Back to the Future: 2012 IEEE Technology Time Machine

backtofuture630 150x150 Back to the Future: 2012 IEEE Technology Time MachineProjecting the future is perceived to be quiet a risky business by most scientists. My own Jewish traditions further claim prophecy is now (temple gone and all that) only within the domain of nincompoops. However, psychological and brain research evidence, as well as those widespread new-age and pseudo-sciences, from astrology to Kabala, suggest that telling the future actually may be very safe.


It seems that the human brain adapts to remembering successes based on prior experiences and beliefs, and equally, is good at forgetting all the false suggestions. Consequently, I can safely predict some of the technological trends discussed at the IEEE Technology Time Machine, Symposium on Technologies Beyond 2020, held in Germany May 23-25th, with the hope that at least one of them will materialize. If we’re lucky enough for that to happen, I fully expect you to laud my genius foretelling capabilities. I’ll be watching.

Symphony of Science – Everything is Connected

Vodafone, ALU, NSN and Actix discussed the Networks of the Future and chatted about how everything connects–from centric clouds, to machines, to peer-to-peer (P2P) micro networks acting autonomously and locally. The inevitable cloud featured different flavors of it (mobile clouds, intelligent clouds), leading into allowing raw APIs into the existing networks of all kinds.

P2P will evolve to short-range, local, contextually aware P2P networks to enable massive local computations and communications. At Neustar, we have a team working on ALTO and they are dealing with similar issues.  Our own Jon Peterson is not a Distinguished Engineer for nothing!

As always with the unknown future, the panel had to include a couple of assumptions, such as one of flat-fee, cheap broadband, even free one, to everyone and everything. It seems this commoditization of networking nodes will allow new players to enter and incumbents to grow their offering and to ‘Innovate or Die’. I’d rather innovate, seems healthier.

Networks and Rule of 10 – Everything will multiply x10

5G networks (and a variant called 4.5G, all past LTE which is 4G or Long Term Evolution) were presented with different perspectives. My favorite takeaways were the decimal predictions, for 10 years from now:

  1. Available Data Rates x 10 (and probably more)
  2. Users x 10 (more users but also more nodes per user)
  3. Data per user x 10 and possibly more (numbers from last 5 years show world-wide x10)
  4. Latency and real-time < 10ms to allow not only seamless audio and video, but tactile as well
  5. 10+years of battery life without intervention to portable mobile devices (M2M and internet of things)
  6. Overall  x1000 traffic (coming from x10 from more spectrum, x10 more base stations, and x10 efficiency per station)

We are always on the lookout to help our customers improve their services. Tapping into future networks, what is likely to affect most of the carriers, online enterprises, media providers and channels, and of course government agencies, allows us to anticipate and have a slight advantage of making our offering fit for the future and sometimes driving the future. To some of our sales people this is all they need – give them a slight advantage, an opening in the door, and they will make it happen. In the future as done now.

Safety is the new Risk – Security is the Battle Front

Security and privacy were addressed in almost every session, and of course had dedicated sessions as well. But I felt most explorations were in a “more of the same” approach, essentially projections of what goes today into the future, much like the x10 we discussed above. I suspect they missed the mark as this field, as in my limited view security is surely to yield purple swans (the ugly love child of Taleb’s black swan with Godin’s Purple Cows?).

This arena is buzzing on local and global scales, and is setting itself as the war zone, which means it’s likely to be filled with new methods of attack and defensive measures: from privacy to control of resources; back-end data; field generated data; logical and physical resilience of nodes; eavesdropping; accountability of the information; local, global, coordinated and autonomic threats; and auto-interjected faulty or corrupted information. It is safe to assume new kinds of attacks, on any element on the path of information, sometimes even on how it was generated, and some other times on the way it is being used once it got there “safely.”  Remove the world cyber from cyber security as there is just security. Perhaps add ‘legacy’ or non-cyber security to what will be left outside. Guards in front of buildings and TSA.

The good part is that we will probably see firsthand, as a nation and as a company, some of those new methods acted by us or upon us when the time comes. Well, good is used very liberally here, I admit.

Man and Machine – Factories of the Present Looking into the Future

lightweight car 300x223 Back to the Future: 2012 IEEE Technology Time Machine

Very lightweight car--still very, very fast.

The conference ended with an optional excursion to local industrious factories, taking advantage of the site. The first was ILK (TU Dresden Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology). We visited a live factory, and witnessed how extremely light polymers are created, weaved, heated – all in short time frames with accuracy to rival traditional metal or other materials. Machines are on the rise here.

The second excursion took us to a local Volkswagen Factory – reminding me of my first car, a beetle 1968 that was older than I was. Unexpectedly, for a huge car manufacturing facility, there were only three robots placed where extreme weights and forces required utmost precision in the assembly line. Each car is handmade and built to specific buyer specification, a pipeline that takes about four (!) days. So there is a place for people after all in this brave new world–genetically produced, of course.


inside volkswagen 300x223 Back to the Future: 2012 IEEE Technology Time Machine

Inside the Volkswagen Factory. Really.

Overall an inspiring conference, not very scary as an unknown future is often portrayed to be, and quite in line with what we observe today. To my personal liking, perhaps  too much in line. The future inevitably is going to pace itself to other directions as well.

So what have we got? A future envisioned for devices, networks and people becoming increasingly more connected, faster in pace, riskier to the naïve, but more efficient to the smart user. I’ll take that.

Certainly at Neustar, we are doing our best to connect everything and to drive value by putting knowledge and wisdom into the networks. And what will we do in the future, you ask? Better. Thanks for asking.

dot Back to the Future: 2012 IEEE Technology Time Machine
Fridy Sharon-Fridman

About Fridy Sharon-Fridman

Fridy (Sharon Fridman) is a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Neustar Labs, an inventor, a mobile technologeek, and a perpetual fool. He can be reached at or @s_fridy.

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