Last night I attended the ‘Technology Trends 2013′ event, which was organised by ScotlandIS and hosted by DLA Piper at their Edinburgh offices. And here are my brief notes on each presentation and the panel session that followed.
Polly Purvis, Executive Director of ScotlandIS, introduced the event and the speakers, and she paid tribute to the late David Mitchell, the distinguished industry analyst who died last year who had been the driving force in previous ScotlandIS ’Technology Trends’ annual events.
Mobile: Richard Marshall, Research Director, Gartner
Richard Marshall presented Gartner’s mobile scenario view to 2017 and the opportunities for business innovation from mobile.
Mobile is one of the four forces in Gartner’s Nexus of Forces. It is usually considered a security hazard in businesses and it’s the number 2 priority and worry for CIOs. But there are exciting things happening and mobile should be considered more of an opportunity than a threat. There are ‘ensemble interactions’ between multiple devices, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and app stores where software can be downloaded easily and rated by users.
There is no sign of consolidation in the mobile market. Apple’s iOS will keep its 20 percent market share, but Richard predicted that the new Windows phones will be really popular.
Richard noted the wide range of Android devices in terms of price and performance, with a 10-to-1 difference in performance between some new phones on the market, which is an important thing for application developers to be aware of. Regarding mobile applications themselves Richard believes that they need to deliver a better user experience to satisfy customers who are becoming increasingly less tolerant.
The ‘Internet of everything’ is coming, with phones as the endpoints. Just as in 2008 when the amount of user-generated (‘people’) content on the web finally surpassed that for ’information’, data generated by devices (‘things’) will create more traffic than information and people by 2017, he predicted.
He then discussed the relevance of the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) model to mobile application development. Businesses can develop mobile strategies by getting hold of their input data, putting it into context and then looking for innovation opportunities.
Connectivity: Gareth Williams, Lead Consultant - Custom Research, Analysys Mason
Cheap high-speed connectivity is becoming more readily available in the UK, but we are lagging behind the rest of Europe in terms of next generation networks like VDSL (Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line) and FTTH (Fibre To The Home). But BT plans to get 78% next generation broadband coverage in the UK by 2017, while 4G should also be much more widely available by then.
What has already happened as a result of better connectivity is that IT asset ownership has become less important to businesses and online applications have become easier to customise so more businesses are making use of cloud computing services.
Gareth predicted that SMEs will make more use of Unified Communications, joining their fixed and mobile networks together, and using web portals to manage all their messages and online presences. The potential benefit of this is increased customer satisfaction through the increased availability of key people.
He also predicted that cloud desktops will become more popular, with UK SME revenue for cloud desktop management services increasing from 3.8 million Euros to 29.4 million Euros (CAGR 28.1%) by 2017.
Gareth’s top trends for 2013:
- More mobile cloud solutions, including mobile device management
- More video-based communications
- Tablets and smartphones galore
Big Data: David Robertson, Head of School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Dave Robertson began (and ended) his presentation by saying we are on the ‘cusp of change’.
Big Data, which can be data at rest or in motion, is increasing in volume (exabytes) and velocity (decisions made in milliseconds). It is also increasing in variety (Internet of things) and veracity (who do we trust in social media?).
Big change ahead:
- Medicine will change dramatically due to the increased availability of genome sequencing and that will have a profound effect on us all
- The number of connected devices in the world is increasing exponentially
- Facebook has over a billion users, about a seventh of the world’s population
- Computers such as IBM’s Watson system, which is ‘big and repeatable’ with ‘layers and lots of integration’, are making impressive use of abundant data to answer complex questions and changing people’s minds about what is possible (e.g. John Dvorak changing his tune after Watson beat human contestants in a televised game of a Jeopardy)
According to Dave we need increasingly fast algorithms but, with Big Data, we are on the cusp of a big change.
The event concluded with a panel session and here are some answers to questions that were posed:
- Richard explained his prediction that the new Windows phone will be a popular success (unlike Windows 8), saying that it plays nicely with secure systems, it is encrypted, it works well, and test users like it
- Richard went on to say that ‘Minority Report’ interfaces won’t be popular because they are too tiring for our arms!
- How will UK businesses and academia take advantage of these technology trends? The consensus on the panel was that it all depends on the availability of ‘good people’. Technical people with business skills are needed everywhere, but, according to Richard and David, Big Data requires ‘interpretative’ people to solve the complex problems, and they need to have broad and deep knowledge because there are so many things to learn.
- With Big Data, “the analytic tools are not yet commodotised”, said David, which means there are many problems to solve and therefore opportunities for businesses to make their mark. They will need statisticians, programmers/analysts, and server experts (e.g. Hadoop specialists) to talk to each other.
- There is a skills gap in this country, remarked Gareth, but there is also a (related) technology gap because many people in the UK can’t afford tablets or broadband so some people are being left behind.
- And David said that there is also a problem with computer science as it is not integrated into other fields enough
- Richard reported that RunRev are working with schools in Edinburgh and they have a simple scripting language for kids with real language syntax; and Polly interjected to say that ScotlandIS and the RSE are trying to change things in schools (something I can attest to as I’ve been asked by the RSE to get involved)
- And finally there was a discussion with our hosts regarding Data Protection laws and there was general agreement that people need to be educated to look after their personal data – there are ‘no quick fixes’ and the law is lagging behind advances in social networking and cloud computing. There are those calling for a ’right to be forgotten’ on social networking sites, but that is easier said than done when everything is connected.
The evening concluded with an hour of old-fashioned networking, which I enjoyed, and I enjoyed the free beer and pizza too!