Connecting to the Future

Written by: John Roberts

Categories: Alltech Symposium
May 22
Connecting to the Future

A presentation from Tim Arthur, Alltech’s global director of MIS, at Alltech’s 30th Symposium gave us an insight into how innovations of today are a direct result of the inventions of the past. Our future will continue to improve as the inventions of the past become affordable today.

It isn’t hard to think of ways the internet, laser printers, personal computers, and personal networking are all related. However, most people may not realize that all of these technologies were invented before 1974 at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Palo Alto, California. Only recently have they become available for mass consumption as price has decreased. Now it is estimated that the inventions that originated at PARC have generated nearly $30 trillion dollars in revenue.

So what took this technology so long to be used? PARC did sell a personal computer; however, it cost roughly $82,000 in today’s dollars. Apple finally released the McIntosh in 1984 for $3,000. Today, it is possible to get a "free" phone with more computing power than both of these predecessors combined.

This trend for technology to decrease in cost over time is no new phenomenon. Moore’s law is an observation established by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years (later changed to 18 months). This observation is generally applied to processing speed, image pixel density, and capacity. In the simplest terms, technology improves over time and, generally, the cost decreases.

The technology created in the early 70s has reached a point to where the cost is minimal. As a result, we have entered into an age dubbed “internet of things.” This is a period when traditionally non-complex technologies such as refrigerators, televisions, cars, tractors, farms, and even live stock are now connected to the internet. Each of these devices has the potential to collect massive amounts of data – but what will we do with all of this information?

Traditionally, data has been transformed into reports and has provided “descriptive analytics” or simply, data that gives you a look into what has happened. When the data is used to make predictions, such as weather forecasts, it is called “predictive analytics.” The data from all of these devices can be taken a step further and used as “prescriptive analytics” where the data is analyzed and processed through a series of algorithms to make decisions or recommendations. Within this era of everything being connected to the internet, we will be moving into an age in which simple decisions and tasks performed automatically for us.

All this data can be overwhelming. We are always connected and, as a result, our work and personal lives have become more intertwined. It is not uncommon for someone to read an email while eating dinner with family, and it is no longer unacceptable to make updates to social media while at work. How can we handle the never-ending bombardment of data coming at us day and night from both personal and work related sources? Robots? Most likely, tasks will be completed automatically using prescriptive analytics for us.

The “Auto response” feature on emails is a good example of how things will change in the future. It is easy now to create an automatic response for our email that will notify the sender of our being away for vacation or other event. In the future, we will have a virtual assistant that will be able to process the incoming emails and make decisions such as: should you be alerted? Is this an emergency or junk mail? Can I perform the task or answer the question in the email?

With the use of all of this technology, data, and analytics – will we become smarter? Or just more efficient? Will we become more or less distracted? More or less stressed?

One thing is certain, technology will continue to become more powerful and the price will continue to decrease. As the price decreases, technologies will become more affordable and become part of our daily lives. It will be up to us to make the best use of this technology and to improve the quality of our lives.

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