Upon successful completion of this chapter, you will be able to:
- describe current trends in information systems.
- know how to think about the impacts of changes in technology on society and culture.
Information systems have evolved at a rapid pace ever since their introduction in the 1950s. Today devices you can hold in one hand are more powerful than the computers used to land a man on the moon in 1969. The Internet has made the entire world accessible to you, allowing you to communicate and collaborate like never before. This chapter examines current trends and looks ahead to what is coming next. As you read about technology trends in this chapter, think how you might gain competitive advantage in a future career through implementation of some of these devices.
The first trend to note is the continuing expansion of globalization. The use of the Internet is growing all over the world, and with it the use of digital devices. Penetration rates, the percent of the population using the Internet, remains high in the developed world, but other continents are gaining.
In addition to worldwide growth in Internet penetration, the number of mobile phones in use continues to increase. At the end of 2017 the world population of people over the age 10 years (those old enough to possibly have their own mobile phone) was about 5.7 billion with an estimated 4.77 billion mobile phone users. This equates to over 80% of people in the world having a mobile phone. 
World wide mobile phone users (Source: Statista)
Social media growth is another trend that continues at a firm growth rate. As of April 2018 there were about 2.18 billion Facebook users, a 14% increase from April 2017.
Facebook users world wide in June 2017 (Source: Internet World Stats)
In 2018, of the 2.2 billion users who regularly use Facebook, only half them spoke English and only 10% were from the US.
Besides Facebook, other social media sites are also seeing tremendous growth. Over 83% of YouTube’s users are outside the US, with the UK, India, Germany, Canada, France, South Korea, and Russia leading the way. Pinterest gets over 57% of its users from outside the US, with over 9% residing in India.  Twitter now has over 330 million active users.  Social media sites not based in the US are also growing. China’s WeChat multipurpose messaging and social media app is the fifth most-visited site in the world.
Ever since the advent of Web 2.0 and e-commerce, users of information systems have expected to be able to modify their experiences to meet their personal tastes. From custom backgrounds on computer desktops to unique ringtones on mobile phones, makers of digital devices provide the ability to personalize how we use them. More recently, companies such as Netflix have begun assisting their users with personalizations by viewing suggestions. In the future, we will begin seeing devices perfectly matched to our personal preferences, based upon information collected about us.
Sidebar: Mary Meeker and Internet Trends
Chapters such as this are difficult to maintain because the future is a moving target. The same goes for businesses looking to figure out where to develop new products and make investments. Enter Mary Meeker, up until 2018 a partner at the notable venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and now forming her own investment group, Bond Capital. For the past several years, Ms. Meeker has presented the “Internet Trends” report at the Code Conference every May. The presentation consists of rapid-fire summaries of data that provides insights into all of the latest trends in digital technologies and their impact on economies, culture, and investing. For those wanting to keep up with technology, there is no better way than to unpack her annual presentation by watching a video of the presentation and reviewing the associated slide deck.
You can view her slide decks from previous years by going to the Bond Capital archive.
Perhaps the most impactful trend in digital technologies in the last decade has been the advent of mobile technologies. Beginning with the simple cellphone in the 1990s and evolving into the smartphones of today, the growth of mobile has been overwhelming. Here are some key indicators of this trend:
- Mobile vs. Desktop. Minutes spent each day on a mobile device are 2.5 times the number of minutes spent on a desktop computer.
- Daytime vs. Evening. Desktop use dominates in the daytime hours, but mobile devices are dominant in the evening, with peak usage around 8:00 pm.
- Device usage. Smartphones are used more than any other technology. Laptops are in second place, followed by tablets holding a slight edge over desktops. 
- Smartphone sales decline. According to Gartner Group, world wide smartphone sales declined in the fourth quarter of 2017 by 4.7% compared with the fourth quarter of 2016. This is the first decline in global smartphone sales since Gartner began tracking mobile phone sales in 2004. 
- The rise and fall of tablets. In 2012 the iPad sold more than three times as many units in its first twelve months as the iPhone did in its first twelve months. However, tablet sales dropped 20% from the fourth quarter 2015 to fourth quarter 2016. 
The decline in tablet sales continued into 2017 when first quarter sales dropped 8.5% to their lowest total since the third quarter of 2012, the year they were introduced.  In comparison, PC sales dropped only 1.7% in 2017 compared with tablet sales being down 10%. 
As discussed in chapter 5, the advent of 5G connection technologies will accelerate an “always-connected” state for a majority of people around the world.
The average smartphone user looks at his or her smartphone 150 times a day for functions such as messaging (23 times), phone calls (22), listening to music (13), and social media (9).Many of these functions would be much better served if the technology was worn on, or even physically integrated into, our bodies. This technology is known as a “wearable.”
Wearables have been around for a long time, with technologies such as hearing aids and, later, bluetooth earpieces. Now the product lines have expanded to include the Smartwatch, body cameras, sports watch, and various fitness monitors. The following table from the Gartner Group reports both historical and predicted sales.
