Futurist predictions for the cloud, tablets and the workplace

Frank Feather is a Canadian futurist who’s been predicting future trends in the technology industry for the past 30 years.

Feather initially worked in the banking industry before becoming a futurist many years ago. After doing some corporate planning work and attending a seminar, he said he became interested in the future, which is what led to his current profession.

As a futurist, Feather said you tend to be a generalist around four key areas: social trends and demographics, technology, economics and politics. He comes up with his predictions based on what he reads and hears from talking and consulting with others. In the technology realm, Feather said, “Technology will only work if it’s economically viable, socially acceptable and if people embrace it and get used to it.”

CDN Now recently spoke with Feather about his technology predictions for the future.

CDN Now: What’s your area of expertise?

Frank Feather: You tend to be a generalist if you’re a futurist and you look at things such as social trends and demographics, technology, economics and politics. I’d say the biggest technology trend today is the revolution of the Internet. I call this the Webolution because it’s as big as, if not bigger, than the Industrial Revolution. Back then, we were shifting from an agricultural society to one that was based on machines. The Webolution affects everyone worldwide. It’s changing lifestyles and reversing some of the things the Industrial Revolution put in place. What I mean by reverse is that with the Webolution, people now don’t go to work; the work comes to them. You also don’t need to go to the bookstore anymore because Web sites like Amazon bring them to you. What the Industrial Revolution did was it took things out of the home. With Webolution, things are being put back in the home.

CDN Now: What are your predictions for the cloud?

F.F.: It’s an inevitable development and there’s lots of hesitancy about it. We tend to be creatures of habit and we’re also concerned with security. People are used to having things on their own computers, so I think that once you get beyond that mental block, people will embrace the cloud. I think the cloud will become big and will make the Internet much more of a viable tool that can used to deliver products and services.

CDN Now: What are your thoughts on tablets?

F.F.: When you think about it, we’ve moved away from the typewriter to a word processing machine which is basically a typewriter with a screen and digitizing text. Then we went to notebooks and PCs. I think technology will evolve to more flexible screens, so you could have a cell phone-like device where the screen scrolls out and retracts like a vertical scroll blind that turns into a larger screen. I think the technology will continue to evolve and we’ll have screens of different sizes all over the house. You won’t want to watch a movie on an iPad screen with a group unless you’re just one person.

CDN Now: What role will television play in the future?

F.F.: I think it’s natural to move towards multi-dimensionality (3D content) on TV. There will be more movies made available for people to enjoy 3D without wearing 3D glasses. You could also insert yourself into certain movies which would be made with unfinished endings and you would also be able to come in with a bit part in the film. Commerce will also play a role with television with things like pop-ups. You could click on a suit that a character’s wearing on the screen and you’ll be able to see where you can buy it. In the retail fashion industry you’ll be able to stand in front of the TV and can virtually try on clothes using an avatar.

CDN Now: What’s going to be the next big thing in technology and how will this affect businesses and consumers?

F.F.: More telework is bound to take place. It’s becoming more expensive to have knowledge workers in downtown office spaces. Old office buildings are being retrofitted for other purposes including hotels and residences. I think we’ll see an evolution of that physical space and we’ll see more telecommuting. The Internet is the new social glue of society that enables people to work together and communicate with one another.

CDN Now: What’s your economic outlook regarding IT spend in the Canadian business space?

F.F.: There will constantly be a need for upgrades. There have been delays in upgrades and the replacement of hardware because companies became more frugal in a down economy. The economy in Canada was not as affected as the US was; so consumer spending has stayed reasonable strong and business profits have remained okay.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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