The “Internet of Things” is upon us, where ubiquitous network connectivity provides a means for sensors or devices to communicate. The ability for each sensor or device to have their own IP address adds a two-way communication that goes beyond reporting on current conditions. This communication ability creates a rise toward the semantic web, where machines understand the meaning of information.
The great explosion of social networking creates entirely new interactions between friends and families, but also among colleagues and communities of interest. The use of these social networking tools provides different connections where groups create their own monitoring and reporting channels. With social networking there’s the advent of humans as sensors that self-organize, self-monitor, and automatically aggregate information.
The open architecture of Internet-based systems have given rise to dashboards and other tools that synthesize information for better visualization and understanding. Dashboards combine inputs and read-outs to gain a better picture through the visualization of multiple data feeds in one view. Checklists and wizards are another means to walk users through the intricacies of a detailed analysis, helping eliminate human error where complex systems often require counter-intuitive thinking.
The global rise of the smart mobile phones has fostered a “Mobile First” mantra among software developers. There are far more phones than computers on a global scale, and the increasing capabilities of these devices will provide a whole new means of capturing and exploiting models of our intelligent infrastructure. One of the more promising capabilities is augmented reality, where our detailed models inform the world around us by presenting overlays on the device in the context of where the device camera is pointed.
Together, these technology trends provide a compelling vision for what our future will hold. The Internet of Things will enable our computing systems to act as independent agents to perform set tasks, greatly freeing up managers, and creating better-tuned processes. Our systems will factor in input from individuals through social networking tools in order to improve data and our understanding of the built world by harnessing input from the users of the infrastructure who have a vested interest in its performance. The increasing knowledge in our systems will giver rise to more machine learning, where our systems are tuned to take over more mundane tasks, and allow us to focus more on analysis. Augmented reality will eventually replace all map books, and provide a far greater efficiency for field workers by providing greater context for their work.