Predicting what will define 2015, technology experts see a wide variety of advancements leading to a more interconnected world.
Each New Year we recharge our hopes for finding better, more rewarding ways of doing things. This year, more than ever, that hope hinges on significant technological advancements.
Key tech advancements for 2015 called out by industry analysts and experts from Intel indicate that computing devices and digital services will become more integral, immersive and naturally integrated in our daily lives.
Reflecting on recent years, that may be no surprise, but what’s clear from these predictions is that some of the problems we have today will soon only exist in the past.
Come Together, Right Now, Seamlessly
Today, in the United States and Untied Kingdom, each household has eight connected devices, according to Martin Garner, analyst at CCS Insight.
The dream of having one device that can do everything seems impossible when you look around and see the growing number of people using mobile phones, tablets, laptops and Internet-connected TVs. But as Garner sees it, in 2015 people will realize that services are more essential to our daily lives than devices.
“These devices lead us to the many services we access every day, but these services are becoming more important than the devices themselves,” said Martin. “The services have become the things you use, and our devices now just serve them up to us.”
Garner said that for anyone upgrading to a new laptop or tablet these days it has become critical that new devices easily access all of their services — from entertainment, personal banking and shopping to photos, videos and documents stored in so-called cloud services.
Software and Screens
As the types of devices evolve and become smart and connected, they become a natural extension of the way people live their lives, according Doug Fisher, vice president and general manager of Intel Software and Services.
“With the number of touch-points and communication paths increasing, software helps to create a unified interface and simplify that interaction,” he said.
Devices and software bring the real and digital worlds together, expanding experiences we get via computing devices to an even broader array of screens and objects.
“We’re currently living in the world of the ‘screenification’ of computational power,” said Brian David Johnson, Intel’s Futurist.
“As we move into 2015 however, we will see the next age of computing,” said Johnson. “It will be the ‘non-screen’ age of computing, where computational power will reside in the objects around us, such as GPS watches and connected home appliances. As consumers, we will capture this data and move it to a platform with a screen to analyze and draw value from it.”
Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight sees a touchscreen user interfaces becoming even more pervasive.
“It’s already rare to bump into a screen you can’t swipe,” he said.
He said the cost of touchscreen panels are dropping dramatically. He remembers the original Microsoft 30-inch surface tabletop computer from 2007, which cost more than $25,000.
“Today, an all-in-one PC is something people can buy for $500,” he said.
More affordable touchscreens could make coffee table computers more common in people’s homes, but Wood said it also means we could see more touch panels on walls and windows, on the back of seat headrests inside planes, trains, buses and cars.
The Internet of Me and Things
Big data, personalization and smart devices will grow together, according to Genevieve Bell, vice president, Intel Labs; Intel Fellow and director of User Experience Research.
“The Personal Assistant app is the next interesting arena in how we encounter the structure of the Internet, bringing the conversation all the way back to personalization,” she said. “People will stop thinking of these tools as a service, and see their device as a partner to their day.”
But the biggest challenge in 2015 is interconnectivity, according to Imad Sousou, vice president, Software and Services Group and general manager of the Intel Open Source Technology Center.
More people want to access their digital worlds regardless of device type, operating system or Internet connection.
“People are wondering what’s next,” Sousou said. “It isn’t a single platform. It’s everything. It’s the connected world.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one aspect driving integration, promising to bring efficiencies to everything from manufacturing, home and building management to government services, including public transportation.
“Over the coming years we’ll see the rise of the smart city, with the management of people at its core,” said Bell.
“Enterprises will need to be mindful of competing interests and maintain the correct balance of profit versus what is right for the citizen. Smart cities will be about asking better questions of how things are currently done and optimizing services that benefit everyone.”
Johnson sees wireless, Internet-connected technologies bringing new ways for managing essentials in our life, like food.
“Agriculture will be an industry benefitting from the connected future. Data from sensors and drones will help optimize fields and dairies, and subsequently the yields, and quality of the crop too.”
Better Connected to Health
Other areas speeding this era of integration include wearable technologies and computer vision. Advancements in these technologies could lead to a major medical breakthrough, according Wood.
Wood sees personal biorhythmic data collected from personal health trackers as potential fodder for tackling diseases and possibly pandemics, if they could be amassed and quickly analyzed by datacenters or even supercomputers.
“We don’t need to give away all of our personal data, but what if we could crowdsource some and have it mined to find cures?” he asked.
He pointed out a 2014 project that is linking wearable, cloud and data center technologies to better manage Parkinson’s disease.
There is a lot of work around alternative ways to interact with wearables to help them be less obtrusive in our daily lives, according to Michael Bell, vice president and general manager, New Devices Group at Intel.
“Touch isn’t necessarily the right interface for every wearable,” he said. “A more intelligent voice control interface could be very interesting.”
Voice commands could make it easier for more people to actively track their health, but there’s also advancements on big, number-crunching computers that run internet services and power medical research.
This year there will be dramatic reductions in the time needed to sequence and analyze a person’s genome thanks to parallelization, acceleration and better software frameworks, according Eric Dishman, Intel Fellow and general manager of Intel’s Health Strategy and Solutions Group.
“Expect new database technologies to enable vast scalability for joint analysis across large samples of human data (genomics, clinical and images),” he said, adding that industry partners will have to work together to bring this vision to life.
Technology is becoming an extension of us, driven by the fact that significantly more people are designing for computational devices, said Johnson.
“This is already happening in healthcare, where we’re building applications to help take care of the people we love.”
Editor’s Note: For more on this and other stories from the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, watch the replay of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote address.
Ruby Au contributed to this story.