and stories that really matter to you. Better still, if you’re dashing out the door, you won’t miss a thing since your mobile will automatically pick up wherever you left off.
At work, when you open up your tailored TV browser, you’ll not only find the breaking news that matters to you and your business, but there will be a host of content snacks from comedy clips to documentary tit-bits perfect for those 5-minute breaks that we all need.
Then, when you finally put your feet up at the end of the day, “Your Channel” will have automatically lined-up the latest episodes of your favourite shows, with a side-helping of sports highlights, following the teams that count and the players that you love.
This programming nirvana is closer than you might imagine. In fact, almost all the pieces are already in place.
First, thanks to the Internet, there’s potential for all content to be easily accessible and totally compatible, whether it’s professional video from online broadcast players like 4oD and the iPlayer, or UGC clips on sites like YouTube. Second, you need intelligent search technology that can both understand what is available in the vast content universe, and also capture what you want based on explicit search instructions and personal preferences inferred from your viewing history. Advanced video search engines like blinkx are the roadmap for this new content universe.
The final milestone on the road to this TV nirvana is for commercial features to become standardized and easily accessible. Progress is already being made with IAB-driven standardization of ad units, ad platforms like Vindico, and shared payment systems like PayPal, which will eventually support wrappers to content.
The driving force behind all great innovation is the desire to enhance and simplify our everyday lives. It stands to reason then that the future of entertainment lies not in an infinite maze of channels and options, but rather in tools which give us the content we want, when we want it.
The User-Interface guru
Gus Desbarats, Chairman of TheAlloy - Gus is an Oscar winning designer and engineer with 25 years experience in the field. He's worked on a huge series of key products from the Sinclair C5 to the BT Homehub. Most recently his work has included the squeezable FUSE mobile phone concept as shown off at CES 2010. These are his thoughts on 2015:
In the context of AR, it sounds spooky and futuristic to say that you'll be jogging through woods and be able to see your heart rate and your time projected out in front of you but that's exactly what will happen in 5 years' time.
There are already heads up displays for pilots with numbers projected out in front of them. Vuzix glasses, pico projectors in sunglasses and other technologies will bring it to the consumers. You can bet Nike will get in on the act with some kind of sports sunglasses dash board.
We're also going to see AR a lot more for professionals - fireman to tell them about the building structure or perhaps just temperatures and heat sensors.
It's also going to play a big part in cars of the future. The car has a lot of catching up to do. Things that exist outside it will exist inside it too. It's also a complete environment. Some high end Mercedes models already have AR in the shape of infra red overlays at night which make it easier for the driver in dark or in foggy conditions. After all, headlights don't help you see round corners. We'll be seeing a lot more of this.
There'll be small changes in price of fuel but no one's going to go around in little white pods. If it looks silly, it won't happen. People aren't going to look any different in 5 years' time. The changes are always quite simple. Think Sky+, think GPS, think mobile phones - they all fill basic needs in non-outwardly obvious ways. Always bear in mind the question: "Where is the current need?"
Wearable, soft, flexible polymer-based electronic circuits and chips are already in development. It means you can print conductors onto fabrics, so we'll have active clothing by 2015 with MP3 players built into buttons in suits.
These items will be able to scavenge radio frequency energy as well as photovoltaics which can harvest electricity from even low light levels. Our clothes will be able to power all our gadgets and be as effective as solar cells even indoors.
You can already get sneakers powered by footfall and there's going to be much more stuff like this powered locally by ambient energies - garden lights, signage. On clothes, it may be gimmicky at first with a certain amount of silliness on the high street but better versions will follow.
I think people are just beginning to get tired of social networking. There's a slight saddo side just beginning to creep through where people are getting stuck to their screens and this is going to help Facebook come out into the real domain. Again, AR is going to be a big push here whereby you'll use your AR glasses or phone to hold up to people you meet in public and take a look at tag clouds and social profiles they have.
Health is going to be a big thing on the consumer horizon. The NHS will have to get more preventative to become efficient. At the moment, it's a case of spending huge amounts of money fixing very, very sick people. What we'll see is more of a light touch. More of an every day diagnostic lifestyle becoming part of what we do. Why shouldn't your toilet do a uro-analysis every time you pee into it?
