A couple of glasses of vino on a Sunday night and I got to thinking about what I believe will be the technologies that are going to reshape the world in 2010. After a stagnant year or two in there are some really killer things on the horizon right now.
#5: Smartphone Apps
Getting my iPhone was really an eye-opening experience for me because I realized the possibilities that open up when you have a full-featured computer with Internet access in your pocket. I also realized just how nascent most of the apps out there are at this point in time, and the as yet unrealized potential in them.
This has been a huge deal in 2009, so why do I think this is one of the most exciting technologies of NEXT year? Because the apps available today are just starting to scratch the surface of the potential. They’re mostly pared-down versions of their desktop brethren and very few take advantage of the unique possibilities of the mobile platform.
Developers and daydreamers alike are just starting to understand the ramifications of pervasive and socially acceptable mobile computing. There are a couple of apps that have literally changed the way I live because of how accessible they are to me now, and it’s spawned about 5 or 6 ideas for apps that I would really like to have that don’t exist yet.
And that’s not to mention the fact that it’s increased my social network usage by at least a factor of 20. If that’s a common pattern then user-generated content still has a ways to go before it even comes close to peaking.
#4: Linked Data/Semantic Web
I’ve been banging on this drum for a long time, and I think maybe, just maybe, 2010 will be the year that linked data finally fulfills some expectations. It’s taken a generation of programmers to fully digest the downfalls of a relational database system and start looking for some goodalternatives more suited to the connected world. That would be linked data (nee Semantic Web), Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for a world of connected and interlinked data.
Linked data is about exposing data in a way that allows it to be linked across networks and products easily and fluidly. It’s about breaking out of predefined schemas and growing with the users, and allowing data to tell you about itself using things like inferencing engines.
As a data guy I have been hoping and praying for the adoption of this technology since I first learned about it―-it solves many of the hairy data integration problems that have been a thorn in the side of corporate IT departments since the dawn of modern enterprise computing. Fortunately, I see many more people understanding what this is all about and the problems that it can solve.
Some of the key nuances of this technology, such as data made addressable and accessible via unique URI’s, still seems to elude the understanding of a lot of the potential audience, which limits the systems that are built with them. But I’m confident that as deployments happen these misunderstandings will be ironed out and the next generation of software will be built properly. Based on what I’m seeing this might―-just might―-be in 2010.
#3: Data Mining/Predictive Analytics
This could easily be #4 and Linked Data be #3, because in my mind they almost depend on each other for the truly earth-shattering stuff to happen. I guess you could say that 2008 and 2009 were the years that these technologies really changed the world, as many of the quant funds that blew up on Wall Street were based on these technologies. However, not many people know this as the techniques for predicting market direction are, understandably, kept under lock and key.
I’ve really gotten into data mining recently since I discovered the powerful data mining capabilities baked into SQL Server. It’s really some amazing stuff for the price, but very few people know how to use it properly. It is also, in my opinion, much better suited for building distributed applications than some of the better-known offerings such as SPSS.
Data mining ultimately boils down to distilling patterns from historical data. Those patterns can then be overlaid on current data to predict trends, suggest products, and predict behaviors. When put on top of a real-time stream such as that of Twitter’s it could become startlingly powerful.
However, the reason why I think it’s so closely attached to linked data is because linked data can be used to stitch together a global view of the data and then data mining can be used to identify patterns in the resulting pool of data. Pattern recognition based on a unified data set. This is the holy grail of analytics―-an integrated view of your entire data world that can be analyzed and used for predictions.
Why 2010? Because I see recognition of this technology leaking out of the financial world and starting to get some mind-share. It’s also much more available than you would think, so it’s not going to take very long for some early deployments to start popping up and making news.
I would really love a predictive traffic analysis app for my iPhone, by the way, if anyone out there is looking for a killer idea
#2: Augmented Reality
As part of my recent love affair with the iPhone, I’ve gotten very interested in augmented reality. While the buzz on this has been building lately not many people I’ve talked to have heard about it yet, but it’s going to be big.
Data visualization is one of my key interests because good presentation makes data so much more accessible to a wider audience. A good data visualization will not only show the data it was built to show but also trigger the recognition of other interesting and relevant data in its users. Augmented reality is the most impressive and engaging way to display data that I’ve seen in a LONG time, and it simply wasn’t practical until this year.
