Dean Anthony Gratton
The Fall of Innovation
It must be something about the autumn air with the leaves falling and the onset of winter where we regularly witness the appearance of new technology. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that Halloween also beckons, as this is a period of transition, encompassing the myth of Samhain and of saying goodbye to our demons whilst beckoning in a new harvest.
Treading the Same Groove on That Broken Record
I'm confident that most have already witnessed Apple’s autumn announcement launching their new-generation iPhone (iPhone 8) and their iPhone X, celebrating a decade of their phone. Similarly, next month those who are using the Windows 10 OS will receive the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which launches sometime mid-October. And, let's not forget, Google too are in the midst of launching their second-generation Pixel (Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL), which has just been announced. So, yes, it's an autumn smorgasbord of technology delight.
In introducing the iPhone for the first time, Steve Jobs said, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything …” – that’s true, but for Apple it’s been 10 years and I do wonder if they have lost their footing. However, I don’t want my column to become a rant at Apple for their lack of revolutionary products, since it seems most smartphone manufacturers are stuck in the same groove on that broken record.
Enjoying a Stable Technology Diet
More so, as Jobs mentioned, a revolutionary product comes about every so often – well that’s it, you see. That’s where I’m currently sitting wondering what will happen next. We have our smartphones, smartwatches and tablets, yadda yadda yadda. But, seriously, what is next? Of course, we can all bask in the hyperbole bubble of the internet of things but, for me, that’s just a concept used to recycle technologies that already exist and are nowadays receiving a new healthy revitalization, due to their placement beneath the IoT umbrella (more about the IoT in next month’s column). And, of course, there’s 5G, which is also garnering pace, as you may have seen in last month's post "The Race to 5G".
Perhaps, I'm guilty of being bored of the status quo, since I'm always eager to learn of the next big thing - I suppose, to be honest, we might all be guilty of that! It seems, we're currently enjoying a stable technology diet, of sorts, as we are witnessing an evolutionary and improvement cycle rather than the once revolutionarily technology tract.
The Next Wave of Innovation
When it comes to the "big bang" of technology revolution, it seems that the light bulbs of innovation need replacing. We are all so wrapped up in focusing on what IS rather than what could be, that our blue-sky thinking, I'm sad to say, has turned a dull shade of grey. As a futurist, I find it particularly frustrating as I too am stuck in this rut. There are moments of excitement as I ponder the development of artificial intelligence whilst assessing the good, the bad and the ugly, as it does have clear pros and cons (is it just me, or is there anyone else thinking Terminator?). And then there's mixed and augmented reality, which I do believe have several real-world applications, but both have yet to reach a wider mainstream market. For example, Google failed with their first-generation glasses whilst Microsoft's HoloLens is still in development! These products are a true MR/AR experience whereas Oculus treats us to a virtual reality perspective.
Perhaps AI, MR and AR are the next wave of innovation that may see some extraordinary strides forward, along with, dare I say, valuable breakthroughs. In fact, healthcare is of particular interest to me and today’s technologists, not in small part due to the steadily disintegrating state of the healthcare system, which is especially poignant in the UK right now. I do see this as an area where evolving "pseudo-reality" technologies may revolutionize both patient care, health care professionals and physicians, along with the medical and pharmaceutical sectors overall but, as with all predictions, we must wait and see!
And, while I’m hitching some of my hopes to the AI bandwagon, I think that machine learning is also an area to watch with interest and high expectation. I'll share with you, one such example, which kind of falls under the IoT umbrella. Machine learning is particularly relevant to industry 4.0, where IoT and the harvesting of data across manufacturing and production, for example, may provide us with intelligent factories.
What's more, by empowering our manufacturing and production lines with intelligent technology, we can not only learn more about the factory's environment, but we can empower it to make predictions about its wellbeing. Possibly we could go as far as allowing production lines, for example, to self-heal.
Until Next Time ...
Ultimately, what it all comes down to is that next killer app; that thing we never knew we wanted but now absolutely have to have! My wife talks about the "I want it and I want it now" mantra of today's society and I know for certain that the next big things in technology will be those that exploit this to the max.
So, this is where a blue-sky-dreamer Dr. G signs off.
Originally published in Technically Speaking.