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Harnessing technology


Interim trends report one, year two

1

of
22




























Harnessing Technology Project

Lot 3: Business processes for delivery

Trends a
nalysis


Horizon scanning major
themes:




3 years

The end of history for hardware?



5 years


A new, augmented, reality



10 years


Internationalisation of information


Draft Report

November 2009







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Contents

1

Introduction

4

2

Futurology and market intelligence

5

3

2012


The end of history for hardware?

6

3.1

The patent landscape

6

3.2

Applications for mobile pho
nes

8

3.3

Cloud Computing

9

3.4

Location
-
based services

10

3.5

E
-
Books

11

3.6

Education technology

19

4

2014


A new, augmented, reality

13

5

2019
-

Internationalisation of information

14

5.1

Machine Vision, Translation and Text
-
to
-
speech

14

5.2

Machine Tran
slation

15

5.3

Text
-
to
-
speech / Speech
-
to
-
text

15

5.4

Summary

16

6

Market trends
-

Supplier community

17

6.1

Supplier results

17

6.2

Merger and Acquisition Activity

17

6.3

Market trends


Evolving demand

17

6.4

Social Networking

18

6.5

Gender Disparity

18

6.6

Learners with disabilities

19

6.7

Education market

19






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7

Appe
ndix


A snapshot of the last 10 years

21







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1


Introduction

The trouble with our times is that the f
uture is not what it used to be

Paul Valery

(1871
-

1945)

Pr
edicting the future is always problematic. Futurologist
s

often refer to a 30 year or greater
horizon. Cynics suggest that this gives analysts time to retire before their predictions are
judged. The reality, however, is that much of the information that is
actually amenable to
measurement becomes statistically significant at a slower rate than users of this information
would prefer.

With regards
to
ICT, the temptation to make accelerated predictions is even
greater as we witness almost daily advances in ever
ything from computing power to the
latest ‘app’ for the Apple iPhone. This is a temptation we try to resist. How successfully,
only time will tell!

In this paper we explore much more modest timeframes, namely three, five and ten year
horizons.

We aim to id
entify the underlying themes that will be associated with each of
these periods, how they will affect society, the antecedents required to have them realised
and how this will affect UK education.

The themes we predict for the three time periods are:



3 yea
r horizon


The end of history for hardware: ICT hardware will not cease to
evolve, but it will be all around us, permeating our daily lives in ways never before
witnessed by mankind. This very pervasiveness will rob ICT of its ‘wow’ factor.
General intere
st in its development will begin to wane for the average person, rather
its development will be a part of normal life.



5 year horizon


A new, augmented, reality: The real world and cyber
-
space (already
becoming a dated term) will begin to merge with infor
mation available not only
anytime
and

anywhere
, but
endless information everywhere
.



10 year horizon


Internationalisation of information: Evolving technologies that
translate speech to text, text to speech and machine translation will break down
barriers
between the English speaking world and the rest of the world. This will open
new opportunities to billions, a corollary of which is nothing less than the acceleration
of humankind’s accumulation and deployment of knowledge.

We must not
e

that we are not pre
dicting these phenomenon will be common during the
timeframes stated, but rather that they will be discernable and recognised
as
inevitable
during these periods. In other words,
they will have clearly entered a period of rapid
acceptance. They
may

not

all

be matu
re trends within the timescales used.







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2

Futurology and

market intelligence

Besides simply heralding the pronouncements of gurus, the science of futurology has relied
on two broad techniques. The first is asking a sample of people what they think the
future
holds. The results of these are coloured by our biases, and hopes, that the future will be
bright and that it will arrive much quicker than it does. Respondents also tend to focus
on
the present. Hence, when they forecast the future, they tend to fo
cus on things that resolve
problems they have now. If necessity really is the mother of invention, than this is not a bad
approach.

However
, with surveys we are relying on the
expertise and experience of the
respondents
.
The
fatal weakness of

this approach

is that when dealing with new technologies and
emerging trends, there is no bas
is for expertise or experience.

T
he second approach is searching for new and valid trends

in behaviour

that change over
shorter periods and extrapol
ating from them. There has b
een quite a bit of interest in these
techniques recently as supermarkets, search engines and mobile phone firms are able to
collect phenomenal amounts of information about what we do from hour
-
to
-
hour and place
-
to
-
place
, and business intelligence providers

have developed sophisticated applications for
analysing and displaying this information
. They can identify where we live, what our income
is, our voting patterns and associate this with the data they generate themselves about how
and where we use their se
rvices. While the shadow of Big Brother is ever present, the
techniques are not new. Social scientist
s

have been observing behaviour for decades. The
difference today is that there is lot more data available and it is collected effortlessly and
invisibly.

Behavioural techniques

are very good at discerning how people and markets react to
specific stimuli

and can provide clear indications of how trend setters are behaving. This in
-
turn reveals what the not
-
too
-
distant future holds for the rest of us.

