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October 24, 2018

Invisible technology: what can you see?

Written By Madeleine Kirk
5 mins

Technology is becoming more prominent in every aspect of our lives, from being attached to a mobile device constantly throughout the day (and night), to having integrated assistance in every room of our home, there has a drastic increase in the use of technology, and the visibility of it.  The first of our series of white papers highlights key technology trends that are integrated into, and impacting our everyday lives.  We believe the time to get to grips with these ever emerging trends is now, before we see another change. Here is a taster of our the first in our series of tech trends white papers – focusing on Invisibility.

If you want to delve a bit deeper, the full paper is available to download here
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Internet of Things

The rise in human data available has been significant over the past couple of years. The Internet of Things is a major contributing factor for the increasing growth of this data. This interconnection is via the internet of computing devices embedded into everyday objects; all of which, send and receive data and information. This ‘machine generated data’ is created by things, not humans, and collected through ‘smart’ devices or machines that communicate with each other.  

Throughout our homes, offices, schools and cars, there are billions of smart devices and sensors, all of which are continually talking to each other. These devices are monitoring information and activity, as well as automating tasks to make consumers lives a lot easier. There is now a diverse ecosystem of devices that make up the IoT, which now outnumber the population. The machine-to-machine connection is an imperative part of the IoT. There are many examples of the IoT throughout our lives, all of which are relied upon by a number of consumers and varying levels. For example, at home, a smart thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature of a room based on personal preferences. These types of devices are used in a range of different industries from healthcare, to business, to manufacturing.

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The interconnection between smart devices and the internet continues to grow in the virtual world, however, these physical devices connected to the internet are now being used to search for real-world things. There are now search engines specifically for the IoT, these include Shodan and Thingful. In short, the world is becoming more searchable. Through a distributed network, everything around us can be searched. The problem then arises as to whether the real-world can be hacked?

Although some may be sceptical about the use of IoT devices, the demand and use of home connected devices and appliances is increasing. The change in lifestyle, along with cost savings, is changing the ways in which consumers interact with different types of technology. A mobile phone is becoming a hub for consumers to access all of their data and control different appliances. As the IoT matures, more and more smart home appliances are becoming even more automated, giving the consumer more power.                  

The IoT can also play a valuable role in healthcare and business, as well as having a significant impact on home life for consumers. In recent years, IoT have captivated attention for its potential to relieve strain on healthcare systems caused by a rise in chronic illness and an aging population. Devices being developed can capture health data and then transmit that data to health professionals. The Internet of Things is therefore a potential solution to relieve pressure on the healthcare system. The ways in which we conduct business is also being transformed by the IoT. The data being captured by smart devices and machines provides a broad insight into consumer behaviour.  

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Smart Cities

Smart cities is a term that is becoming more prevalent and an initiative that is trying to be implemented throughout cities around the world. The term is considered as a process as oppose to a static outcome. Essentially, turning into a smart city encompasses increased citizen engagement, hard infrastructure, social capital and digital technologies. All of these components make the cities more livable, resilient and better able to respond to challenges. These are scalable solutions to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance quality of life. There are either two approaches that cities can adopt to become smart; the top down or the bottom up approach. A top down approach uses pre-gathered data from a range of different sources to compile information into a single platform in order to manage a city’s operations more efficiently. A bottom up approach is more favoured by UK cities. This makes use of new technologies and new data sourced through censors and open data platforms to enable citizens to formulate solutions. Approaches that focus on already existing goals enable cities to overcome the confusion often associated with what it means to become a ‘smart city’.        


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Security and hacking issues

With security hacks on the rise, there is a consistent lack of confidence regarding the security of everyday communication channels though technology devices and the protection of the information they collect. In the future, there will be an increase in the number of mature and sophisticated breaches, advanced hacker tricks and targeted ransomware on all devices found in our homes, offices and our hands. A large proportion of the general public are unaware of the nature and scope of how much of their data is actually being collected. With the enforcement of the GDPR regulation coming into force in May, tension between security and privacy is a continuing problem. The 2017 cyber-attack on the NHS was a huge wake up call. Although with an increase in Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) and rise of hacktivism, coupled with new infrasture becoming targets and ransomware attacks, understanding who and what is at risk of such attacks and educating the general public to is going to be difficult.  

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The adoption of technology within healthcare has been slow in recent years compared with other aspects of our lives. This is due to many concerns, one of which being that regulatory issues were stopping the development of technology solutions. However, in recent years, the healthcare industry has started to adopt simplified technological approaches that have already been embraced by many other consumer industries. A host of technologies are consolidating in order to transform the ways in which patients are treated and may also help develop new cures. These types of technologies can include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), robotics and connected devices. Within the health industry there has been a shift to the use of mobile by startups to address medical problems with digital solutions. Whilst there is possibility of future innovations within healthcare that could have the potential to transform the industry, human factors will remain one of the limitations of progress.    

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Voice User Interface   

Today, there are many interface innovations that have transformed how we interact with technology. There are now countless amounts of voice-based customer service devices, all powered by AI chatbots responding to voice queries and questions. Two of the most well known examples are Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Voice interactions and commands with a piece of technology are becoming a form of natural communication, as well as typing on a phone or computer keyboard. These smart speakers however, have become invisible in our homes, being situated in most rooms, users begin to not notice them being ‘there’. Although, this form of communication only seems natural in certain situations and circumstances, thanks to the development in AI capabilities, devices can understand requests and answer us. This move away from tapping a screen can also break down the barrier between generations as you don’t have to be tech savvy to talk to a virtual assistant like Siri!

The advancement and development of technology has increased rapidly in the last couple of years. Although different types of tech are becoming more prominent in our lives, they are becoming more ‘invisible’. This is having an impact on all generations, from children that learn to read from an iPad, the elderly who use virtual assistants to businesses that capture data through technology. Therefore, an awareness of the invisibility of technology is vital as it  becomes smarter, more automated and more integrated into every aspect of our lives.

Download our Invisibility Tech Trends now on our resources page!