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Tomorrow's Future Technology Today

October 2015

Tomorrow's Future Technology Today

The world is changing at a pace never seen before. What we believe to be future technology actually exists today and is rapidly infiltrating our everyday lives. In this article, we explore the key building blocks of technology which are shaping our future. The implications to business and our personal lives are profound. How are you positioning yourself to adapt to the future?

[This essay has been adapted from a presentation delivered at the SCA National Conference in Canberra in June 2015]

Pace of Change

The world is changing at a pace never seen before. What we believe to be future technology actually exists today and is rapidly infiltrating our everyday lives. In this article, we explore the key building blocks of technology which are shaping our future. The implications to business and our personal lives are profound. How are you positioning yourself to adapt to the future?

A starting point

While driving my car recently my five year old daughter asked me how you drive a car. After thinking for a while I realised she would most likely not need to drive a car when she turned 18 (in 13 years’ time) as self-driving cars will be the norm. I explained via an analogy with vacuuming the house as we had just upgraded to a robot vacuum a few months earlier now requiring no-one to actually push the vacuum cleaner. Pondering on this point later I had an epiphany on just how much change the next generation will see through their childhood compared to ours. This was the inspiration for this article.

How far we have come

To begin, I would like to take a journey back 15 years and look at what has changed in technology as a guide to understanding what we may expect in the next 15 years. These changes have been categorised as follows:  Processing Power, Storage Capacity, and Network Speed – which combined have historically provided a good measure of the advancement in technology across the board.

Processing Power

At the start of my career I was working in presales at Hewlett Packard. At the time, the biggest and best computer we could sell was the HP Superdome, which sold for more than $1.5M USD and weighed in excess of 1.2 tonnes.  By today’s standards  however this would be equivalent to the processing power of three smart phones  at a cost of under $1500USD and weighing less than half a kilogram (1000 times cheaper and 3000 times lighter).

Storage Capacity

In the year 2000 people shared files on 3.5 inch floppy disks – which have now left an important legacy in iconography as it is the image used for the ‘save’ file function in almost all software developed today. The total storage capacity of the average 3.5 inch disk was a mere 2.88 MB which is not big enough to store a single photo from your current phone. By contrast many people today share physical files by Micro SD card with a storage of 64GB. This represents an increase in capacity of more than 20,000 times plus a decrease in physical size of over a hundred times.

Network Speed

One of the most common ways to connect to the internet in the year 2000 was via a 56K dial up modem. Today people connect via ADSL, cable or wireless. According to OOKLA’s Net Index the average global consumer receives 24.7Mbps per second. This is roughly 441 times faster than in 2000.

These exponential improvements are numerous but in the examples above we are talking improvements from as little as 441 right through to 20,000 times. While Moore’s law actually predicted much of this (the idea that the number of transistors you can fit in a fixed space doubles every 18 months) the human brain doesn’t do well extrapolating beyond a factor of 10 or 100, let alone 20,000. Let’s face it, it’s really quite hard to imagine far beyond a reality which currently exists.

Present Dayism

This observation has led to coining the phrase – Present Dayism which is defined as “the inability to image the future based on our current view of the world.” The primary reason for this phenomenon is that over most of mankind’s history we have only had to deal with the perception of linear concepts. While exponential concepts have existed in mathematics and physics, it still requires most of us to use mathematical models, calculators or computers to determine the outcome. For the average person this means that we have expectations of tomorrow that are only slightly advanced upon from today and slightly more advanced than yesterday. What we fail to factor in is the compounding effect of continual advancement.

The world is about to change

Whilst stuck in our Present Dayism we are somewhat oblivious to the momentous change under foot. In reality a compounding rate of advancement in a number of key technologies has created the perfect storm of technologies that are going to irrevocably change our lives in the most profound of ways.

