Technology to change the world
Customers are always asking me how I manage to keep up with all the changes in modern technology. Well, the answer is simple - there haven’t really been any big changes in computing in the last few years; just a steady evolution of products and ideas. We have seen the arrival and mass-adoption of smartphones but that’s about it as far as new ideas goes. Remember the internet and tablets go back nearly 20 years. Outside the area of computing, it seems to me that we also haven’t seen many life-changing inventions recently. Compare the present era to the first decade of the 20th century when the world saw the invention of the airplane, plastic (Bakelite), transatlantic telephone calls, cornflakes, teabags and instant coffee. Just think how important these are to modern life over 100 years later.
So while, in my opinion, the computer industry hasn’t done much lately, there has been an interesting side-effect. Several people who have made lots of money in computing are using that money to do interesting and useful things. Take Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. He is using most of his acquired wealth (and that of several other very rich friends) to rid the world of Polio and Malaria. Then there’s Elon Musk who made his billions from PayPal and now wants to literally go to Mars. His company SpaceX has designed and built rockets that have started re-supplying the International Space Station. He plans to get to Mars in 15 years’ time. Where NASA has dithered for years, he has acted. He also co-founded Tesla Motors who build high-performance electric cars – he likes a challenge does Musk! He has also just drawn up plans for an ultra-high speed transportation system that makes HS2 seem rather quaint and old-fashioned – just internet search ‘Hyperloop’ for more information.
But it is on the roads where computing may have the biggest impact in the next few years with the introduction of driverless cars. The well-publicised Google driverless car program started life as a side project but is now a major focus of their attention. Many Universities and car manufacturers have their own projects all with relatively short timeframes of 5 to 6 years. Just think of the possibilities. Those unable to drive would be able to enjoy the mobility a car brings. Car safety, even when driven normally, should improve due to the increased sensor count. Cars will communicate with their neighbours, aware of their position and speed and hence avoid crashes. There will be less need for taxis – just get the family car go pick you up or drop you off. Long journeys could be made at night, as you sleep in the car while it economically slips along the motorway – no need to hurry after all. The biggest change could be in the haulage industry. The additional costs to retro-fit driverless systems will be recouped quickly as lorries will be able to drive 24hours/day earning more money for their owners.
So get ready for the 2020s everyone. That’s when the real world changing technology will arrive.
© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd 2013.