Special Report – Seeing the Tech-Tsunami Before the Impact

We’re finding ways to unhook ourselves from all the physical anchors and going mobile with our work in new and powerful ways. Now, you might be thinking that mobile workers have been around for years. True, but the degree of mobility has changed, and the degree of practicality and productivity in a mobile context has transformed. As we continue to raise the bar on what this means by adding high-definition streaming video, accurate speech-to-text, and other powerful new features, we will transform the very definition of mobility. Think mobile finance, mobile health, and mobile security to name just a few.

Pathway #4: Product Intelligence – In the ’80s and ’90s, as microchip technology became more practical and affordable, we saw an endless parade of consumer goods that suddenly had intelligent features: self-cleaning ovens, motion-sensing porch lights, and car tires that tell us when they are getting flat. But that was only the warm-up. The degree to which we can now add intelligence to practically any product is about to transform our lives.

The microprocessor offers an almost infinite number of opportunities to imbue a product with intelligence. It’s not just your car that will be intelligent: the road you’re driving on is becoming intelligent, too. When I pull into a parking lot, the lot tells me there’s one space available on level three, aisle two, four cars up on the right. Soon it will also be able to tell me, “The lot is full, but hang on, some people are unloading a grocery cart on level five. Drive on up, their space will be free in a moment.”

We already have the capacity to build with smart cement and smart steel, with sensors built into them. Now we have the technology to make roads smart. Imagine a road telling you that there’s a pothole ahead, or a sinkhole forming. How can we do that? Simple: we use smart asphalt. We already have smart cement that will tell the highway department when the bridge needs to be repaired.

Any tangible thing can be made smart. All you have to do is put a sensor on it and give it the ability to connect.

Pathway #5: Networking – Telephones were the first public communication network, in that they allowed us to start sharing ideas at great distances in real time. We stayed connected by our telephone network for generations. Then came faxes, e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, and text messaging. Today, the average American teenager is capable of carrying on a dozen texting conversations at once, without losing the thread of any one of them. Napoleon was said to have routinely dictated as many as six different letters to six different secretaries at once. With real-time texting via laptop and cell phone, millions of American teenagers are now operating at twice the emperor’s capacity.

As networking increases in its scope, speed, and accessibility, we are also enlarging its meaning and application, working not only in the media of text (e-mail, instant messaging) and voice (phone, VoIP), but also in video and even 3D video. This acceleration is creating fascinating new capacities and unimaginably huge opportunities.

Pathway #6: Interactivity – Interactivity everywhere is on the rise. This is why websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are so popular: they allow us to interact. The more you interact with something, the more engaged you become.

From the days of Gutenberg onward, print has consistently been a one-way medium. A “Letters to the Editor” section of a newspaper or magazine could blossom into a moderately lively debate, but only at sedate intervals of time. Radio talk shows, with their entertaining call-in feature, provided a type of interaction. But these were small flourishes that merely decorated what has always been an essentially one-way flow of information and opinion.

No longer.

Today, social-media has rocked the foundation of the news industry. Interactivity is transforming politics and the nature and spread of democracy. It’s also transforming marketing and advertising. In the past, mass advertising was a passive experience: all you could do with TV commercials, magazine ads, and billboards was look at them. Now you can see a location activated ad using augmented reality on your smart phone and you can click on it — and that makes it a whole new ball game.