How will tech have transformed our lives by 2026?

Posted byKathryn Cave

Twelve years ago Facebook launched, a year later came YouTube, then a year after – almost bang on a decade ago – the first Tweet was sent. In June 2007, to a fanfare of fireworks, the iPhone arrived and brought the whole social, mobile, data revolution together.

It is stating the obvious – and yet still somehow an understatement – but this has transformed the way we communicate, socialise, do business… and well, everything in between, really. In fact, only 10 years ago it would have been impossible to imagine our daily lives today.

So, with this in mind, what are things likely to be like in another decade’s time?

Well, in order to find out we asked a number of industry insiders to comment on a few open-ended big picture questions. As always with all these types of reports, the feedback was very varied, and expertise naturally tended to tally with vendor solutions. Yet, as is also usually the case, the views were quite consistent and in-line with what we’re seeing now.

Not surprisingly the Internet of Things was mentioned a lot. This is a big deal because it has a knock-on effect in terms of the proliferation of data, possibilities for AI and automation, as well as subsequent concerns around identity. These issues could be further intensified by the rise of biotech.

There were mixed views on what would be positive and what would be negative in this brand new data-enabled world. These included familiar subjects like medical breakthroughs, privacy, customer satisfaction and data sovereignty. Yet one area that I thought was especially pertinent – and doesn’t get talked about a lot – was the increasing divide between those who are digitally included and those that aren’t, along with psychological implications all this change could have.

The final online report below provides a summary of expert responses, opinion on what they might mean, along with some of the more interesting quotes. As we have previously covered the workplace of 2026 and health in 2026 in separate pieces, this is broken down into the following seven sections. And focuses more on change than painting a portrait of what the future may look like.

1.       What will be different about life in 2026?

2.       What will the security implications be for ordinary people?

3.       What technology won’t work as anticipated?

4.       What will be most exciting about life in 2026?

5.       What will be most frightening about life in 2026?

6.       Is there anything else to say on the subject?

7.       What conclusions can we draw?

What will be different about life in 2026?

“If you had described Snapchat to me 10 years ago as something to invest in,” says Sam Mager, Commercial Director at Krome, “I would have quickly dismissed the idea.

“However, it has literally exploded and is now a common way for people to communicate their daily successes or indeed failures with their group of friends. I would expect by 2026 the smartphone will be a piece of history, overtaken by some sort of body worn or – God help us – some type of implant.”

This is an interesting point and summarises much of the feedback we had on what our daily lives might be like in a decade’s time. Firstly, just as 10 years ago it was impossible to imagine how things would be now, it is equally hard the guess the chain of interrelated events that will lead to the future.

Secondly, although the various connected devices that will make up tomorrow’s Internet of Things are a change in themselves, they will also have a knock-on impact on other areas. These include communication, Big Data, health, the workplace – and so many other things – that it is almost impossible to separate out which individual trends will be most important.

“This has never happened in the history of our race,” points out Steven Mills, Digital Marketing Manager at PMC Telecom. “We are making progress at a completely unprecedented rate, and nobody is taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.”

Rob McFarlane, head of labs at Head London adds a little more context: “Predicting these things is always a bit of a crap-shoot. You could spread your bets and knock around crowd favourites like VR, self-driving cars, wearables, IoT but I don't think any single one of these things is going to be the ‘next big thing’ that changed the world. Plus there's always that curveball factor - what will happen to the future of self-driving cars as soon as one is hijacked and used as a weapon?

“Sadly it won't be time travel or flying cars. It will be AI and machine learning.” 

This is a pertinent point because although AI and machine learning sound a bit dull at first compared to eerie robots or other science fiction stuff, they are actually much more fundamental. This is because automation driven by machine learning and fuelled by all that Big Data produced by the Internet of Things means smarter decisions on everything. And I mean everything.

This stretches from the mundanity of auto buying the right washing powder when you need it right through to the life changing effect of being able to profile a disease and spot it ridiculously early. Naturally, day-to-day, we will notice the small things though.

“Without doubt, our lives will be rewritten by software in the coming decade,” says Martin Ashall, CTO at CA Technologies UK.

“Devices will take over the decision making for us,” adds Philipp Schuster, UK Managing Director of Loxone. “The fear of failing to perform a list of necessary tasks before leaving your home, such as locking up, switching off lights and closing windows, will be removed as it can be performed simultaneously at the touch of one button.”

While Edwin Van Bommel, Chief Cognitive Office, IPsoft  suggests, on a more philosophical note: “By creating new ways to deploy virtual labour to automate tasks, we are restructuring the way that humans and machines live and work in tandem to create a better, stronger digital economy.”

In the most obvious use case changes will cover customer service and the way we interact with brands. This is already starting to happen. But as Ryan Lester, Director of IT Strategy, Xively by LogMeIn puts it: “Customers will no longer be happy with a product just working, but rather how it is working best based on their requirements.”