For this

report, we
rely
on behavioural research, but not the ‘Big Brother’ variety. Our main
source of insight is patent activity. It is appropriate for the time scales, at least in aggregate,
since it indicates corporate interest in technologies with an expected

commercial return in
the foreseeable future.

Among the many changes brought by globalization is a coherent picture of scientific
advances that can be measured by academic publications and patent filings. Bibliometric
searches of compendia of publications
and patents, using keyword and abstract analysis,
can give some indication of the direction of research and development, and can sometimes
offer clues as to when this progress will take the form of useful products and services.

This
is not strictly new, ho
wever the increased volumes
and more immediate publication
of
available data make it possible to place more emphasis on this as a source of information.

It’s important, however, to note that these bibliometric analyses do not examine individual
patent fili
ngs, and there are sure to be duplicate and mistaken entries in the total counts.

This is a quick approach to futurology that those with an interest in the topic, like education
ICT strategists,
can employ
to test hypotheses and discern trends.






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3

2012


The
end of history for hardware
?

Today we are entering a new era where access to information technology is available
through such a broadening array of devices that computing is seen as ‘ubiquitous’. The
emerging moniker seems to

be

‘anytime anywhere’. But, as

it is ubiquitous, it is blending
with the background. It may never have a name like the other eras because it will fail to be
noticed.

In this section, we explore some of the hallmarks of this emerging era that will dominate the
development of how we inte
ract with technology over the three year horizon.

These
hallmarks revolve around three concepts:



Information technology being available anywhere,



Information technology being available without reference to computers,



The technologies that combine anywhere

with anytime, and



Information technology supplanting existing technologies.

The technologies we examine are respectively:



Mobile phones,



Cloud computing,



The ‘mashup’ that is location
-
based services, and



eBooks.

3.1

The patent landscape

Charting patent appli
cations and academic publications can show where the next
technological leap will come. The World Intellectual Property Organisation
1

segments wor
ld
patent grants by broad field.

In the 5
-
year period between 2001 and 2005, the two fastest growing fields fo
r patents were
audio
-
visual technology and telecommunications, with a compound annual growth rate
(CAGR) of 4.8% per year, and over half a million patents being filed for each category over
the entire five years. The explosive growth in those two fields

in

the market

since 2005 is
the direct product of that
earlier
patent growth
. This time lag
phenomenon is similar to what
has occurred in other technological fields. When patent activity reaches a critical mass,
useful products and services tend to follow wi
thin 3 to 5 years.

In the table that follows, we examine patent filings between 2005 and 2009

for insight into
what the next three years hold for us
.

We chose search terms from areas of innovation
identified by previous reports.




1

http://www.wipo.int/portal/index.html.en






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Table
1
, Patent filings key
word search, 2005
-
2009

Keyword

2005

2008

2005
-
2009

CAGR

Location based
services

24,784

30,783

134,738

52%

Machine
translation

9,055

10,296

47,189

51%

Head mounted
display

10,017

8,125

45,540

46%

Text to
speech/speech
to text

7,184

8,457

37,626

51%

RF
ID

4,196

7,828

33,619

68%

e
-
book reader

2,228

2,583

12,408

53%

Haptic
interface

475

831

3,223

61%

Augmented
reality

490

606

2,733

54%

(Scirus.com)

Based on Table
1
, we would anticipate seeing innovative products and services from
location
-
based service
s in three years, while other categories have not achieved critical
mass and are harder to predict from this chart alone. We suspect that many relevant
patents for e
-
book readers, for example, have been filed with differing descriptions, as they
are alread
y on the market. A search for e
-
book returned over 8,000 results and a search for
digital book reader over 12,000 results.

Smart phone sales in the UK are growing 35% per year and are expected to reach a
penetration level of 38% by 2013
2
. This will enable
widespread adoption of tools used for
location
-
based services, downloadable software applications for smart phones and
augmented reality, all of which will blend into one group of features on a smart phone.
However, one ‘killer app’ may transform smart pho
nes from a status icon
in
to a practical
necessity and
greatly
speed
the
adoption

rate
. (And we
do
wish we knew what that
application might be).

Looking at the stop points of our 10
-
year scan, we think the ‘next Google’ probably already
exists, but may not

know its destiny. It’s probably even odds that the next Google is in fact
Google, using its Android mobile software platform and considerable resources to outpace
Apple, Symbian and Nokia and assume control of mobile platforms in general.




2

http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk/2009/03/mobile
-
sales
-
fall
-
while
-
smartphone
-
sales
-
rise
-
says
-
informa.html






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What we see pla
ying out over the next ten years is a gradual shift from the unrelated
applications for smart phones currently flooding the market to more directed applications for
location
-
based services which will mature in 3 years, then evolving towards augmented
reali
ty services with practical (and commercial) applications in 5 years, leading finally to a
new paradigm that finally brings together optical character recognition capabilities, machine
translation, text to speech and speech to text at the end of the decade.

