Ubiquitous computing & interoperability - the top trends at SXSW

by: on 19 March 2015

Shawn Busteed, VP Product, North America at Somo, outlines the top five trends from SXSWi

The five most interesting trends here at SXSW have revolved around ubiquitous computing and how companies try to solve the logistics and interoperability issues that come with it, as well as the enormous variety of wearables on display, greater depths of the Internet of things, greater concern around security and privacy due to the sheer amounts of data generated, and finally what I call ‘device trust’.

Ubiquitous Computing is the concept of making computing available from any consumer device or touch point. Where the actual computing takes place starts to become irrelevant. Think of it as the evolution of cloud computing where the cloud is actually everywhere. This poses a bunch of logistical hurdles to overcome. 

Wearables allow for easy access and could almost act as a remote for other smart objects. We are in the first iterations with these, as wearables like the Apple Watch and Barclays bPay are primarily acting as payment devices. These will evolve quickly into more powerful controls that actually operate as fashion. Ring was another device demonstrating new motion and gesture controls and platform integrations. For example, drawing a simple circle in the air while wearing the ring can take a picture on your phone, or drawing a ‘play’ symbol can play or pause the music you’re listening to. Aesthetically, these devices are becoming more desirable and no longer resemble a rectangular screen stuck on a wristband. More and more manufacturers have realised that wearables have to look good first and foremost, in addition to functionality.

The Internet of things extends the control of the computing platform. Everyone is trying all the possible iterations of smart objects. Most make no sense and will undoubtedly fall by the wayside, but concepts that will start to bleed into legitimate device manufacturers and the ability to control them externally are becoming a reality.

Privacy and security pose huge concerns in the Internet of Things, and from the conversations at SXSW, this isn’t going away. The more devices that are connected, silently collecting and sharing information about you, the more the fear grows of who’s looking at that data and where exactly it’s going. These grow exponentially when you start getting into vocal, gesture and motion controls like Microsoft’s Kinect and Amazon’s Echo, capturing vast amounts of data.

The last bit required to pull ubiquitous computing together is an easy way for a system of devices to trust one another completely. For this model to work, any device should be able to tell any other device to do something. We saw much of this at CES as well, and 4K televisions and motion and voice control will push the centre of gravity back to the home and allow computers to communicate back to us in a more natural way.