Magazine article The Futurist

From Smart House to Networked Home: Two Foresight Specialists Describe How Tomorrow's Integrated, Networked, and Aware Home Systems May Change Your Family Life

Magazine article The Futurist

From Smart House to Networked Home: Two Foresight Specialists Describe How Tomorrow's Integrated, Networked, and Aware Home Systems May Change Your Family Life

Article excerpt

In the last decade, a range of digital technologies and services have hit the market and moved quickly from niche use to the mainstream. Consider that just seven years after being founded, Facebook is used by more than 50% of the online population in the United States and India, and much higher percentages in global markets from Chile to South Africa to Indonesia. And flat-panel TVs, e-readers, smartphones, and even augmented-reality apps--all largely missing from the consumer landscape just a few years ago--continue to be eagerly adopted even in the face of economic uncertainty.

As we look toward the next decade, it's clear that we are in for even more dramatic changes in the roles that technology will play in daily life. But what technologies are poised to move from niche toward the mainstream in the next 10 years? And how will these technologies change everyday activities?

To bring this into sharper focus, Innovaro Inc.'s futures consulting group identified 10 key themes that it feels will help define the tech experience in the coming decade. These 10 "technology trajectories" will give people a powerful new "toolkit"--new devices, services, and capabilities that will forever alter the way--that we go about everyday activities, from dating and shopping to learning and working.

This glimpse of Innovaro's 10 Technology Trajectories presents several forecasts for how these new capabilities could reshape family and home life in the next decade. And although these themes were identified with the United States and other advanced economies in mind, the Technology Trajectories have global potential to reshape life in emerging economies as they're adopted and explored there as well.

10 Technology Trajectories

1. Adaptive Environments. Advances in materials will make the home and work environment "smart." Everyday objects, surfaces, and coatings will gain the ability to adapt to changing conditions or people's needs--e.g., becoming self-cleaning, self-insulating, or protective. The built environment will no longer be simply structural and passive; it will become adaptive, functional, and smart.

2. Cloud Intelligence. The cloud will evolve from being a static repository of data into an active resource that people rely on throughout their daily lives. With new capabilities for accessing online expert systems and applications, we'll tap into information, analysis, and contextual advice in more integrated ways. Virtual agents will migrate from being an automated form of phone-based customer service to a personalized form of support and assistance that provides information and--more importantly--performs useful tasks. For example, such agents might design a weekly menu based on a family's health profile, fitness goals, and eating preferences, and automatically order ingredients.

3. Collaboration Economy. The power of collective intelligence will enable us to accomplish cognitive tasks not easily handled by virtual agents and machines in the cloud. We'll get advice and recommendations and solve problems by tapping into the social graph, and this cognitive outsourcing will be applied to both business issues and personal and lifestyle questions (e.g., "Which diet will work best for me?").

4. Contextual Reality. People will navigate through their daily activities thanks to multiple layers of real-time and location-specific information. This contextual overlay for everyday life will give us a new way to see our surroundings and provide new forms of decision support. We will move from a world where information and connections are hidden to one where real-time, contextual information generates ambient awareness.

5. Cutting the Cable. Personal devices will be largely untethered from wired power and data connections. Access to the Internet will be ubiquitous, and the tech infrastructure--from electronics to sensors to cars--will be powered by a more diverse set of technologies, including micro-generation, wireless power transmission, and advanced power storage. …

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