Can IT Infrastructure cope with the Speed of IT Evolution?

New report predicts Cloud Computing’s role in a changing society.

Smart dust, retinal projection of screens via active contact lenses and Artificial Intelligence replacing people to do humdrum tasks: all stuff of science fiction but all predicted to become science fact according to a futuregazing report.

Ian Pearson* was commissioned to polish up his crystal ball by Fujitsu who wanted to look at how the constantly evolving developments in technology will pan out in years to come and the impact it will subsequently have for business IT networks.

His Life and How We’ll Live It Futurizon report pulls together a range of current thinking on the pace of change of consumer and business demand.

He paints a picture of a world where tiny specks of smart dust dropped through ventilation grills on office equipment will allow interception of data before it even gets to an encryption device. Slightly ‘cleverer’ smart dust could even allow documents to be subtly altered while they are being printed.

On top of the smart dust scenario the report warns of viruses, worms and trojans that can already adapt but may continue to evolve.

“It is very much an arms race. New techniques will arise, such as using combinations of code and data, spread across different systems.” says Pearson, “With tiny fragments only becoming a whole at the point of execution, detection will become harder.”

The report also warns that the upshot of the rapidly expanding and mobile environment we now operate in is that business IT requirements will change frequently, and sometimes dramatically.

Forecasting that the trend towards remote working will only accelerate he predicts that offices will also adapt, becoming more meeting oriented and less desk-based. As a result office IT infrastructure and security policies will become much less important, while access to data and corporate systems out of the office will dominate policy.

Says Pearson:

“The world of tomorrow will be very different from that of yesterday…to adapt we will need highly flexible infrastructure – IT that is flexible, agile and can be tailored to specific needs.”

“IT managers should be wary of becoming loyal to any one approach and instead use a diversity of systems, outsourcing wherever possible to companies that are themselves technology agnostic.”

The report goes on to conclude that these kind of developments will create a whole range of new support businesses. These will need IT infrastructure that maps well to mobile living, which are already heading rapidly towards cloud architecture.

“The Cloud will become the norm. But this won’t come about just because of changes in technology, it will come about because of drivers that are economic, social and cultural too….The current trend towards cloud based provision is ideally suited to meet these needs.”

“For government services such as transport, information and health care, this kind of model will allow much lower costs while providing much better service. Old IT approaches such as massive centralised health record databases will soon look very antiquated indeed.”

Interestingly, he sees the developments as cutting back in overseas outsourcing, especially since human contact is always best when done face to face.

This will eventually cause a reversal of globalisation in terms of staff location, except for some niche industries that require skills that are spread globally. With this in mind, the report envisions a rapid increase in remote working for employees which means cloud-based working will become even more attractive.

Continuing to future gaze, he believes that in the not too distant future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace people doing administrative tasks, which will be taken out of the office and done by AI in secure server farms. And in a nod to sci-fi classic Minority Report, he envisions active contact lenses, condensing all the required electronics to contact lens size and using direct retinal projection, enabling high resolution wraparound virtual environments.

*Ian Pearson graduated in 1981 in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics from Queens University, Belfast. After four years in Shorts Missile Systems, he joined BT Laboratories as a performance analyst, and later worked in network design, computer evolution, cybernetics, and mobile systems. From 1991 until 2007, he was BT’s Futurologist, tracking and predicting new developments throughout information technology, considering both technological and social implications. He now does the same for Futurizon, a small futures institute. He is a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, the World Academy of Art and Science, the Royal Society of Arts, the Institute of Nanotechnology and the World Innovation Foundation. He also holds an Honorary Doctor of Science degree

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