Trends: 5 More for 2015

Trends: 5 More

Now that the holiday season is wrapped up, everyone seems intent on making predictions for the future. This is an annual ritual (along with the usual exercise and weight loss resolutions, Oscar buzz and corporate motivational speeches). While I am no clairvoyant, there are a number of things that seem pretty obvious as trends for the coming year in the embedded computing domain, and while these trends look to continue for some time further, the pace of change may well make these matters critically important within only a few short months.

1. Connected devices

The first is the growing ubiquity of connected devices. The computational power available to each of more than 1 billion people worldwide on a 24-hours-a-day basis far exceeds that available to universities, government agencies and warfighters of only a few decades ago. (Bear in mind that many of the military platforms in use today are from that era). These devices are now so inexpensive we see their in-feed technology employed in thermostats, doorbells, sprinkler controls and even light bulbs. It only stands to reason that the adoption of mobile computing technology in the embedded space is a given. The benefits in lower cost and lower size, weight and power consumption are far too compelling.

2. The cloud

The proliferation of these devices leads to the second trend: distributed or “cloud” computing. As I had a long holiday break, I built (using off-the-shelf hardware) a full cloud server with nearly 50 TB of storage for my son’s advertising agency business. Now, he and his associates and customers can communicate 24/7/365 via mobile. This kind of technology, available to amateur IT guys like me who can do this in a week, at a cost less than the first desktop computer I bought, makes you really think about what is possible with a more serious effort. Again, size, weight, power and affordability benefits are driving this trend.

3. Data analytics

Which brings me to the third trend—the rise of data analytics. With a billion persons interacting with the web on a continuous basis or a host of mobile devices reporting, a huge amount of data is being generated every second. The Internet is literally digital “white noise.” Separating meaningful information from this noise is a huge task and requires approaches to analysis never seen before.

4. Cyber security

The three trends mentioned drive a fourth trend: the need for cyber security. Protection of personal information is important to each of the billion individuals using their smart phones—but how much more important is that need for protection in our increasingly interconnected world, where we monitor and control critical infrastructure such as power, water and transportation? The opportunity for devastating mischief is rife. The security of these systems is of paramount importance and no enterprise can afford to ignore the threat.

The unrelenting thirst for smaller, faster, more capable, more connected and more secure computing is undeniable. The pace of technological change is seen in many ways. First, in the rapid adoption by developing nations and the rise of technological prowess (with its positive and negative impacts on regional and world stability). Second, in the depletion of certain commodities (such as “rare earth” minerals) creating new geo-political realities. And third, in the accumulation of toxic waste exacerbating an already stressed global ecology.

5. New materials and processes

These drive another trend: the search for new materials and processes. Nanotechnology—manufacturing at atomic scale—promises to revolutionize the very core of computing providing quantum (literally) change in speed, memory capacity, connectivity and power consumption of embedded computing.

As I compiled this (very short and very basic) list, I was struck by the fact that each of these trends is being actively pursued by activities at GE. We at GE’s Intelligent Platforms business regularly explore the impact of these trends on our business and, with the help of our extensive research capabilities, seek to bring to our customers the benefits of the emerging technologies driven by these trends.

So, as we look ahead to the new year, I predict that GE will remain on the forefront of innovation; providing new technologies, new products and new ideas.

Watch this space.

Larry Schaffer

Larry Schaffer has been with us in a business development role since 2001, and works to create and maintain long-term, strategic relationships with key companies engaged in embedded computing for ground systems applications with a strong emphasis on image processing and distribution. He was born in Pennsylvania and educated as an Electrical Engineer in New Jersey and California (where he now lives). Just don’t ask him to tell you about being a war baby…

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