March 2020 Main Meeeting
Tonight, Derek Austin from Nuance was back to discuss the future of “PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY 2030”.
Due to the Corona virus, our venue - the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts has been forced to close until meeting restrictions are lifted. In order to continue to have meetings our main meeting, co-ordinator and Life Member Alex arranged a Zoom Meeting account so members can still run meetings online. Our first meeting was Web Design and it ran without problems.
Tonight’s was our first Main Meeting using Zoom and also went off without a problem.
Derek’s topic tonight was PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY 2030: WHAT'S COMING? This was an unusual choice of topic. We normally have product presentation and Derek has visited us often with presentations on the latest innovations in Nuance products like,
Tonight, we had an insight into just where our technology could end up in the next ten years.
To begin we had a look at Derek’s background. He started at uni studying Psychology and had loads of assignments with only a typewriter to complete them. That led quickly to an interest in word-processing which lead to an interest in AI and postgraduate work in computer science. That work lead to 25 plus years in the IT industry.
One of the first things Derek noted was the way Microsoft and others are closing off access to their operating systems for programmes that add system features like speech recognition. That said, programmes like Dragon Dictate with its huge user base will be around for some time.
So, what is productivity software? Its software that helps us generate, create, and enhance our work that increases our productivity.
Personal productivity uses knowledge and information from both the company and outside sources to create the new.
The difficulties of forecasting.
Derek gave us a list of famous predictions like “I think there is a world market for about five computers” and Ken Olson who said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in the home” to show the inherent problems of making predictions.
There are three classes of knowledge that affect prediction.
What we know, what we know we don’t know, and the things we don’t know we don’t know. The danger is in the latter two. As an aside we have the Johari window, a bit of free psychotherapy on the comparison between what we know about ourselves and what others know about us.
This was Derek’s general approach.
First, some things change more slowly than others making prediction easier. Telecommunication policy may change with each change of government while hardware innovations have a more standard growth rate.
Second, follow the money and the money hasn’t been on productivity software for some time. Too many free apps like “to do” scheduling software. Derek noted how the money had moved on from speech software to fund research into detecting emotions.
This trend to see if software can predict what you want has led to investment in e-commerce. There is investment in finding accurate measurements of how well call centres work. To show how things change Derek noted that in the 80s it looked like we would get great educational software but then along came the web, social media, and mobile devices, which saw investment re-directed.
Third; Disruption. Everything can be disrupted. What appears certain today may change without warning or without people noticing. Telstra and the NBN looked great for a few years then 5G came along and speculation started on the effect 5G will that have on fixed line communications. Disasters or innovations can appear suddenly and disrupt the accepted vision. By speaking about productivity tools Dereck admitted he hoped to make it easier for himself by narrowing the scope of the talk. That’s because he feels that while technological change is volatile productivity tools appear to have a more stable growth line.
Derek then looked at the Gartner Hype cycle. It’s a prediction of what may take off in the next year. It’s released in August so this is for last year.
It’s a prediction of the expectations of new technology over time and the resulting disillusionment if it fails to appear. For example, the LEO or low earth orbit satellites has an expectation of 5 to 10 years and is high on the expectation scale while autonomous driving is right in the trough of disillusionment. It’s a scale of hype over the expectation. Speech recognition over the last five years went from innovation to the plateau of productivity.
The 2030 platform for personal productivity has three main factors.
There should be fast communications. This is even truer in today’s climate of lockdown and the high demand for online services.
There should be unlimited free data storage in the cloud especial give the trend to a downward cost of storage and
There should be new or better devices given the growth trend of higher definition screens and more powerful processors.
In regard to communications, by 2030 we will have 6G. 5G doesn’t penetrate walls so Derek’s prediction is a hybrid of fibre and wireless and we will need NBN version 2. Derek also mentioned the advantage LEO (low earth orbit) will have on communications. This is an innovation of Elon Musk and others to place millions of communications satellites in low earth orbit to create a free world wide mobile network. One thing that may hamper satellite communications is solar storms.
LEO is a disaster for astronomy both visual and radio. Here is just one image from twitter
This article from “The Space Review” gives a detailed account of how the satellites will interfere with radio astronomy.
Derek also decried how Australia has a great history of innovation like Wi-Fi, only to sell it overseas and deploy third rate tech ourselves. Our NBN is rated around sixty-second in the world. To quote Derek “it’s so depressing, never underestimate the ability of this country not to take advantage of something it should be.”
