The IFTF Blog
Mapping the Age of Networked Matter
Not 25 years ago, access to the Internet was confined to government research labs and universities. Today, the smartphone in my pocket not only connects to the Internet, it’s linked to my wearable fitness tracker, my thermostat, the lights next to my bed, my in-home security system, my social shopping accounts… each of which can be modified to algorithmically learn my preferences and behaviors to either highlight recommendations or manage my daily routines in some fashion or another.
Our devices, in other words, don’t only connect to us, they connect to each other and the world around. A wide range of wireless networking technologies—from RFID, to Near-Field Communication (NFC), to Bluetooth, and LTE—are being integrated into everything from ingestible monitoring devices in our bodies,[i] to sophisticated pH sensors that measure acidification levels in the Earth’s oceans.[ii] The famed Internet of Things (“IoT”) is set to grow to over 50 billion devices by 2020, according to Cisco.[iii] But what happens after that?
In the next ten years we will enter the Age of Networked Matter, in which the connections between biology and machinery are brought to the forefront and we begin to rethink our roles in the world. Robots will form their own social networks, chairs will be digitally-rights managed, microbes will talk to kitchens, and every object will be six degrees away from the rest of the world.
IFTF Technology Horizons created this map to help orient you to this coming Age of Networked Matter. It explores the emerging technologies driving this Age and their potential to reshape our world across three time horizons—the Era of Abundant Data, the Internet of Things, and by the end of the decade the Age of Networked Matter.
In the Age of Networked Matter, we must all become adept systems thinkers. With that in mind, we’ve organized our map not only along a time horizon but also by four scales: planetary, city, people, and micro.
Use this map to think systematically about the next decades of transformative change and anticipate the opportunities (and challenges) of a wholly linked world.
An Aura of Familiarity—6 Short Stories Inspired by the Coming Age of Networked Matter
Recognizing that sometimes the best people to help envision the future are artists IFTF collected seven short science fiction stories that took our findings and released them last year in our Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter.
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- Check out the 2015 Technology Horizons research agenda