Seven astounding technology trends for 2016

Dec. 22, 2015
Mindboggling advances put science fiction on today's doorstep

2015 was a transformative year for technological innovation. 2106 continues that technology trend with more disruption in sight.  Below is a short list of my predicted trends for the coming year: 

One -- The Internet of Things

 Cisco, who terms the “Internet of Things”, “The Internet of Everything,” predicts that 50 billion devices (including our smartphones, appliances, and office equipment) will be wirelessly connected via a network of sensors to the internet by 2020. Cisco also estimates that IoT will be valued at $4.6 Trillion for the Public Sector in the next 10 years

  •  Key Components of IoT:  Big data (and data mining), sensors (RFID, chips, transistors, analytics (predictive).
  •  Product and Service Applications:  Improving government services. better efficiencies and performance via BPO. smart solutions under budget constraints; scalability; BPO can more rapidly adapt and manage customer service for the exponential  growth and magnitude of IoT, risk mitigation. management/integration. compliance. data integrity. consumer facing digital government and responding to public need.
  •  Areas of IoT focus:  facilities and infrastructure management, industrial applications, energy (smart grid), medical and healthcare, transportation, building/construction (smart buildings), environment (waste management), water resources, retail and supply chain, communications, and education (learning analytics).
  •  Technology Trends:  automation, robotics, enabling nanotechnologies, self-assembling materials, artificial intelligence (human/computer interface), 3D Printing Photovoltaics and printed electronics), wearables (flexible electronics)  real-time analytics and predictive analytics, super-computing (faster and more connectivity), increased storage and data memory power, wireless networks, secure cloud computing,  virtualization,
  •  Policy Issues: ethics, interoperability protocols, cybersecurity, privacy/ surveillance, complex autonomous systems, best commercial practices.
  •  Benefits: logistics and situational awareness by monitoring data, i.e. traffic jams, parking management, and distributed traffic control. energy use (utilities). productivity; manufacturing, logistics, telework. healthcare; connected devices (wearables) patient monitoring vital body signs with remote monitoring capabilities. emergency management; i.e. weather incidents, crow control. security: cameras, sensors, forensics.

 Two --  Data Science and Digital Transformation 

 According to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, we produce more data every other day than we did from the inception of early civilization until the year 2003 combined. Therefore, organizing, managing and analyzing data is more important than ever.

 Big data and data analytics are collapsing the information gap and giving businesses and governments the tools they need to uncover trends, population movements, customer preferences, demographics, commerce traffic, transportation, etc. These tools can also help several industries, including the customer service by identifying caller trends, healthcare by flagging potential fraud and financial services by proactively flagging a borrower that is on the verge of lapsing in payment.

 Digital Transformation includes digitizing the customer experience, data flow, supply chain management, governance, engagement, e-government and virtual government. In its basic description, it is turning paper into electronic records. Paper-based to electronically based systems of documentation requires data collection, processing and analysis.

 The United States Government maintains one of largest repository of documents in the world. Millions of supporting documents are compiled and stored every year by a multitude of government agencies which have a responsibility to preserve, secure, and retrieve vital information when needed. While paper documents are still very much routine for government operations, the goal has been to increasingly move from paper to electronic images.

 Three -- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality technologies

 Emergent artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality technologies are no longer things of science fiction and will likely change operations in both the public and private sectors in the next decade.

 Companies are already developing technology to distribute artificial intelligence software to millions of graphics and computer processors around the world.   AI, machine learning, and natural language processing can be used to solve a variety of business problems.  AI can understand, diagnose, and solve customer problems — without being specifically programmed. 

 Augmented reality intertwines the physical and digital world by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, and sometimes even smell. Google Glass and Oculus Rift are already good examples of these emerging technologies.

 Robotics is also becoming more ingrained in the deployment of AI. No doubt this will have implication on governing, commerce, sustainability, health, and even how we fight wars in the future. 

 Four -- Quantum and Super Computing

 We have come a long way from the rather large and slow PCs of the 70s to Google Glass and paper-thin next generation communication devices. We are now at the footstep of quantum computing in The Cloud with flexible and wearable electronics. Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that mankind will be able to “expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold” and that “the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years. Recent breakthroughs in physics, nanotechnologies, and materials science have brought us into a computing reality that we could not have imagined a decade ago. 

 In November, IBM announced that IARPA, the intelligence community’s research arm, had awarded them a multi-year grant to continue research into building quantum computers. IARPA has also been working with D-Wave to develop quantum machines. Google has also been working with D-Wave and recently  presented findings demonstrating the D-Wave does perform quantum annealing, and is capable of solving certain types of problems up to 100 million times faster than conventional systems. As we get closer to a fully operational quantum computer, a new world of supercomputing beckons that will impact on almost every aspect of our lives. 

