Six Trends that are transforming Living Online: Presentation at Influence conference


Tomorrow I’m going to the Influence conference organized by Phil Sim and Mediaconnect, an invitation-only event held in the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region. Originally the event was only for technology journalists and the tech companies that wanted to reach them, but it has now been extended to the all most powerful influencers in the technology community, whether they are journalists, analysts, or bloggers.

Last year I spoke on the Web 2.0 panel, where I described what User Filtered Content is, and why it is such an important foundation to Web 2.0. This year I will be speaking on the Living Online panel, which is devoted to looking at where life online is going for consumers. In my brief introductory talk I will touch on six trends that will transform living online over the next years.

1. Pervasive connectivity

The trend underlying all the others is that we will be far more connected, wherever we are. Broadband speeds, while still disappointing in most countries, will continue to increase. A good way to think about it is to consider when the majority of consumers will have 100Mbps in the home. In Australia, probably not by 2010, but I would certainly hope by 2014. Gradually WiFi will become pervasive – and hopefully free – in metropolitan areas. WiMax has the potential to offer high speed roaming Internet access over large areas. As importantly, 3G mobile technologies that require less power and thus can be used for extended periods by handheld devices will enable access to the Internet by anyone anywhere. The critical enabler here will be reasonable pricing of mobile data. In Australia it is in most cases obscenely expensive, so big price falls will be required to make access pervasive. A key indicator of pervasive access is when car radios become IP-based, as this will indicate there is always good access to the internet, and all radio stations simulcast over IP.

2. Immersive experience

We have moved to 24” screens and 5 speaker sound as standard for gaming. This is just the beginning of what will become completely pervasive environments for media, entertainment, and participation. Video glasses will become commonplace ways of accessing immersive video wherever you roam. 3D TV without glasses is a reality and not far from commercialization. While 3D efforts using colored or polarizing glasses will continue for some time, the real future is in providing different images to each eye, as in Philips’ 3D TV initiatives. It will also be possible to generate realistic 3D images from 2D video. While Second Life already provides a quasi-3D environment, a couple of steps beyond is where we will use video glasses, gloves, and other immersive interfaces so that we will experience actually being there, rather than seeing ourselves in a virtual world. This is inevitable, the only question is when we will get there.

3. New interfaces

The mouse was invented in 1967, and is still the center of human-machine interfaces. It is extraordinary that the QWERTY keyboard still dominates the lives of knowledge workers, with the fact that 80% of the population cannot touch-type constraining economic productivity to an enormous degree. Voice recognition and response will become widespread. Large surface interfaces such as Jeff Han’s and the newly announced Microsoft Surface, and then beyond that gesture and facial expression recognition, will usher in a far more intuitive and three dimensional way of interfacing with information and images.

4. Attention profiling

We are moving to a world of infinite content. The proliferation of blogs, online publications, podcasts, and videos means we are swamped with information. The first phase of the response has been user filtered content or collaborative filtering on sites such as Last.FM and, giving us personalized recommendations. The next phase will be to develop detailed profiles of our interests and behaviors across different categories of content, so that we can access or be presented with content in a way that matches our available attention relative to the relevance and interest of the content. The two most promising initiatives in this space – Particls and illumio – have both been launched in the last couple of months. We can expect it to become a completely seamless process to find or be given what we want from an infinite landscape of content.

5. DIY apps

In our recently launched Web 2.0 Framework I described three categories of inputs to the world of Web 2.0: user generated content, opinions, and applications. The next phase of the web is that anyone will be able to create their own applications. Earlier examples included Yahoo! Pipes, while Ning allowed people to set up their own social networks. More recently Dapper and Kapow are allowing non-technical people to create and recombine the elements of the web to build new applications. IBM’s QEDWiki is aimed at the corporate market, to allow end-users to bypass the IT department and quickly and easily create the applications and use of corporate information that is useful for them. Similar tools will sprout up in the consumer space, meaning that everyone, not just developers, contribute to the modular, recombinable, emergent web.

6. Social revolution

The online space is being driven by powerful trends to openness, transparency, and accessibility, from open source through open APIs. The same trends are apparent in society at large, where expectations of openness, visibility, and accountability are rapidly forcing changes in how corporations and politicians work. It is a fascinating question whether technology trends are driving social change, or whether technological development is reflecting social trends. Undoubtedly both are true, accelerating these trends to an extraordinary degree that I believe will become a lot more evident over the next 5-10 years. This is just one facet of how the online and real worlds will merge almost completely in the coming years.

More on all of these themes – particularly attention profiling – coming soon.

5 replies
  1. Wonderwebby
    Wonderwebby says:

    The conference sounds very interesting Ross…wish I was there!
    “It is a fascinating question whether technology trends are driving social change, or if technological development is reflecting social trends”…it certainly is! I am watching this space with interest. It is intriguing, exciting, frightening, liberating, enabling, connecting and disconnecting all at once!
    While exciting technology trends have an impact on society, and society demands technology to help personalise experience and identity, I am just glad that we are human and – as a group of twenty-something organisational learning students told me the other day “nah, we prefer to talk in person!”

  2. Marnix Catteeuw
    Marnix Catteeuw says:

    Think that technology trends are driving social change. The new technological trends will change the way we work, live and interact with friends, collegues, customers, … Just look at e-mail, I never asked for it, but in 10 years time, it changed my working day from 20 % paper mail handling to almost 90 % e-mail checking.
    But I am now using the new 2.0 tools to get the freedom back I had before ;-)

  3. Kerry Nitz
    Kerry Nitz says:

    Your claim: the fact that 80% of the population cannot touch-type constraining economic productivity
    Surely you’re mistaking quantity for quality – to me if you’re constrained by not being able to touch type then you’re not spending enough time thinking about what you’re typing.

  4. Gavin Heaton
    Gavin Heaton says:

    I like the idea of attention profiling, but don’t know if I am happy to engage in it (risks to privacy, open to unmitigated influence etc). It seems that there are opportunities to conflate attention profiling and social revolution — perhaps you can’t have one without the other (at first glance I would think the social networking/influence networks are a precondition for attention profiling). Interesting.

  5. David Gilmour
    David Gilmour says:

    Ross, thanks for a very interesting set of themes.
    Gavin Heaton made an interesting comment about privacy and attention profiling. I certainly concur that unless the profiling done is under the complete and exclusive control of the user, it’s a nonstarter. From my perspective, the user should be able not just to monitor, but to intercept profile access and allow it or not on a case by case basis. illumio already works this way.

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