Improvements in
both hardware (partially driven by demand for new capabilities in e
-
books) and software (as
alliances form between developers and upgrades to principal platforms are made), will
actually start a dependent chain of innovations that lead tow
ards the end state we project.

We are fairly confident about this because our patent examination shows it has already
started, and there are past (but recent) models of patent activity that have followed similar
trajectories. Similar patterns of activity
have occurred in telecommunications, biotechnology
and nanotechnology over the past quarter century that in retrospect point to periods of
explosive growth in innovation. Absent the type of geopolitical upheaval that can disrupt any
horizon scanning, it sh
ould play out this way.

Earlier we said that it was ‘even odds’ that the next Google will in fact be Google, and we
should briefly note the implications of that possibility. Google has been friendly towards
educators in general, and currently provides many

services
to them
at no cost (although
they have certainly not been as education
-
centric as Apple).
If Google does succeed at
dominating the spaces described below, it should be regarded as a net plus for educators in
the UK, with more services becoming av
ailable and a willingness to listen to educators
becoming more pronounced. It would, of course, be even more beneficial if Apple was to
remain a robust competitor, however we think that unlikely

Apple’s fortunes are closely
tied to the productivity and dri
ve of Steve Jobs, and his uncertain health makes it quite
possible that Apple’s influence
on innovation

will decline over the next decade.

3.2

Applications for mobile phones

The number of mobile phone applications is expanding rapidly and many applications are

relevant to education. There are 100,000 iPhone applications
3
, and 10,000 for the newer
Android platform
from

Google.

One big decision for Apple will be whether or not to open its
platform more widely. The last time they faced this decision in software th
ey chose to
maintain an isolated development community. Should they repeat that decision, it increases
the potential market for Google’s Android and Nokia’s dark horse, Ovi.

Google has offered a platform for educators for years, and it includes mobile phon
e access
to their web
-
based email, IM chat and calendar.

There are more than 200 math and science
applications available for download at Apple’s iTunes store
.
In addition to applications, Apple
provides resources for educators to develop course material to

be distributed and worked on
with their products.

Apple’s iTunes U has 200,000 educational audio and video files available
as part of their iTunes store

(
http://www.apple.com/education/mobile
-
learning/
)
.

Mobile phones, in the hands of virtually everyone,
with the number of applications expanding
rapidly, represent a technology

entering a mature stage in its development.

However, this is
the peak period for the undiscriminating diffusion of applications being developed ‘just
because.’ Most applications are
thrown onto the market with little planning and no business
plan, in hopes that they will find a niche. We see a marked slowdown in the number of



3

http://www.guardian.co.uk/digit
al
-
tribes/google
-
nokia
-
app
-
store
-
challenge






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applications for smart phones being introduced, and considerably more business planning for
the next generatio
n. Some of that business planning will recognize the needs of learners and
educators
, but overall we see applications moving towards two broad waves in the near and
medium term

location
-
based services and augmented reality respectively
.

3.3

Cloud Computing

Clo
ud computing is the provision of scalable and/or virtual resources as a service via the
internet
, where the actual core component resides centrally rather than on the
user’s

site
.

It has grown big enough to be broken into three subsectors, Infrastructure a
s a Service
(
IaaS
), Platform as a Service (
PaaS
) and Software as a Service (
SaaS
). Investment in
cloud computing is increasing rapidly, and the market is projected to be worth $160 billion
(USD) by 2011, according to Merrill Lynch. Major players include Mi
crosoft, Google, Apple,
Amazon and UPS. Nokia is currently trying to enter this space.

The most common usage of cloud computing at present is for web server and storage, and
Amazon appears to be the leader with 400,000 clients for this subset of services.
Breaking
it down even further shows that online data storage is the larger segment, with Apple,
Oracle and EMC joining Amazon as suppliers. However, a survey in March 2009 by
Information Week showed only 18% of large commercial organisations actually using

cloud
computing services, and only 9% planning to adopt them in the very short term.
Recent
high profile failures of commercial cloud computing applications will stimulate improvements
in data integrity and security that will make the sector more valuable

to educators in 3
years.

Cloud computing
is already evident in education, with
IBM
introducing

an online simulation
game called INNOV8, used for vocational training and some tertiary education goals
,
Microsoft’s SharePoint, a Sa
aS collaborative applicatio
n,

linked in closely with its new
release of Windows 7 and the latest version of Microsoft Office
, and (d
ue in part to efforts
by Becta and the DCSF
)

many providers of learning platforms , such as Research
Machines and Fronter, already offer learning platf
orms as remote applications, akin to
PaaS
.

Cloud computing will impact

education in a variety of ways.

Administrative procedures will
continue its migration to central applications accessed via the internet
.

Study materials will
be downloaded or worked on
in collaboration using internet
-
based applications
.

Innovative
applications aimed at young people generally and learners specifically will appear on the
market, creating new opportunities and sometimes new challenges for educators
.

