May 14, 2014

The Internet of Things Will Thrive by 2025

The Gurus Speak

Some of the most prominent and respected technology experts and analysts made far-ranging predictions about the Internet of Things. Their answers:

Continuous monitoring will be a “powerful element in our lives”

Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, gave a response that touches on many of the key likely issues. “The benefit is that these appliances will be coordinated to improve our daily lives,” he wrote. “The risk is that inimical forces may gain control and create serious problems. Wearables will monitor health and also draw computers into the context of our daily lives, conversations, and activities. A big opportunity for AI [Artificial Intelligence] awaits. Privacy will be hard to come by. Barriers to the Internet of Things include failure to achieve sufficient standardization and security. Interaction modes will have expanded beyond mouse/keyboard to include voice conversations and gestures. Automatic scene analysis will allow computers to recognize objects in a field of view, identify buildings and other elements of the environment. With Google Glass, the computer sees what you see and hears what you hear, opening up serious artificial intelligence opportunities. Continuous monitoring is likely to be a powerful element in our lives: health monitoring, environment and security controls, traffic management, flow of materials. Also, note that 3D printing will bring transformation for many products: ship raw materials and designs versus assembled products. Google Glass and similar devices will draw computing power into context of your interactions with other people and the environment. This gives a new foothold for artificial intelligence. The machine becomes part of the conversation!”

It will create a world in which “people are always able to get information about essentially anything they encounter”

David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, noted, “Devices like Google Glass may become popular, or may fail to prove their worth. But in more than 10 years, I suspect some sort of device that gives a cyber-overlay on the real world will be in use. I am ambivalent about this future. Ten years ago, I would not have predicted that ‘everyone’ would walk around with ear buds, listening to their own world. Today, we see people walking around, looking at the display on their mobile devices. If some sort of projection display like Google Glass can be made to work, it is possible that the mobile device will become modularized, with a head-mounted display, separated from the processor and wireless interface and from the input device. But the heads-up display still has to prove its utility, and the successor to the touch screen needs to emerge…. The ability to put a scan tag on ‘anything’ will create a much more fluid and interwoven linkage between things in the ‘real world’ and their cyber-counterparts. This ability will provide many conveniences and benefits. By analogy, GPS has created a world in which people no longer ‘get lost.’ A scannable world will be one in which people are always able to get information about essentially anything they encounter.”

The line between humans and machines is “blurring”

John Markoff, senior writer for the Science section of the New York Times, wrote, “The concept of the Star Trek Borg comes to mind. The blurring of the line between humans and their machines is well underway. That said, 2025 will look more like today than it will look like either Neuromancer, Snowcrash, or The Diamond Age—or Accelerando, for that matter. As Paul Saffo has noted: ‘Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.’ I personally think that Google Glass is a hideous fashion statement that will come back to haunt its wearers in a cyberpunk world, where the streets remain dystopian. Speech synthesis and voice recognition will trump glasses. We will talk to our machines, and they will speak to us.”

Look for more “socially unintrusive smart devices”

Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review, observed, “We’re carrying powerful, socially accepted computers around in our pockets, in the form of phones, and it’s not clear that devices like Google Glass will be accepted in the same way. Still, I anticipate that secondary devices that interact with our phones (like smart watches and personal-quantification devices) will be unremarkable by 2025. By 2025, Google Glass will be an important tool for vertical business uses like inventory control or library services. It will not be worn for civilian use. On the other hand, almost all non-mechanical watches will be smart watches. There will be other, not-yet-invented socially unintrusive smart devices, too.”

“We will all have cyberservants”

We will eventually be able to interact via thoughts, but it won’t be common by 2025. However, verbal interaction will be commonplace. We will talk to devices in essentially the same way we talk to other people. Yes, you will be permanently connected to the network via wearable devices. You will interact with these devices mostly by voice, as you would interact with another person. Centuries ago, rich people had servants, and in the future, we will all have cyberservants.Hal Varian, chief economist for Google

“Computication” (computer-to-computer artificial communication) will emerge

Stowe Boyd, lead researcher for GigaOM Research, referred to the capability for artificial-intelligence-enhanced communication as “computication” in his prediction. “All sensors will talk in 2025, and some will converse…. A sociometric algorithm will monitor how people interact in the office, based on ID cards, and will suggest to some individuals that they are spending too much time with others and need to spend some alone time on long-format work, while coaxing others to head over to the cafe to chat with a group of engineers and marketing folks, right now … Goggles—like Google Glass—will replace flat screens … Desktop computers will be in museums, although a certain cadre will not give up their keyboards and will resist learning how to subvocalize or sign. People who talk to their goggles are considered infantile, since most people give up on that technique before starting school. Most people have wrist or finger devices that talk with their goggles, even when the goggles are off (in bed, exercising, in the shower, etc.), giving notifications, and allowing a subset of computication capability.”

Health apps will produce big changes

Jim Hendler, a professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wrote, “Health apps will be the most significant change. Things such as the Fitbit will evolve to allow passive monitoring of blood sugar, caloric intake, etc., as well as to be specialized for specific ailments in individuals—these will allow those who want to improve their heath to do so. Household objects online will have ways of being part of a broadcast network that can allow owners to be informed in case of recalls, problems, etc. Over time, there will be more direct inputs to the digital world. Technologies that can improve health monitoring will also allow a certain amount of signaling to computers—implanted chips for control will be just coming along in the 2025 timeframe (evolving in part from better prosthetic controllers), so I expect wearables, more than implantables, to be part of life by 2025.”

