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November 02, 2015
By Vanessa Ulrich


Societal changes used to happen slowly—glacially, even—but in recent history, relatively new technologies like the Internet and smartphones have brought about tectonic shifts with astonishing speed. And the changes coming in the near-future changes will be even more dramatic—and have greater impact on society.

At least, that’s what the World Economic Forum believes. This edition of The IT Roundup is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore the six megatrends identified by the WEF’s Technological Tipping Points report. This month, we will look at news about people and the Internet, and examine how the gap between the two is becoming increasingly narrow.

There are many touch points through which we access the Internet every day—our cellphones, laptops, cars and smart watches. That number is rising, and will likely explode in coming years. Analysts at Juniper Research forecast that the smart wearables market will generate $53 billion in revenue by 2019. But after we turn everything into a “smart device,” will we end up becoming the “smart device” ourselves?

Use your shirt to take a selfie

When Marty McFly landed in the year 2015 in the hit movie Back to the Future, he had shoes that laced automatically and a jacket that dried itself. While Nike did unveil a real pair of self-lacing sneakers last month, responsive clothing is still notably absent from the marketplace. Google’s Project Jacquard is moving in the right direction with a conductive yarn that will allow the wearer to directly interact with the fabric to execute simple commands on your phone, like taking a photo. This could be the first step in making everything we interact with interact back.

Connect with the palm of your hand

The truth is, digital sensors are moving closer and closer to becoming one with users—from our fingertips, to the fabric that hugs our skin, to existing under our skin. Digital tattoos like the UnderSkin, as conceptualized by New Deal Design (NDD), are full of tiny sensors that live just beneath the surface, charging off the energy your body already creates. While still just a concept, it’s surprisingly easy to see how useful and popular these digital tattoos could be. Jaeha Yoo, who leads experience design at NDD, says the tattoos could realistically become a reality in the next five years, given the current pace of technological advancement. They could be used for everything from paying for purchases to opening doors, to creating a digital record of relationships and interactions with other people. UnderSkin is conceptualized as living on your hand—a place the NDD points out is “a particularly intimate spot across cultures, as we see with henna and wedding bands.”

Certainly the future points to a digital presence that is less us-plus-device, and more us-as-device.

Your device is you

In the meantime, there are companies that are doing the opposite by moving a user’s identity to the device—or rather, using a device as a proxy for the user. Several new apps and services are doing this. In the short-term, it’s a logical and interesting step towards us becoming one with our devices. For example, instead of a password, Yahoo mail unveiled a service called Account Key last month that you can use to let your smartphone automatically access your account, no password required. With an authenticated phone, the device becomes an extension of yourself. Similarly, a new app called Shyp will send a package—not to an address written on a label—but to your location, wherever you are, as defined by your smartphone. Because your smartphone is always on you, it is also you.

Whichever way you frame it, it’s apparent that we’re moving towards a unified state with our technology, physically and mentally. Already, we keep track of thoughts, relationships and decisions online rather than in our head. Perhaps it’s the new direction of evolution.

What do you envision as the future of people and the Internet? We want to know—tweet us @TEKsystems.

Read the whole World Economic Forum report here, and stay tuned for future editions of the IT News Roundup.

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