ACM - Computers in Entertainment

The World of Devices is Taking Control, Needs to Be Fed

Guest Column
By Andy Marken

People go crazy over (even stand in lines for) the next smartphone, the next tablet, the next big screen; the next ultrabook; but tell them there’s a new hard drive, SSD or storage solution … they yawn. Without storage, those things are just expensive trinkets. As IDC’s latest Digital Universe report noted, during the next eight years, the amount of digital data produced will exceed 40 Zettabytes, which is the equivalent of 5,200 GB of data for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Most of that data isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s produced by things talking to things – package/shipping container devices, road toll data, computers talking to servers talking to computers…intelligent intelligence gathering devices. Things talking to things. But individuals contribute their share and that’s the data of most interest, even though IT folks can’t figure out how to centralize/analyze/use it.

You know, the important stuff – phone photos/videos, YouTube/Flickr uploads, 5K ultra-HD movies, TV shows, ATM info, security video from everywhere, CERN collider data and even business/commerce data.

Driverless Car

Government folks think those data gathering/responding devices are so great they want them to take over driving your car to … protect you.

The transportation infrastructure isn’t in place—yet, but still they’ve said we want driverless cars.New cars already have a lot of that intelligence  -- anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, forward-collision warning, traction-control, blind-spot detectors, adaptive cruise control, drunk-driving prevention, lane departure warning/prevention, automatic braking, self-parking, traffic sign/pedestrian recognition and other things because admit it, you’re a lousy driver. Driverless cars have been attempted and promoted for years, and Google’s and Audi’s driverless cars are the latest “highlight” of the technology; but still, there’s something macho about handling your own iron horse. U.S. regulators have proposed that all cars will come equipped with an airplane like black box “event data recorder” to analyze why you got killed.

The device will record everything the driver does, car speed, number of people in the car, location, everything; and will send it to a big central cloud computer to be analyzed. Not sure, but there may be a little privacy concern there. When these driverless cars and black boxes come to pass though, the insurance companies’ computers will have to fight over which one has to pay, how much and to whom. Right now, I’d just like to lighten my load and not feel the need to get a new device every time one is “unveiled.” 

 Forecasters and product managers love to talk about the Post-PC era; but folks still use their desktop/notebook computers, tablet and smartphone all the time to create, share and use stuff on their devices and in storage … somewhere. People just have an insatiable desire to get their hands on devices they can use to share information and entertain themselves. 

KPCB’s (Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers) Mary Meeker sees a fantastically rosy future for the digital device things. The Post-PC Era isn’t really here – yet, but devices are changing in what they can do, their look/feel, how you interact with them and who they report/talk to. People agree that the proliferation of devices has made us hyperconnected, and it’s still done with the standard array of computing devices. But the screen technology that we’ll see in the next few years could open new opportunities for us.  

First, the Screen

IBM has said that over the next few years, you’ll have a screen on your device that will actually let you “feel” the product you’re considering buying without going into the store or relying on some lame product description to determine if it’s what you want/need. Some display manufacturers have already designed recognition systems that enable stores to recognize key things about you so that their marketing team will be able to beam you just the information they think you’d like to see. Screens can also be produced to see objects and analyze patterns in the context of big data.

IBM pointed out this feature could also be designed into healthcare systems to identify tiny disease areas and compare them with your medical history to make a faster, more accurate diagnosis. Voice recognition isn’t anything new, but IBM says over the next few years your devices will not only be able to respond to sound, they’ll also be able analyze what you said and how you said it to make predictions based on the sounds. Parents would love this feature because then the system could figure out what the little rug rat was saying and help them respond properly. Hitting all of the senses, IBM says that “in a few years,” the device will be able to smell; and if you sneeze, it will be able to deliver up valuable diagnostic information.

Or, it might just say you stink!

The Wearables

Wearable devices aren’t new but with Intel and Apple working on the Apple Watch as well as the Samsung smartwatch, we’ll suddenly have another gotta’ have hot, sexy product category and everyone jumping into the pool. Imagine it will tell time, monitor all your vitals, check your exercise schedule and just make life better for you – and, it will be something new to show off. Healthcare (and insurance) people like the idea because it will enable them to be even more proactive in your overall health by getting that up-to-date information into their cloud and knowing exactly what’s going on and why.


But with all of our always-available, always-on technology, researchers are becoming increasingly concerned about what is happening to the human brain because of all of the multitasking and hyper connectivity. According to reports from organizations like Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, our brains are rewiring to handle the constant inundation of data. None of them can agree on whether the changes are good or bad, they’re simply taking place.

Researchers see a trend where people are spending too much time sharing short social messages, being entertained and being distracted from deep engagement with people and knowledge. So the changes are taking place because we just can’t put down our devices and spend time with just ourselves.Rather than go through this change slowly, painfully and expensively (buying a new whatever every time we turn around), we’d like to buy and install one device that would handle it all.

With all the movies that have been created showing how it is done and how it changes everything, you have to know that somewhere a bunch of engineers are working to perfect it for us. Maybe even within your company!

The one-time upgrade will then be better able to:

-       Handle an environment filled with data that can be retrieved effortlessly

-       Adapt to new information processing skills we need

-       More easily hyperlink to information based on keywords, URLs

-       Handle several complicated tasks well

-       Give us an edge in dividing tasks that need quick, accurate decisions and those that need focused, deep thinking

Of course, being constantly connected could have some undesirable side effects like innovation stagnation, individual ability to determine right from wrong or loss of essential human skills/morals.

But then, by 2020, we’re sure they’ll work out the bugs and you’ll easily handle all those Zettabytes of stuff.  




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