Stuart Dorman, Head of Apps at Sabio explains this will come down to “three ‘exponential’ technologies – Artificial Intelligence, Voice Interfaces and Biometrics”.

Stephen Duignan, Vice President, Global Marketing at also makes an interesting point about the rise of emotionally intelligent machines. This technology is already being tested in a customer service space. And he believes in 10 years technology will “be able to collaborate and interact with us based on not only what we say - but how we say it.”

It is impossible to ignore the rise of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality although it is hard to know exactly how this will pan out in practice. While more prosaically even more data services will transition to the cloud.

Ron Gula, CEO of Tenable Network Security says: “Baring some sort of public relations disaster, due to government monitoring or poor reliability, I would envisage the majority of data will be in the cloud where, in principle, it would be secure.

“End users were the first to adopt cloud providers, and some corporations are now following, so by 2026 there will be the true ‘death’ of network ‘perimeter’ access control in favour of ‘data’ access control. I'd also imagine that endpoint devices will be extremely secure.”

Andy Hinxman, Director of Keybridge IT also adds that Li-Fi internet may also be a major player in secure internet connections in a decade. Unlike Wi-Fi uses, which uses radio waves, Li-Fi runs on visible light and recent reports suggest that Apple may already be looking to build iPhones with this capability.

What will the security implications be for ordinary people?

Whatever the biggest change to our daily lives by 2026, what is clear is that technology will be even more integral than it is today.

“There will be a lot less chance of anybody getting ‘hacked’ or getting a Virus [in 2026],” suggest Mills of PMC Telecom. “However, if this does happen, it will be much worse than it is now.”

Joe Siegrist Vice President and General Manager of LastPass is less optimistic: “Data breaches and security issues will be no longer an anomaly but rather will continue to be the new normal for consumers. Healthcare breaches in particular will continue to make the headlines, as hackers target organisations that are challenged with protecting high-value data. Though the massive breaches will continue to make the headlines, large numbers of smaller breaches will cause the most collective damage.”

Mark Bower, Global Product Manager for data security at HPE Security further warns: “Over the next 10 years, the Internet of Things will create yet more opportunities for attackers to create new revenue streams that have previously not been available. This quickly becomes about personal security of an individual or even a whole country.”

The insecurities in the Internet of Things are a serious problem and have been covered in depthelsewhere. Yet as Bower points out other areas could be equally weak:

“Criminals are going to follow the money, as we know, and the data thieves will concentrate on the vulnerabilities within the mobile payment systems. There are a number of offerings in the space, with Apple Pay being most well-known, but there are many others.”

Gula, of Tenable Network Security tells us: “Identity theft, stealing passwords and using these to gain access to cloud resources, will still be the largest issue users’ face. The 'man on the street' tends to adopt cloud applications because they want to, and not because they are secure.

“In 2026, the technology industry will still be reacting to shadow IT, or using cloud resources which are unknown.” 

While Amelia Kallman, innovation consultant at Engage Works points out that robots and AI are increasingly being able to copy human behaviours and personalities, and the use of these technologies to impersonate will grow in applications – “some for good, many uses for bad”. In response “we will see more regulations around code, interfaces, and data protection and sourcing,” she says.

Turner of Xero adds: “As we move more deeply into this automated, integrated world, ordinary people will need to work hard to learn and keep up with the new disciplines associated with connecting these services – all while ensuring that they are sharing their personal data and behaviour responsibly.”

Finally, Mager of Krome raises some interesting security concerns about IoT and the rise of biotech – although it is important to add there is a still a lot of debate amongst medical professionals about how common this will actually be in a decade.

“Whilst personally I find the whole idea terrifying, I can imagine a line out of the door and round many blocks should Tim Cook bring the Apple iBrain out,” says Mager.

“In my opinion it is not a matter of if, but simply when, and by 2026 I expect this integration of technology with the human form could actually be onto its umpteenth generation, opening up a whole new realm of cyber attacks…

“An Apple hack could then enable control of 75 million people/victims in the US alone. A very scary proposition in my opinion, but one that would have to be taken seriously as we see the tech landscape consolidate and evolve.” 

What technology won’t work as anticipated?

Technology is getting better and more seamless than ever before. And there seemed to be general agreement amongst the people we spoke to that most future technology will just work as anticipated. However, some things may not pan out in quite the way pundits are currently predicting.

“I think people will find driverless cars and passenger drones for individual use disappointing and don’t see them being a part of the mainstream consumer world in 10 years’ time, though they will be available to trial and used more frequently in public transport,” says Kallman, of Engage Works.    

Mills of PMC Telecom adds: “I think that if general purpose robots are more widespread, these will be full of bugs and problems, as they are to the future of computing, what the first PCs were to us.”

While Mager of Krome adds that as we blur the lines between our personal and business lives and our expectations increase concurrently it will have a big impact on us psychologically in future:

“Everyone knows the terrible sound an office makes when the email server goes down for a minute; take this sound and amplify it by 10 - that is the sound of the future.”