 Five -- Smart Cities 

 Smart Cities integrate transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies, and security technologies and services. The term “smart city” connotes creating a public/private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. This includes shared situational awareness and enabling integrated operational actions to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from cyber incidents as well as crime, terrorism and natural disasters.  IBM recently announced that they are making a $3 billion investment in future IoT projects and initiatives such as smarter planet and smarter cities.

 Research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates the combined global market potential of smart city segments (transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, energy, and governance) to be $1.5 Trillion ($20B by 2050 on sensors alone according to Navigant Technology).

 Six -- 3-D Printing

 Smart 3-D printing is trailblazing future manufacturing. 3-D printing connotes a three-dimensional object that is created layer by layer via computer aided design programs. To be able to print the object, the computer divides it into flat layers that are printed one by one. By printing with advanced pliable materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and graphene there have already been breakthroughs in prosthetics for medicine and wearable sensors.

 The big advantage for government is that 3-D printing can be customized, produced rapidly and is cost-effective. The possibilities for 3-D printing are seemingly limitless. Recently, Rolls-Royce announced it would use 3-D printing to make parts for its jet engines, and BAE Systems announced that fighter jets containing 3-D-printed parts are now being flown.

 3-D printing innovation is also making its way into printing electronics, sensors, and circuits. “Printed electronics” or electronic chips are fabricated by printing their features on top of thin surfaces. Using semiconducting and conductive inks and materials, 3-D printers can now print transistors, sensors, circuits, batteries, and displays.

 Seven -- Cybersecurity

 Cybersecurity, information assurance, and resilience are the glues that will keep IoT, our world of converged sensors and algorithms operational. This has become one of the largest areas of government spending at all agencies and is consistently ranked the top priority among government and industry CIOs in surveys.

 In the U.S., most (approximately 85 per cent) of the cybersecurity critical infrastructure including defense, oil and gas, electric power grids, healthcare, utilities, communications, transportation, banking, and finance is owned by the private sector and regulated by the public sector. 2015 was the year of the breach for many large corporations in a variety of private companies and in government, including OPM. According to the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), cyber related crime now costs the global economy about $445 billion every year.  The Cybersecurity Market could reach between $80 Billion and $120 Billion by 2017 Global Industry Analysts Inc.

 The impact of new technologies will certainly impact across many verticals, a sampling includes:

  • Health and Medicine --  Health- Implantable devices; (bionic eyes,  limbs),  DNA nanomedicines and delivery,  genomic techniques – gene therapy (gene therapy to enhance strength, endurance and lifespan gene therapy to enhance human intelligence), remote sensing tech (wearables),  medicine for longevity, enhancement,  real-time biomarker tracking and monitoring,  artificially grown organs,  human regeneration, human cells interfaced with nanotech,  cybernetics, exoskeletons for mobility.
  •  Transportation and Energy -- Sustainability of infrastructure, converged transportation ecosystems and monitoring, autonomous and connected cars, predictive analytics (parking, traffic patterns),  new materials for stronger construction and resilience, solar power, waste to biofuels, protecting the grid, batteries (long lasting), renewables, energy efficiency.
  •  Public Safety -- Surveillance (chemical and bio sensors, cameras, drones), license plate readers, on-lethal technologies, forensics, interoperable communications,  biometrics: Security screening by bio-signature: Every aspect of your physiology can be used as a bio-signature. Measure unique heart/pulse rates, electrocardiogram sensor, blood oximetry, skin temperature

 I have just touched on a few of the societal implications of our new technological era and what 2016 may bring. We appear to be making exponential gains in our understanding of technology and its applications. With benefits come risks and the real imperative for society is planning and adaptation or we will lose control of the promise of technological innovation. 

 About the Author:

 Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as Vice President of Government Affairs & Marketing for Sutherland Global Services. Brooks has extensive service in Senior Executive Management, Marketing, Government Relations, and Business Development and worked in those capacities for three large public corporations. He is an advisor on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation technology Partner Network. In government, he served at the Department of Homeland Security as the first Director of Legislative Affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. He also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a Senior Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter and covered foreign affairs, business, and technology issues.

 In academia, he was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught graduate level students about homeland security and Congress. He has an M.A. in International relations from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Political Science from DePauw University, and a Certificate in International Law from The Hague.Brooks is widely published on the subjects of innovation, public/private partnerships, emerging technologies, and issues of homeland security and cybersecurity.

 Please follow Chuck on Twitter @ChuckDBrooks