external image HR09cover.gif Technologies Highlighted in the 2009 Horizon Report

Listed below are the six technologies highlighted in the 2009 Horizon Report, with a short description of each. Where are they now? Are the horizons associated with them still accurate? What may have changed? Should they still be on our radar screens? Let us know your thoughts...

Where Are They Now?

Review past Horizon Reports to comment on how they have played out over time.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less


The unprecedented evolution of mobiles continues to generate great interest. The idea of a single portable device that can make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data, music, and movies, and interact with the Internet — all of it — has become so interwoven into our lifestyles that it is now surprising to learn that someone does not carry one. As new devices continue to enter the market, new features and new capabilities are appearing at an accelerated pace. One recent feature — the ability to run third-party applications — represents a fundamental change in the way we regard mobiles and opens the door to myriad uses for education, entertainment, productivity, and social interaction.
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Cloud Computing

The emergence of very large “data farms” — specialized data centers that host thousands of servers — has created a surplus of computing resources that has come to be called the cloud. Growing out of research in grid computing, cloud computing transforms once-expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, cheap commodity. Development platforms layered onto the cloud infrastructure enable thin-client, web-based applications for image editing, word processing, social networking, and media creation. Many of us use the cloud, or cloud-based applications, without even being aware of it. Advances in computer science to ensure redundancy and protection from natural disasters have led to data being shared across many different hosting facilities. Improved infrastructure has made the cloud robust and reliable; as usage grows, the cloud is fundamentally changing our notions of computing and communication.
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Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years


Everything on the Earth’s surface has a location that can be expressed with just two coordinates. Using the new classes of geolocation tools, it is very easy to determine and capture the exact location of physical objects — as well as capturing the location where digital media such as photographs and video are taken. The other side of this coin is that it is also becoming easier to work with the geolocative data thus captured: it can be plotted on maps; combined with data about other events, objects, or people; graphed; charted; or manipulated in myriad ways. Devices we commonly carry with us increasingly have the ability to know where they (and, consequently, we) are, and to record our coordinates as we take photographs, talk to friends, or post updates to social networking websites. The “everything” in geo-everything is what makes this group of technologies interesting, and what will make them so much a part of our lives — geolocation, geotagging, and location-aware devices are already very nearly everywhere.
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The Personal Web

Fifteen years after the first commercial web pages began to appear, the amount of content available on the web is staggering. Sifting through the sheer volume of material — good or bad, useful or otherwise — is a daunting task. It is even difficult to keep track of the media posted by a single person, or by oneself. On the other hand, adding to the mix is easier than ever before, thanks to easy-to-use publishing tools for every type and size of media. To cope with the problem, computer users are assembling collections of tools, widgets, and services that make it easy to develop and organize dynamic online content. Armed with tools for tagging, aggregating, updating, and keeping track of content, today’s learners create and navigate a web that is increasingly tailored to their own needs and interests: this is the personal web.
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Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

Semantic Aware Applications

The idea behind the semantic web is that although online data is available for searching, its meaning is not: computers are very good at returning keywords, but very bad at understanding the context in which keywords are used. A typical search on the term “turkey,” for instance, might return traditional recipes, information about the bird, and information about the country; the search engine can only pick out keywords, and cannot distinguish among different uses of the words. Similarly, although the information required to answer a question like “How many current world leaders are under the age of 60?” is readily available to a search engine, it is scattered among many different pages and sources. The search engine cannot extract the meaning of the information to compile an answer to that question even though it can return links to the pages that contain pieces of that answer. Semantic-aware applications are tools designed to use the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet to make connections and provide answers that would otherwise entail a great deal of time and effort.
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Smart Objects

Smart objects are the link between the virtual world and the real. A smart object “knows” about itself — where and how it was made, what it is for, who owns it and how they use it, what other objects in the world are like it — and about its environment. Smart objects can report on their exact location and current state (full or empty, new or depleted, recently used or not). Whatever the technology that embeds the capacity for attaching information to an object — and there are many — the result is a connection between a physical object and a rich store of contextual information. Think of doing a web search that reveals not pages of content, but the location, description, and context of actual things in the real world. The means to create, track, and use smart objects has not yet entered the mainstream, but recent advances in identification technology have led to some interesting proof-of-concept applications that suggest everyday uses are just down the road.
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