Learning platforms, virt
ual learning environments and managed learning environments will
move rapidly towards SaaS applications along the lines of the platform
s

Moodle and
Kaleidos, offered by Research Machines, and this will be regarded as a much
-
welcomed
end
-
state
. S
pecific fea
tures will probably
be
split off and be available as s
ingle purchase
services. Indeed

SchoolDude is one supplier that has already done this.

Unfortunately

SaaS is not mature, and as with other technology trends, widespread
diffusion in advance of maturity
has caused some high profile problems
. Examples include

Rackspaces’ major losses of services (3 in 4 months), Microsoft’s loss of data stored by
users of T
-
Mobile’s Sidekick and frequent loss of service for users of Google’s web
-
based
email. Suppliers to e
ducation speak candidly about the difficulties of dealing with mass log
-
ins and identity management issues.






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In addition to achieving acceptable levels of reliability, cloud computing needs agreed
standards, legal domains and agreed privacy rules. Proprieta
ry cloud providers may make
transition from one to another difficult.

Some educators are also expressing concern that although SaaS does indeed lower IT
costs, some of those savings are eaten up by higher costs in legal and purchasing
departments.

Cloud co
mputing is reaching a state of maturity, but is not quite there yet.

In the next three
years we should
see
the challenges resolved sufficiently well for its wide spread adoption to
start taking place.

Shortly thereafter, cloud computing will become less of

a topic for
discussion as it becomes a back office utility of little relevance to the general public. By the
end of the decade it will be both ubiquitous and invisible.

3.4

L
ocation
-
based services

A location
-
based service (LBS) is a service accessible with mo
bile devices through the
mobile network and utilising the ability to make use of the geographical

position of the
mobile device. It is an effect a mashup of mobile phones, cloud computing and GPS
functionality.

LBS services can be used to identify a locati
on of a person or object, such as discovering
the nearest banking cash machine or the whereabouts of a friend or employee. LBS
services include parcel tracking and vehicle tracking services. LBS can include mobile
commerce when taking the form of coupons o
r advertising directed at customers based on
their current location. They include personalised weather services and even location
-
based
games.

Location
-
based services have been available since 2001, when Japan’s DoCoMo
introduced them. Services that may be

useful to the user include:



Requesting the nearest business or service, such as an ATM or restaurant
;



Turn by turn navigation to any address
;



Locating people on a map displayed on the mobile phone
;



Receiving alerts, such as notification of a sale on gas o
r warning of a traffic jam
;



Location
-
based mobile advertising
; and



Asset recovery combined with active RF to find, for example, stolen assets in
containers where GPS wouldn't work
.

There have recently been significant developments in LBS in education, such

as
oMbiel
,

a
leading provider in mobile technology
,

which
announced the availability of campusM a
mobile application with an integrated suite of university services brought together on a
mobile device.
Another is
VersaTrans RP
, which

provides planning cap
abilities to simplify
bus scheduling, routing and planning. VersaTrans OnScreen offers real
-
time GPS fleet
tracking and management.
And,

Zoombak’s interactive Web site
has

newly enhanced
mapping capabilities,
allowing
customers
to

set up custom safety zone
s around virtually any
location including homes, parks, malls and schools. When the device crosses one of the





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virtual boundaries, a text message or e
-
mail alert promptly notifies customers of the location
of the device.

LBS

is reasonably well established w
hile applications are starting emerge.

It will have a day
in the sun over the next three years as more mobile applications
take advantage of its
capabilities, especially using the Android mobile platform and access to Google Maps.
However, what they are re
ally doing is unknowingly laying the architectural framework for
augmented reality applications that will build on their efforts.

3.5

E
-
Books

An

eBook is an electronic means of

reading material traditionally produced on paper and
bound
.

Attempts are being made

to supplant the dominant technology of information transmission:
the word written on paper. Emails, webinars, video and other electronic technologies have
already taken a big bite out of the demand for letters and factual reports. The expression of
inform
ation that is a book has been resistant to wholesale transformation to electronic
media. People seem to like turning pages, the smell of printed material and several other
characteristics that have come together over thousands of years to create the books
we
know today. Now we are witnessing the determined efforts to replace with the eBook.

In addition to commercial standalone e
-
book readers such as Kindle, Nook and the Sony
Reader (with new entrants from Bridgestone, a tyre manufacturer coming out with a f
lexible
e
-
reader and Creative, an MP3 manufacturer), there are now e
-
book reading applications
available for the iPhone, iTouch and Blackberry. There are also eReader software
applications for PCs, netbooks and laptops. Forrester Research estimates there w
ill be 10
million e
-
books in circulation by the end of 2010.

The ability to review readable material is
finding many new forms.

The central feature lacking for education is the ability to annotate texts, but that will almost
certainly arrive within the nex
t 3 years

(IBM filed a patent for an electronic book reader that
has annotation capabilities in 2008)
. The problem with e
-
books is content and the protection
of intellectual property rights

(IPR)
. There are 1 million books available for free via Project
Gu
tenberg, but textbook publishing is an important and profitable business, and publishers
will continue to zealously guard their IPR.

