Technology is often split into two groups; either business or consumer facing with companies often creating separate solutions for both markets.
Despite this perceived split, elements of business technology have always moved from the business arena to the consumer market - the first PC was created for corporate use yet Forrester predicts more than two billion will be in use this year. Working in the data centre industry, the latest technology is always on my radar and below is how I visualise consumer technology in 2020.
• Data storage - For years consumers have stored data locally and externally on a physical hard drive as a backup should the worst case scenario hit. The continued growth of the data centre industry and the introduction of cloud computing has seen this begin to change, with tools such as the iCloud and Google Drive continuing to increase in popularity.
Come 2020 I predict the consumer market for external hard drives will be all but dead, with cloud storage having taken its place as the go-to solution. The ease with which data can be accessed on any device in any location with internet access is as much a selling point for consumers as it has been for business professionals and it shows the vital role data centres have to play in the consumer storage industry.
• Internet of Things (IoT) - In its simplest form the IoT connects any device with an on and off switch to the internet and this has taken off in the business world over the past few years. For example, telematics has enabled companies to keep track of driving habits, lowering fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the process.
This has already started to weave its way into our everyday lives, with apps now offering runners the ability to track activity levels and even change the heat of your house while on the move. I predict by 2020 the entire household will be connected to the cloud, offering previously unimaginable levels of insight into our daily routines as well as the ability to monitor what will become 'smart homes' when abroad. The amount of information stored in data centres will continue to sky-rocket and providers must be fully prepared.
• VOIP - Video conferencing has been a mainstay in the business world for years, especially for international businesses where face-to-face meetings are often untenable. The likes of Skype have proven successful in the consumer market, highlighted by Microsoft acquiring the firm in 2011 for £5.2billion.
VOIP has already become the voice technology of choice, and its rate of adoption was much faster than predicted. In 2012, Ovum predicted 6.9 per cent of voice revenue will come from VOIP - with the growth witnessed over the past three years, the reality may be much higher than this. By 2020, there will be no other voice transmission technology.
• Driverless cars - Not so long ago, the thought of driverless cars would have brought images of classic sci-fi movies rather than reality, yet last year it was announced fleets were being tested on our roads.
Although the current Google model wouldn't pass a driving test - it reportedly can't reverse, parallel-park or respond to sirens without human assistance - it is only a matter of time before such issues are ironed out. The likelihood is this technology will first be used by businesses but if successful within five years it's likely this will have reached the consumer market too. Technology is not the major holdup however, but legal and consumer acceptance. What happens for instance if a driverless car runs over a child who steps into the road - who is responsible?
It's clear the internet and cloud computing will continue to play an increasingly vital role in our everyday lives and the reliance on high quality data centres to ensure no downtime is suffered will never be more important. Data outages are already crippling for businesses and consumers alike, but imagine the impact of a cloud failure in 2020; cars losing control, smart homes crashing and no access to your personal data. An IT apocalypse.
With the continued innovation found in the data centre industry, consumers and businesses alike can rest assured the worst case scenario will never happen.