Mobile technology is becoming the path by which everyone – and everything – gets connected at all times and in all places, dramatically altering predictions for the future and presenting unique opportunities for mobile providers.
In a survey by Gemalto NV, 1,200 people between the ages of 18 and 30 around the world were quizzed about their expectations for future technology. Most respondents expected everything from currency to automobiles to be transformed in some way by the super-fast connectivity and wide reach of 5G technology.
Many of the key findings showed that young people expect mobile and wireless connectivity to simplify their lives and allow for more intuitive interactions with their surroundings, although methods and the extent of the changes varied by countries. More than half of the respondents expected things like paper tickets and car keys to become obsolete, with 32 percent believing that even coins would become “a thing of the past.” Sixty-three percent expect driverless cars to be a common sight in 2025, revolutionizing traffic systems and urban development (and potentially allowing for naps on the road).
Facial recognition, voice- or fingerprint-activated doors, and wearable trackers were also hot topics, with 40-60 percent, believing workplaces will eventually switch to such futuristic methods of security and monitoring. The majority of respondents also believed these trackers would provide immediate feedback about everything from the oral hygiene to blood pressure levels via smart glasses and implants.
Interestingly, many of these “digital natives” were remarkably concerned about security and privacy, although 65 percent of Chinese respondents expected mobile phones to become an important safety tool with voice-activated panic alarms that mobile operators could monitor to send help when needed.
CrowdChat tackles the connected world
The CrowdChat community had a lot to add about the likelihood of these predictions, weighing in on contactless payments, driverless cars, healthcare, and even the implications of a cloud-enabled, robot-driven economy. Hosting the lively CrowdChat was Gemalto and Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright.
John Furrier, founder and CEO of SiliconANGLE Media, started the chat with a look at issues of security, reliability and ownership of data.
Although connected cities, homes, and “things” of all stripes offer a lot of potential, this shift to a connected world still faces a number of barriers. One CrowdChatter suggested that connection-dependent cities should consider a backup plan for all of their “smart” services, given that “all technology has a fail factor. Even if it’s human error.”
Another commenter highlighted privacy issues as another key problem, given that it is increasingly difficult to keep track of which pieces of data different vendors have, let alone whether users trust them, spurring several others to comment.
Kong L. Yang, from the Virtualization and Cloud Practice at SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC, added: “Connected cities can be hacked and the data, users and connected devices compromised.” This led another participant to suggest that perhaps client-side security would be more effective (and trustworthy) than service-side. This could promote a “mix of security ownership” between corporate, private and government users.
A few other issues included the vertical integration of platforms and tools, which often don’t fit the requirements for horizontal scale, and the more general questions of artificial intelligence and whether algorithms are truly trustworthy.
One CrowdChat participant, Dan Kaplan, columnist at TechCrunch, pointed out that only about half of the survey respondents appeared concerned with the “risks of persistent monitoring,” given that unscrupulous vendors can exploit the data for a variety of purposes.
Another chatter Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist at Book of the Future (a trading name of IO Communications Ltd.), asked, “Is this the new social media? First gen, it was a novelty, and they ignored risks. Current gen, much more cautious (hence rise of Snapchat). Maybe it will take a generation before people are cautious about monitoring.” He also highlighted the dangers of “big personal data stores,” which are attractive targets to hackers and thieves.
Fabio Virgi, founder and editor-in-chief at Let’s Talk Tech, responded that in the world of Web 2.0, we’re making all of our personal data available anyway, so there isn’t much of an additional worry: “We gave up privacy the minute we signed up to Facebook and Twitter.”
But Cheesewright responded that the next generation is, in fact, being much more careful with their data: “They’ve learned from our mistakes.” Whether privacy concerns dissipate or become more acute in the public consciousness as connectivity increases remains to be seen.
Securing the Connected World
Regardless of generational changes in privacy expectations, security will certainly be a crucial part of bringing many of these concepts to life, especially driverless cars and contactless payments. As Frederic Martinent and other CrowdChat participants pointed out, “The ability to securely upgrade software embedded in the cars will be key to improve security,” much like the “evolutionary security” used in computers today.
Contactless payments are another place where security will have to support accessibility and ease of use, as wearables and other devices sub in for the paper ticketing, cash, or “phone tap” systems often in use today. Most commenters agreed that contactless payment systems are finally picking up despite initial adoption being low, although some pointed out that many in the workforce were still born in the 1960s, long before wearables, powerful mobile phones, or even personal computers were in wide use.
Regardless, the “lack of friction” in contactless payments, as in the London Transportation system, may drive increased adoption, especially because it improves accessibility everyone, especially non-native language speakers, people with visual impairments, and even elderly members of society.
Participant Helen Keegan, producer and cofounder of the Hacklands Festival, highlighted the importance of including diverse groups in the planning process for systems like this: “I have an elderly mother who I spend a lot of time with. Accessibility is a big deal and we’re not talking about it nearly enough. Unless you experience this stuff directly, it’s very hard to imagine and you end up making wrong assumptions.”
Healthcare On Demand
Emergency services and healthcare providers – as well as those they support – stand to gain immensely from faster connectivity and always-on monitoring, despite the potential drawbacks. One user envisions a world where with the power of the Internet of Things: “Emergency services can connect to a car involved in an accident, assess the severity, use the data to already notify the capable doctor and best mode of transport before they even get there.”
Along with driverless cars, this could be the point where government agencies make their first major foray into regulating the IoT “due to the inherent risks involved with driving and the emotional duress of bad consequences,” according to SiliconANGLE Editor Kristen Nicole.
As the conversation shifted to government regulation and its effects, several CrowdChatters expressed frustration with the ways regulation is impeding innovation, although most agreed that some level of government involvement is necessary in order to prevent the monopolization of new technology.
Others emphasized the need for returning control of data to users and owners rather than vendors and governments, redistributing the balance of power in the consumer’s favor – a move that could require government intervention, even if retroactively.
The conversation took a broad, big-picture turn with Martinent’s question about connectivity: “Should we be more worried about AI and robots taking our jobs?” The consensus seemed to be that “it depends on which jobs we’re talking about.” Some suggested that creative work might be augmented by robots, but not replaced, whereas routine, manual labor can be more easily automated.
Virgi suggested that creative roles include expressive jobs like design, architecture and engineering, whereas jobs like taxi drivers could be replaced by driverless cars. But digital marketer Ken Abbott responded that “it’s not necessarily ‘blue collar’ jobs that are the most in danger. Hair stylists and plumbers would be hard jobs to automate,” suggesting that the very definitions of “white-collar” and “blue-collar” work might have to shift in light of the robotic advance.
Additionally, significant social change will need to happen to replace the “volume of jobs” lost in the AI revolution. Keegan summed it up well: “There will be new jobs but not for everyone. And it will change the dynamic of our workplace and redefine what work is. I’m as excited about it as I’m terrified!”
See the full CrowdChat transcript below: