Saturday, 21 December 2013

Technology trends, making money and social progress

Here in ThoughtWorks we've just been challenged by our CTO, Rebecca Parsons, to suggest interesting trends in the software industry.

My response was an enumeration of topics that are heading towards the vision I offered in my IoT Manifesto:

To invisibly merge the real and the virtual, creating ambient and ubiquitous interaction, and to empower people over the control and sharing of their physical items, virtual data and the rules that animate them.
  1. Internet of Things (not a bad summary here: )
  2. P2P redux - empowering the user, cutting out the middle (pushes against cloud-dependent IoT :-) - IPv6, whitespace
  3. Massively parallel processing - congruent to the IoT: vast arrays of simple processors
  4. Declarative programming languages that can be used to program these arrays of Things and processors
  5. End-User Declarative Programming - real-time manifestation of effects of user's animation rules: like HTML/CSS, Excel, IFTTT
  6. 3D (OpenGL ES2.0 specifically, or WebGL) as the normal interface, replacing 2D/document/desktop metaphors
  7. Minecraft-style interaction simplicity and power in the 3D interface, to create and explore
  8. Augmented Reality, via smartphones, glasses or projection, holographic 3D displays, wall-sized screens
  9. Gestural interaction by hands and body not just fingers - Wii, Leap Motion style, 3D sensing, Minority Report style
  10. 3D printing, robots, telepresence robots

ThoughtWorks' Three Pillars

As you'll find out within a couple of minutes if you jump the link under Rebecca's name up there, in ThoughtWorks we are guided by our "Three Pillars": Pillar 1 being the core business, Pillar 2 being promoting software excellence and innovation, and Pillar 3 being making a tangible contribution to socially-progressive projects. These are not just corporate woolly-speak: in TW they actually mean something.

Rebecca's challenge was coming from a Pillar 2, innovation perspective, but it is possible to see the application of these trends in the other two Pillars.

For the Pillar 1 angle on my list - business value - I suggested the following:

"Visualisation within Data Science could bring in those Minority Report interfaces.. Maybe Data Scientists would be more comfortable and productive using Excel-style formulae programming. Mapping formulae to parallel hardware sounds like a fun project. Imagine a Data Scientist interface allowing quick sketches of rules and reductions that manifest instantly in a 3D visualisation.. :-)  This could be built today pretty easily."

For Pillar 3 - social progress:

"All of my list is highly relevant to our P3 efforts. Cheap, empowering, sharing technology. From sensing forests being illegally hacked to 3D printed prosthetics. Lots of cheap hardware all wired up, bypassing the multinationals!"

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