Until such time as issues over proprietary formats
and copyright protection are settled, improvements in technology will no
t help adoption of
this technology.

However, the irresistible move to new m
edia will make this inevitable.

EBooks are not yet mature, however there is a determined effort to get the technology right.
There is no reason to believe they will not in the very
near future.

Key decisions involve
how versatile an EBook should be

should it show videos, play music, provide access to
audio books, play games? Any of these

even most of them

are possible, and some
inevitable. We note that smart phones have been quick to

incorporate e
-
reading
applications

it’s inevitable that EBooks will at least consider adopting some of smart
phones’ capabilities in response. The determining factor will be profitability of the first wave
of penetration for major vendors, and how ‘sexy’
they need to make succeeding models to
induce upgrades for existing customers to maintain sales.

However, if any consumer electronic device introduced over the past 10 years can be
considered vulnerable, it would have to be EBooks. Smart phone can do what
they do now,
and more as well. Smart phones are less expensive, often with the cost bundled into the





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price of a long term contract.
Constraints imposed by copyright may lead to the equivalent
of a standards war, reducing the utility of individual models.






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4

2014


A new, augmented,
reality

Augmented reality is a subset of location
-
based services and refers to the merging of two
views of reality



a live or direct view, such as provided by a video or still camera, combined
with information or imagery provided
by computer. This can be as simple as a tag offering
information from Wikipedia about what you see on your smart phone camera to complex
and expensive head mounted displays with objects overlaid on the camera view as a
combined display.

Augmented reality i
s currently receiving a lot of media attention

more perhaps than the
maturity of the technology warrants
4
.

The simpler iterations of augmented reality are now fully featured offerings from a variety of
suppliers worldwide with immediate application to educ
ation. Current applications allow
smart phone users to get relevant information about the
ir environment off the internet such
as where the nearest tube stop is, what an exhibit at a gallery is, or who else is playing a
shared game.

What will drive augmente
d reality into the forefront for education and other sectors is when
the ability to
share

augmented reality becomes available, allowing educators, parents and
other stakeholders in education to share, evaluate and save the user’s perceptions and
interactio
ns with the environment.

Two examples are:
Wikitude
,

an application for Android
and the iPhone. It is a Wikipedia augmented reality application
which

overlays the display
screen on the mobile phone with information from Wikipedia.
There is no charge for
Wi
kitude. Another is
Robotvision
,

an application for the iPhone. Internet search results are
displayed geographically by proximity to the user and oriented in the d
irection the iPhone is
pointed.

The playing field appears to be shifting, and is perhaps movin
g faster than educators can
adapt.

ARiSE (Augmented Reality in School Environments) is a consortium funded by the
EU’s 6th framework IST programme. The University of Brighton is a member. The
consortium promotes use of augmented reality in schools. However
, activities may have
ceased, as there is nothing on their website after 2008.



Harp

(Handheld Augmented Reality Progra
m) is a program funded by the U
S
Department of Education and consists of an augmented reality program designed to
teach mathematics and sc
ience literacy to middle school students.

Augmented reality is here today and will be heavily hyped over the next few years. It will
take five years to bring the technology to the point where it is really useful for education.

It
has the potential to drama
tically change curriculum development in fields ranging from
geography to history, and will piggy
-
back on current developments in location
-
based
services to make classroom management an entirely different endeavour.




4

http://www.fastcompany.com/tag/augmented
-
reality






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5

2019
-

Internationalisation

of informati
on

Information technology has been struggling with translation issues for many years. Anyone
who has ever tried to translate a web page will have experienced frustration and bafflement.
This has the effect of excluding those who cannot read English from al
l the sources of
information and debate that the interconnected world has to offer.
The only effective
strategy for international communication has been for all parties to converge on
written
English.

Yet, we are just starting to enter an era where seeming
ly intractable
translation
difficulties
are starting to be overcome. More importantly
, the web is no longer
, if it ever was,

t
he

exclusive domain of the English speaking world and the ICT community recognises this. It is
putting substantial resources into
solving the remaining problems.

The next ten years will witness a dramatic broadening of the information community to
encompass multiple nationalities that were previously isolated, social classes previously
excluded and the special needs community which h
ad difficulty participating, being included
as full members.
They will contribute to an ever more dynamic information exchange. This
in turn will start to have a profound effect on where and how everything from work to
education takes place.

In this sectio
n, we explore some of the critical components required to achieve

information
internationalisation.

5.1

Machine Vision, Translation and
Text
-
to
-
speech

If a non
-
English speaking student could use a mobile device to scan an English text, have it
translated into
her or his native language and read out as spoken speech, many of the
difficulties of multi
-
cultural education would be relieved. The individual pieces exist in the
market place and work quite well. Hooking them into a series is taking time.

