FEATURE26 January 2016

The future

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Data analytics Features Impact Trends UK

The future will see researchers spending more time driving value from insight than on gathering data, says Honor Mallon in the last of the MRS 70th anniversary articles.  

“There is a world market for maybe five computers, ” confided IBM chairman Thomas Watson in 1943, while – almost four decades later – a young Bill Gates predicted that “640k of memory ought to be enough for anybody”.

Over the past 70 years, an avalanche of disruptive technology has transformed the research industry, so why should the future be any different? Can we predict what we cannot imagine?

Passive data is flooding our personal and business worlds: wearables measure our bodies; telematics control our cars; there are more mobile devices than people in the world, their numbers growing five-times faster than the human population.

Gartner forecasts that more than 26 billion objects (excluding computers, smartphones or tablets) will be connected to the internet by 2020 – a 30-fold increase on 2009’s Internet of Things. As homes, wearables, vehicles and personal data exchanges become more connected, the devices will become smarter; shifting from reacting to predicting.