Kathy Gibson reports from Dell Innovation Day in Copenhagen – Dell has identified 10 disruptive trends that will affect technology development over the next few years.

Dr Jai Menon, chief research officer and vice-president at Dell Research, says these trends can be classified under four major themes: transform the efficiency of IT; connect your people for more productivity; inform by turning data into insights; and protect everything everywhere.

In light of transforming the efficiency of IT, Dell believes that next-generation non-volatile memory will be with us by 2017; and by 2020 specialisation via software will beat customer hardware, with servers becoming more powerful and less expensive.

“This will change the dynamics of using specific hardware to industry standard servers,” says Dr Menon. “This will have an effect on the cost and agility of doing things.”

In fact, he believes the data centre will largely be simplified to one piece – the server.

By 2020, he says servers will continue to advance in performance, memory capacity and bandwidth. This means that specint will improve by a factor of 5,29; server performance or Teraflops will increase by more than 20-times; total memory will increase by 16-times; and total network bandwidth will go up by a factor of 15.

The software-defined data centre has been well-used in the industry, Dr Menon says – but the data centre of 2020 will be software-based, offering true agility, unified infrastructure, portability to cloud, lower capital expenditure and operational expenditure, applications moved to a virtual model; and specialisation shifting to the software.

Under the theme of connecting people for productivity, Dell predicts that, by 2020, an explosion of Internet-connected devices will create new challenges and opportunities. Meanwhile, by 2018, user interfaces will evolve to understand more about user intent.

Meanwhile, Dr Menon believes that the bring your own device (BYOD) focus will shift from solely addressing security to addressing security with usability. This will help mobile workforces to face fewer interruptions or limitations.

Dell is running a research project that will allow users to access enterprise applications regardless of where they are – with the same security and connectivity. “You will not even notice if we change the network for you,” Dr Menon says. “We think this is the kind of direction that mobility is going in, and will be important for enterprises.”

This seamless BYOD will offer secure internetworking, seamless mobility, live data algorithmic quality control, and seamless select, handover and aggregating realtime multi-networks.

Meanwhile, the trend to user interfaces evolving to understand more about user intent will allow personal devices to become smarter and more sensitive to user needs. The connection between device and user will become much more natural.

Dr Menon says this will extend the premise that knowing more about the user will help the device do a better job of helping them. In the same way that knowing a user’s location has been able to help the system find location-specific services, having insight into other factors will help improve other services.

This will be achieved by making devices more sensitive to user’s needs, and Dell is working on mood sensing, demographics detection, eye tracking and user history. Use cases include gaming, education, workplace and assembly line analytics.

The theme of turning data into insights, Dr Menon believes that, by 2020, the majority of realtime data analytics will be seamlessly integrated into business processes. In this way, analytics will become democratised, instantly applicable and easy to consume.

“We know this not something that is easy for enterprises to get into,” he says. “We are on a journey here.”

Currently, organisations are using descriptive analytics, where they identify what is going on today. “The next phase is predictive analytics where companies can figure out what might happen tomorrow.

“Then there is prescriptive analytics: this goes beyond telling me what’s going to happen tomorrow but advise me what I should do about it.”

The journey is thus moving from simple to complex analytics, and closing the loop between analytics and action.

The speed has to improve as well, with constant adjustments to current and projected conditions.

Increasingly, Dr Menon says, apps will be better integrated into the business process, based on the analytics. Apps are currently standalone, but will move first o inline and then infused where they will be embedded in the workflow.

Dell is working on a project that does automated document classification, which will automatically determine appropriate security controls for a document based on content and meta-data.

The final theme, of protecting everything, everywhere, Dell Research believes that, by 2018, security will shift from reactive to predictive and become context aware and, by 2019, cloud security will be strengthened by homomorphic encryption. By 2017, there will be a paradigm shift in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to self-protecting data.

Security will shift from reactive to predictive by and will become context-aware, says Dr Menon.

“A lot of security today is carried out after an attack,” he says. “We see technologies that will let you become much more predictive.”

In the future, security systems will predict exploits, deploying counter-measures before or during an attack.

It will also engage with employees is there behaviour indicates a potential exploit, and will vary its protection depending on the context.

Continuous authentication will work on protecting the company from potential weaknesses opened up by mobile devices.

Dell is working on a project that is collecting swipe and test data for analysis. “So if you take my tablet, the system will throw you out because it will recognise that the way you swipe and tap is different from the way I do,” Dr Menon says.

“Time will tell how accurate I can be with this, or if I need to combine it with other algorithms like facial recognition or other biometrics.”