Today, we have a much clearer view of where technology will take us over the next few years, and how it will continue to significantly alter our lives. The primary focus--per my own reading of the cards--will be on “efficacy”: products, services, systems, and software that help us get things done more quickly and more economically. The overwhelming emphasis will be on saving us time and money, and making us more productive. These are the metrics that will matter most for technology companies; those that consistently deliver the goods will make the money. Moonshots (literal or figurative) don't really matter in the Midwest; concrete results do.

I realize that simply shutting down the spam-spewing email systems of the world would be a huge advance in making us all more effective, but I don't see that happening.  I also don't expect to see many bionic-anythings, and I think we'll also have to wait quite a while for social robots and other intelligent household helpers. In fact, I wouldn't expect any dramatic advances or new "miracles" any time soon. That said, while the upcoming changes will be relatively mundane they will also be tremendously more beneficial in the ways that really matter to us.  The next several generations of high-tech advances won't be about inventing new things, they will be about making the objects we deal with in our day-to-day lives smarter, more responsive, and more helpful to us.

These developments will be driven by two well-understood considerations: (1) Every one of us is constantly connected to the Internet cloud by increasingly intelligent devices which will all compute; and (2) our basic expectations (which are forever growing and expanding) are that we will use these connected devices to provide us with what we need, when we need it, wherever we are, and without asking. This is the new world that we will come to call the Internet of Everything.

We'll make smarter choices every day about a wide variety of things based on vast quantities of better information that will be available all the time in the palm of our hands. And many basic decisions will be made quickly and automatically for us by high-velocity computers living somewhere in the cloud, based on the unimaginable quantities of data being generated by every action we take, every move we make, every venue we enter, and the trails of digital exhaust we leave behind wherever we go.

 So what exactly are the kinds of things we can reasonably expect to see in the near future? Things that will seem super cool when they first appear but which we will almost instantly take for granted?

Here are three categories of intelligent device-driven interactions that will become everyday parts of our lives.

1. Who Are You Lookin’ At?      

New Samsung phones turn off their screens when we aren't looking at them. New photo apps won't snap a picture if we're not smiling. Others won't take the shot until we signal them by making a fist. Our slabs and tabs are looking at us just as intently as we look at them.

2. Who Are You Talkin’ To?         

New cloud-connected pill bottles will remind us to take our medications, and will track just how much of each prescription we should be taking. New haptic utensils and clothes will vibrate to remind us to slow down when we're eating too fast and speed up when we're walking too slowly.

3. What Are You Waitin’ For?    

Our phones (which we call mobile "trackers" that just happen to make calls) will alert merchants as we enter their stores to send us immediate, totally personalized offers, specials, and coupons on the way into the store, when they're useful, instead of wasting paper and trees printing long receipts that never make it out of the bags once we leave.

There are many more examples--these are just brief glimpses of a future that is exciting, challenging, and constantly changing. Buckle up. 

Published on: Sep 2, 2014