This Trendster’s Trends

Overall, I thought Midwinter’s Top Tech Trends was a very positive experience. I’m not terribly interested in institutional repositories, so I think my mind wandered during that part of the discussion. As expected, I found everyone’s comments to be incredibly insightful.

But without any further ado, here are my trends:

Keep an eye on DRM

Last year, we saw Steve Jobs come out in favor of DRM-free music. Shortly thereafter, EMI began releasing music on iTunes sans-DRM. And only a couple weeks ago Warner Bros. announced that it would abandon DRM for all sales on Amazon.

While I think this particular trend is encouraging, we ought not throw a ticker-tape parade just yet. It seems that in place of DRM, studios are opting for digital watermarks. What that means is that every music download will have, embedded in it, a unique serial number that ties that file with the original purchaser. Obviously, this carries with it some significant privacy concern.

Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that DRM is being dropped from popular audiobook formats.

Converged Digital Media Hubs

PVRs were really the vanguard of this particular technological revolution and they have been incredibly disruptive to the television advertisement industry. The Apple iPhone was sort of a watershed moment last year in this area because it really is a device that allows users to take advantage of a convergence of media types–music, video, text, and two-way voice communication. There is no question as to how beneficial these types of devices are to the consumer and the market for them is only going to get bigger. Many interesting possibilities for libraries there too.

Location Awareness

If you’re in a room with a hundred cell-phone owners, you can be sure that at least eighty of them are Lo-Jacked. Quietly rolled out under the guide of “Location Services”, most cell phones are equipped with a GPS locater chip. We’re going to start seeing this technology couple with online social networking sites like Dodgeball so that friends and contacts can triangulate on your physical position at any given time. Interesting and very cool from a techie point of view, but also incredibly invasive and potentially scary.

Surface Computing

During the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, I noticed that CNN’s election center was using a vertically-placed Microsoft Surface. I see this type of tactile computing becoming much more widespread as notions of what ‘computing’ actually means begin to broaden and extend into non-traditional types of devices (think Chumby). Maybe someday, when we have sane APIs into our ILSs, we’ll be able to use surface computing platforms in a convergence of reference, circulation, research, and instruction.

Fat PAN Pipes

Personal Area Networks are sort of luke-warm. I think adoption has been slow because of bandwidth restrictions. That will probably change once we see devices begin to take advantage of Ultra Wideband (UWB)–an extremely high-bandwidth, short-range radio specification. Think USB or Firewire without cables. Couple that with moderate-range wireless energy transfer, and I think we’ll see some very interesting gadgetry indeed.

Privacy is Dead

Yep, no such thing if you’re a netizen. We basically have the choice to connect or live out our lives in quiet and total obscurity. This merits an entire write-up on its own, but needless to say, our approach to individual privacy needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century. Almost all of the trends I mentioned this time around have profound privacy implications.


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