Are you using an iPhone today?  Have you started using your iPad more than your computer?  Do you take your tablet computer with a touch screen and a stylus to a meeting rather than taking a pen and a yellow pad?

If you’re using an iPad today, you were certainly not using one ten years ago.  Why?  It only went on sale for the first time on April 3, 2010.

In January 2008, I had a cellphone.  That’s all it was.  A phone.  I kept it in my right front pocket.  In my left front pocket, I had something called a Palm Pilot.  I had used it since 1999.  It was the coolest thing ever!  It was the first time in my entire life that I didn’t have to carry a paper calendar with me.  I had a place to keep notes, and store all my contacts.  It held my “Do” list.  I could write on the screen with a stylus, and the text automatically appeared!  It could synchronize with my computer.  It also had a portable keyboard so I could take it to meetings and take notes.  Portable tech life was good, and pretty consistent, too.

But I changed jobs two months into 2008, and was given this communication device called a Blackberry.  It had a keyboard built into it, but the keys were way too small for my fingers, and I couldn’t write on the screen either.  At least I’d use it as my phone, and could keep my contacts there rather than in the Palm.

But something happened in June of 2007 – Apple released the iPhone.  18 months later, the iPhone’s popularity was soaring, and Palm just couldn’t keep up.  Eventually, neither could Blackberry.  In October of 2009, I combined technologies, leaving behind the Blackberry, and reluctantly said goodbye to the Palm in favor of the iPhone.

It’s now a little more than 10 years later, and I’m on my 5th iPhone and 3nd iPad.  I’ve had a new laptop computer about every three years simply because it’s on the road so much.

In the past decade years, I’ve started and administered almost a dozen Web sites, and began a non-profit foundation along with my wife which raises funds to subsidize private music lessons for students in our local public school district.  We’ve gone from having our 3 children living at home to being empty nesters, and now have a son-in-law and 3 month old granddaughter too!

The speed of change over the past 10 years has been incredible.  It’s faster than it was over the previous 10 year period.  And the next ten years are going to change even more rapidly!  What does this mean?  Think of your routine today.  It won’t be that way 10 years from now.  It might not even be that way 2 years from now!  It’s certainly not that way for my eldest daughter who got married, and then almost 10 months later have a new addition to their new family!

Since these articles are all about “Next” Practices, here are five things to be aware of today to prepare you for tomorrow.

3D Printing

You may have seen one of these printers demonstrated recently at an educational conference, where layer upon layer of material is joined together to make 3 dimensional objects.  The demonstration items created are usually plastic, but apparently what is created all depends on the “printer.”  Technically, this process is called “additive manufacturing.”  So, while today we download eBooks and movies, we may be able to “download” any physical item…like a bicycle.  There’s a company that “prints” car bodies (http://venturebeat.com/2015/01/13/local-motors-debuts-worlds-first-3d-printed-car-at-naias-2015/), and who knows what will be able to be printed next!  How about…shoes.  Check this out: (https://selfassemblylab.mit.edu/liquid-printed-native-shoes/2)

Big Data

You’re probably familiar with Megabytes and Gigabytes as measurements of amounts of data, since files like WORD, Excel and pdf documents are measured according to the amount of data each file contains.  The basic unit of digital data is a “bit, ” and 8 bits of data equal 1 Byte.  1000 Bytes is equivalent to 1 Kilobyte, and a Megabyte is 1000 Kilobytes.  Today’s computer hard drives can hold hundreds of Gigabytes, which is equal to 1,000 Megabytes, or a billion Bytes.

But if your hard drive is holding a few “gigs” of data (after all, a downloaded movie is a made up of a few gigs of data), imagine how many computers out there that are also holding that amount of material.  Further, think of how much additional data is being stored “in the cloud” so that it doesn’t take up valuable space on a computer, is securely stored and readily accessible via the Internet.  Add it all up, and the numbers are staggering!  Experts agree that we’ll soon be entering a time where we’ll be considering Zettabytes of data.

How much is a Zettabyte?  If a Gigabyte is 1000 Megabytes, a Terabyte is 1000 Gigabytes.  A Petabyte is 1000 Terabytes, an Exabyte is 1000 Petabytes, and a Zettabyte is 1000 Exabytes.  Therefore, if my math is correct, 1 Zettabyte is equal to 1 trillion Gigabytes.  To put that into perspective, if your computer has a 500 Gigabyte hard drive, 1 Zettabyte is the amount which could be stored by 2 million of those computers.

And that’s only 1 Zettabyte.  We talking about a number of Zettabytes.

Perhaps you’re now thinking, “Well, what comes after Zettabytes?”  If so, prepare yourself for Yottabytes (1,000 Zettabytes) and Brontobytes (1000 Yottabytes).  Brontobytes?  Maybe the Flintstones were on to something.  As for Yottabytes, I can see the marketing for that: “Y’oughta buy a computer with a Yottabyte harddrive.”  Unfortunately, it probably wont be storage that’s housed by the computer.

Predictive Analytics

So what do we do with all that data?  After all, that’s a lot of data to simply store.  Because more and more data will be stored over the years, algorithms will be developed which can be used to predict future performance or create data conversions based on the stored data, and do those conversations instantly.  For instance, consider a student’s graded academic performance throughout his or her K-12 experience including performances on standardized testing as well as current evaluation vehicles like the SAT or ACT.  Now, instantly “crunch” those numbers to determine this student’s potential for success during their undergraduate experience in a particular field.  Or, speak a phrase into your telephone, and the person on the other end of the call who speaks Spanish hears the conversation in their native language – with no time delay.  Predictive Analytics are what drives AI (Artificial Intelligence) development.  As that language is spoken more and more, patterns emerge and are “remembered,” just like the neural pathways that form in our brains, until it gets to the point were the translation will happen in imperceptible nanoseconds after the initial words are spoken.

Solar Energy

According to Dave Evans, Cisco’s chief futurist and chief technologist for the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), solar energy alone can meet 100% of our energy need.  He’s theorized that only 25 “solar super sites,” each consisting of a solar grid 6 miles long and 6 miles wide, could be created in only a few years.  To tie this in with 3D printing, in 2011, researchers at Oregon State University developed a way to “print” solar cells.  In 2014, an Indiegogo campaign to raise $1,000,000 to move forward with a solar roadway prototype closed with over $2,000,000 pledged to the project.  Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNMFKKyFU60&x-yt-ts=1421782837&x-yt-cl=84359240 for a closer look.

The Emergence of the Borg

If you remember the episodes of Star Trek that featured entities that appeared to be human, but were fused with technology, you may realize that as a species, we’re moving toward that point.  Over the past few years, scientists have developed the first artificial hand with feeling, retinal implants have restored vision to once blind patients, and an artificial heart has been developed which “spins” rather than pumps, and therefore, doesn’t clog.    Most recently, technologists have created a robot out of living cells of a frog.  Since technology will continue to be used to mend and improve the body, as well as repair unhealthy tissue, we will need to continue to concentrate on what makes us societally human, despite the technology that may become an intricate part of our bodies.