In my bookshelf, I have a marvelous engineering book from 32 years ago entitled: The Robotics Revolution by Peter Scott inscribed in my rather youthful hand: 6th Nov. 1984 London. With fairly minimal mention about software - focussing more on the mechanical, electrical and control aspects. However today at the beginning of 2016 one of the overriding trends are based around ‘The Robots are definitely coming’.

Dear Colleagues,

In my bookshelf, I have a marvelous engineering book from 32 years ago entitled: The Robotics Revolution by Peter Scott inscribed in my rather youthful hand: 6th Nov. 1984 London. With fairly minimal mention about software - focussing more on the mechanical, electrical and control aspects. However today at the beginning of 2016 one of the overriding trends are based around ‘The Robots are definitely coming’. Big time. With a huge focus on software and artificial intelligence.

My modest suggestions on top trends in the technology areas for this year include:

  • Machine Learning, artificial intelligence and rapidly increasing robots/automation. Robots will continue to surpass and overtake what we as humans can do esp. in managing the huge amounts of data. From autonomous driving cars to drones to traditional administrative tasks resulting in a hollowing out of middle level jobs with the roboboss (yes!) becoming a reality for many today. Naturally, we need imaginative designers and engineers to create these devices.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and a super-interconnected world  – solid growth in connectivity with sensors (and actuators) although (as we can surely remember from the Fieldbus wars) a lack of standardization makes it all very fractured at present. By 2020, 25 billion sensor devices will be generating data (Gartner). How do we handle this volume?
  • Cybersecurity and cybercrime. I reckon most of us have been touched by virus attacks, assaults on our bank accounts and IT systems. Security must be built into everything we do rather than as an afterthought. Digital thieves are smarter than ever and are proliferating at an alarming rate. We are under constant attack and need to be vigilant. Esp. with our industrial infrastructure now connected to the internet.
  • Smart Phones becoming your primary tool for Everything. They have already become a key mobile tool in our homes and businesses and indeed in our industrial plants. I just wish the batteries would last longer. Have you used your smart phone to measure voltage and current yet?
  • Virtual and augmented reality finally working. With the arrival of the Oculus Rift viewer and other related low cost devices, one can get a brilliant virtual experience. Esp. valuable for training and entertainment. All conducted at remote locations.
  • Cloud computing working more widely in the industrial world. This will barrel along with greater emphasis where software will be centralized and easily accessible. This will reduce the need for IT expertise (such as networking) at each individual firm as all fixes/configuration will be done at a central cloud-based server. There are still enormous (justifiably I might add) concerns about protection of data in the cloud.
  • Drones (or UAVs) being applied to Business. Drones (and hover boards!) growing strongly and being allowed to make deliveries and perform other mundane public tasks.

Can you identify other trends which I have missed?

An interesting comment from Cynthia Breazeal: If you look at the field of robotics today, you can say robots have been in the deepest oceans, they've been to Mars, you know? They've been all these places, but they're just now starting to come into your living room. Your living room is the final frontier for robots.

Take Advantage of these trends in your career, personal life and education. There are huge opportunities for training and education in these areas ranging from virtually free to extensive and expensive.

Thank you BBC News, Gartner (Darryl C Plummer) and Forbes (Peter High) for an interesting summary of your predictions. Please forgive me for not clearly delineating machine learning/artificial intelligence more finely.

All the best for a fabulous 2016 – I hope it meets all your expectations. Above all, stay healthy and maintain your happy personal connections – whether it be family/friends or colleagues.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 4th January’16 #581    
125, 273 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay