What Will The Future Of IT (And Technology) Look Like?

At a CIO roundtable that Forrester held recently in Sydney, I presented one of my favourite slides (originally seen in a deck from my colleague Ted Schadler) about what has happened r.e. technology since January 2007 (a little over five years ago). The slide goes like this: 

Source: Forrester Research, 2012

This makes me wonder: what the next five years will hold for us? Forecasts tend to be made assuming most things remain the same – and I bet in 2007 few people saw all of these changes coming… What unforeseen changes might we see?

  • Will the whole concept of the enterprise disappear as barriers to entry disappear across many market segments?
  • Will the next generation reject the “public persona” that is typical in the Facebook generation and perhaps return to “traditional values”?
  • How will markets respond to the aging consumer in nearly every economy?
  • How will environmental concerns play out in consumer and business technology purchases and deployments?
  • How will the changing face of cities change consumer behaviors and demands?
  • Will artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and capabilities completely redefine business?

At our upcoming CIO Summits in Singapore, Sydney and Delhi, we will be discussing the disruptive technologies that exist today and the ones we believe are around the corner. If you’d like to attend one of these events, please reach out to your account manager, or let me know and I will pass your details on to the event organisers.

So here's my guess about the future: Forrester has defined the current age as “the age of the customer” (see figure below). I believe the next age is “the age of the machine”. This will be the real era that will take technology to the core of everything and remove humans from all sorts of processes. What the world will look like in that era I would not hazard to guess.

Source: Forrester Research, 2012

So what are your thoughts? What are your big calls/guesses/predictions? There are no dumb answers here so please feel free to add your ideas below. This could be your chance to get a prediction published so that in ten years’ time, you can say “I told you so”…


The world will only need five computers

OK - to kick off the predictions, here is one of mine. I know from the outset I am wrong, but bear with me here... It was reported (incorrectly as far as anyone can tell) that IBM CEO Thomas Watson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_J._Watson) stated that there will only be a market for five computers. Apparently there is no evidence he said this - but none-the-less I am going to run with this crazy prediction. Ignoring the fact that there is "computing power" in our pocket, cars, on our desks, in our vacuums (well - my Roomba!) etc, there is an argument that all the "intelligence" in the computing will move towards the cloud - and economies of scale - both from an infrastructure and an information standpoint - suggest that the fewer "clouds" there are the better. i.e. if I were to set up an online gaming platform today, would I leverage an existing cloud or set up my own infrastructure? I know what I would do. Perhaps there will be more than five "clouds" as there will be demand for graphical intensive clouds, general computing clouds, secure clouds etc - and each of these will have their own competitors. And the age old argument about data residency WILL go away as they are only based on regulations written before the internet existed. So what do you think about this? Will we see a gradual move towards fewer computing mega-platforms? My guess is that I will be physically wrong but conceptually right. Like in the ISP world when we predicted that there would be massive market consolidation and there would only be 10 ISPs, we were wrong - there are still many ISPs - but 98% of customers sit on five of them. There will probably be many clouds, and hence many computers - but 98% of all transactions and interactions will go through five of them.

The Future of Life

Tim, good discussion. The one that grabs me will be the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and capabilities. If we accept that much of what is done today by the computer systems that are used in business (in particular but this also applies to our private use as well) is to "automate" tasks then I think we will see a greater role of AI systems going far beyond what we can think of today. So maybe the growth of our "personal" agent, self generating applications that are a bit like your Roomba and learn as they are used, or "services" that are based on efficiency and just some examples. I think the possibilities for what can be achieved by intelligent devices, driven by smart software, that is in the Cloud and available on a user pay basis, represent some of the most exciting developments with scope to acheive so much.

