Predicting for the long term is dangerous, just ask Back to the Future II. While it was fabulously wrong about 2015 having flying cars, hoverboards, weather control and dehydrated microfood, it was right about 3D movies, video calling, multiscreen viewing and ‘80s nostalgia. We’re not quite so ambitious as to look ahead 30 years; but a mere five years from now we expect the tech world to look a little like this. Below are three cloud predictions for 2020:
1. Hardware will become just a vessel for your cloud account
There are already an incalculable number of web sites, apps and services that allow you to authenticate your identity with your Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook or Twitter account. Most every mobile phone manufacturer offers something similar on your devices, though why I might want to syndicate something between my Samsung Galaxy handset and my Samsung HD TV is a bit fuzzy. Amazon and Netflix have made overtures in this direction, too, and even Apple has begun to concede that iCloud may deserve as much technical attention as the next iPhone.
Today when you change devices or websites, your data goes with you. Each year you can upgrade your laptop, phone, tablet or television and every setting and saved file will be there moments after you sign in on the new device.
By 2020, this trend will have exploded to the point that, in the enterprise, the idea of issuing any one person any one device will seem antiquated and quaint. We’ll still likely have our own phone, but workstations, tablets, presentation screens and any other display or input device will be first-come, first-served for whoever logs in. Persons over the age of 60 may still, by and large, log in at home on their personal laptops (probably still using AOL or whatever email address they got from their internet provider), but everyone younger—and everyone with an office—will be far more hardware-agnostic than they are today. It will be all about the cloud (which will need all the security and backups it can get).
2. Screens will be owned by the nearest, smartest device (which likely has no screen)
Call it the Chromecast-ification of the world, but the days of single screens being monogamously bound to single computing devices will draw to a close over the next five years. Every monitor and television and projector and touchscreen and pair of smart-glasses will be as commonly Wi-Fi-enabled as the average printer is today, allowing you to throw audio and sound from your personal computing device to the display with a simple wireless handshake. And that computing device—which, for tradition’s sake, will probably still be called a “phone”—may well have no screen of its own.
Devices like Google Glass and Apple-esque smartwatches will make it unnecessary to limit the form factor and battery life of your primary computing device by wedging a “never big enough for your eyes, never small enough for your pocket” screen on it. Instead, you’ll have a host of peripherals that wirelessly become your array of displays, including a console screen or heads-up display in your car, the giant screen in your living room that is so much more than a mere TV, and even a set of waterproof goggles you wear during workouts. The cloud will finally go anywhere when its not wedded to any single screen.
3. It will be impossible to accidentally lose any personal item, device (or the person that owns it)
The Internet of Things will finally get here by 2020, but, much like you still won’t have a hovercar or jetpack, your fridge still won’t be able to tell you if you’re out of milk. Instead, a proliferation of cheap RFID chips will tell you if there’s any milk in the icebox, and whether the sell-by date on that milk carton is passed. The same will hold true for clothes in your closet (“sell-by date” here being a notion of what is in style or not, or whether it qualifies as casual or formal enough for the occasion you’re attending this evening).
In fact, any consumer good with an expiration date or a value over $5 will be traceable. Amazon (and it’s competitors) will finally be able to tell everything you own, whether you bought it through the Jeff Bezos empire or not. Facebook will finally have a profile of your consumerist self that goes beyond the books you claim to like to include the ones you actually own (and have actually taken off the shelf in the last five years). The cloud will have the single greatest record of your physical existence ever created. And all of it will be locatable at all times.
If nothing else, home insurance issuers will have better data than they ever dreamed, and along with it a whole new list of items they’ll admonish you for linking to your social networking profiles. “Don’t tell drug dealers on the web you own a Xbox Infinity and a PlayStation 5. You’re asking to get robbed!” Of course, you’ll be able to track down the moron that nabbed your Nintendo Wii SuperU, because he’ll try to hock it at a pawnshop that will identify it as a stolen good as soon as it hits the store’s beacon network. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Those are our picks for the world of cloud technology in 2020? What do you expect?