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Digital opinion

Integrating with 'internet of everything'

Do you remember life before the internet? Or how you lived without Google to answer your every question, even completing your questions? More importantly, have you imagined how we will be further integrated with the World Wide Web in another decade?
This week marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who released a paper on 12 March 1989 proposing an "information management system" for the internet.

The internet was a system that linked computers and had been around a while - the World Wide Web code for Berners-Lee's system, which he released free on Christmas Day in 1990, became the structure for the internet and a blueprint for future interaction.

Independent US think-tank, the Pew Research Centre, has released a major internet project to commemorate this anniversary by looking at what our digital lives will be like in 2025, polling experts in a year-long project for 2014 that will look at everything from privacy to security and digital futures, net neutrality and the "internet of things".

This is the sum-up of research writers and authors, Professor Janna Anderson of Elon University's Imagining the Internet Project and Lee Rainie, director of the Internet Project: "Experts predict the internet will become 'like electricity' - less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people's lives for good and ill."

The prediction

The prediction is that we will become embedded in the World Wide Web effortlessly, through the clothes we wear, the devices integrated into our lives and on our bodies.

Anderson and Rainie describe it as "embedded computing that will be tied together in the Internet of Things, allowing people and their surrounds to tap into artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information storage and sharing".

It will be all about connections to people and everything will "flow" from those connections.

The 2500 experts and technology builders polled by Pew Research foretold similar patterns in the technology change ahead. Sectors which will be most impacted are health, education, work, politics, economics and entertainment.

Much of the change is expected to be positive, but there are concerns gathering about surveillance, terror and crime, as well as interpersonal ethics. Issues that will be debated furiously will centre around how to retain civil liberties while establishing security and trust, explain Anderson and Rainie.

Your digital future

This is your digital future, according to the experts surveyed for this research, write Anderson and Rainie (quoted verbatim):
  • "A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment built through the continued proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centres in a world-spanning information fabric known as the 'Internet of Things'.
  • Augmented reality enhancements to the real-world input that people perceive through the use of portable/wearable/implantable technologies.
  • Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting finance, entertainment, publishers of all sorts, and education).
  • Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms."
In making their research accessible, Anderson and Rainie grouped the expert predictions into "15 identifiable theses about our digital future". Eight were found to be "hopeful", six "concerned" and another as "neutral".

They emphasise that choices made now will shape our future and while most people are aware of how technology will and is changing, not everyone is aware of the impact of the technological groundswell of change already taking place.

It is an extremely helpful and thought provoking report and helps us re-imagine a future that hitherto, we have only been exposed to on such a scale in science-fiction movies and literature.

One of the best quotes is the last one, number 15, in which we are urged that "the best way to predict the future is to invent it".

To read the full report, click here

TRENDAFRiCA is a trend watching portal on consumer insight, research and trends from South Africa and further afield on the continent of Africa. It includes DAiLY trends headlines from around the world, influential Trendspotter columnists and in-depth reports on industry segments. Louise Marsland is the founder and editor.
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About Louise Marsland

Louise Marsland is publishing editor of and a journalist, columnist, trainer and speaker in the media, marketing and advertising industry in South Africa, and a specialist in B2B media. Email her on , read her at and follow her on Twitter at @Louise_Marsland.
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