As I finished my CES planning this week, I realized I didn’t have to write a traditional, what-to-expect-from-CES post that I’ve written for what feels like a decade since I’m not at a major publication anymore. The exhilaration I felt was fleeting because I then realized that I should do the old journalism standby of predicting what is going to happen in the coming year.
I solicited some ideas via Twitter, asked a few friends and picked through my inbox to find some of the predictions that went beyond “AI is going to be big” or “security becomes important for the internet of things.” It worked. Below are some of mine along with some of those I found most interesting from others.
First, some ideas from others. Mark Shuttleworth at Canonical offered several predictions related to securing remote devices, but my favorite was the idea that today’s fix will sometimes cause the next problem. It speaks to the new always be securing mindset that companies have to develop in a connected world.
At IHSMarkit, they are predicting new device formats brought about by 3-D printing and cheap smartphone components. Think of it as the long tail of devices.
Snehal Antani, the CTO of Splunk, suggests that we will have smarter public safety thanks to a combination of smarter cities, better planning for crises and the fact that everyone has a mobile phone. Maybe taking a page from U.S. universities where students receive texts and instructions when a campus is put on lockdown, similar efforts will make their way to cities and stadiums.
Those are interesting ideas and I hope they actually come true. And now, here are a few of mine for those of you looking ahead.
Voice is going to be big but confusing. We got that voice is an essential UI for connected devices, but what we’ll see next year is some company creating a system that helps decipher what we’re talking to and what we want without all the mental gymnastics of commanding Siri, Google or Alexa. It should combine voice recognition, biometrics to know who is asking, perhaps gestures and context clues about what a person might need based on the information the assistant has at the moment, to deliver a natural interface. We’re also going to see commonalities and best practices emerge around how we interact with connected devices without picking up our phone.
The smart home is going to bite companies and consumers in the butt: We think life is so bad now with the millions of hubs, devices that get bricked with no warning and a complete lack of standards. Just wait. Next year, we’re going to see the equivalent of police trying to pull data from someone’s Amazon Echo times 1,000. Absent mores and actual laws, both individuals and companies are going to abuse the power that the internet of things can provide to profit themselves.
Data exhaust will be a conversation topic: The same way people began realizing that Google kept everything about your searches online in the mid-to-late aughts, people will realize that with every smart device they own they are providing reams of data on their most intimate movements. A humidity sensor in your home can tell someone when you take a shower. A wearable knows if you spent the day in bed or running around after you called in sick.
A cynic would claim that privacy is dead. I tend to believe/hope that conversations about our data exhaust become more serious and lead to new customs and even laws that protect people’s privacy. While police may have the right to ask for our Amazon Echo recordings, letting the NSA open up the microphone on the Echo just to listen in on conversations would be the end of customer trust. I’m not saying the NSA will do that, but it could.
Bots battle bots: Researchers are already seeing automated bots fighting over changes to Wikipedia and in the security community, automated efforts to control botnets are on the rise. But as we add more intelligence to our connected devices, bots are going to fight each other not out of malice, but more out of chaos. So your thermostat may tell your A/C to turn on while your energy company tries to shut it off. Or your phone may get notifications all telling you the same thing from a variety of different sensors or services in your life. Next year is when we start to realize that we no longer have computers that are controlled by any one entity or stimulus. And that’s going to be confusing. The use of automated bots may also get out of hand. They can be used for fraud purposes and need to monitored so that doesn’t happen. It might also be worth using bot detection to siphon out nonhuman traffic and keep systems with sensitive data protected.
Specialized silicon is going to have a day in the sun: Whether it’s for specialized digital signal processors that let devices listen for a wake word or specially architected chips for processing computer vision, we’re going to see a few startups get involved in designing chips and big companies try to throw more specialized designs at the internet of things. General purpose computing doesn’t work when you’re building a smart watch or a smart car, much less a smart sensor.
Life gets meshy: Mesh Wi-Fi networks hit the main stage this year and with the certification of a mesh standard for Bluetooth expected next year, it’s likely that more and more devices are going to be part of a mesh network. Are your devices ready? I’ve already experienced some pain myself with certain products that can’t handle the mesh, and have heard from some manufacturers that mesh networks don’t always play nicely with their products. It may be time to adapt.
Ransomware attacks no longer threaten with data loss but a loss of control: I understand the threat of using unprotected connected devices for things like the Mirai botnet attacks. What I think will be more problematic is when hackers go after vulnerabilities in connected devices to take control of someone’s home. Right now hackers use the threat of data loss to make ransomware successful and this can be quite scary to know that your data has been hacked. Next year, someone is going to use their control over a device to extort the victim to pay money for the heat to turn on or the trains to run on time. This is why installing something like Zonealarm ransomware protection on your computer will help detect any suspicious activities and protect your data from hackers.
I’m sure other things are going to happen next year, such as the business model changes mentioned below in my Picture This section, but this should be enough to get people thinking and hopefully preparing for the conversations we need to have.
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