The frantic
pa
ce of development in software applications for smart phones that will push the
development of location
-
based applications and, later, augmented reality, will provide the
base knowledge needed to bring this capability to fruition. It will take a decade, and

will
consist of ‘smart’ camera technology coupled with bar code reading capabilities, linked to
OCR software, text to speech software, and machine translation software looped together
to produce intelligible files processed from different sources. Multili
ngual dictionaries on the
internet will serve as consulting glossaries and other tools on the internet will speed the
process along.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has been the subject of scientific and technological
experimentation since 1929. Its im
plications for education are large, although initially it will
be used to help learners with disabilities. However, the ability to take text in any medium
and convert it to an electronic file for later reference or reprocessing in another medium,
has large

implications for higher education especially.

Scirus, a compendium of scientific databases, lists 2,779 patent filings for optical character
recognition

in 2009. In the past 5 years, there have been 21,195 patent applications for
OCR. This ‘bulge’ of pat
ent applications is frequently a precursor of the introduction of large
numbers of viable product offerings.

Little technology exists to interpret graphics such as line art, photographs, and graphs into a
medium easily accessible to blind and visually impa
ired persons. It also is not yet possible





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to convert handwriting, whether script or block printing, into an accessible medium.
Competing OCR systems provide very good accuracy and formatting capabilities at prices
that are
a tenth what they were
a few year
s ago.)

5.2

Machine Translation

Globalisation has pushed machine translation up on the priority list for both potential users
and innovators. Scirus shows 6,121 patent filings for machine translation in 2009, and
47,189 since 2005.

There are a variety of machi
ne translation programs available, including some accessible
over the internet. Both Google and Bing have machine translation features. While none of
them produce perfect results, they (and other programs) can be dramatically improved by
restricting transl
ate
d documents to specific domains

and having the software ‘tuned’ to
recognise vocabulary and sentence structures specific to that domain. Facebook and
Twitter are both incorporating translation into their offerings.

Mobile phone
translation
applications,

first developed by the Japanese in 1999, are
becoming increasingly common. Suppliers include NEC, Moka LCC and Inter
lecta, but
there are many more.

However, in addition to the less
-
than
-
perfect quality of translations,
another handicap to mobile machine t
ranslation is the fact that solutions are offered in
language pairs only.

5.3

Text
-
to
-
speech

/
Speech
-
to
-
text

There has been robust activity in both
Speech
-
to
-
text

and
Text
-
to
-
speech

technology.

Here
we explore the current state.

5.3.1

Text
-
to
-
speech

Speech synthesi
zers, which artificially produce human speech, have been in some
computer systems since the 1980s, put there to help people with visual disabilities listen to
written works on a home computer.

There are a number of web plug
-
ins that allow people to listen

to text found on the internet,
but two leaders in web
-
based assistive technology come from the UK

Browsealoud,
coming from Texthelp Systems in Northern Ireland. Others include In Q Tel, ScanSoft’s
Speechify, and Appen Pty. However, the various elements of

understanding human speech
are an order of magnitude more complex than vice versa, and this is likely to be the last
part of the chain that is put in place. One indication of how complex it is
can be found in

the
much smaller number of
patents taken out t
his year, 302
.

5.3.2

Speech
-
to
-
text

This is much more developed than
speech
-
to
-
text
, with a variety of robust solutions from
established suppliers. The commercial market, dominated by Nuance’s Dragon
applications, is worth over £1 billion and commercial products

are broadly accepted as fit for
purpose in professions ranging from legal to medical. In a previous report to Becta we
detailed numerous instances of
Speech
-
to
-
text

occurring in education.






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5.4

Summary

Rapid development is occurring in each of the links in the

chain that will someday form a
continuous loop of processing information into a desired output. Serial innovator Ray
Kurzweil, who has worked on OCR technology since 1974, is one of several who have
introduced OCR to mobile phones. Nuance, owner of Dragon
, continues to innovate their
speech to text applications. As we reported to Becta in 2008, even YouTube videos can be
annotated with translations by users.

But t
he loop that will enable automatic conversion of speech from a learner in their native
tongue

to written English or vice versa is still a long way from being closed, although
specific segments of the chain are working well. Tellingly, there seems as yet to be no
concerted effort towards hooking up the separate elements in a chain of deliverables.
Nor is
there merger and acquisition activity oriented towards acquiring elements outside a
company’s core capabilities.

That will take some time

and an overarching vision
.

With Ray
Kurzweil, who was always most likely to have provided such a vision, having

sold his
education arm to Cambian, it may be down to the educational community to provide user
requirements that either augment or substitute for entrepreneurial insight.






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6

Market trends
-

Supplier community

Over the year to October 2009, business lending t
o manufacturing firms dropped by 40%, a
record fall. The number of small businesses failing rose 19% year on year to September
2009.
But

IT companies fared better than other sectors, according to a report from Deloitte.

