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Shifting trends in IT

By Jean-Claude Elias - May 16,2019 - Last updated at May 16,2019

Following technology and staying up to date is exhausting. Part of the difficulty is because of the evolution of the products and services. Another part is the global, fast shifting trends, regardless of any specific product or service. In other words, you have to know where IT is heading.

Start with the obvious: smartphones. Today when you read about a new model your first reaction is not to know if it is faster than the previous one, if the screen is any larger or — certainly the least of your worries — if you can have longer phone conversations with your friends using the new phone. What you first start asking about is how good the camera is.

Smartphones cameras have come a long way in terms of picture size, resolution, sharpness, colour precision and overall quality. The only two aspects of the technology that manufacturers are still trying to address, before they claim they can match or perhaps beat dedicated, big DSLR cameras, is the ability to shoot good photos at night or in low light, and also the possibility to use optical zooming instead of the less good digital zooming. They are all working on it!

The trend in smartphones therefore can be translated as a trend in portable digital photography.

Another general trend is the integration or the addition of Artificial Intelligence (AI) functionality to existing systems, software applications and devices. AI has been mentioned time and again in this very column. Whereas it is not going to burst out in a spectacular manner one fine morning, it is certainly coming slowly, piece by piece, bit after bit, into our lives.

Siri and Alexa, respectively Apple’s and Amazon’s personal assistants, already use AI technology to let you communicate with them in the best possible way, to make them tell you as nicely as they can “your wish is my command”. Netflix video streaming service uses AI to better analyse your taste, your viewing habits, in order to suggest TV series or films you would like to watch.

Google’s owned Nest is a “learning thermostat”, that can work in conjunction with the company’s Alexa assistant, and that uses smart AI algorithms to anticipate your cooling and heating needs, to better adjust your house temperature. It brings more comfort and helps to save energy.

Another trend that is a combination of AI and pure hardware technology is the “touchless” interface. Touchless here is not the opposite of touch screen, otherwise we would be going back to the old days. Instead, touchless refers to technology that is even smarter, and that takes your commands by analysing your head, hands and eyes movements, as well as your voice, without requiring you to touch the screen, the mouse or the keyboard at all, so as to understand what you want to do. It is beyond touch, and much more advanced. Smart and cool.

On the more esoteric side, and for the brave tech-minded, Edge computing may well be the most advanced trend in IT. Whereas, in a general manner, you can save your data either in the cloud or on your local hard disk, Edge computing makes the best of both worlds by keeping it on the network (i.e. not on your computer’s hard disk), but in a location that is close enough physically speaking, so as to achieve two goals: to bring it you as fast as possible when you need it, and to avoid this way networks congestion and heavy traffic.

In absolute cloud storage your data is “somewhere” on some server on the Internet. Regardless of where you are yourself, your data could be saved in Canada, in Taiwan or in New Zealand. You usually do not care and do not really need to know. This technology, however, is creating huge Internet traffic and sometimes tends to slow down the whole operation, not just yours but also others’. Edge computing consists of optimising cloud storage by keeping your data as close as possible to you, but still on the network.

Will the combination of all these IT trends make our life any better?

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