Consider the following quote:

“We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.” 
— Vernor Vinge (Professor of Mathematics, Computer Scientist and Science Fiction Author)

As a graph, this would look like this:

progress of technology

As disbelieving as it seems to be heading into such an absolute wall of change, how does it feel to be sitting on this point in the graph?

human progress
As we only have the past to draw conclusions about the future, we intuitively do not perceive the start of this curve which is about to change the world as we know it at a speed which is incomprehensible.

Thriving through change

Following is an explanation of these underlying technologies and some key strategies for thriving and surviving in this environment of rapid change.

Building Blocks of our Future

Any individual technology will not change the world in isolation – it is the combination of technological innovations that will truly change the world. What’s most exciting is that the building blocks of the future, each important in their own right, are here today and evolving at a rapid pace. Read on to see how each block stacks together to drive change in exponential ways.


The essential foundation for almost all technological innovation is a network. This is the ability for a device, computer, or piece of technology to communicate with another or a user. Without some form of communication, devices are essentially useless. But there is more - there needs to be an appropriate level of speed and quality of service for the technology to be effective. Take for example video conferencing which has been around for decades but has been plagued by connection issues, lag and slow bandwidth. Great technology but nothing to support it. Only in recent years have networks been sufficient to drive wide scale adoption of this form of communication. To support this wave of new technologies we require highly stable, fast and responsive networks. Following is a snap shot of current mobile technologies compared with the new 5G network which is tipped to be a reality by 2020.

communication networks

Aside from the obvious increases in speed the key requirements for 5G to support the future are ultra-high reliability and very low latency. At short distances a latency of 1ms or less means that devices are connected and communicate virtually instantaneously.  A good example of how this might be important to future technology is the example of self-driving cars communicating between cars about position and intent.

Wearables/Internet of Things (IoT)

We can now see the first layering effect of these building blocks with wearable technology and the internet of things. We have evolving networks that are far reaching, stable and fast enough to support the emergence of billions of connected “things”. (Research group Gartner predicts that this number will grow to 25 billion connected devices by 2020.) The Internet of Things refers to the collection of traditionally passive objects that are being given smarts and connected to the internet. This includes an ever expanding group of objects from the mundane to the incredible. Here are a few examples to highlight this:

Glasses – Google was the first major company to put smarts into a pair of glasses with Google Glass. These are essentially a pair of glasses with a computer and heads up display on board. This technology has given rise to a sector called Augmented Reality. The next major company to develop an augmented reality product has been Microsoft with their Hololens concepts. 

Tooth brushes – Putting smarts in an electric toothbrush is surprisingly useful as it allows you to monitor healthy oral hygiene habits through intelligent phone apps – particularly useful to gamify the mundane task of tooth brushing in kids. 

Baby Onesies – If you are a first time parent feeling completely out of your depth, this little innovation provides the ultimate in peace of mind. The Lilypad is a machine washable Baby Onesie with an array of sensors stitched into its fabric. It then has a small click on chip that communicates directly with a phone app to tell you the orientation of your baby, their body temperature, heart rate, breathing and even allows you to listen to them via audio. 

Light Bulbs - LED Wi-Fi light bulbs are mainstream enough now to be showing up at your local hardware store. Aside from app control, mood lighting and timing a more recent innovation is an integration with your favourite TV show. The first example of this was seen on a TV series called 12 Monkeys where, if connected to your lights, would dynamically adjust to the current scene in the show. This would mean that you might get bright flashes of light during a gunfight or explosion, red and blue flashing lights as police cars arrive on the scene and complete darkness as the cast trek through the forest at night. What an experience. 

Coffee Mugs – Last but by no means least the humble coffee mug is enjoying a reinvention as an all-purpose device that not only tells you how hot your beverage is but also tomorrow’s weather, your latest message feeds via a baked in LED display, plays your favourite music plus touch screen games. Power comes from batteries which are conveniently charged by wireless induction from your saucer.