2015 will see even more old people who need to be taken care of and a need for supervision to fit with this preventative regime. So, these elderly people will need to wear sensors. They'll have clothes with accelerometers to watch for falls, temperature sensors, heart rate sensors and other indicators of health. These are the grannies of the future who are the Madonna fans of today and there will be nurses sitting monitoring 100 such people at a time remotely.
We'll probably even see the growth of DNA manipulation biology. In the end, economics will trump ethics here.
By 2015, we'll find embedded displays on pretty much everything in the home and it'll all be connected at around 100Mbps which is about right for broadband.
Smartphones will plateau. We'll already be able to consume pretty much every piece of content ever created since the year dot, so we'll all be looking for the next big thing.
This idea of the internet of things will have arrived. For example, I have an engine light in my car that warns me about something. There'll just be no need to go down to some garage to get the mechanic to figure out what the problem is. That can all be done remotely including even booking the car in for repairs automatically if necessary.
Energy consumption will, of course, be even more of an issue and we'll probably find that more devices have the ability to turn themselves off.
What there won't be by 2015
There'll no longer be jobs for people who write things down. Paper forms will be disappearing. Magazines and newspapers will be well on the way out. All it really takes are for ebook readers to be properly realised so that you can prop them up with your jammy fingers at the breakfast table and drop them on the floor and not worry about them. Content will be more important than form and you'll even see lots of these devices given away by media publishers looking to get their content to you.
The product & technology developer
Duncan Smith, Cambridge Consultants - Cambridge Consultants is a product and technology development firm based in the UK. 2010 is their 50th anniversary and they have extensive experience in developing new products and technologies including medical devices like inhalers and pregnancy tests, developing mobile and communications infrastructure and technologies to better exploit the Internet as well as brand new consumer products. This is 2015 according to their man, Duncan Smith:
What we're largely going to see are changes in technology that will enable acceleration of current trends.
At the moment there's a separation between using social networks and real world face to face. That will blur. We're not going to be live broadcasting our whole lives on Twitter but people's identity will be augmented by their lives online, linked into profiles available automatically face to face.
The trend towards cloud computing will continue. Hardware will then make computing cheaper than ever before. People will not only use cloud computing as a source of software but a trend towards aggregating content. In other words, there'll be more collaborative creation of content. We'll see a creative extension to blogs such as in the sharing of making music. Already we're seeing these trends of people uploading their music for other people to edit.
There's a strong trend towards convergence at the moment. I think this will partly reverse. Everything is an extension of mobile phones or low end tablet PCs and everything is going towards a single product, but products with distinct and specialised functions are going to come back into fashion.
For example, at Cambridge Consultants we made a key fob that could tell you at the push of a button whether your route home was going to be busy or not. No one gets out there smartphone to check when they're getting in their cars in the morning and they're already late, but you would have time to push a button and see if your usual journey will be okay as indicated by a single light - green or red.
Cost of connection to the Internet is plummeting, therefore the devices can be a lower cost and not limited in function by the Apple brand. Brands at the moment are frightened of being subsumed into the app store and reduced to an icon on an iPhone screen rather than a brand in their own right. Apart from anything else, smaller, specialised products makes them easier to use.
The developing world will probably favour these kinds of gadgets. People with lower incomes, those in harsher environments or those with less disposable attitudes to objects will find hardier gadgets designed for a purpose more useful and very very good at their jobs. Some of this will leak back into Western culture as these objects become desirable for their quality and simplicity.
As sensors become cheaper, health and fitness will see its own dedicated devices. There's already a large push to electronic patient records. Devices that connect that allow patients to be monitored remotely in a non-obtrusive way will become more available.
Doctors can keep tabs on people's health and check drug regimes being adhered to. This can even help people to become part of a social network of peers if they suffer from common conditions like asthma and diabetes. They can find support, methods of coping and even information on what drugs seem to be working. There's been inhalers already that are connected.
Naturally, there's going to be the other side of this monitoring as well. Insurance companies could check that the people they insure are adhering to medication and the government will be able to reduce the huge losses each year to the NHS of people's non-compliance to medication. That will reduce a lot of costs to the NHS.
