Humanisation of computing: A Copernican moment for tech
- 27 April 2012
- From the section Business
As part of the Technology of Business series, each week we ask an expert in their field for their thoughts.
James Stevenson is vice president, UK, Ireland, South Africa, for Citrix Systems. Citrix specialises in cloud, collaboration, networking and virtualisation technologies.
When Nicolaus Copernicus established that the earth moves around the sun he transformed our understanding of the solar system.
The rise in digital devices such as PCs, laptops and smartphones, that we use to access personal and corporate information on a daily basis is having a similar impact on our expectations of computing, and has revolutionised the way we live our lives.
We are now at a stage when IT is beginning to blend into the background and technology is everywhere.
Mobile devices, ubiquitous network communications, rich applications and social software are all beginning to form a natural and invisible backdrop to our lives, and enabling us to re-imagine computing so that we can capitalise on the changing way that people are consuming IT services.
Over the last few years we have become more and more "connected", and are now living in a world where there is more wireless network coverage than power grid coverage.
Currently, 85% of the world's population is covered by wireless networks while just 80% is covered by the electric grid.
As a result, we are moving into a mobile and wireless world where we are empowered by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet devices.
The availability of omniscient network connections means that we are "always online" and constantly connected to knowledge, people and things.
With just one click of a button we can summon information on our location, find the cheapest place to buy something or purchase a service on-demand.
We now live in a networked economy where we revolve around data that is accessed through a variety of digital devices held together by the web and available on demand.
However, with so much data at our fingertips, we demand relevance and the ability to instantly discover information, easily retrieve it, and manage how the information is stored across our devices.
To make sense of the growing amount of information available, things like search are becoming more social, semantic and context aware. For some, this looks like the dawn of the semantic web, also dubbed Web 3.0.
Rise of a context engine
As wireless networks continue to get faster and we access networks through various devices, we will live in an environment where everything is mobile and we seamlessly take our personality from one device to another.
However, to allow us to switch between appliances, devices need to be able to connect and communicate with each other in an intelligent manner so that users can experience a sense of continuity.
With a new generation emerging that has interacted with technology from an early age and grown up with an inherent understanding of its capabilities, we are taking control of our digital lives by increasingly customising our connections with people and tools.
Devices are also self-customising as they become context and intent aware.
For example, Google is modifying its search algorithms so it can take account of tags, likes/dislikes and other contextual information.
This is radically altering the way that we interact and delivers a new experience in which data, applications, people and activities follow us across devices and places.
The rise of a context engine means that the devices we use are getting smarter and imitating life by mirroring human interactions.
We are witnessing the evolution of an invisible computer that is controlled naturally through gestures, voice and touch from wherever we are.
User location, time of day and movement are already widely exploited by mobile applications and social networks, but manufacturers are working on many other types of sensors.
We can expect things like mood and smell to form the context of everything we do on mobiles in the future.
These senses allow computers to be more aware of the environment and respond faster. For example, smart TVs and connected cars are aware of who we are and allow us to control the physical environment around us at a distance.
Today's technology offers a consistent experience that follows us across devices, so that knowledge can be limitless, people can work and play together and things can communicate in a seamless manner.
The five Cs - connect, content, custom, context and control - effectively humanise computing and enable us to think differently, achieve the impossible and innovate.
To keep up with rapid technology expansion and create economic value, the Western IT industry needs to lead innovation and develop smart IT environments.
Technology has to be natural, relevant and fast so that we can ensure the right information is available wherever, whenever and whatever.
Only then we can take advantage of new humanised technologies to seamlessly share information and successfully compete in a networked economy.