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Future Internet User Experiences

Evolving Internet User Experiences

By 2030, everybody and everything will be permanently connected to a network. Needs for more advanced networking technologies will increase drastically to connect higher numbers of objects, higher data transfer rates, pervasive access to information, richer content, etc.

We can summarise this future network paradigm as: anything, anybody, anytime, anywhere on any device. People and objects will become network-dependent. Therefore, network bandwidth and quality will have to increase significantly to support these enhanced levels of connectivity. New and broader quality service requirements will emerge.

In a few decades, effective remote collaboration between professionals will require real-time immersive visualisation (e.g. glasses-free 3D), spatial audio and tactile information, to realize a very high-quality emulation of face-to-face interactions and user experiences.

Distributed teams will therefore focus on the content of their work and not on the technicalities of the collaboration tools. The complexity of the technology will be hidden to the users. This will require user-friendly interfaces that support multi-sensory interactions and new display technologies. It also requires network connections with the speed and responsiveness to enable fluid remote interaction.

These scenarios will be enabled by intelligent data handling. Data will be transformed into smart content by adding metadata during the creation or exchange process. Development of new delivery paradigms will become necessary behind current internet/IP models to better match future content-oriented networks, e.g. ICN (Information-Centric Networking) architectures and CDN (Content Delivery Networks).

Virtualisation will be necessary to link services and data, as well as new ways of handling enormous numbers of connected devices in a cost-efficient way.

Customer analytics will become increasingly relevant for quality assessment and service management. It will be possible to get information about the user, and how much she/he likes or dislikes a service, by combining different sources of information from network- and device-based monitoring systems that collect information both about network properties as well as user behaviour.

Evidence

1.  Future of Data, Technology and the Internet (269) http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en/content/future-data-technology-and-internet

2. Future Internet 2020: Visions of an industry expert group (569) http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en/content/future-internet-2020-visions-industry-expert-group

3. Consultation on Future Network Technologies Research and Innovation in HORIZON 2020  (570) http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en/content/consultation-future-network-technologies-research-and-innovation-horizon-2020

Implications

New technologies will support and drive the transition between independent and interdependent networks. By 2020 these networks will be both laid out as public infrastructures and dynamically created by the objects connecting to one another. The content and services they facilitate will be all around us, always on, everywhere, all the time.

But this Future Internet will not be just an evolution of what we have already. Radically new approaches are needed: new architectures; new interfaces; new ways of managing data; new ways of integrating all the different Internet entities – devices, sensors, services, things and, of course, people.

Many objects will have communications capabilities embedded within them and several objects in an ambient environment will create a communications network. This in turn will connect with other communications networks, locally and globally. This is a dramatic change and significant impacts will arise since every industry, in practice, will need to learn to produce communicating objects and the functionalities of the objects will be influenced by these communications capabilities and by the context.

New applications, such as social networking, are changing the way we communicate and, some would argue, re‐engineering society in the process.

There will be new ways of accessing data – more accurate / timely mobile devices, touch screen / surfaces, and wearable computing such as Google glasses and implants.

Personal information will be available to users anywhere, at any time, using highly developed cloud computing, 4G and 5G phones and WiGig (gigabit wifi) hotspots. Connectivity will be reliable, logons will be instantaneous, content quality will be high, and systems will talk to each other. All environments (home, office, car) will be context-aware: systems and devices are able to sense how, where and why information and content are being accessed and respond accordingly. Such approaches will be essential in making sure systems are accessible to everyone, so avoiding digital divides.

But as technological barriers diminish, the implications of the digital blackbox on culture and everyday life will need to be assessed. Such social studies should consider the stances of various societal groups (age, gender, race, education, etc.). The worst outcome would be for such services to be accepted and driven by a part of the population, resulting in changes in the way of living that are welcomed by a few but create adverse reaction from others.