Nineteen of Red Herring’s top 100 st
art
-
ups are from the UK. However, venture capital
investments declined from £628 million in the first half of 2008 to $407 million in the first half
of 2009.

Although poor employment prospects have led to a surge in new business start
-
ups, the
majority are

in business and financial services and retail and construction. Overall, Barclays
estimates 150,000 fewer businesses will be operating in 2010 than in 2008.

6.1

Supplier results

Larger, public

sector
-
oriented

companies have rebounded after a poor 2008. Althou
gh
many have shed wo
rkers, they still remain viable, if a little stressed.

2009 Sales for Serco,
Capita, Pearson and Research Machines all rebounded after poor performances in 2008,
and even the revenue decline reported by BT was much smaller than the year

before.
Web
searches for smaller IT providers to UK education did not produce news of company
failures.

6.2

Merger and Acquisition Activity

Recessions are good times for companies holding cash to buy other companies. However,
this has not happened yet in the

UK. Activity over the past nine months has dropped 40%
over the same period in 2008. To date, most of the activity
has

focussed on green
technology and healthcare. No significant deals involving companies likely to be of interest
to Becta were reported in

2009.

6.2.1

Supplier s
ummary

Many UK technology suppliers are more profitable now than in years

in part because they
have thinned out their workforce. They are continuing research and development in areas
of interest to educators, although research is moving aw
ay from collaborative environments
and towards innovations that can improve or be included in consumer electronic devices.
However the balance of power for the next wave of technology development appears to
reside outside the UK, except as reported above f
or market leading
text
-
to
-
speech

companies.

The other trend noted in recessionary times is the increased importance of government
contracts to private suppliers. The next few years may be an optimum period for getting
value for money from the private secto
r.


6.3

Market trends


E
volving d
emand

Within the overall economy, recovery is expected to begin by 2011 at the latest, and
consumer demand at the same time. However, demand for consumer electronics has not
fallen as much as other sectors, due to falling pric
es and interesting new products. In all
probability, a majority of learners will continue to be at least one generation of technology
ahead of educators. Rather than trying to catch up, educators should take advantage of





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learners’ equipment as well as thei
r computer savvy. Providing connectivity and network
infrastructure will pay higher dividends.

The number of learners is forecast to grow by 1 million by 2020. It would appear that many
of them will show up in class equipped with their own smart phones an
d/or netbooks, and
will be able to access appropriate tools and learning materials via the internet as required.
Except for those in families below the poverty line, learners may be less of a burden on
educational technology budgets than at any time for th
e past 20 years.

6.4

Social Networking

Social networking has become more or less ubiquitous. Facebook currently accounts for
one of every 7 page views in the UK, and UK Facebook members now number 20 million.
Other social networking sites combined add about t
he same number of page views.

Although social networking (and professional networking as well) are certain to be enduring
features of the internet landscape going forward, we do not see dramatic evolution of their
core offerings over the period covered by
this report. We think most providers have enough
to do to improve the functionality and security of their platforms, and most need to find a
way to become commercially healthy

in some cases, even viable.

When added to the explosive grow
th forecast for smar
t phones, social networking

creates a
picture of active users who will collaborate extensively and expect small and targeted tools
to be easily available for them to complete a task. To the extent that educators can take
advantage of these two trends, thei
r tasks may become easier.

What learners will demand to take advantage of these tools is reliable wireless broadband
access to the internet, and institutional networks and network tools that operate at a very
high level.

6.5

Gender Disparity

Females are improv
ing in terms of educational attainment, which is a welcome event.
However, it is accompanied by reduced performance by males. Significantly more females
do very well in education,
but

significantly more males perform poorly
5
. Educators may
need to use an e
ntirely different set of tools to bring male performance back within range of
the rapidly improving female learner. While females may welcome the collaborative
approach mentioned immediately above, it is possible that direct achievement with clearly
stated

goals may better suit males. Without suggesting that either approach will be
universally successful, it is possible that a game and goal approach should be incorporated
to help males engage in education more successfully.

A variety of video games, rangin
g from IBM’s Innov8 (mentioned above), to Gamestar
Mechanic and Quest Atlantis, have specific educational goals and are widely praised as
engaging as well as educational
6
. Parents of males may well demand some strategy to
raise educational performance

educ
ational video games may be part of that strategy.




5

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:7PN_043cCA4J:www.hepi.ac.uk/files/41Maleandfemaleparticipationsummary.doc+fem
ale+performance+uk+education&cd=29&hl=en&ct=cl
nk&gl=us

6

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/technology/02games.html






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6.6

Learners w
ith
d
isabilities

The percentages of learners with disabilities has stabilised as classification of disabilities
seems to have reached a point of consensus between parents, the medical community an
d
educators. However, due to their greater than average consumption of educational
resources, there is a demand for technology solutions that provide effective learning
opportunities for learners with disabilities but provide greater value for money.

