A new report from the Institute for Global Futures, Global Futures Forecast 2012, lays out the top trends that it believes will shape the coming year. It’s looking ahead to a future that it says may be characterized by complex trends, accelerated change, hyper-competition, disruption, innovation and uncertainty, and that will demand a new way of operating.
It recommends continuing investment in innovation in the U.S., as that is the central driver of US and global competitive advantage, and a requirement for achieving more stable growth. And it advises that organizations’ leaders need to do a better job becoming long-range thinkers given that the accelerated pace of change means that the future is coming at us faster than ever before, and with change comes risk.
What do such things have to do with the Semantic Web and semantic technologies? Apparently, quite a lot.
The report by Dr. James Canton names it as a standalone trend “about deep connections with data and an attempt to make the web more accurate, smarter and useful when you’re searching,” combining a front-end that is more intuitive and personal to individual needs with a back-end built on standards to drive meaning and connections.
But it’s interesting to observe that many other forecasts in the report for which organizations need to be prepared are themselves tied to a vision like the one that semantic-related technologies promote or enable. It discusses, for instance, the new activist consumer who’s out there on the social web, sharing opinions, advocating, influencing. The NLP and other technologies driving sentiment and text analytics, and uncovering what is being said by a piece of sentiment- and emotive-rich text, is critical to understanding, and acting on, the voice of the customer that’s helping to grow the unstructured Big Data pile.
There also is, of course, a nod in the report to Facebook’s influence as a social media giant around the shift in the business and commerce landscape, though it doesn’t tie any of that to the semantically-inspired Open Graph protocol. Increasingly there’s reason it should.
Reports late last week, for example, had it that Facebook is debuting as a pilot program Open Graph-action sponsored stories: Advertisers could pay to have more exposure to listen, read, or watch stories that mention them by turning the stories into Sponsored Story social ads. This is designed to accompany its Open Graph action spec targeting that lets advertisers target users by what they listen to, where they travel, what they buy, and other in-app activity, according to TechCrunch.
The GFF 2012 Forecast report also hones in on the rise of Dark Networks, which it defines as criminal/terrorist organizations that infiltrate corporate and government networks, predicting such intrusions will accelerate this year. Here, too, semantics has a role to play: In August, The Semantic Web Blog reported on the trend of semantic security, an evolution that, “in conjunction with cloud computing will promote security controls that simulate human cognition and can block and/or report untrusted communications in near real-time over Internet scale data.” That follos coverage such as our 2010 three-part report from Stephen Lahanas on the topic of semantics and cyber-security, which you can read starting here, while in August of that year we explored the Washington Post’s Top Secret America report, and experts’ contention that government intelligence systems must be semantic if we’re to improve the state’s information-sharing and coordination activities.
Personalized medicine also makes its appearance in the 2012 report as a trend underway, referring to digital health technologies and better use of medical informatics leading to that future. Of course, as we’ve covered here, technologies with links to the semantic world are going to be key to that future: Wellpoint, for example, is working with IBM to apply Watson to match what it learns from its ingestion of medical evidence to what it gleans about specific cases, in order to help physicians with their diagnosis and with choosing best treatment protocols with higher levels of accuracy.
There are a wealth of other connections that can be made between some of the other trends raised by the report and semantic technology – for instance, it discusses the need for a 21st century smart grid to replace an electric grid modeled after a 19th century infrastructure. As we wait for that to become more of a reality, projects like SESAME-S are working to leverage semantic technologies to contribute to the data economy for energy efficiency with smart energy metering.
You can read more of the report here, and start preparing for a future World that is a semantic tech world.