We should have unlimited online cloud storage with great bandwidth capacity. Storage discs should be cheaper and storage farms will be common. It will be safe, secure and private. The only impediments may be government regulation or social dislike of major companies like Amazon or Google storing data.
New devices will include wearable devices and maybe health monitors hidden under the skin. The internet of things will see all the devices in your home connected. Real connectivity will be available where all your devices are automatically connected without the barriers between devices we see now. One area of growth will be display - Micro LEDs will see larger areas like whole walls or smaller but higher density displays available as LEDs become cheaper. Transparent screens should become common. We should see stick-on strips attached to windows or windshields with computer generated displays a sort of heads up display on steroids. We should also see faster processors and we will have better longer lasting batteries.
So, what will that mean overall? Derek spoke about Ubiquitous computing and how these changes will impact our productivity.
His first example was Mobile speech recognition. Processing speech recognition is not done on the device, you need to have internet connection. In ten years’, time with great connectivity and faster storage, spoken notes on your device will be common.
Real collaboration with people inside and outside the organisation using tools like Microsoft Teams. In a way not dissimilar to using Zoom with shared screens as now. What we should see is easy transfer of data from, say, your tablet to the presentation screen.
There are cultural problems with online collaboration and some business find it difficult to get their head around how it works.
By 2030 we may still be hindered by proprietary platforms with Microsoft Teams not speaking to Apple software. It will be dependent on what these companies see as in their best interest. That said there is no reason why we shouldn’t see collaborations making information sharing much easier.
One of the real problems with this collaboration is the back end. Derek noted that while we have Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, and they appear to do the same thing, they have very different back-ends, so they don’t work with each other.
Given the idea that our main tech companies may not want to work together, Derek looked at possible proprietor solutions and his best bet was Apple.
They have a five-year lead in mobile hardware and they own the hardware so they control the production and therefore the integration between hardware and software. By 2021 they will have their own processors, ditching intel. The Apple interface allows real information sharing between Apple devices. You can get your e-mails on a Mac, see a notice on your Apple watch and read it on your iPad. They have a unified log-in across the platform and cloud storage.
That said, Derek thinks they have a way to go, but by 2030 they should be, or be close to, a completely integrated system.
We should see this integration allowing things like gesture and speech e.g. speech instruction to your computer like Star Trek. Derek is hopeful that non-Apple devices will really “talk” to Apple giving us the real ability to access our data to and from Android phones and PCs.
There is still the opportunity for others to disrupt the status. For example, others may produce that much needed integrated operating system. Editors note: What would happen to Windows if Android was free for PC?
Now what about jobs in 2030?
By 2030 we may see an integrated document with different parts of the document using different code such as Database, spreadsheet or word processing, all within the same document. It’s a sort of integrated Microsoft Office.
Walled gardens. As we said before the major companies may not want to play with the other kids on the block and put obstacles in the way of real collaboration. Derek noted how different Google Docs works in an Apple environment. It just does not perform the same way it will in a pure Android platform.
We will need both Rocket scientists and data analysts. We will still need rocket science that is pure research, like the research physics that gave us nanometre size processors. We will really need data investigators, people who can dive into our data to find the stats and make sense of what is going on.
Derek spoke about AI and data visualising. As the name implies “big data” is such a large amount of data that it is not something that can be utilised on a personal computer. That should mean the growth of people with data visualisation skills.
What Derek sees is people who will be able to visualise how parts of this “big” data can be integrated into simple processes or applications. The tasks or work undertaken will have less definition or structure, a sort of “What can you do with this?” type of question. To finish the real problem Derek sees, is what tools will be available to allow users to integrate this “big” data into ordinary documents.
Speaking of AI, Dereck can’t see the idea of sentience or self-awareness in computers being a reality any time soon, there is simply no algorithm likely to create that sort of AI.
To sum up, by 2030 Derek sees that productivity tools will be integrated. A document will always be up to date, as the database or the spreadsheet will be automatically integrated into the document. No more failing to update that quarterly spreadsheet in your word document.
As an example, Derek noted how researchers were using Word to study the virus because its convenient. It’s a tool they understand. Derek sees a smooth movement from what we use now to what is available by 2030.
That’s to the generosity of Nuance Dereck was able to donate a copy of Dragon Dictate Version 15
And our lucky winner was Clare
Our Next Main Meeting is on Tuesday, 26th May 2020.
It will be a Zoom meeting and members will receive link on the day