Whenever one pulls out their crystal ball to see what the future may hold for information (in society, business, and our personal lives) it is relatively easy to reference the “usual suspects.” These include more mobile device applications, the “Internet of Things (IoT)” via machine-to-machine sensors, and an electronic wallet (like a highway toll EZPass). But it's time to get ready for so much more.

My belief is that a good way to view what the future holds is to examine it from the position of the individual. People will increasingly want personalization. They will want what they choose to want -- and not necessarily what someone thinks they want. That is, they will want to customize their relationship with information to their personal preferences. The Millennials, born roughly between 1985 and 2005, seem to be leading this charge.

With that in mind, here are my predictions:

  • Sports television statistics: Avid sports fans love statistics. Increasingly sports telecasts are raising the bar for viewers. For example, televised golf tournaments will display for each hole the distribution of the golfers’ number of eagles, birdies, pars, single bogies, and multiple bogies. The display will go beyond a table to a histogram for quicker visualization. New capabilities will allow the viewer to further drill down on each golfer’s performance.
  • DNA testing: Individuals will be able to have their DNA tested to detect potential diseases or disorders they may potentially have in the future. Advances in medicine will prevent their ailments and suffering.
  • Home utilities monitoring: As the awareness of environmental sustainability and conservation increases, water and power utilities will offer real-time and summarized “smart” sensor metering of usage. The user can flexibly segment their monitoring to the appliance and device ranging from a clothes washer and dryer to a toaster oven. They can measure the amount of water consumed taking a shower compared to a load in their dishwasher to better understand where their opportunities are to conserve. The utility companies will provide benchmarked feedback, normalized by the size of the household and number of residents, so that households can assess how effective their conversation is compared and “benchmarked” to similar households.
  • Preventive asset maintenance: Equipment and devices inevitably experience malfunctions. The worst case is they breakdown. Scheduled preventive maintenance, like lubricating a machine, mitigates equipment failures. In the future, sensors will detect an imminent problem.
  • Smart street parking: Cities with extreme automobile traffic create frustrations for drivers seeking street parking. With sensors and a mobile app, drivers can locate where an available parking space exists. The city can variably adjust the parking meter prices throughout the day, from peak to less peak time periods, to assure there will be constant parking spaces available. This capability will also reduce wasted fuel searching for a space.
  • Freight and inventory movement and storage:  With sensors, individual items ranging from freight packages to individual items in a retail store, individuals and businesses can manage their distribution and storage. Households will have alerts to when food is nearing spoilage in their refrigerators.
  • Government social services: Public sector agencies will provide their employees substantially better information to serve citizens. For example, case workers for children at risk of abuse can monitor the relationships in social networks, such as moves to foster homes or potentially unreliable or risky relatives. They can drill down to see possible criminal records of the caregivers for the purpose of mitigating risk or harm to a child. There are privacy issues but also societal benefits.
  • Traffic light throughput flow: With sensors in automobiles and along streets, traffic lights will change from red to green in real time based on the density and speed of the autos to speed the flow and reduce the wait time for drivers.

Some of these uses of information are already in pilot stages. Eventually they will be commonplace. With the acceleration of analytics and big data, at this point in time if you can imagine a use of information it will likely become a reality. What are the consequences? My examples are generally desirable. But as mentioned with one example above some cross the line of invading one’s privacy. Let us hope we are governed by global leaders who know where and how to draw that line.
We are moving from possibilities to probabilities to the existence of a solution or aid to living a less stressful life.     

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