Emerging Technology Trends – Take One

Tomorrow morning I will be giving a presentation on emerging technology trends for the local chapter of ALKA.  So here’s my take on 10 things to keep your eye on in the coming years.

  1. Sociability – Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks will continue to flourish like kudzu.   Libraries and the people who work in them will need to join the social in order to connect with patrons.
  2. The Cloud – Network computing gets a new name and gains traction on all fronts – from infrastructure (AWS) to desktop applications (GoogleDocs) and maybe even the operating systems (Chrome OS).  Cloud computing is also taking on devices like the phone (Skype) and USB flash drives (Box.net).  Have limited funds or restrictive IT support?  No worries, you can probably get it done in the Cloud.
  3. Virtualization –  The ability to run multiple operating systems on a single piece of hardware is already popular in many data centers but will be coming to desktops in a big way.  For example, Windows 7 will offer a virtual XP mode.  For libraries and archives, virtualization will offer the ability to access old formats/content without having to maintain ancient hardware.
  4. Mobility – Led by the iPhone, smartphones (PalmPre, Android) are becoming mainstream.  Other network-capable devices (netbooks, ebook readers, media players, game consoles, cameras, gps displays – http://www.engadgetmobile.com) join the great escape as the masses untether themselves from their PCs.  As we start to roam, the services we use will become location aware (MobiApp).  What devices will libraries make available to their patrons in addition to PCs?  And let’s not forget RFID.
  5. Touch – Its been around for a while, but mobile devices are refining touch interfaces and making them common place.  Look for touch pads on keyboards, remotes, av equipment, desktop phones as well as touch displays  for PCs and laptops.  Maybe the tablet PC will make it big this time with a little help from Apple.  Once users get addicted, what are libraries going to do with all those keyboards and mice?
  6. Place Shifting – First there was “time shifting” i.e recording TV and radio for playback when its more convenient.  Now its “place shifting”, being able to watch TV and other media where its more convenient.  Devices like Slingbox  allow you to stream your home TV and other media to your PC or mobile device.  Video on demand is getting popular with services like Hulu for TV shows and Netflix for movies.  DRM-laced services like the iTunes Store even allow a limited number of copies to multiple devices.  The courts upheld the rights of consumers back in the 1970s for “time shifting”.  Time will tell if the courts support “place shifting” to a similar extent. 
  7. HD – High definition, not to be confused with digital TV, is here and going strong with HD standard in new TVs and thecable/satellite TV vendors offering premium HD services.  BuRay recently won the optical disk format war so expect consumption of HD media to heat up.  So start figuring out how much your library will allocate for BluRay media versus standard DVD media.
  8. Print Fades – Yes, we love books.  And yes, printed books won’t go away anytime soon.  But the rapid collapse of the newspaper industry and the solid success of the Kindle point to the way things are going–i.e away from print publishing.  While I am confident libraries will survive, we may have to adjust our business model just a tad.
  9. Open Metadata – In recent years, there have been tremendous growth in open metadata services that improve resource discovery  (Worldcat.org, GoogleBooks,GoogleScholarPubMed) .  These services tend to offer three options in terms of access–free content or partial content (abstracts, chapters, etc) , pay-for -it content from publishers, and links to local library collections. At least libraries are sitting at the table (although its probably the kid’s table right next to the adult’s).  Now if libraries could work to free their own OPACs.
  10. Multimedia Search – There is a wealth of multimedia available online but almost all the search tools involve text search of metadata.  But advances in image and sound recognition software are changing that.  TinEye searches the Internet for images with an image. Shazam identifies music that it hears.  iPhoto supports facial recognition so you can tag who is in your photos.