Digital Convergence and a Truly Augmented Environment – Part 1

New emerging technologies have the potential to crate profound change to the world on a social and environmental level. We explore a couple of these in order to understand the benefits and potential pitfalls that is prevalent with all things new.

We’ve approached this in three parts:

  1. Facilitators – Corner stone technologies that will be leveraged to facilitate other incremental technologies,
  2. Applied Technologies – These are essential real world applications where technology interacts with people’s day-to-day life.
  3. Social and Environmental consequences – Conjecture on some of the outcomes for the spread of these technologies.


The Internet of things (e.g cheap internet connected sensors)

Cisco have speculated that by 2020 that 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. These devices consist of small very low power sensors that measure fundamental properties (temperature,pressure, acceleration, light etc) or more complex devices that measure and calculate conditions (environmental, mechanical, medical etc).

Cisco indicate 99% of the world is unobserved. I tend to think they have underestimated both the number and scale of applications. If we were to proved real time observation of a persons biometric attributes (activity tracking, heart condition, nutrition, illness) we could have dozens of personal sensors. When applied to buildings and automobiles thousands of sensors would be required and when looking at environmental factors millions could be required just to measure the performance of a farms or the impact of a factories. Multiplied by the number of people and applications in the world the 50 Billion number starts to sound conservative.

Cognitive Computing / big data

With billions of sensors collecting data we run into the issue of big data which ironical is more about data processing that data collection. To make sense of the data and provide a meaningful context the field of cognitive computing has been developed.

IBM currently leads the way in this field with Watson a computer that can not only process these enormous databases but collect information from unstructured sources and make guesses or estimates when required. A trait that proves valuable in the the real world where there is typically multiple possible solutions of a problem.

Computers like Watson stand to revolutionise a world minor data processing tasks undertaken by workers everyday could be replaced by cognitive processing. This will be both a opportunity and a threat to many.

The Internet / cloud

Although not new cloud computing is essentially the glue that pulls this all together. This allows for infrastructure to be centralised and the technical and environmental risks can be managed.

The cloud allows us to both collect data from our sensors and preform cognitive computing functions with highly portable hardware. Without this data, the processing and the solutions generated would be confined to your house, office or university.

Part 2 – Applied Technologies