Augmented reality simply overlays digital displays on the real world, typically using a mobile device as the “viewport”. Instead of a completely virtual world you have the real world with virtual overlays. This video actually describes it much better than any text description could:
Not only can this type of overlay against public areas be done, but you can also overlay virtual objects on well-defined spaces, such as on a piece of paper sitting on your desktop:
Augmented reality is closer than I would have imagined even a year ago. There are technical hurdles to application development, mostly around the speed of mobile devices, but those are being attacked and solved one by one every day. The image processing and recognition, 3D virtual browser displays, and toolkits are now available and can be used in real applications today.
As a data guy the potential for visualizing data against its real-world counterparts makes me itchy with anticipation.
I’ve been playing with iPhone development and augmented reality, but the iPhone OS isn’t scheduled to support direct access to the video feed until the next release, and that’s required for augmented reality apps. (Although I understand that several of these apps are already available today on Android devices.) I suspect that after that release hits you’re going to see a flood of these applications, and I’m really looking forward to it.
#1: Google Wave/XMPP
Google Wave is doing one thing that is going to change the face of computing as we know it: it’s introducing XMPP as the foundation of a widely-used communication service.
I first drank the XMPP Kool-Aid back in 2006, but I haven’t seen much in the way of interesting activity for the past several years. That changed with the announcement of Google Wave, which uses XMPP as the foundation for its protocol. Wave is technically an extension of XMPP.
The reason this is so exciting is because XMPP, if it ever really gains traction, has the ability to change the way we think about communications. Most people equate XMPP with instant messaging because of Jabber, but that’s only a fraction of the story.
I read the entire XMPP spec once upon a time and even back then the extensions to the protocol were pretty astounding, now they’re REALLY impressive:
- Privacy and policy
- Service discovery & feature negotiation
- PGP encryption
- SOAP over XMPP
- Nested groups
- State and presence info
And I mean, that’s a pretty small subset of the entire extension library, the entire thing is truly amazing. I’ve just been waiting for this technology to take off because this really has the potential to be the TRUE Web 2.0: Next Generation, not Incremental. And Google is thankfully staying true to the spirit of XMPP―that is, a truly open, decentralized network.
If Google Wave takes off and introduces full fledged XMPP clients to a wide audience it has the potential to unleash a truly historic wave of innovation. This in fact paves the way for the personal servers that I’ve been blabbering about for a long time, and I have the feeling that Google may be cracking open Pandora’s Box here. Needless to say, I’m really excited about it.
While Amazon and Google may have entered cloud computing first, Microsoft really has an interesting advantage by offering SQL Server as an Azure service. The reason this makes an appealing wildcard to me is because SQL Server has the data mining suite with the lowest cost/benefit ratio that I’ve been able to find. If they turn this into an Azure service they could unleash data mining on everyone. The rest of the platform competes nicely with the Linux-based providers on a cost and feature basis, but this could really spark a revolution.
PubSubHubBub is a technique for systems integration. I find it interesting that Google is behind both PubSubHubBub and the XMPP underlying Wave. XMPP has a fairly robust publish-subscribe extension that works beautifully for real-time communication. PubSubHubBub is something of a competitor in my mind, because both can be used for distributed API calls (XMPP supports SOAP calls, for example). It’ll interesting to see which of these Google really gets behind―it may depend on how fast Wave is adopted.
Twitter certainly seems to have the wind at its back, but I’m putting all my eggs in the Wave basket. I think that Wave is going to be the unexpected dark horse that topples Twitter’s dominance of the real-time communications space. Wave will be able to do things that Twitter can only dream of. The only chink in its armor that I can see if the fact that XMPP may not scale very well for millions of followers, so Ashton Kutcher and Oprah will have to stick with Twitter.
Did I miss any? If so please leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think I missed.
Put all this stuff together and I think we’re in for a VERY interesting year or two.
Fortunately there are so many exciting new technologies out there now that we need to help each other keep on them. By the way, that fact more than any other makes me optimistic about the future of the US economy!
P.S. Dear Santa, FIRST!