The future intrigues us all, especially when every now and then we’re able to catch a glimpse of what’s to come.

At Cisco, one of the ways we build our business and serve our customers is to think about the future and how technology innovation stands to transform the world in which we live. This approach is especially important now as the more than 99 percent of physical objects that are currently unconnected become part of the Internet of Everything (IoE).

And while we know that no one person or company can predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, we put a lot of effort into coming as close as we can. To make this possible, we have a Chief Futurist on staff – Dave Evans – who, in addition to his responsibilities leading the Cisco IBSG Innovations team, spends his time helping Cisco and our customers see what lies ahead.

In an event earlier this month, Evans and the General Manager of Cisco’s Emerging Technology Group, Dr. Guido Jouret, shared their top predictions for the future and the mind-boggling innovations that will start taking off in 2013 and beyond. If you’re up for a little crystal-ball gazing, here’s what they had to say…

1.) People will live to be 300 years old. Evans believes the first person to live to 300 years of age may already be alive. As healthcare becomes increasingly connected, people can be constantly monitored throughout their daily lives versus intermittent physical checkups at a doctor’s office. As such, life expectancy will skyrocket. For example, bathroom mirrors will be able scan a person’s body to measure pupil dilatation, pulse, blood pressure, and more; pills will include RFID sensors that can monitor a patient’s intake; and healthcare devices like pacemakers will become smart enough to send real-time updates to physicians. This new level of data combined with personal genomics information (to enable medication to be tailored to each patient) will enable new ways to detect health issues early on and with more precision than ever before.

2.) Retailers will gain unprecedented knowledge about shoppers. Jouret noted that Moore’s law is also applicable to video. As video pixel counts increase, retailers will use video surveillance to hone in on shoppers with new levels of precision, determining demographic traits like, age, sex, and more. In-store activities can also be monitored with video, including display effectiveness, customer traffic patterns, and aisle dwell time. All of this data can be assessed in real time to adjust store operations dynamically. For example, the number of open registers could be increased based on an the number of shoppers in the store; heat maps will show which aisles attract the most traffic; and object detection can figure out which items shoppers are interacting with most.

3.) By 2030, there will more robots on earth than humans. Two types of robots will exist – physical humanoid robots and virtual avatars. These robots will coexist with humans, working alongside us in nearly every activity of our daily lives. If worry is setting in that these robots might displace many human jobs, Evans notes that while some jobs will eventually be displaced by robots, many more new jobs will emerge in the future that only humans are able to tackle. With the right education and training for workers, robots will also free people to perform safer, more fulfilling work. This is very similar to how the web revolution has created all kinds of new work that never existed before (such as bloggers, Big Data analysts, and designers of online shopping recommendation engines).

4.) 3-D printing will disrupt many industries. This will be an industry game changer. While only about 70 types of material can be printed with a 3-D printer today, future 3-D printers will be able to print many more types of materials (including human tissues) at larger and larger scales. This means the many things you now buy online will no longer need to be shipped. Instead, the items you want will be printed at or near your home. You’ll also be able to tailor physical objects to create unique versions that uniquely suit your needs. This also means that human organs may one day be 3-D printed, further helping to extend our lives beyond today’s typical life expectancy.

5.) Education will become democratized. In the future, people will no longer need to go to universities. Online open courseware will make the best professors available to audiences that could number in the millions. Communities of interest will form on social networks to allow students studying a topic to discover and interact with each other. Satellite campuses will bring together students in the same physical location so they benefit from the collaboration and socialization that university campuses historically provide. The best universities will become “global brands” that will teach students around the globe.

Some of these predictions may sound “far out,” but according to Evans and Jouret, the technologies that will fuel these advancements are here and thriving today. It’s only a matter of time before we see some of these predictions become reality. And while a few ideas may pose ethical and regulatory issues as well as raise security and privacy concerns, Evans and Jouret are confident that we will be able to determine the best way forward, just as we have done in the past.

Are you ready for an exciting future? I hope so, because you’ll be spending the rest of your life there…

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John Earnhardt

No Longer at Cisco