The future after Cloud and Mobile!

Cloud and mobile might look the future, as the world is moving rapidly to these technologies. However, it’s only an intermediate step to the next wave of technologies. Let’s take a closer look on what could be the future beyond today’s promising technologies of cloud and mobile.

Cloud Computing is a delivery model of technology, where the use of information technology is provided over the internet. This enables users to access technology-enabled services from the internet (‘in the cloud’) without knowledge of, expertise about, or control over the technology that supports them.

As described in my previous publications, cloud computing is the third wave of computing, characterized by two developments: (1) consolidation of technology, and (2) sharing of resources among different users/applications on the same platform. This results in less infrastructure, software, and consequently lower operational costs. The industrialized delivery model of cloud turns technologies into a commodity. If we look to the graph I used before, you might ask yourself if cloud computing is going to be the ultimate and final delivery model of information technology. Or, what’s the next shift in technology that’s going to trigger a new wave with associated superior increase in performance versus costs?

Wave four

Mobile technologies leverage the omnipresence of the internet combined with access to information and services in the cloud. The growth of wireless access to the internet combined with the growth of available information and services is boosting the development of mobile technologies. Also here, what’s next?

Though Cloud and Mobile are still growing, the key questions are: what is the future after cloud and mobile have become mature? Which innovations will drive the next wave of information technology? Being home for a year caused by a scattered leg gave me enough time to think about these kind of ‘philosophic’ questions. I came up with three drivers impacting the way we will cope with information technology in the future. These three drivers are (1) data and service unification, (2) integration between the human being and the technology, and (3) cognitive capabilities of computer systems. Let me explain these three drivers.

The first driver is the data and service unification. Looking to the current evolution of cloud computing from a technology perspective we see a maximum sharing of compute infrastructure and storage, network, to some extend middleware services, and the associated human services. Looking from a data and service perspective this is becoming a whole other story. Data is getting scattered and replicated multiple times, so though we optimized the use of storage with cloud, we keep burdening storage due to scattering and replicating of data. Let me illustrate this with a simple example. Your own personal data (for example your name, address, and contact details) are stored by each service and there is a continuous challenge to keep all these copies actual. Ideally this would be stored once, kept updated, and all other services would reference to this single source of data through a unique reference. Of course, this requires access control and security. Standardization is key to get to this point. This requires a single representation of information in format and more important (and challenging) in meaning. Your personal data is only a small piece of data compared to what is stored on the cloud, needless to say the level of optimization that can be achieved. The same occurs for services as the same logic is implemented over and over again by each application. Let me illustrate this with another example. Financial applications calculate the applicable VAT and this algorithm is implemented by each application provider. Every change in legislation requires implementation in the applications. A single service could provide this as a service for all applications, thus implemented once, and kept updated to reality. Standardization of data and associated services can simplify application development and maintenance. Further standardization combined with current technologies such as service brokers will underpin this evolution. Once this is achieved the network becomes the core of the future computer!

The second driver is the integration between the human being and the technology. Over half a century the communication between human beings and computers evolved from punch cards over text terminals to a wide variety of graphical devices. Additionally, over the past decade developments enabled interaction through audio using text to speech and speech to text technologies. The entire interaction remains a slow process, limited by the speed a human can type (or speak) and read (or hear). Developments in bionic technology show novel alternatives to interact with technology. Bionic hands, eyes, ears show that ability to establish a communication between technology and the human nerve system. Though there is still a long way to go this looks a promising evolution. In the future we can expect a more natural way to communicate, ultimately enhancing our ability to think by interacting with technology to support our thinking.

The third driver is the cognitive capabilities of computer systems. Traditional computer systems use structured data as input and have programmed algorithms to process the data. The designed algorithms work in a binary way and in terms of analysis this means the algorithm processes the structured data to seek for what the algorithm is looking for. Recent developments in cognitive systems go beyond this. A massive amount of information is processed using natural language processing, looking for relationships in the data, looking for correlations between pieces of information, and prediction algorithms to seek for the best possible answers. These systems are not pre-programmed according to the data set. Instead these systems are trained in a knowledge area using a massive amount of high quality data relevant to that knowledge area. The advantage of cognitive systems is their ability to disclose new correlations. These systems explore all different possible correlations instead of a pre-programmed algorithm that processes according to the know and prescribed relationships. These systems also use a prediction algorithm to find a multitude of potential answers and add a probability to each individual potential answers. Correlating information is natural for our brain. We collect information through different ways and experiences. Our brain uses all this information and the correlation of it gives us one or more outcomes, this without a pre-programmed decision tree or and 'if-then-else' sequence. The ability to learn and to improve our thinking remains unique, but cognitive systems extend these abilities. Their ability to process a massive amount of information goes beyond our capabilities and therefore they can assist in our human thinking.

The next shift in technology is coming, and the above three drivers (among others) will likely impact this shift and bring us to the next wave of technology with a better cost versus performance ratio.

This will also bring us closer to the technology singularity. Kurzweil predicted the singularity to occur around 2045 and Vinge predicted some time before 2030, so our next shift in technology will most probably bring us very close to this point.

Exciting times ahead!