Within 10 years, you can expect the world to be a far smarter place. That prediction has less to do with human intelligence and more to do with our increased connectivity to the world around us. By 2020, experts believe that it won’t just be smartphones and computers that connect to the Internet, but cars, clothes, regular household appliances and even our homes themselves, changing our definition of—and our relationship with—technology entirely.
That change will drive a dramatic increase in the demand for tech careers, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 22% growth in all computer occupations in the next seven years. In particular, demand for software developers and database administrators is expected to grow 32% and 31% respectively, both falling into the BLS’ “much faster than average” category for growth.
The Car of the Future
A 2011 white paper by telecommunications giant Ericssonpredicts there will be more than 50 billion connected devices in the world by the year 2020—and that the definition of “device” will go far beyond the popular understanding of the Internet-ready technology today.
Indeed, cars that offer voice-activated Internet radio, satellite navigation systems and the ability to compose and receive email are already available on the market. To cite one car company’s innovations, Ford announced that more than 80% of its output will offer this kind of connectivity within three years as the demand for “intelligent” automobiles becomes more commonplace. And it’s estimated that cars are expected to make up 6% of all connected “devices” by 2020.
To be clear, the concept of an “intelligent” car goes beyond simply being Internet-ready, however; Google is just one of a number of companies that has been successfully testing “self-driving” cars, and we’re likely to see those on the road within the next decade, transforming the morning commute into a more passive experience during which you can catch up on your favorite television shows, streamed directly from a centralized media hub in the cloud.
Home, Connected, Home
Connectivity will transform the home experience in the next decade as well. “Smart homes” are expected to offer up remote-controlled appliances that also inform owners of necessary chores such as laundry and groceries, or even suggest recipes for meals. Traditional appliances like refrigerators will be able to check their own inventory and cross-reference it against social media suggestions, favorite recipe choices or pre-set shopping lists. Additionally, familiar tasks such as energy management and home security will also become more transparent and simpler to understand thanks to easier access to, and control over, metrics and information about the home’s activities and power usage.
Elsewhere, the shift to a more connected lifestyle will impact our lives in equally unexpected ways. For instance, our definition of banking is likely to change as online banking services become so prevalent and sophisticated that virtual currency will replace not only cash but also physical credit or debit cards. One side effect of the automating and moving online of what have been “traditional” bank services such as cash withdrawal or deposit is that banks’ physical locations are expected to become reinvented as smaller consultancy services. These centers will likely offer specialized advice related to finances and money management based on direct interaction between institution and client as opposed to today’s more impersonal digital interface.
At the center of all of this connectivity is the object we currently consider our central connective device: the smartphone. Acting as the controller for the user’s connected life, the next generation of smartphones could, in the words of AT&T SVP Jeff Bradley, make today’s cutting-edge phones look like the PDAs of the previous decade and instead more closely resemble what we’d call super-computers today. These next-generation smartphones could offer 28 GHz of processing power and embedded storage of 64 terabytes, according to Bradley, making them ten times more powerful than today’s Apple MacBook Pro. Just as phones have already taken the place of cameras and clocks in our lives today, the future smartphones will act as a wallet, keys for our homes and vehicles and the remote control for all other connected devices in our lives. Quite simply, the smartphones of tomorrow will make everything else in our world possible.
Those responsible for shaping the technology of tomorrow will find themselves having far greater influence and impact in people’s everyday life than ever before, as technology becomes a central —if not the central —outside influence in most people’s lives. “We take for granted to a high degree all of the technology that we use in our daily lives. We do not reject technology, we have embraced it,” says Hewlett Packard distinguished technologist Bruce Michelson. “Needless to say, the question of how technology has changed our lives is unique for everyone, however, we are all impacted. In the future, there will not be any part of our daily life that will not be impacted directly by technology.”
No question, the smart technology field is exploding and will drive demand for employees skilled in information technology.