Hi David - thanks for your

Hi David - thanks for your comment. I agree that it will be exciting, particularly in the short term - and the impact on IT departments will be bigger than anything that has come before. How do you deploy IT that is as intelligent as you are? In reality you don't. The computers make the decisions, they write the software and design the code to drive the outcomes that you, the customers, the shareholders want. In fact how do you even get competitive advantage in the age of AI? Will you even need shareholders? While this new age will take some time to materialise, we will have to prepare for it - but how do you prepare for something so monumental? Either way it'll be a hell of a ride!

Biometrics Will Finally Go Mainstream

Last week, Apple acquired biometric security and authentication firm AuthenTec for US$356 million. As it has done in other markets that were stalled, I believe Apple will help biometrics go mainstream with easy-to-use and elegant solutions tied to its smart phones and tablets. I can easily see m-commerce get an Apple-sized shot in the arm along with other services that would benefit from two-factor identity security. The app and analytics possibilities spawned by this explosion would be exponential.

Security technology will evolve for enterprises and consumers

With numerous access methods through thousands types of devices from human beings and probably tends of thousands of ways for M2M connection, the way we manage the security of the corporate data must evolve. The key for enterprise data security will be enhanced access control technology. For the consumer market, it is equally important for managing multiple user credentials with each website they go to. Therefore a secured and centralised personal identity and access management will be on top of the agenda. Intel and many other vendors have been working on both hardware and software based identity & access management solutions. We may see a couple of them may become mainstream in the next couple of years.

I like the "community" approach to security

Thanks Bryan for the comment - I agree that we need to manage our security in better ways. Ignoring the technical challenges to this approach, I like the concept of "user controlled security" - so in the same way that on Google+ and Facebook I can control who sees what, in the organisation I control who sees what information, and customers control who sees what information (i.e. a banking customer may choose to share their top level banking information with their accountant &/or partner, a business analyst may share information on project A with those team members and project B with the members of that project) - the concept being that the security levels are not controlled by someone on high, but by the owners of the information or data. Then the emphasis is on education, governance and individual KPIs to ensure the employees behave in the correct manner. The specific security we use to secure and give access to this information is yet to be determined, and this is where I believe the tech that you are referring to may find a home. Either way, I believe that our current models of security are broken - so we need a new approach to security both from a consumer and enterprise standpoint.

Balance power with technology

We are witnessing a power shift driven primarily by cloud computing, social networking, wireless mobility and the proliferation of devices. Businesses are no longer in control: it is the customer who wields power now, thanks to the broad sweep of technology. There are four vectors of change involved here: Machine-2-Machine interaction, semantic web, user experience and security. These changes need to be managed "responsibly" and "sustainably" in order to allow technology to make our lives richer and simpler. Some more thoughts on how technology impacts our lives - personally and at a business level can be found at http://www.wipro.com/Documents/insights/Balancing_Power_with_Responsibil...

- http://www.twitter.com/WiproInsights

Great post.. with one major caveat!

Good discussion Tim, thanks for kicking it off. I agree with most of the points shared, but have a major issue/concern with your future prediction, where you state:

"I believe the next age is “the age of the machine”. This will be the real era that will take technology to the core of everything and remove humans from all sorts of processes."

From an economic, political, and cultural perspective I'd argue that technology was, is and always will be a means to an end. Although there are probably loads of examples that contradict this statement. So let's qualify this slightly and say technology 'should be' a means to an end.

Hence predicting 'the age of the machine' sounds misguided (and extremely depressing) to me. Technology will indeed be core to (most) everything, but will mainly serve to increase abstraction. In other words, remove manual, human intervention from tasks/processes where it's not needed. The more embedded machines are, the more humans should be free from limited value-add activities, and the more we should be able to focus on what's really important, which is both ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.

I therefore submit that the next stage after 'age of the customer' will be the 'age of community', where human relationships (with each other, our environment, the companies we buy from) will evolve dramatically, driven in large part (but not defined by) the machines you mention.

Opportunity to contribute content

I find this blog post interesting and very much in line with the message we are working towards for a campaign. Would you be interested to contribute?