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The Speed and Future of Technology Change

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The times they are a changing

About nine months ago, while giving a presentation on the impact consumer technology is and will continue to have on the workplace, I observed the phenomena of toddlers trying to switch over TVs by swiping the screen. Why do they do this? Because their point of reference is an iPad and three-year-olds already know how an iPad works. I made the bold (or so I thought) prediction that someday channel hopping would indeed be achieved by swiping because manufacturer's like to give customers what they want - or at least what they think they want (stereoscopic 3D TV remains a solution looking for an audience in my view).

Imagine my sense of pride when I came across the spec of the latest 2013 model TV from a major manufacturer - in-built camera technology allowing gesture based control! Any self congratulation at such a feat of insight is however tempered by the fact that a bunch of three-year-olds are well ahead of me in the predicting the future game, so I'll not be challenging Nostradamus quite yet.

The real point is this. Gen Y (born after 1980) has long been predicted to be the digitally native generation who will transform traditional communication and media methods (TV, newspaper, phone) to the new wave of social media and smart phone apps, simply through the scale of their adoption. However, the world is now moving so quickly, they will be surpassed not by their children ("Hey dad, email is for 20th century losers") but by their siblings ("Hey brother, you still using that?").

There was a time when Hotmail and MSN were the main tools used by my own children to communicate with their friends. Now they are developing arthritic thumbs using the amazingly successful BBM which has created a consumer outlet for the historically business oriented Blackberry.

Change is accelerating at an ever faster pace. From the advent of the colour TV to video recorders was about 15 years. The DVD followed in about 10. Then came Blueray HD in five and 3D TV in just three. We cannot expect this to slow and it's not just confined to consumer electronics. Those who can remember Friends Reunited, Second Life and MySpace will appreciate that on-going dominance of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is by no means guaranteed.

The realities of the ubiquitous world


As the smart phone has conquered all before it with the iPhone in the vanguard of desirable devices people want rather than necessarily need, we find ourselves in an ever more connected world. Email is yesterday's medium and people directly connect with each other using chat services and social networks from their phones, wherever they happen to be.

The internet of things is also just around the corner in which just about everything you can think of will be connected - not just your phone but your car, your bike, your fridge, even your clothes! Data is exploding and deriving value from all of these data connections will become the key. Imagine watching a football match on TV that is in fully immersive 3D, for example: you're watching from within the game, at an angle of your choosing; the players' kit is fully connected so you can measure distance run, location on the pitch and passes made, all in real time; and it's all connected up to your social network. It will be a completely interactive experience. In 10 years from now, the way we consume major events, whether at the venue or remotely, will be like comparing the widescreen HDTV experience of today with black and white TV in the 1960s.

These means of interacting electronically are now so pervasive and will only grow such that our digital identity is becoming at least as important as the physical ones we are accustomed to, such as passports and driving licences. However, that digital identity is becoming fragmented beyond belief and with it comes risk.

Every time you use a new website to buy something, you enter all your details yet again. Sharing important personal and financial information is not to be taken lightly, yet it is becoming generally accepted practice - and the more people that know who you are, the more likely someone who shouldn't will get hold of that information.

In the not too distant future there will have to be a fundamental shift in how personal identity is asserted and authenticated so that only the individual has access, with all other verification being made against that trusted single source.

The digital passport has been tried unsuccessfully in the past but the need for it is becoming ever more pervasive. As with physical passports, perhaps it can only be truly trusted as an extension of that existing government service. Regardless of the mechanics, governments should surely be duty bound to protect their citizens in the digital as well as physical space, where they are spending an ever larger proportion of their time. While many won't welcome further state intrusion on privacy, some entity will need to become the trusted authority of peoples' digital identities rather than the scatter gun that exists today.

In the 80s my middle aged parents were baffled by setting a video machine so I bought them something called Video Plus, which enabled them to type in a simple number to set the recording, but they couldn't operate that either. Whether we like it or not, we are in an age of unrelenting change that continues to shape our day-to-day lives. I look forward to it, not in trepidation but anticipation. Now, where did I leave that newspaper?

Information on the impact of technology trends in the workplace can be found here - Journey 2014 - Simplicity with Control.

Guy Lidbetter is member of the Atos Scientific Community

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