Head in the Clouds

Connected bathroom scales and BOGOF deals – is this the future of Cloud?
Although cloud computing only burst into the public consciousness fairly recently, its presence has been hanging over the IT industry for decades. From time-sharing to SaaS, this remote hosting model now underpins everything from email to software packages. The key question for the computing industry is how will the cloud shape our data access and computer usage in future?
The first – and perhaps most obvious – area of cloud expansion involves private data storage. Most computer users still save their files and folders onto hard drives or data keys, whether through habit or fear of the unknown. Adobe’s recent Creative Cloud downtime made headlines around the world, at a time when guaranteeing access is essential in persuading people that the cloud is a practical alternative to the C drive. However rare such outages may be, incidents like this will still send many people scurrying back to the relative safety of their towers and laptops.
However, in the current tablet-and-smartphone age, the days of solitary hardware devices are clearly numbered. As people’s digital lives become increasingly divergent across different hardware, universal access becomes ever-more important. For instance, car manufacturers are making huge strides in terms of connectivity and social media on the move, as are the manufacturers of smart TV sets. Because these two hardware systems are both fixed, they require data that can be accessed from a shared central source. How popular would social media or online shopping be if users could only access their accounts from a single device in one fixed location?
The ideal future model for cloud computing is perhaps a master account for each person, hosting everything from social media and music through to software programs and work documents. This would allow people to play games on their watches or work on their car dashboards, effectively granting each purchaser of a new program the right to a single licence for use absolutely anywhere. The convergence of portable technologies has already resulted in people playing computer games on their phones, and managing bank accounts through their TV sets. Taken to its logical conclusion, this implies that we’ll soon be able to do anything from any web-connected device, with everything from fridges to bathroom scales set to gain connectivity.
As for security, the concept of using a password as your only protection against hackers will eventually seem as anachronistic as hiding savings under the mattress. Unique identification will be required to protect the wealth of information hosted on the cloud. Logging-in may ultimately involve retinal scanning or fingerprint recognition, although voice recognition would be an easier solution once software can distinguish between “the Israelites” and “the ears are alight”.
A critical factor underpinning levels of technology adoption has always been affordability, and cloud computing is no different. When the cloud is consistently cheaper than the alternatives, mass migration of customers will surely follow. This may be driven by continued industry consolidation, until a few giant corporations can deliver savings equivalent to those currently provided by the likes of Tesco and Amazon. Watch this space…