Interconnectedness opens the door to endless possibilities… The great minds of humanity have long recognized that many problems could be overcome if people dialogued with one another more clearly, and we should expect to find the same is true as we allow more and more machines to communicate effectively with one another.
As we move further into the Connected Future, we will find ourselves capable of achieving far more in less time, discovering efficiency and optimization in areas where we never thought to look. We will also go beyond doing more with less, connecting, organizing and optimizing assets consistently based on the insights we gather along the way.
This interconnectedness will reshape our world, especially with the ever-accelerating rate of technology change and shortened adoption rates—while it took 50 years for telephones to be widely adopted, it took only 1.5 years for tablets, such as the iPad®, to be adopted.
As the Connected Future continues to be realized, we can be sure that we will see not only improved efficiency and productivity derived from increased automation and improved data analysis, but fundamental changes in the way we live our lives, too. The following are seven changes we should expect:
1.) The Way You Experience Daily Life
Since technology is, in essence, an amplifier of human ability, we can surmise what greater connectivity will mean based on changes we have seen in the past. Email changed the rate at which we conducted business, as well as our expectations of responsiveness from others. Cellphones and then smartphones further perpetuated the trend.
We are not that far off from the world of the Jetsons, where George Jetson held video conferences with his boss and relied on a robot maid—after all, the world’s first hotel run by robots opened in summer 2015. Self-driving cars are no longer a fantasy from science fiction movies like “I, Robot”; they are being perfected. Gesture controls, once limited to the realm of “Minority Report” and “Iron Man,” and proximitybased communications with smart devices are now being integrated into lighting and many other fields as more sensors are installed around us. Much is changing faster than we expected on the technology front, and we can be sure that the way we conduct our daily routines will be impacted as a result—even if we aren’t Will Smith or Tom Cruise.
2.) The Way You Behave Based on Data
As we have more information readily available for our consumption, we may well find that we start to shift our habits. To imagine how technology can affect human behavior, one needs not speculate about the future—it is playing out around us today.
Fitness bands, whether stand-alone biometric devices like the Fitbit or more complex smartwatches, are an excellent example of how the early stages of the Internet of Things are taking shape. These sometimes simple connected devices don’t even have to do a whole lot to be useful; they mainly report to us about our levels of activity and sleep patterns. In this regard, they are like many of the sensors that are beginning to be integrated into industrial machines to form the “Industrial Internet”—their job, for now, is primarily monitoring and reporting.
As consumers of the data these devices gather, we then have to make a choice about whether or not we are going to act on that data. Will we choose to change our routine in order to get more exercise? The behavioral changes may not be up to the device; but the data they provide can influence our decisions as humans.
3.) The Way You’re Hired, Trained and Employed
The Connected Future will mean more than behavioral changes for those who experience it. Undoubtedly, the way we educate and train children and adults will need to change, too. We are already hearing calls for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as our world becomes increasingly technologically complex. In the future, the need for STEM majors to design, operate and understand connected machinery—as well as the software that empowers it—will be more profound than ever. Expect to see creation of high-skill, high-paying jobs for workers trained in data analytics and engineering, especially.
It has been predicted that one third of children currently in school and a full 65 percent of today’s preschoolers will have jobs that do not even exist yet. For those of us already in the workforce, our careers will undoubtedly be impacted by increasing connectivity as well, whether directly via a job transition or retraining, or indirectly via changing processes and the new technology we harness.
4.) The Way You Make Money
We are already seeing greater connectivity influencing microeconomics, empowering people to make money by reaching people they never could before. From e-commerce shops to online consulting, the Internet empowered many people to be more entrepreneurial. Going a step further, we see that the growth of mobile adoption, social networks and the creation of strong software platforms that create entrepreneurial communities are also emerging.
At the same time, data creation and analysis is also making a significant economic impact. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) expects that by 2017, the market value of data will eclipse $53 billion. The cost of not making the most of data resources is considerable, too—PwC estimates that Australia missed out on 48 billion Australian dollars in 2013 due to failure to leverage Big Data. As more and more connected equipment and people produce analyzable data in the coming years, the more smart use of data will make an economic difference.
5.) The Way You Store and Process Data
Clearly data is proliferating rapidly and increasing in value. While there is much discussion in the marketplace about how we will analyze and access this data, there’s a more pressing concern we’ll need to address first: How will we store it all? Digital storage media has become increasingly affordable over the years, and we have come a long way regarding storing more data on more compact hard drives, but will it be enough to keep up with the rate at which data creation is growing?
PwC estimates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day and that 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the past two years.
One of our current-generation jet engines produces roughly one terabyte of data per flight, and that is just a single connected machine out of billions that we’ll need to manage.
Researchers at various institutions have found ways to program DNA to function as a rewritable, longterm, high-capacity biological data storage system. According to scientists at ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, a single gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes—all the data of companies like Facebook and Google and more—and could last for millions of years. Another group of researchers at Stanford University has found ways for DNA storage systems to be rewritten as many times as necessary, offering great potential for future flexible storage applications. Regardless of which technology ends up making the most sense, it is clear that the solution to future storage needs could well lie in biological hard drive technology, not man-made systems.
6.) The Way You Secure Your Information
Also likely to shift is the way your data is secured in a more Connected Future, based on growing concerns that the growth of Big Data could lead to big problems related to security and privacy. As people and machines increasingly leave an electronic trail of activities and that mass of data is available to various business and government institutions for analysis, concerns are rising about what exactly is being done with that information. There is also concern about how safe supposedly secure data storage repositories are, especially given high-profile hacking incidents targeting individuals, retail institutions and even the United States federal government. Hacking costs the U.S. economy alone $100 billion per year and could have serious implications for national security, as well. No one questions whether cybersecurity is an issue; it is just a matter of what will have to change to address the problem.
One thing is for sure: The concept of Big Data is here to stay, so the sooner we can determine where lines should be drawn concerning data privacy and security, the better.
7.) The Way You Power Your Life
Another change we will inevitably see driven in part by the Connected Future is a re-evaluation of how we power all the technology we’re adopting. Global energy demand is expected to grow by 35 to 40 percent in the coming decades, according to various industry and governmental sources, and part of the reason is an increased demand for the equipment that will make up the Internet of Things and Industrial Internet.
In the Connected Future, we will need to learn to work with scarcity and conserve resources better. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was a shortage of labor, but an abundance of resources. Today, the opposite is true with 7 billion consumers on the planet. Besides population growth driving resource demand, we will also see emerging economies increasingly seeking the resources to advance their societies. As we deal with this increased demand, we will need to concentrate on conservation of resources through greater efficiency.
The most exciting part about the Connected Future is the improvement in efficiency and productivity on individual and organizational levels—but its impact clearly won’t end there. We have our brightest minds addressing the challenges the future will hold, and we are already seeing some of the challenges of the Connected Future transforming into amazing opportunities.