We're going to see control interfaces go beyond gestures, especially in gaming. We will all have 3D monitors. Whether we have any content on them other than watching Avatar for the 20th time is another thing, but there'll be a UI that will allow you to move or control in three dimensions. The 3D controller will be ubiquitous. It won't replace the mouse and we won't have brain sensors attached to ourselves or anything like that but the mouse can be enhanced with maybe a camera used or a different kind of accelerator.
People wonder where their products come from. It won't just be about the ethics but checking that the products are real rather than something tampered with, be it food or drugs or anything. So, there'll be technology that enables you to check this.
It might be something even as simple as a barcode or hologram. It only takes one major problem or issue for that to become a headline and then it will be in the consciousness of everyone.
In 5 years' time, we'll be very close to 2020 when the goverment targets of energy usage have to be met. By 2015, we should be well on target. It's a tough target and it'll be interesting to see how metering will be integrated into consumer devices and it's going to be used even more as a marketing tool.
Not only will companies be talking about low power consumption but also less water consumption, less materials, less heat loss. There are already detergents that work at cold temperatures and that's just the start.
What we won't see
I would like to see the end of instant coffee but that's just a personal thing. There are increasing numbers of quick and easy ways to make good coffee and we just need that to get less expensive too. Then I'll be happy.
The desktop PC is already in decline and, by 2015, it'll just be a specialised item for gamers and maybe IT people as well. The analogue radio will not go away though.
The Mobility Expert
Ken Blakeslee, WebMobility Ventures - Ken is an explorer, investor and advisor on emerging technologies as chairman of WebMobility Ventures. When not on official business he spends his time attending the tech conferences and seminars of the world with a particular interest in the mobile space as well as augmented reality and 3D. This is his vision of 2015 technology and we'll be hearing more from Ken later in the week:
Mobile will get a lot more ‘Pushy’
Proper personalisation and context awareness are the keys to the five year transition from search (“Pull”) to just-in-time discovery (“Push). In 2015 people will have at their disposal info that enhances their awareness, well-being and competitiveness. And it will come to them in a much more natural and timely way.
Infinite Content, Apps Mobility and the ‘Cloud’
Content creators and gatherers and applications developers can take it from here, with the consumer as their constant and reliable feedback loop. Pioneers can now step back and watch their technology emerge organically inside a broader ecosystem. The ‘cloud’ will be bigger, better and become infinitely endowed with content and capability on the road to 2015 and beyond!
Connectivity to the cloud is ubiquitous globally now and will only improve and will be totally taken as a given in 2015. Bandwidth and capacity will no doubt lag demand slightly, but will fall into place as new wealth producing business models justify the investment.
People will carry less, but have more
Small is the order of the day with personal devices, but this has also caused frustration with wanting to do more but not having the input and output facilities to do so. The five senses are the key to this and the technology enablers in the areas of ear, eye and touch are developing especially well for a much more realistic and natural experience in 2015.
It is a natural trait of today’s ‘digital residents’ to acquire information in real time as needed. Making this all more timely and automatic is a natural progression from where we are today. Starting this year, mobile devices are appearing that are up to this task of doing Augmented Reality properly and a healthy installed base will be in place well before 2015.
E3 – Everything Everywhere, Embedded
More and more, connectivity will be inherent in devices, accessories, sensors and tools that we carry with us. With a powerful connectivity hub on every person as well, these devices can become much smaller, portable and wearable. The inventory of potential sensors, sniffers, peepers and ‘bugs’ of all kinds number in the thousands and are ready to be deployed into a new range of useful applications for enhancement of health, safety, well-being and total awareness.
Technology that will disappear
Also, to disappear before 2015 (hopefully) is the term “phone” as a descriptor of the device that has found a home in everyone’s pocket. The mobile device I carry has 100+ applications icons, all of which I use and only one of them is to turn it into a phone! The ‘phone’ application can now disappear into the device ready to be used along with the others as and when needed. Mobile ‘phone’ suppliers who continue to insist that the phone is the centre of the equation may disappear also!
Whether you're an expert in your field or just have some strong ideas on what you think life will be like in 5 years' time, let us know your thoughts in the comments below
If you enjoyed this article, then head over to our Future Week homepage where you'll find a collection of features on what gadgets will be like in the year 2015.