Today, in universities around the world, leading professors are looking for top notch PhD students and researchers to push the boundaries and explore areas that will enable tomorrow’s technology innovation. To have a preview of what the future could look like, we at Cisco asked 60 leading academic professors in Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Science (CS) in 25 top universities worldwide the following question: “What areas of research will you be focusing on going forward?”.
Here are 4 things, which we learned from their passionate and fascinating answers:
#1 – The Pending End of Moore’s Law
The Interviewed Professors generally see Moore’s law coming to an end in the next 5-10 years (predictions of the end of the law are almost as old as the law itself…). It looks like smaller transistors can still be developed but at a high cost. Although not really about physical limits, but rather an economic issue, significant research is taking place to find alternative improvement mechanisms beyond reducing size. For example, replacing signal wires with optical signals, increasing energy efficiency, or using smarter data processing allocation between devices and the cloud.
#2: Research is Focusing on 4 Areas
The vast majority of research taking place at the top university institutions in Electrical Engineering (EE) and Computer Science (CS) falls into one of the following four areas:
Artificial intelligence: deep learning, mining of unstructured data, multi-agent communication, autonomous vehicles, robotics, human-computer interface, computer vision.
Process optimisation: software & systems engineering, processor improvements, power engineering, hardware improvement.
Cloud computing and networking: wireless communication, network engineering, software-defined networks, internet of things.
Computer and information security: cryptography & encryption, network security, mobile security
#3 – Technology is Proliferating
With the advent of the Internet of Things resulting in a growing number of connected devices impacting our life, technology is becoming increasingly embedded in society. Technologies such as big data and machine learning are in reality already playing a massive role (sometimes behind the scenes). Research will continue to drive improvements in Human-Computer Interfaces, creating new technologies that will increasingly co-exist with legacy, human controlled systems. As IT technology spills over into distant domains, it continuously expands the innovation boundaries of other industries such as healthcare and transportation.
#4 – Interdisciplinary Research is Key
In many cases professors indicated that the key to unlocking the potential of technology applications is in combining research with other disciplines such as neuroscience, mechanical engineering, and social sciences. Professors also highlighted the difficulty in obtaining funding for such cross-disciplinary projects, because funding mechanisms usually expect proposed projects to fit into specific disciplines.
In the following weeks, we will explore in more detail some of the themes that are emerging from this survey hopefully giving you out of the box ideas about the future they could potentially unlock.
Will an ‘Internet of Everything’ shorten your commute in the morning? Are we at the beginning or the end of the SDN hype cycle? What exactly is ‘context aware’ computing? How will large format HDTV technology transform the way global teams work together?
Just before the holidays, I had the pleasure of posing these and other questions to a distinguished panel of Cisco engineers, innovators and business leaders.
Susie Wee, VP and CTO, Networked Experiences, Lauren Cooney, Senior Director, Software Strategy , CTO and Architecture Office, David Ward, CTO of Engineering and Chief Architect and Maciej Kranz, VP of the Corporate Technology Group led a discussion inspired by the work of Cisco’s Technology Radar team.
Cisco’s Tech Radar brings together a network of 80+ scoutsto identify emerging technology trends and forecast their impact on business, governments, and everyday society through a five, ten and twenty-five years time frame. The findings inform Cisco’s engineering and corporate development strategy.
During the course of 90 minutes, our panel dissected as many of those trends as they could, from augmented collaboration to WebRTC; mega data centers to SDN; security and privacy to the Internet of Everything. You can view some highlights of the discussion in the video below, or – if your New Year isn’t too busy yet – you can watch the entire Technology Radar 2014 program here.
Spotting the next innovation that could bring benefits to customers, or that could challenge the continued success of existing products, is a challenge that is front-of-mind for every company.
But keeping a finger on the pulse of every innovation that could bring such a disruption is a daunting prospect. That’s certainly true for Cisco. We are a leader in more than a dozen industry segments. As a result, we have to keep our ear close to the ground in more markets than most.
So how on earth do we do that? In a nutshell: the wisdom of a (very expert) crowd.
Experience suggests that relying on the same people who build products or services to also keep a watchful eye on disruptive innovations that could displace those self-same products can be counterproductive. Accordingly, Cisco assembled a self-nominated team of enthusiasts unaffiliated with any particular function or business unit to take up the challenge of identifying technology developments worldwide.
We call that team and the process that unearths those emerging innovations The Technology Radar.
The Technology Radar is based on the insights of 70+ globally-positioned ‘scouts’. These volunteer scouts (all of them have other full-time jobs at Cisco) have become fundamental to Cisco’s intelligence gathering initiatives. By channeling their passion for emerging technologies, Cisco is identifying opportunities and threats that could impact our business in five, ten or even twenty-five years time.
Because of their insights, our Technology Radar now tracks approximately 90 technologies that help Cisco’s senior engineering and business leaders make informed strategic decisions on everything from product development to acquisitions. For example, it was our Technology Radar scouts who spotted the “Internet of Everything” trend that Dave Evans has been blogging about recently, and “Power-over-Ethernet”, a technology that enables more efficient management and power consumption of electronic devices, long before they became common topics of discussion in the industry.
In capturing the wisdom of the crowd to inform company strategy, the Technology Radar joins other programs like Cisco iPrize, the company’s global innovation contest, and its iZone internal employee ideation site, as examples of Cisco’s ongoing commitment to fostering open and crowd-sourced innovation at the company.
So what are our ingenious Technology Radar scouts talking about right now? We talked to Stephan Monterde, who runs the Cisco Technology Radar program out of Switzerland, to hear about what new developments are bubbling up.
Check out this video interview with Stephan to hear more about emerging technologies, such as the Human Machine Interface.