Underlying Technology
The IoT is driven by the access we now have to all-in-one processing chips which are affordable and capable of supporting this new technology. At the start of this year Intel launched the Edison with dual CPU, 5GB of RAM and Bluetooth all for under $50 USD. Their tag-line, ‘One tiny module – endless possibilities. Prices, capabilities and form factor are improving at such a rapid pace that the idea of including smarts into every kind of everyday object will be common place in no time. Following on from this Intel also released a newer much smaller and lower powered chip called Curie which is the size of a button and includes Bluetooth and an accelerometer and 6 axis gyroscope. This chip was designed for longer battery life and included battery charging capabilities. An important inclusion in the release was an operating system and software development kit that makes it easy for developers to take advantage of the chip for all manner of applications. Google similarly has also released an operating system for the IoT called Brillo which they hope will spur on exponential innovation amongst IoT.

The Future of IoT

Imagine a world where almost every object has sensors and smarts. How would your day start in 2025? Perhaps something like this:
 - Your pillow has dynamically adjusted your morning alarm by five minutes to allow you to come out of your deep sleep cycle.
 - Your coffee machine has ground your beans and dispensed the perfect fresh espresso as you arrive in the kitchen.
 - Your 3D food prep printer has prepared pancakes in the shape of Easter bunnies for the kid’s breakfast, perfectly appropriate for Easter Monday.
 - As you leave the house for work your front door disengages the deadbolt and re-engages just as you step down towards the car while the garage door opens.
 - On the way to work your suit jacket has booked a pick up from the local dry cleaner as it has detected 32 hours of active use.
 - After attending to the morning emails your chair gives you a gentle vibration against your lower back to remind you to sit straighter.
 - Your coffee mug has detected a dip of temperature below the optimum coffee drinking threshold and has initiated the micro-heaters to maintain the temperature.
 - Mid-morning, you receive a calendar invite via email from your dentist to book in an appointment as your toothbrush had identified a cavity in one of your molars. 
 - You receive an alert from your smart watch at 2pm that your blood sugar levels have dropped and that you should stop for lunch. In the same alert you are presented with a choice of perfectly matched food options for the time of day, your current caloric intake level, taste preferences and afternoon schedule.
 - As the end of the day draws near you decide to walk home to meet your current pedometer target.

Big Data

Let’s look at our stack now… We have networks capable of transferring at lightning speed and handling trillions of devices. We have wearable technology continually recording our vital signs, we have everyday objects sending and receiving information… A large portion of our lives is now spent interacting in the digital world, which all leaves a digital foot print. We are currently generating 2.5 billion gigabytes a day and this quantity is doubling every year. Experts estimate we are only analysing a mere 0.5% of this data and thus missing out on insights that this could provide. This is where our next technology building block comes into play, welcome ‘Big Data’.

Big Data represents a field where extremely large data sets are analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

Big Data is being applied to a myriad of global, industrial and commercial problems and has yielded incredible results. Here are a few examples:

Crime – The LAPD in New York is using Big Data to help predict where crime will occur resulting in a 33% reduction in burglaries, 21% reduction in violent crimes and 12% reduction in property crime ( accessed 6 October 2015).

TV - Netflix regularly uses Big Data to determine what viewers want by mining their databases which contain viewers’ habits across their 30 million plays a day, observing when people pause rewind, stop etc. They are also observing which shows receive likes on social media and are collating all this data to make informed business decisions. Netflix’s purchase of House of Cards was not a gamble but a statistically backed bet with a high degree of confidence. They looked at people who liked shows directed by David Finch and also liked Kevin Spacey as an actor and predicted a precise market uptake of the new show before the promos even went to air. The rest is history as House of Cards has been a huge success for Netflix.

