Living in an 'Anything's Possible' World
2014 is, without a doubt, an exhilarating time to be in the IT industry. We had gone through a period of evolutionary changes in technology, but, for the past few years, we've experienced a dazzling pace of innovation that seems likely to continue far into the future.
Technologies That Alter Business
Social media. Cloud computing. BYOD. Big data. Software-Defined Everything. The Internet of things. Smart cars. Wearable clothing. These technologies have the potential to radically alter business and government, as well as our professional and personal lives. And who knows what new innovations the next few years will bring?
I've been writing about the IT industry since the introduction of the IBM PC, and though I've never been bored, I've never felt as optimistic and energized as I do now. Why? Because when it comes to information technology, virtually anything is possible.
Just think about the changes the industry has gone through in the last few decades.
When IBM created its first PC, could even its most brilliant scientists and engineers have envisioned Watson? Could the company's senior executives have predicted that they would create a product that, in conjunction with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, would be a key weapon in the fight against cancer? Or that its technology would bring business opportunities and economic growth to Africa?
Back in the 1980s, I and many other journalists predicted that technology would enable us to work faster and smarter (which it did) and give us more leisure time (which it did not). We all wrote about paperless offices and four-day work weeks. (Ha!) We never imagined a bring-your-own-device world and the "work anywhere, all the time" environment we live in today.
Industry watchers also never imagined the incredible amount of information that would be available through a company called Google. Google? Who thought someone would call their company Google—and that it would grow into a $50 billion search engine giant managing more than 1 billion queries a day from around the world.
The Enormous Potential of Big Data Analytics
Another technological advance, big data and analytics, has enormous potential to make organizations more efficient and profitable by transforming mountains of both structured and unstructured data into knowledge that can be used to make better decisions and open up previously undreamed of business opportunities.
Even more opportunities—and challenges—are offered by the Internet of things, a concept we've been hearing a lot about lately. IoT is expected to grow exponentially. In fact, Cisco Systems predicts that the number of Internet-connected devices will hit 25 billion by 2015 and reach 50 billion by 2020.
And let's not forget wearable tech and its most famous example, Google Glass. Automakers working with tech vendors are producing smart cars that seem better suited to a sci-fi movie than an auto dealer's showroom. For example, sometime this year, Hyundai's new Genesis model will enable owners to wirelessly connect to various smart features using Google Glass and other wearable devices.
The Downside to Technological Advances
Of course, there is a downside to all these technological advances. Our privacy has been invaded, costing millions of individuals their money, their reputation and even their identity. Untold numbers of people have nomophobia, an addiction to mobile devices. And our children think texting is the best way to interact with their friends—even when they're at dinner, in a movie theater or in the bathroom.
We need to tackle these admittedly enormous challenges today—not tomorrow. But we must do that in ways that don't slow the pace of technological innovation. After all, innovation is the lifeblood of our industry—and our world.
Eileen Feretic is editor in chief of Baseline and editorial director of eWEEK, CIO Insight and Channel Insider. She has more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor in the technology industry, working at QuinStreet, Ziff Davis, IBM and Hearst.
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