Wearable Devices Worldwide (millions of units)
Notice the strong growth predicted by 2021. Total wearable devices are projected to increase by about 45% from 2018 to 2021.
As more people use smartphones and wearables, it will be simpler than ever to share data with each other for mutual benefit. Some of this sharing can be done passively, such as reporting your location in order to update traffic statistics. Other data can be reported actively, such as adding your rating of a restaurant to a review site.
The smartphone app Waze is a community-based tool that keeps track of the route you are traveling and how fast you are making your way to your destination. In return for providing your data, you can benefit from the data being sent from all of the other users of the app. Waze directs you around traffic and accidents based upon real-time reports from other users.
Yelp! allows consumers to post ratings and reviews of local businesses into a database, and then it provides that data back to consumers via its website or mobile phone app. By compiling ratings of restaurants, shopping centers, and services, and then allowing consumers to search through its directory, Yelp! has become a huge source of business for many companies. Unlike data collected passively however, Yelp! relies on its users to take the time to provide honest ratings and reviews.
One of the most amazing innovations to be developed recently is the 3-D printer. A 3-D printer allows you to print virtually any 3-D object based on a model of that object designed on a computer. 3-D printers work by creating layer upon layer of the model using malleable materials, such as different types of glass, metals, or even wax.
3-D printing is quite useful for prototyping the designs of products to determine their feasibility and marketability. 3-D printing has also been used to create working prosthetic legs and an ear that can hear beyond the range of normal hearing. The US military now uses 3-D printed parts on aircraft such as the F-18.
Here are more amazing productions from 3D printers.
- Buildings. Researchers at MIT in 2017 unveiled a 3D printing robot that can construct a building. It has a large arm and small arm. The large arm moves around the perimeter of the building while the small arm sprays a variety of materials including concrete and insulation. Total time to construct a dome-shaped building is just 14 hours.
- Musical Instruments. Flutes, fiddles, and acoustic guitars are being produced with 3D printing using both metal and plastic. You can click here for an example of making a violin.
- Medical Models. Medical models are being used to help doctors train in the areas of orthopedics, transplant surgery, and oncology. Using a 3D printed brain model similar to the one shown here, surgeons were able to save a patient from a cerebral aneurysm.
- Clothing. How would you like clothes that fit perfectly? Special software is used to measure a person, then 3D printing produces the clothing to the exact measurements. The result is well-fitting clothes that consume less raw materials. Initially the challenge was to find materials that would not break. You can read more about 3D printing of clothes and shoes.
3-D printing is one of many technologies embraced by the “maker” movement. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, puts it this way:
In a nutshell, the term “Maker” refers to a new category of builders who are using open-source methods and the latest technology to bring manufacturing out of its traditional factory context, and into the realm of the personal desktop computer. Until recently, the ability to manufacture was reserved for those who owned factories. What’s happened over the last five years is that we’ve brought the Web’s democratizing power to manufacturing. Today, you can manufacture with the push of a button.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to devices that have been embedded into a variety of objects including appliances, lamps, vehicles, lightbulbs, toys, thermostats, jet engines, etc. and then connecting them via Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, or LTE to the Internet. Principally three factors have come together to give us IoT: inexpensive processors, wireless connectivity, and a new standard for addresses on the Internet known as IPv6. The result is these small, embedded objects (things) are capable of sending and receiving data. Lights can be turned on or off remotely. Thermostats can be reset with anyone being present. And, perhaps on the downside, how you drive your car can be monitored and evaluated by your insurance company.
Processors have become both smaller and cheaper in recent years, leading to their being embedded in more devices. Consider technological advancements in your vehicles. Your car can now collect data about how fast you drive, where you go, radio stations you listen to, and your driving performance such as acceleration and braking. Insurance companies are offering discounts for the right to monitor your driving behavior. On the positive side, imagine the benefit of being informed instantly of anticipated traffic delays each time you adjust your route to work in the morning.
Think of IoT as devices that you wouldn’t normally consider being connected to the Internet. And, the connection is independent of human intervention. So a PC is not an IoT, but a fitness band could be. One keyword for IoT would be “independent”, not relying directly or constantly on human action.
Another keyword would be “interconnected”, in the sense that IoTs are connected to other IoTs and data collection points or data servers. This interconnectedness or uploading of data is virtually automatic.
“Ubiqutous” is also a good descriptor of IoTs. And so is “embeddedness.” It is reasonable to expect that devices through IoTs are reporting data about conditions and events that are not foremost in our thinking, at least not on a continuous basis. Today there are IoTs for monitoring traffic, air quality, soil moisture, bridge conditions, consumer electronics, autonomous vehicles, and the list seemingly never stops. The question that might come to mind is “How many IoTs are there today?”
The Gartner Group released a study in January 2017 which attempted to identify where IoTs exist. They reported that over half of all IoTs are installed in devices used by consumers. They also noted that growth in IoTs increased by over 30% from 2016 to the projected levels for 2017.
Benefits from IoTs are virtually everywhere. Here is a quick list.
- Optimization of Processes. IoTs in manufacturing monitor a variety of conditions that impact production including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure – all factors which require adjustment in application of manufacturing formulas.
