25 Ways IT Will Morph in the Next 25 Years

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7. Smarter networks are imminent.

The networks of tomorrow will not only be faster, they'll also be smarter. They'll be able to tell when it makes sense to use a local network connection such as Wi-Fi and when it makes sense to use a wide-area connection depending on what you want to send and where you want to send it.

"Your cell phone will decide where it is and whether it needs to use a wide-area or local connection to communicate," Newell says. "Now, if I want to send my wife some information, I send her an e-mail. Even if we're sitting next to each other, that e-mail goes all the way to my ISP and then to the Google Mail server and than back to her ISP."

Newell points out that it would be far more efficient for his computer to use a local Wi-Fi connection to send the e-mail from one machine directly to another. That kind of network smarts will be available sooner than 25 years, experts say

"We will have multiple wireless technologies, and we will have the ability to utilize the best available network," says Marek Rusinkiewicz, vice president of research for Telcordia. "In the labs, we can demonstrate that we can...continue a session from cellular to Wi-Fi to WiMax. There would be different optimization criteria so you could find the bandwidth that's adequate for an application or you can find the cheapest way. This would be seamless, so you don't have to switch from one mode to another."

8. Networks will be programmable.

The National Science Foundation is sponsoring a networking research platform dubbed GENI at 14 U.S. college campuses that hints at a future of deeply programmable networks.

"You can program every single part of the network," says BBN's Elliott, director of the GENI Project Office. "With the Internet, it's because you can put anybody's software on it that people have wildly innovated. What if you could start putting the software you want into the cloud? Into the routers and all the middle boxes? You would open up the entire system so people can install any software they want."

Elliott says GENI will be installed in 150 campuses over the next three to four years, allowing researchers to conduct large-scale experiments and to divvy up computation, storage and network resources in new ways.

"Beyond the five-year timeframe, this whole thing becomes one very large computer. We're starting to talk about a planetary computer," Elliott says.

Among the applications for this planetary computer are real-time predictions of extreme weather or flu outbreaks for a precise location.

"The goal of the weather system is to predict 5 minutes or 10 minutes into the future if there is going to be a tornado and where it is going to touch down," Elliott says. "On demand, you'll start doing very local weather predictions...I think this is going to be pretty routine."

9. We will have a truly global Internet - and marketplace.

Twenty five years from now, the Internet will be globally available with little difference in the speed and quality of access based on geographic location. Another positive change will be the ubiquitous deployment of IPv6, the next generation Internet Protocol that offers virtually unlimited address space to businesses and consumers around the world.

"One can expect broadband access, often tens of megabits, anywhere you want it," predicts Cisco Fellow Fred Baker.

Today, less than 30% of the world's population has Internet access, according to Internet World Stats. The region that's lagging the most - Africa - has only 11% penetration. But that will change in the next 25 years, with all regions of the world catching up to North America, which is nearing 80% Internet usage rates.

Baker says that truly global communications will level the playing field economically, which will have the biggest impact on the least developed nations.

"I'd like to think that wealth is not redistributed around the globe but generated; there [will be] more wealth globally, and a lot of it is in places that are not wealthy now," Baker says. "That is the value I see in Internet technology. Not only that a rising tide lifts my boat and your boat, but all boats."

10. Storage will be cheap enough that you can record every minute of your life.

By the year 2029, $100 will purchase 11 petabytes - that's 10 to the15th power -- of storage, predicts Cisco's Evans. "You could record every second of your entire life in Blu-Ray quality," he adds.

Telcordia's Rusinkiewicz says a few terabytes of storage on a handheld device "is enough to store the whole history of the life of a person, including all the movies you've ever seen, all the music you've ever heard, and all the photos you've ever taken."

Hinting at this future ability to record your entire life is a project called "The Birth of a Word,'' where MIT researcher Deb Roy began video taping every waking moment of his newborn son's life to study how he learned to speak.

"Imagine if you could record your life. Everything you said. Everything you did, available in a perfect memory store at your finger tips," Roy explained at a talk at the TED Conference. "So you could go back and find memorable moments and relive them or sift through traces of time and discover patterns in your own life that previously had gone undiscovered."~~

11. Everything will be digitized and accessible over the Internet.

Every piece of information available to mankind - from historical to current - will be scanned, digitized and searchable over the Internet. And that information will be accessible on your smartphone no matter where you are located in the world at speeds that won't frustrate you.

"Kids will have no idea what it means to go to a library, what it means to go to Blockbuster," Newell says. "We will show our grandkids a CD or a DVD, and they will have no idea what this is."

All entertainment will be streamed in 3D, and you won't need a special device to access it; just your smartphone.

Blu-Ray could be the last removable media format ever made, Lewis says.

"Everything ever created will now be online," Lewis says. "Libraries will disappear and morph into think tanks. Books will be in a museum."

12. Content will be hyperpersonalized.

Since all content - articles, books, music and movies - will be streamed to you, it will be customized to you and your interests at a much higher level.

"You will never sit around and watch a commercial and wonder why this is playing for me," Lewis says, predicting the death of mass media. "If you're 25 years old, there is no reason you should be looking at an AARP ad on TV. That's not going to happen anymore."

Business will hyperpersonalize their offerings to customers.

"Restaurants will start to offer perks based...on what you like," Lewis says, whether that's a coupon for savings or a preferred reservation. "We'll see a whole new customer-specific level of value attributes that are denoted through technology."

13. Sensors will be pervasive and talking to each other - and us - over the Internet.

Everything you buy - houses, appliances, entertainment devices, cars - will have processing power and be hooked up to the Internet for monitoring, maintenance and other features.

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Your car will be in constant contact with the dealer and will let you know when it needs an oil change. Your house will have motion-detection sensors that control light, heating, cooling and call 911 if you slip and fall. Sensors in your refrigerator will detect when your food is going bad.

"There will be zillions of new things that talk to each other but also talk to us, saying: 'I'm too cold'. 'I'm too warm'. 'I'm not well'. 'I need maintenance'," Rusinkiewicz says.

In other words, the Internet of things will come to fruition.

"Today, we have a few billion devices connected to the network. By 2020, we should see 50 billion devices connected to the network," Evans says.

Living things - from livestock to plants - also will be connected to the network. Devices as small as a grain of salt or sand could be injected with a hypodermic needle into living creatures for monitoring purposes.

"We might even see people each given a unique IPv6 address," Evans says. "With IPv6, every person on the planet could have 52,000 trillion, trillion IP addresses each."

14. Cameras will be everywhere.

Alongside all of these Internet-connected sensors will be cameras that are watching both you and your environment.

"We will see an emergence of things that are part computing and part mechanical...The obvious thing is that we will have a lot of cameras," Rusinkiewicz says. "Twenty five years from now, we will be able to see anyplace on Earth from any perspective and reconstruct it."

Integrated with all of the sensors and cameras on the Internet will be actuators that can control mechanical devices hooked up to the Internet.

"We will have ubiquitous actuators. These are the things that can make something happen, such as being open or closed," Rusinkiewicz says. "This would be a major change. Not only will it be able to watch what's going on but possibly control it."

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