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The decade in tech – part two

December 27, 2019

Song Toh   

Vice President of Tata Communications’ Global Network Services

Following on from part 1, Song Toh continues his round up of the biggest tech developments of the last decade with 5 more innovations we’ve seen that have changed the way we live. 

10 years is a long time in technology. What could feel impossible on day one can seem totally normal 3,650 days later, and stuff that was cutting edge at the start can feel like ancient history by the end.

In part two of our ‘techrospective’, we look at five more developments that defined the decade, starting with the concept that underpins much of the most exciting new products and services that we’re seeing in the market today.

1. The Internet of Things

The internet has been used to link computers together ever since ARPANET was invented back in the late ‘60s – and while other kinds of device have been connected in the past, the Internet of Things only really started to impact the mainstream in the past five years.

The trend really took off in 2014 and with the introduction of connected home platforms, Wi-Fi light bulbs and intelligent thermostats, smart devices quickly became accessible to regular consumers.

Since then, the number of devices that can measure and control their surrounding environment has accelerated, with smartphone and tablet devices used to control them. Now entire industries are benefitting and evolving from the use of IoT, providing better insights into production lines, logistics, customer behaviour and various other areas of their business.

2. AI and voice assistants

10 years ago, the thought of using voice control to check the weather or turn on your house’s lights was the stuff of science-fiction – but when Amazon introduced the world to Alexa, that soon changed.

Voice recognition services had existed before, most notably Dragon’s dictation software and Siri on the iPhone 4S, but the fact that the Echo hardware allowed Alexa to be summoned without having to press an activation button meant that it could become part of your day-to-day life more seamlessly. Amazon’s natural language processing also meant you didn’t have to remember very specific words or phrases that Alexa could understand.

I now plays a part in many areas of our lives whether you realise it or not, from the suggested replies in your search engine and filters in your email inbox, to the product recommendations on Amazon and the chatbot you use to speak to your energy provider’s customer service department.

3. IPv6

For the average internet user IPv6 will mean as much to them as other technical terms like NoSQL – but it’s fundamental to the way the internet works.

“Every device that connects to the internet is assigned an IP address to identify it.”

Originally, a 32-bit number (IPv4) was deemed adequate but with the explosion in the number of computers connected to the web it became clear that available IP addresses would soon run out. The switch to a 128-bit system (IPv6) is ongoing but without it the internet as we know it would not have been able to continue functioning, while the extra complexity of the addresses also means they’re more secure.

Google reckons around 29% of internet users have switched to IPv6 so far, although in India it’s just over 38%.

4. Blockchain

Blockchain was conceptualised way back in the early ‘90s, but it wasn’t until Bitcoin was deployed by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 that it started to gain the attention of the mainstream.

“Blockchain is a decentralised system that uses a distributed ledger to keep track of online transactions, whether they’re monetary (such as Bitcoin), exchanges of goods or of information.”

Every time a change is made it must be approved by all holders of the ledger, so fraudulent transactions are practically impossible.

The technology has faced plenty of criticism in its first decade, with many cryptocurrencies fluctuating wildly in value – but it has allowed people to think differently when it comes to security, transparency and multi-party transactions. While there is a significant amount of change required to adopt blockchain, once done, these multi-party business relationships can react to changes much faster and more effectively than before. Put in another way: similar to traditional enterprise applications, once rewritten to be cloud-native, they be so much more agile and scalable.

5. Software-defined networks

As I described in the part one of this blog post, cloud computing has transformed networking for businesses. Traditional wide area networks are just now fast or scalable enough for today’s cloud-first enterprises – which has led to the emergence of hybrid networks.

They offer businesses the best of both worlds: the scalability or the Internet, with the reliability of private networks.

“The role of SDWAN in all this is that it allows today’s fast-moving, innovative enterprises to manage their new hybrid networks more effectively and roll out new applications and more bandwidth in almost an instant – anywhere in the world.”

A hybrid software-defined network is the critical foundation that forward-looking businesses will need to be agile and ready to innovate through a new generation of tech innovations that we’ll see emerge in the next 10 years.

Missed part one of our look back at the past 10 years in tech? You can read it here.