Leading image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Challenges: 
  • Ensuring equity in access to new services across the community.
  • Differential rates of technology development: the key system building blocks are evolving at different speeds.
  • Optimising spectrum usage (effective use of technologies will be highly dependent on wireless connectivity and mobility).
  • Optimising energy consumption to minimize the increase in power consumption, which is escalating rapidly. (Large data centres typically consume several megawatts for cooling as well as running the equipment).
  • Implementing open standards in wireless networks to simplify everyday life, provide additional convenience and save energy and time.
  • Addressing potentially incompatible positions and strategies held by different stakeholders.
  • Overcoming a lack of regulatory harmonization. As we move around Europe we still encounter many different regulatory regimes and legal cultures which must be harmonised for information and content to be fully mobile.
  • Ensuring effective data retrieval & cheap connectivity. Capturing the object and exploiting it within a system requires devices that are able to retrieve the raw data and connect to service centres where the data are converted into information and services.
  • Ensuring effective security. The Future Internet will comprise a complex web of services which requires each service to be accompanied by inherent security and identification guarantees.
  • Addressing ethical issues with regard to the loss of our digital blackbox, for example, and the ownership of such data should the individual die or become incapacitated.
  • Managing the issue of sovereignty in cyberspace. Where does one national border end and another begin? The sovereignty of states is already being undermined by increasing use of the Internet and in the Service Economy this threat will escalate dramatically without proper systems for identification and authorisation.
  • Storage technologies are crucial in being able to capture and mine data at this ultra‐large scale. In particular, there is a need for new storage technologies/approaches that are stable over the long term.
  • The radio spectrum is one of the most valuable resources of the digital age. As more and more devices and objects become wireless‐enabled – including the whole new universe of smart things’ – congestion in relevant parts of the wireless spectrum is becoming a key bottleneck.
  • Optical network technologies will need further development as fibre‐optic systems now also start approaching the limit of their capacity. New research is needed to increase fibre capacity and to provide a dynamic software and control environment around this.
  • The development of common / shared infrastructure enabling any‐to‐any communication independently of the physical access technologies (wireless, wireline), capacity/resource usage, user utility, host/device movement and density, existing infrastructure.
  • The demands placed on mobile communications networks are constantly increasing. The growth in the number of new applications running on the networks is accelerating as ever more mobile devices become the preferred device for Internet access for both people and machines.
Opportunities: 
  • Data can be volunteered by individuals when they share data through social media, and captured by systems, e.g. internet browsing habits.
  • Organisations can infer data from connecting pieces of information – e.g. credit scores – finance info / browsing to enhance user services and their own efficiencies.
  • We are now witnessing the emergence of this next generation of the Internet, which will lead to a wealth of new services and will have an even greater impact on society and the economy than the Internet today.
  • Personal communications, social networking, entertainment, information searching and provision are converging providing significant opportunities for exploiting strategic, technical and commercial synergies.
  • The morphing of products into services has profound implications for organizations and consumer. In various respects it makes them more open. Perceiving an offering as a service rather than a product creates a different and more direct relationship with the producer / manufacturer that skips the reseller. This process of ‘disintermediation’ – removing the middleman – is an existing trend which is likely to accelerate radically as value chains evolve.
  • Upcoming technologies will allow almost every object to have an associated memory, just like a digital diary. In addition, such objects provide the possibility to provide additional information automatically when the user is looking at or interacting with an object.
  • In education, we will be able to sift through our experiences and tailor new knowledge and the way it is delivered according to our preferences and learning styles. We will be able to gain new knowledge a morsel at a time, when we need it most and are most receptive to it.
  • In retailing, we will benefit by knowing exactly what we bought before. This can steer our buying and the way we customise new services and products.
  • New businesses will evolve to leverage personal information. Major businesses will develop around this Internet of personal information.
  • New companies will emerge offering services to capture, analyse, structure and store the personal information in our digital blackboxes.
  • The Internet with Things will generate an enormous market space and this market can be filled, in principle, by enterprises and individuals independently of their physical location. Furthermore, the Internet with Things will change significantly the way an enterprise can reach a customer, accelerating the transition from products to services.
Questions: 
What tensions could emerge between the state, businesses and the individual with regard to data storage and usage?
How vulnerable to cyber attack will a more connected world be?
How will the equitable provision of services be assured?
How will the capture and use of information change the perspective of power at the state and corporate level and how will this issue be managed?
What regulation and legislation will be required at the state, regional and global level?
Timeframe: 
2030
Desirability: 

Likelihood: 

Curators: 

Underpinning policy ideas