Building Management – Big Data tools already exist to help manage buildings more efficiently. Cara Ryan from Schneider Electric explains in her article Using Big Data Analytics For Energy Savings, that problems such as unnecessary equipment operation, suboptimal strategies, faulty equipment or poorly tuned loops are going undiagnosed and in turn create energy wastage and comfort issues. Ryan believes that data analytics can alleviate such problems and save 20 per cent a year in management and energy costs and resultantly save up to 45 per cent in down time. 
As we now journey through the stack once more we have super-fast networks, smart devices recording information through sensors, and data being generated like never before in history. To really make sense of all this data we need to look to the next level - Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Artificial Intelligence has come a long way since IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. IBM’s latest AI system, simply known as Watson, defeated two champions of the popular TV game show Jeopardy. This is no small feat as the show’s quirk is that instead of the game show host simply asking a question that requires an answer, they provide clues along with an answer and require contestants to determine the question. This required Watson to pull apart the tricky clues that are often full of cultural references and ambiguity to determine the right question.

Since 2011 Watson has been retooled for a variety of industries including health care. A team of experts were involved in training Watson which included vetting sources of information and feeding it over 2 million pages from over 600,000 sources. The experts would then show Watson what the right answers looked like and let Watson guess. When Watson was incorrect they would give the correct answer and then continue the process which is known as Machine Learning. Watson is now used by healthcare companies to aid with patient diagnosis and treatments. Watson has also been taught other languages, creates unique culinary delights, and handles resident’s questions via a Siri for Cities app. 

Other big name companies like Skype have been using AI to solve real world challenges such as live language translation. The recently released Skype Translator program uses machine learning to provide real time translation while chatting online in six languages for voice or 50 languages for text. Google has also released its new AI based image recognition functionality for its Google Photos App. This amazing feature allows you to search for images based on their image content and the location they were taken – for example you could search Whitsunday Boats and get all the pictures from a recent boat trip in the Whitsundays. The photos app in the US also uses facial recognition to group photos from the same person together allowing you browse through all of your historical photos. I tried this using my five year old daughter and found it was able to identify her back to two months old.


So far, most of these building blocks have been incorporeal. To truly bring the future of technology into the physical world we need robots. Welcome to what experts are calling the ’Second Machine Age‘ which is comparable to what we saw 200 years ago with the invention of the steam engine and the following machine age.
The well-known robot duo Baxter and Sawyer are examples of an emerging technology known as multipurpose robots. Whereas typical automation through robotics would set back companies hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, these multipurpose robots start at just $29K USD. The ingenious software allows people without engineering degrees to train robots to perform specific tasks and to do them safely working right alongside humans. The variety of jobs they can perform is impressive - almost any job performed by a stationary individual. At such a low cost it is easy to see Baxter and Sawyer making their way into factories, packaging companies, and even offices.

This growing trend will see more and more of the current manual labour market out of work. Research group Gartner predict 30% of our jobs will be taken over by robots by 2025. ( accessed 6 October 2015)

While some experts predict that many will be pushed out of work in the near future, others argue that this increase in computing prowess will simply eliminate old jobs and introduce new ones, resulting in a net-zero effect — or even an increase in jobs. It is argued new technology means new products and services as we saw during the Industrial Revolution.

One of the best but somewhat less obvious examples of robots is the autonomous self-driving car. It is the perfect real-world example that builds on the layers of technology we have described in this article:
 - Networks - Highly stable and fast networks that connect all cars in real time to all relevant infrastructure
 - Big Data - Vast amounts of data from every road sensor, weather station, work schedules, twitter events and more
 - Artificial Intelligence - A highly sophisticated on board computer connected to cloud based AI systems that route commuters and traffic
 - Robots - A physical embodiment of the technology with sensors and mechanics to get passengers from A to B.

Of all the technologies described in this article this one has the biggest potential for massive disruption to the way we live and work. As self-driving cars start to hit main stream the ownership model of cars will likely change to a more on-demand utility where you subscribe or pay on-demand for your transport needs. Self-driving electric cars will be significantly cheaper and more efficient than existing services and likely still cheaper than current ownership models. With optimised algorithms rides and routes would be efficiently distributed reducing congestion on roads as well as noise and other resulting pollution. Parking would also be far less important even if you owned your own self-driving vehicle as it would always drop you off door to door and retreat into cheaper parking storage stacks in unused areas of the city. Removing the need for parking then increases usable real estate usage for commercial and residential buildings as well as eliminating most street parking – thus freeing up more lanes for future traffic.