- Component Monitoring. IoTs are added to components in the manufacturing process, then monitored to see how each component is performing.
- Home Security Systems. IoTs make the challenge of monitoring activity inside and outside your home are now easier.
- Smart Thermostats. Remote control of home thermostats through the use of IoTs allows the homeowner to be more efficient in consumption of utilities.
- Residential Lighting. IoTs provide remote control of lighting, both interior and exterior, and at any time of day.
Security issues need to be acknowledged and resolved, preferably before IoTs in the form of remote lighting, thermostats, and security systems are installed in a residence. Here are some security concerns that need monitoring.
- Eavesdropping. Smart speaker systems in residences have been hacked, allowing others to eavesdrop on conversations within the home.
- Internet-connected Smart Watches. These devices are sometimes used to monitor the location of children in the family. Unfortunately, hackers have been able to breakin and again, eavesdrop as well as learn where children are located.
- Lax Use by Owners. Devices such as smart thermometers, security systems, etc. come with a default password. Many owners fail to change the password, thereby allowing easy access by a hacker.
Another trend that is emerging is an extension of the Internet of Things: autonomous robots and vehicles. By combining software, sensors, and location technologies, devices that can operate themselves to perform specific functions are being developed. These take the form of creations such as medical nanotechnology robots (nanobots), self-driving cars, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
A nanobot is a robot whose components are on the scale of about a nanometer, which is one-billionth of a meter. While still an emerging field, it is showing promise for applications in the medical field. For example, a set of nanobots could be introduced into the human body to combat cancer or a specific disease.
In March of 2012, Google introduced the world to their driverless car by releasing a video on YouTube showing a blind man driving the car around the San Francisco area. The car combines several technologies, including a laser radar system, worth about $150,000. While the car is not available commercially yet, three US states (Nevada, Florida, and California) have already passed legislation making driverless cars legal.
A UAV, often referred to as a “drone,” is a small airplane or helicopter that can fly without a pilot. Instead of a pilot, they are either run autonomously by computers in the vehicle or operated by a person using a remote control. While most drones today are used for military or civil applications, there is a growing market for personal drones. For around $300, a consumer can purchase a drone for personal use.
As digital technologies drive relentlessly forward, so does the demand for increased security. One of the most important innovations in security is the use of encryption, which we covered in chapter 6.
As the world of information technology moves forward, we will be constantly challenged by new capabilities and innovations that will both amaze and disgust us. As we learned in chapter 12, many times the new capabilities and powers that come with these new technologies will test us and require a new way of thinking about the world. Businesses and individuals alike need to be aware of these coming changes and prepare for them.
- Which countries are the biggest users of the Internet? Social media? Mobile?
- Which country had the largest Internet growth (in %) in the last five years?
- How will most people connect to the Internet in the future?
- What are two different applications of wearable technologies?
- What are two different applications of collaborative technologies?
- What capabilities do printable technologies have?
- How will advances in wireless technologies and sensors make objects “findable”?
- What is enhanced situational awareness?
- What is a nanobot?
- What is a UAV?
- If you were going to start a new technology business, which of the emerging trends do you think would be the biggest opportunity? Do some original research to estimate the market size.
- What privacy concerns could be raised by collaborative technologies such as Waze?
- Do some research about the first handgun printed using a 3-D printer and report on some of the concerns raised.
- Write up an example of how IoT might provide a business with a competitive advantage.
- How do you think wearable technologies could improve overall healthcare?
- What potential problems do you see with a rise in the number of autonomous cars? Do some independent research and write a two-page paper that describes where autonomous cars are legal and what problems may occur.
- Seek out the latest presentation by Mary Meeker on “Internet Trends” (if you cannot find it, the video from 2018 is available at Mary Meeker). Write a one-page paper describing what the top three trends are, in your opinion.
- Select a business enterprise of interest to you, one that you may pursue following graduation. Select one or more of the technologies listed in this chapter, then write a one or two page paper about how you might use that technology to gain a competitive advantage.
- Internet World Stats ↵
- Statistica Forecast of Mobile Phone Users Worldwide ↵
- Zephoria Top 15 Valuable Facebook Statistics ↵
- https://blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics ↵
- Omnicore Agency Facebook Statistics ↵
- Omnicore Agency Pinterest Statistics ↵
- Omnicore Agency Twitter Statistics ↵
- Statista ↵
- Smart Insights ↵
- Gartner.com ↵
- Techcrunch ↵
- Business Insider ↵
- Telegraph ↵
- The Economist. (2013, September 13). 3-D Printing Scales Up. ↵
- Bosavage, J. (2017, September 5). Unbelievable Creations from 3-D Printers. ↵
- Anderson, C. (2012). Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.. Crown Business. ↵
- Ranger, S. (2018, January 19). What is the IoT? Everything You Wanted to Know about The Internet of Things Right Now. ZDNet. ↵
- Ranger, S. (2018, January 19). What is the IoT? Everything You Wanted to Know about The Internet of Things Right Now. ZDNet. ↵