What will be most exciting about life in 2026?

Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to order a customised meal via smartphone. Now we take this kind of thing for granted and don’t even brink an eyelid. “So no doubt in 10 years’ time, I shall be just as jaded and hard to impress when I am ordering my summer holiday by simply thinking about beaches and cocktails…” says Mager of Krome.

This is a good point and helps add a bit of perspective to the future. “Exciting” is very hard to quantify. And sadly the more that is available the more mundane everything becomes.

“By 2026, the burden of IT won’t be there,” suggests Gula of Tenable Network Security. “As more devices are connected, they will become more intelligent in how they communicate with us.”

Kallman of Engage Works is excited by the prospect of the ability to “transcend geographic locations through the use of Virtual Reality”, as this will increase our ability to work from any location, visit any location, and interact with people who are elsewhere.

While Leor Barth, VP of R&D at Priority Software highlights the real importance of “medical breakthroughs in the treatment of disease”.

While Martin Ashall, CTO at CA Technologies UK says: “The most exciting thing will be all of this technology coming together, working as described and enriching, but not taking over our lives.

“I also look forward to technology being location-sensitive, with the ability to disrupt tablets and smartphones from working, for example at the dinner table.”


What will be most frightening about life in 2026?

Fear of the future is a common facet of all predictions and a number of people we spoke to highlight the difficulties associated with privacy, hacking and data. These are familiar arguments that we hear a lot today and it is hard to tell exactly where these will stand in the future. However, outside of these common threats a couple of interesting points were raised.

Turner of Xero says: “Digital exclusion is a concern. If you lack the social status, wherewithal or financial resources to join this new digital world then there is a concern that sections of society will be left behind.”

This is a very valid point. There has already been a deepening divide between rich and poor for decades. And so this just seems like the natural next step. What is more, to be digitally excluded would be worse than illiteracy as it would literally place individuals outside society and give them no hope of getting in, if they had no digital footprint.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Unwarranted inclusion and getting in too early. This is part and parcel of data privacy of course, but it has more psychological implications.

“There are already concerns over companies collecting data from children via the devices and applications they use, as well as the privacy laws safeguarding minors, with many underage children using social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  without knowing that those pictures once taken are essentially then ‘lost’  to the web,” suggests Hinxman, of Keybridge IT.

While Kallman of Engage Works adds: “What will be frightening will be the next generation who have been brought up with Google, Twitter, personalisation, the Internet of Things, robots and drones. This will have an effect on the collective subconscious, the way our brains are wired as a species.”

Then as Schuster of Loxone pragmatically concludes: “The transition of handing over control to smart algorithms that study our behaviour and make decisions for us will be gradual and by 2026 we will wonder how we ever lived without an autopilot that smoothly takes care of everyday tasks.

“The most frightening thought will be what happens when we actually have to make decisions like this again?”


Anything else to say on the subject?

There has been a lot of attention paid to the decline in jobs brought on by AI, but it is important to remember this can be a knee-jerk reaction. As Bommel of IPsoft points out: “Although the opportunities this presents should generate excitement rather than fear, the socio-economic impact cannot be ignored.

“We are moving into a world where the traditional way in which wealth is distributed will shift into unchartered territory, and it rests on key policy makers to ensure that existing arbitrary measurements are brought into this new machine age to reflect the needs of an increasingly automated society.”

Kallman, of Engage Works also points to the impact of climate change on the world and highlights the fact that many people are already getting weary of technology taking over their communication:

“I see businesses forming around how to moderate technology use in our lives, a ‘Slow movement’ that will become ever more appealing – like ‘Dry January’ accept for smartphones and media, with ‘rehab’ for tech addicts becoming increasingly popular and trendy.”

What conclusions can we draw?

Over the last decade technology has already totally disrupted our lives for better and for worse. This has resulted in an entire shift in the way we interact with the world, and as the data available snowballs, this is only likely to continue. What it will mean in practice is anyone’s guess but the most significant implications are not really technological at all.

As technology gets safer and more seamless, it is becoming further embedded in our society. This gradually changes our notions of ourselves – selfie culture definitely makes us vainer. It changes our concept of theft – tomorrow you will be able to steal someone’s entire identity including their bio-data – which is a crazy thought. And all this in turn fundamentally impacts the way we view the world.

Personally, I think like the hippy movement of the 1960s there is bound to be a backlash. On some level, there will be a two tiered society of those with a vast digital footprint and those with none. The latter will be made up of the poor, disenfranchised individuals who find themselves absolutely excluded, and educated, middle class drops who choose exclusion on their own wealthy terms.

I suspect words like utopia and dystopia may well get flung about by media pundits, in the run up to 2026. But for most ordinary people this entire seismic shift will feel so gradual that, like our smartphone use today, the majority will simply take it all for granted. This means the hardest thing to deal with, in reality, will be the rare occasions when it doesn’t all work as we absolutely expect it to.  


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