Healthier living through tech, peer support, feedback – but also new, traumatic illnesses

David-Michel Davies, executive director, The Webby Awards and Co-Founder of Internet Week, said, “Our overall health – lifespan, disease rate and quality of life – will greatly improve by 2025 due in large part to the Internet of Things. One of the big opportunities it will provide is the ability to close our own feedback loop – to incorporate real-time biometric feedback into our lives. Even today, in 2014, relatively rudimentary and simple apps like Nike + and 24/7 (an app that uses the Motion x chip in the iPhone to passively tracks steps, sleep pattern etc.) is supporting improved fitness and quality of life for millions of people. When these technologies are not constrained to your smart phone, but part of a powerful biometric monitoring program that keeps track of your vital signs every second of the day and is accessible to you, your personal medical community and sophisticated computational power and software that can not only help you view the information and understand it, but also compare it to vast sets of other data so that it becomes not just an indicator of health or sickness, but even predictive – we will live much, much longer…. What’s interesting to me is what happens when we look like a fifty year old at the age of 85? What happens when we have healthy hearts and bodies when we are 90? The societal implications and opportunities are incredible but also scary. One can imagine becoming a wiser society, with elderly and experienced people remaining active long after they retire today, their perspective and life experience around longer with a greater opportunity to impact the world and shape their families. A traditional three generational family extending into four generations more consistently. That is exciting! But longer lives could also mean new kinds of diseases and sicknesses, ones that our bodies have not dealt with yet because we have, to date, died before their onset. These ailments may be worst – more traumatic, more costly and more damaging to society – than the ones we face today.”

There will be “de-skilling” in workplaces and personal “anti-video firewalls” to protect people from spying

Marcel Bullinga, futurist and author of author of Welcome to the Future Cloud—2025 in 100 Predictions, responded, “There will be benefits and threats at the same time, of course. Two major areas of impact will be work and education. There will be diminished work skills … There will also be diminished educational skills: less need of knowing facts, as they present themselves on the spot in real-time on your glasses. A major global megatrend here is de-skilling—our children will learn less and achieve more. Of course, they will also suffer from major social media stress traumas. The rise of the body-as-key and the body-as-interface is highly likely because the advantages are clear in terms of better decision-making on the spot, but it will also raise major social distress, not because of the augmented reality part, but because of the video-capture feature. We will not only have Google Glass-free zones everywhere, but also personal anti video firewalls around our body, protecting us from spying.”

“Technology Shabbats” might be habit-forming

‘Can we talk?’ will have new meaning. Finally, the refrigerator will talk to my smartphone to tell it I need to order milk before I am out. Finally, my toothbrush will tell my dentist if it detects something that needs fixing. There will be ‘blinking’ instead of ‘clicking,’ of course. But what will not change is focused attention on the people that you love. I personally unplug one day a week with my family for what we call our ‘technology Shabbats.’ These will become much more essential as there are less boundaries for when people are ‘on.’Tiffany Shlain, creator of the AOL series, The Future Starts Here, and founder of The Webby Awards

The problem: “Users are just another category of things”

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, urged, “The problem with the Internet of Things is that the users are just another category of things. It is worth thinking more deeply about in the future. By 2025, the more interesting question will be how the Internet is interacting with people, not how people are interacting with the Internet. Google Glass is already part of Google’s sensory network, with all images and sounds that the user obtains sent onto Google’s servers for storage and analysis.”

There may be a “prototype” for thought control by 2025

danah boyd, a research scientist for Microsoft, responded, “We will not just be turning to the computers in our pocket (aka phones). Instead, computing will be all around us. I’m not sure that these technologies will be seamless by 2025, but I hope so. (Google Glass is, after all, popularizing technology that was first created in the 1990s and first imagined in the 1960s.) I think we’re a long way from thought-control, but there may be a prototype for basic things by 2025. And hopefully, there will be technology for paraplegics.”

In our effort to make devices easier to use today, we may have over-complicated our future interfaces

Amy Webb, a digital media futurist and the CEO of strategy firm Webbmedia Group, wrote: “We will soon have hundreds of computer-powered devices that we can command just with our voices: our phones, our clocks, our cars. Unfortunately, the future won’t materialize as it did in Star Trek, where a single galactic federation of developers and linguists contributed to a gigantic matrix of standard human-machine language to build a Universal Translator. In the real world, the people working on human-to-machine voice interfaces can’t even decide on an acronym. Depending on the researcher, it could be called SR (speech recognition), or STT (computer speech recognition to text) or ASR (automatic speech recognition). Today, we’re creating a problem that won’t be fully realized until 2025. Voice controls are being developed independently by entrepreneurs and large corporations, and that means we won’t have a single standard. This will result in our having to know myriad voice commands, or in effect, having to learn how to speak different computer dialects. There’s a push to get more uniformity across platforms, but for the most part that kind of standardization is only within a company, such as Google or Microsoft, not across all the platforms and devices that are coming into existence.”