The lifespan of technology is such that it’s hard enough to buy a computer that will last you more than three years, let alone be state of the art after 6 months. So when Gartner Group – an information and technology research and advisory firm – releases their “Top 10 Technologies” list, it isn’t for “the next decade,” but rather “for the next four years.”
Such a list has just been released by the world’s leading technology research center, and appears below.
1. Multicore and hybrid processors
2. Virtualization and fabric computing
3. Social networks and social software
4. Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
5. Web mashups
6. User Interface
7. Ubiquitous computing
8. Contextual computing
9. Augmented reality
Now even for me, some of these words are fine on their own, but when compared to each other, or to technology, I get a little baffled. So I’m going to go through them one by one, and see what they all mean.
Multicore and hybrid processors
The most popular and widespread use of multicore processors at the moment belongs to the Intel Core 2 Duo and Quad Core chipsets that are bringing processor speeds in retail computers up and up. The future of this will see computing speeds continue to rise as we move in to the realm of 8 cores, and up. And while there aren’t really any retail programs that are going to make much use of this, the science community and other such groups will be able to make the most out of higher processor speeds.
Virtualization and fabric computing
Virtualization is, in one example, the ability to run Windows Vista applications on a Mac laptop running Leopard. It allows for programs from two operating systems – with their pros and cons – to be used on the same computer, without the need for a second box sitting around, and without the need to emulate the hardware. (Thanks to my friend JB for helping me work this one out.)
Social networks and social software
This is not a category that needs much in the way of explanation. However its uses will, eventually, grow to expand past the frivolous and social uses that we see in sites like Facebook and MySpace.
Programs like Second Life are already hosting business meetings, and websites like LinkedIn is providing people with the means to get in touch with people within their own fields, businesses and groups.
Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
Cloud computing is definitely going to be a big part of our future, and well beyond four years as well. The theory exists that we will not necessarily be hosting our information on one computer or device, but rather in the clouds – over the internet or whatever process follows – and are thus accessible via our work computers, home computers, personal devices and all over.
The best example of a web mashup is provided by Google Maps, which combines two web services – in one instance, Google Maps and real estate information – and combines them to provide you with real estate information on Google Maps.
So, in essence, it’s the combination of two web services to create a new and more useful application.
User interface, or UI, is definitely going to shift over the next few years. Bill Gates has just been quoted as saying that the mouse is going to be obsolete in a few years, replaced by touch screens. The iTouch and the Microsoft Surface are examples of the touch screen technology that Gates is referring too; using your fingertips to control, resize, move and change anything from images to data sets.
Want your fridge connected to the internet so that it can order the milk when it goes bad? Want to turn on the lighting or heating when you are on your way home from work? Want your life to be interconnected by the devices you use? Ubiquitous computing is also, funnily enough, called pervasive computing.
In addition, it means that, akin to cloud computing, your information can follow you from device to device. JB – who has helped me out with this article – describe that he wants “the football game to follow” him around. In other words, he sits in the car listening to the audio of the game, walks in to the house to his TV where it is then on, and then upstairs to his computer where it is then on.
This is basically the idea that your computing devices will be able to perform based on whatever context you find yourself in. For example, when you undock your laptop from your work dock is it 12pm or 5pm. In other words, are you heading to a meeting – and thus don’t need anything special – or are you heading home, and thus need your calendar updated and emails checked?
This is also going to be used for mobile devices such as your phone. A recent grant was provided by Google to students at MIT for developing an application for the Android platform, that allowed the device it was on to sense whether you were outside, in a meeting or at home, thus allowing the device to swap profiles accordingly.
We’ve often seen examples of this in futuristic movies. Those people wearing the goggles or with the contact lenses that pop up video calls, text, pictures, etc, that’s what we’re talking about when we use the term augmented reality. It’s basically augmenting your real-world reality with technology. (Thanks again to JB for help with this.)
The semantic web is a term that is being thrown around a lot these days, and is, and it’s most basic level, the ability for a search engine to understand what you are talking about. In the future, the ability for a computer to understand what you are asking it – within context, rather than just by popularity as most search algorithms are based – will enhance our ability to get our work done quicker.
If you want a very basic concept of what Gartner are suggesting, then it is basically that technology in the future will make us all very lazy. It could be spun to say that we’ll all be more efficient, but I have a deep and intricate relationship with humanity, and I know that those who choose efficiency over laziness are far and few between.
Posted by Josh Hill.