In-depth

Where will IT be in 2015?

You’re ready to tackle the IT challenges of the next year, but what’s going to happen in the longer term? What will the IT world of 2015 mean to you?

Hydrogen buses, robot-driven tanks, automatic speed control in your car talking to intelligent traffic systems - and Crossrail might finally be taking London commuters to work. Everyday technology will have changed a lot by 2015, and business technology will have changed with it.

IT will be powering business and providing competitive advantage - but the really successful businesses will be the ones where IT doesn't come from an IT team. Business users will put it together themselves from services and tools they rely on the way we rely on email and spreadsheets.

In work or at work

If you're getting a job in 2015 at the age of 21, you will have been using the web and instant messaging since you could first read text on screen, so the way you work will be different from people who grew up with newspapers and handwritten letters. And because you're happier working in a coffee bar than at a desk, you might never squeeze onto a crowded hydrogen bus or into a Crossrail carriage. The barriers between home and work will carry on breaking down.

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Add in today's key IT trends like virtualization and identity, and the office will look very different says Trampoline's Peter Biddle, who once ran Microsoft's hypervisor and BitLocker projects. "By 2015 large corporates will be moving en masse to a decentralized client computing environment based on laptops - or their kin - owned by users with time and usage leased back by their corporate masters. This will mark the era of the loosely-coupled enterprise. This means virtualization, obviously. If your kid runs a torrent and you manage payroll, well, that could introduce some issues."

"You'll need secure hardware to sit under your VMs, and that means secure input, secure output, TPMs and isolated execution in every box to provide security against root-kits which do stuff like screen-scrape and keystroke log," he added. "You need to be invulnerable' enough to rooting so that the coming wave of ever-more-sophisticated and targeted zero day root kits are manageable as per-VM annoyances rather than per-system nightmares."

Biddle said federated vouchsafing will become key to working in the cloud, so someone somewhere knows what to trust. "Reputation systems for software, users and hardware systems make a lot of sense here. To prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, corporations will need a way to prove to users that they are who they say they are, so that means a much better, clearer identity for a corporation. Users will need a strong, accountable identity which they can own' outside of the context of the strong, accountable identity their corporation owns. Highly de-centralized businesses are less prone to things like terrorist attacks and pandemic plagues too, which is a nice fringe benefit."

In 2015, we won't see the end of spam and other attacks, says Graham Cluley of Sophos, because fundamentally it's not a technology problem. "The sad truth is that the weak link is the human element. Humans can't be upgraded like operating systems, or download patches, and will continue to make mistakes in 2015. Indeed, threats like identity theft and fraud will still be occurring hundreds of years into the future because of human mistakes."

But we will have security that's a long way from passwords and firewalls, according to Henrik Kiertzner, associate director for security and risk consulting at Arup. "We'll see the death of in-house IT security. There is no way of protecting your data from the key-ring multi-TB datastick, there is no way of preventing access by the really determined across firewalls; hence, we'll have private spaces with no external interfaces, tightly locked down, for truly confidential information. Some private spaces will be share between communities of interest, and they'll be invisible to the unauthorised. Instead of passwords we'll have device and message-level encryption and security with more or less real-time decryption and very robust authentication structures, biometrically-based."

Never enough bandwidth

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More mobile users, more collaboration, identity services, software as a service; network demand is set to increase significantly. Email volumes will carry on increasing, but other forms of communication will grow too.

"People under 25 don't send email, they text or IM," says Peter Glock, head of solutions development at Orange Business Services.

Voice will still be significant, but most of it will be VOIP and much of that will be on mobile networks. According to telecoms research company Analysys, nearly a quarter of all fixed and mobile calls will go over mobile VOIP by 2015; these will be premium services that include presence information and the ability to send instant messages and multimedia as part of a voice conversation.

Voice will also be an interface both to devices and to network services, believes Alistair McKinnon, senior product manager for IP Multimedia at NTL Telewest Business. "We already have speech recognition for dialling numbers in companies and on some mobile phones, but by 2015 this will become far more like talking and listening to a human. It will be the norm for speech to be used as a control for all forms of man/machine interface - in the home controlling the TV, video, lights and the heating and in the office voice will control the PC, PDA and mobile."

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Voice recognition might happen on the device, but there will be network services like real-time language translation, he said. "You'll have natural speech recognition, translation and synthesis into the target language and this could be packaged into a Bluetooth-style earpiece."

Social networks will be used for finding experts and colleagues within business, and for sharing information automatically. They may also help with what Arup's Kiertzner calls "the massive handicap of a basically post-literate population, largely unable to express selves verbally".

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