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This Decade in Tech

Sejuti Banerjea

A decade is a long time by any standards, but in technology, a decade is a lifetime. And in the last one, technology became a more fluid thing, filling gaps we never perceived existed, bringing people closer together like never before, making life much easier and permeating into areas where we didn’t always want it.

For enterprises, this meant a bring your own device (BYOD) trend, melting away the distinction between consumer and enterprise usage that had until then been so important to maintain. This coupled with an entire revolution in mobile computing with tablets, hybrids and whatnot meant that employees could carry their devices practically anywhere, or even work from home.

All this is, of course, facilitated by the cloud, which (mostly through Amazon’s AMZN AWS, but increasingly also Microsoft’s MSFT Azure and to a lesser extent, Google Cloud), faithfully maintains the computing resources, programs and data generated, so companies have the option to scale as required while spending only to the extent of resources consumed; and employees enjoy greater flexibility and speed to achieve more desirable outcomes. Scores of companies providing specialized services have jumped on top of this infrastructure so everyone can do more for less.

Behind it all is another revolution in miniaturization and concentration of computer power, with integrated circuits getting even smaller and phones acquiring larger screens and becoming mini computers, housing every bit of information we could possibly need through the day. This, of course, increased anxiety about data theft that technology companies assuaged with biometric unlocking, including fingerprints, and most recently, facial recognition technology.

The app world saw sea-changes, with some members like Amazon, Apple AAPL Music, Netflix NFLX, Spotify SPOT and a few others pulling significantly ahead of the others. The digitization of entertainment happened with Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Netflix, etc., but many others are joining in as cord cutting has become an undeniable reality. With greater usage came greater variety in payment options and even more apps like Square SQ and Paypal PYPL gained popularity. Digital currencies and blockchain technology hold promise for the future.

Facebook FB, disappearing messages from Instagram (before it was acquired by Facebook) and Snapchat SNAP, and more recently, Tiktok has changed the way we communicate today, although Facebook’s impact has perhaps been the most significant. And Twitter TWTR has become the go-to place for breaking news when it isn’t busy documenting celebrity gaffes.

While we had new iterations of Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PS and the Nintendo Switch, gaming was really redefined with e-sports as a new category, drawing millions of viewers and attracting significant ad dollars. Enhancing all that was new visual technology in the form of augmented and virtual realities.

Glasses overall progressed but weren’t smashing hits as Google’s version ran into privacy and other issues, Facebook’s Oculus proved too expensive and Microsoft’s HoloLens saw limited use. Still, companies and geeks remain interested in the possibilities as AR matured and made its way into iPhones.

Somewhere along the line, we realized that it would be fun to have our infotainment in our cars, so Apple’s Carplay and Alphabet’s GOOGL Android Auto were born.

Not satisfied with these improvements, and also perhaps concerned about the environment, we wondered what the future of automobiles would be like. And no sooner thought than done, we had companies like Tesla TSLA giving us all-electric vehicles, in a full-throated challenge to traditional automakers. We also had companies like Alphabet, Apple, Baidu BIDU and many others trying to figure out the mechanics of creating a self-driving car, and even achieving millions of self-driving test miles.

We’re also more willing to share resources today because we’ve discovered their scarcity and our ability to get by with less. So Uber, Lyft etc. have captured our imagination.

With people warming to ecommerce and home delivery, there are many companies willing to do the job for a nominal fee. And some have taken this a step further with drones. Regulation is playing catch-up, but the tech that can carry a few pounds worth of goods to a certain destination without human intervention is available and ready to go.

On a more personal level, voice commands have become easier with personal assistants and digital home devices, although some people are tiring of automation devices crowding the home. But we’re still interested in smart devices around our wrists, and these are getting more capable. Telling your watch to get things done is neither sci-fi nor even a novelty any more, as the tech is going mainstream.

With all that data running between devices and clouds, there has, of course, also been a revolution in telecom networks. 4G LTE has increased speeds that 5G will take much further. And software-defined networking has lowered networking costs for enterprises.

Data-mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence have been a natural follow-on, and it’s clear that tomorrow’s leaders are those that have the most data today.

Oh, and did I forget?

All these things came at a cost. Security issues, data breaches, identity theft and privacy issues have become household items. The next decade may not solve these issues, but the number of lawsuits piling up indicates that there will be better definition of responsibilities.

Will everything be perfect in the future? I doubt it. But one thing I’m sure of is that we’ll make more progress.

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