Whether we are talking multipurpose robots or self-driving cars, the robots are coming and they are going to impact our lives in profound ways.

The Culmination of Technology – Smart Cities

As these technological building blocks come together they will culminate in a concept called Smart Cities which are starting to emerge around the world. This is particularly relevant for people working or living in Strata. 

The city of Songdo International Business District (IBD) in South Korea has been built as a Smart City from the ground up and is situated just a short 15 minute drive from South Korea’s Seoul-Incheon International Airport. Songdo IBD, which is often cited as the largest private real estate venture in history, when finally completed in 2020 will include almost ten million square metres of residential, office, retail, hotel and public space. Songdo IBD is already home to South Korea’s tallest building, the Northeast Asia Trade Tower whose stunning futuristic design is the perfect backdrop to the city of the future. 

Residents in Songdo have access to some impressive technology such as telepresence video conferencing in schools, residences and offices thanks to a partnership with network giant Cisco. What is probably most impressive about Songdo though is the balance of parks (targeted at 40% of the city), waterways and recreational areas and it’s extremely low environmental impact. Representatives of Songdo IBD claim that residents use 40% less energy per person than an average existing city thanks to smart buildings, high tech lightings and other initiatives. Following are some of the initiatives in this Smart City using the five building blocks as discussed above:


Pneumatic Trash Collection – Apart from vast amounts of fibre cabling and extremely high network speeds, Songdo boasts a Pneumatic Trash Collection Network. This citywide vacuum powered system sucks garbage from within apartments and public spaces directly to garbage waste stations for pickup. This frees up valuable real estate throughout the city that is usually associated with rubbish logistics as well as decreasing vehicle emissions.
High-Definition Telepresence – With superfast internet access, approximately 10,000 telepresence units are expected to be installed in Songdo residences over the next few years enabling people to video conference in HD and interact with concierge and video based tutoring services. 

Internet of Things

Home and Building Automation – Residents are able to control and monitor their apartments with mobile, desktop and in-home apps as well as from computer kiosks through the city. They access their apartments using fingerprints, call for elevators from within their apartment as well as electronically control lights, blinds and more.

Big Data

Sensors – Sensors and cameras are everywhere throughout the city which range from apartment-building fire and safety monitors through to traffic trackers. Salt water is controlled in the canal at Songdo’s Central park using flow sensors. Building managers can also sense and display energy consumption to help with efficiency initiatives.
Songdo IBD is still a work-in-progress but it will definitely be on the forefront of emerging technologies as they become available. Even as it stands it is an impressive demonstration of what is possible right now, let alone the future.

Thriving Through the Change

We’ve explored the massive pace of change and the technologies which are shaping our future but how do we maximise our opportunities and protect our businesses from disruption as we move forward? 

Rapid Change – Firstly, we need to embrace change and try not to fear it. It’s coming whether we like it or not.

People Skills– We must strive to grasp how future technology might impact our industry and understand both the role of automation and efficiency where unique people skills will always be required. Strata Management has some uniquely human functions such as mediation, relationships management and crisis management that require empathy, understanding, diplomacy and other people skills. Focus on technology to automate administration and coordination and use it to enhance or supplement your other functions.

Learning Culture – With such a degree of change impending, organisations need to embrace a culture of learning and adaptability. Being abreast of developments and having a culture that explores rather than fears will put you in good stead to maximise opportunities as they arise.

Attract the right people – Hiring people with an open mindset and a desire to learn will not only feed your learning culture but will expand the potential of your business, especially in the face of rapid change.

Partner with experts – While it is quite overwhelming to take in all of the changes going on in our business environments, you don’t have to go it alone. Partner with experts in each respective area of business to help you navigate and strategise about the way forward.

The outlook for technology in the future is one of rapid change, so we recommend to embrace it, use it to your benefit and enjoy the ride.

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Friday, October 2, 2015