2040 Digital Landscape

A Technologists Perspective

I was recently asked to provide some insight into where the digital landscape is heading in the next 25 years.

25 years in technological terms is a very large leap into the future.

So in order to understand where the digital landscape is heading, first I’d like to take a look at where the digital landscape has come and where the relating technological landscape that has brought it thus far is heading.


Evolution of Digital Landscape

Digital media has progressed at a phenomenal pace in recent years due to the evolution of communication technology and the convergence of technology with easy consumer access, opening up a world of interactive media allowing consumers to engage with a brand in a way that traditional media could never achieve.

Digital media has come far from its meagre beginnings at the dawn of the internet age which gave us the word wide web, home to thousands of ‘passive’ websites where ‘interactivity’ was only a hyper-link between passive pages.

At the same time the web was becoming popular, email was being used as a dynamic medium that enabled direct communication between consumers and businesses.

But it wasn't until ‘search’ became part of the user experience that the digital revolution really started to take off, with the arrival of social media, forever making the digital landscape truly ‘interactive’.

The phenomenal acceptance of social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, et al, is an indication of how well connected users are across multiple digital geographies.

The ‘digital experience’ has turned users into active participants, circulating relevant, useful information and influencing buying decisions. Coupled with the convergence of mobile technologies and smart devices with location-based services, real-time interaction has pushed to the forefront of the digital landscape.

Since consumers are interacting through multiple digital channels, they play a critical role in building or destroying a brand’s reputation. But equally marketers can gain insight into the nature of information being accessed and shared, making it easier to identify the most relevant consumers and understand their behaviour in order to target the right audience and deliver the intended message.

Relevancy and velocity of data has become central to both the user and the marketer in todays digital landscape.

The evidence

In order to analyse the state of technology in 2040 we can use many contributing factors however I believe the 3 most important factors are:

  1. Current technology and trends
    During 2015 the Internet of Things has gone from a catch phrase representing mobile devices and the proliferation of sensory onto the public net to a technological trend that is disrupting business at the core, shifting the fundamentals of business models to a data centric model.
  2. Moore’s law
    The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In essence, we have a model for the miniaturization and processing power of Micro Processors, the very core of computing technology (smart devices).
  3. Technology over the past 25 years
    The year 2040 is 25 years from this year of 2015. When looking into the future to predict what will happen, usually the most relevant place to look is the immediate past, in this case the past 25 years.
    From the past 25 years we have seen the creation of data telecommunication which from its beginnings as the Arpanet has given rise to the Internet of today, at only 23 years old.
    From the birth of the internet we can see a steady shift in the interaction of Business-to-Business, Business-To-Consumer, Consumer-To-Consumer, and more recently thanks to social media Consumer-To-Business interconnectivity, through to the creation of “smart phones/devices” with the first iPhone being only 8 years old, born in 2007.

If we follow the technological shift of the immediate past 25 years of communication technology, interaction and data access and collection, and look at the current technological trends, thinking about moors law for the continuing development of current trends,

‘ it is safe to predict that the IoT or IoE is not a passing phase, and at this time is more akin to the dawn of a technological revolution. ’

Evolution of Technology: On to 2040

The Internet of Things (IoT) in the last few years has gone from a catch phrase describing the internet connectivity of smart devices to a revolution of business offerings and services centred around deriving data from every day objects.

The IoT will continue to grow, imbuing previously inanimate objects with a life of sensory and data collection, until the Internet of Things evolves into the Internet of Everything (IoE).

With everything being a source of data, in essence the urban environment becomes a living breathing entity of continuous data streaming.

Accessing this vast array of data from enchanted objects will shift away from direct or search based list access into the contextual provision of information through both personal digital assistants and inherently in the way we interact with these objects and the environment. In many cases we will be digesting information and not even realize it, due to the visual or tactile interaction of an object.

“Enchanted” object, a phrase coined by David Rose, represent

technology that atomizes, combining itself with the objects that make up the very fabric of daily living. The Enchanted Objects of fairy tales and science fiction will enter real life.

The following three “enchanted object” examples demonstrate a basis of interaction by three different means.

Umbrella

Imbued with temperature and barometric pressure sensory as well as a wifi connection to the IoE accessing local weather data from local weather sensory. When rain is sensed a ring of blue lights around the base of the handle softly glows. Hanging at the door, the owner of the umbrella upon leaving the building immediately knows to takes ones umbrella, as it is or will soon rain.

— Visual indication

Fork

Imbued with a micro accelerometer and IoE connection, while using the fork to eat, the fork is streaming speed and repetition data to the users Personal Device (no longer just smart phone, as most devices at this stage are “smart”). The data provided to the users personal device is used in conjunction with other data from other objects which create a picture of the users dietary habits and health. The users personal digital assistant aggregating this data provides health and fitness suggestions to the user… in the case of the fork, to maybe slow down between bites and chew correctly.

— Aggregated usage data

Traffic & Street lights

An enchanted traffic & street light imbued with a wifi connection to all other traffic & Street lights relies on the data being broadcast from vehicles on the road and a shared processing logic between Traffic & Street lights that can change colour to maintain the constant flow of traffic based on the incoming number of vehicles in conjunction with the time of day (peak or off-peak) rating of the road (major to minor roadways). As well as the ability to change traffic conditions, at night on the street lights that have vehicles within the vicinity will remain lit, in order to conserve power consumption.

— Environmental interaction

A Jump into 2040

As can be see in its early stages, some of the larger technology companies are beginning to embrace the world of Augmented Reality (AR) as a platform for assisted education and data driven interactivity.

AR will become a much larger medium, in many ways replacing traditional screens and devices, to interact with information contextually…

In the next 25 years, digital will very much go beyond the current traditional display methods, to include augmented in a much more interactive and shared experience. While Users interact with each other, their environment and with brands on a much more personal and highly contextual level than the “tailored personal experiences” of brands today.

Conclusion

While data or ‘Big Data’ — the analysis of large amounts of structured and unstructured data to find relation and relevance — has been the focus of recent years, the technological landscape will trend towards ‘people’ being the central focus as technologies that are in their infant stages such as the IoT, machine learning, wearables, autonomous vehicles, brain-computer interface, human augmentation, people-literate technology and virtual personal assistants all work towards enabling and empowering the individual into an interconnected community that blurs the boundaries of the physical and virtual world.

Following the lead of the technological landscape, the digital landscape will adapt to enable the blurred boundaries of technology and biology and physical and virtual through interaction with augmented and virtual reality, and volumetric and holographic display.