Comm
ercial solutions already in place, such as remote tutoring, remote presence, remote
attendance, and available tools such as
speech
-
to
-
text

and
text
-
to
-
speech

(described
above), need to be evaluated carefully to insure that technological fixes do not interf
ere with
important social inclusion goals, but if a balance can be found, savings to education can be
significant.

6.7

Education m
arket

Despite the UK education sector’s success in influencing suppliers regarding learning
platforms and virtual learning environ
ments, it is generally the case that, because of
education’s small IT purchasing power,
educators

usually have two options

live with what
is produced for the mass market, or show suppliers a way to turn education
-
specific
solutions into mass
-
market winners
. This second option can be accomplished in three
ways

by showing greater potential for public sector sales, or sales to the larger consumer
market, or by homogenizing user requirements and standards with other countries with the
intent of forming a buyer’
s co
-
operative.

If educators in general can look past specific hardware requirements for schools, educators
and learners, and trust that the market will indeed deliver information anywhere,

in any
form,

anytime, to any device,
then their focus may return t
o actual content. There is one
specific caveat

security of devices and information is not addresses as a specific sector of
this report. That is because no true solutions have been postulated that go beyond what
currently serves organisations. Perhaps educ
ators can adopt the line, ‘It looks great, if it
does what it says on the tin. But what about security?’

Vendors appreciate many aspects of the education market, including the planning used for
BSF. But stability, like familiarity, breeds a taking for gran
ted of the revenue coming from
education, and new requirements and requests tend to be more unsettling for vendors than
the same requests from a potential new client

unless these requests are accompanied by
more funding.

Suppliers are currently worried abo
ut some mundane aspects, such as their inability to
cope with simultaneous log
-
ons of large numbers of learners to a system or even the
internet. It might be productive for educators to go to them and say, ‘What relatively
painless changes can we make to o
ur organisational behaviour to make your technology
more effective?’ Answers such as staggered start times for classes might be easy to
implement, and would certainly make life easier for connectivity providers and gatekeepers.

6.7.1

Education technology

The adv
ancement of education technology, unlike the other areas discussed, seems to be
slowing. This can be seen in the patent activity on Scirus.com.



Out of a total of 66 patents filed for virtual learning environments,
only
2
(3%)
were
filed this year.






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Of 116 p
atents filed for learning platforms,
on
9

(8%)

were filed this year.



Of 4,612 patents filed for educational administration software,
only
331

(7%)

were
filed this year. In the broader category of educational software, of 21,265 patents,
1,627
(8%)
were fil
ed this year.


However, academic publications offer hope for the future. A search on Scirus shows that
there have been 97,103 abstracts and articles published on educational software, and
22,946 of them were in 2009 alone. Academic work often occurs in adv
ance of patent
activity, and often serves as a way to establish ‘user requirements’ in advance of
commercial work, and in the U.S. and the UK is often done in collaboration with the
academics who published prior art regarding a specific topic. This activit
y would suggest
that another period of innovation lies ahead for educational software, although we suspect it
will begin after lessons are learned from applications and platforms developed at either
extreme

the very large, as is happening with cloud comput
ing, and the very small, as with
applications for smart phones.

Many of the articles returned as search results involved very specific applications and
platforms for trade education environments, and UK educators may wish to monitor this
area for early det
ection of improvements that may be applicable to the wider needs of the
educational community.







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7

Appendix


A snapshot of the last 10 years

As we are charged with providing snapshots at 3, 5 and 10 years, it is worth showing
snapshots of similar periods in
the past

from 2006, 2004 and 1999.

As we see, notable change over the course of a decade is certainly possible. However,
a
significant proportion is unlikely to have been foreseen by many.

2006 saw the release of BluRay technology, Google’s purchase of You
Tube, the
introduction of the Wii platform and the launch of Twitter. 3G networks were being
introduced, penetration of mobile phones in the UK reached 114%, and penetration of
broadband access to the internet in the UK topped 31%. A Becta study questioned

the use
of whiteboards in classes in 2006, finding little difference in results between classes with or
without interactive whiteboards.

2004 saw the launch of Facebook, the landing of the Mars Rover, SpaceShip One took the
first private spaceflight, the
Chinese company Lenovo purchased IBM’s personal computer
business, and Oracle and PeopleSoft merged, as did Symantec and Veritas. UK mobile
phone penetration was 84%, and UK broadband penetration was 11%.

1999 saw the introduction of the Euro, the release
of the Melissa and Chernobyl viruses on
the Internet, the introduction of Napster, Apple’s iBook, the first launch of a spacecraft by
the People’s Republic of China and the creation of the world’s largest company with the
merger of Exxon and Mobil Oil. Dea
n Kamen launched the iBot, a stair climbing robot,
serious preparations were undertaken to prevent IT havoc from the Y2K Millenium bug,
broadband penetration
was
less than 1% in the UK, and
the UK saw
50% penetration of
mobile phones. There were an estimat
ed 300 million internet users (half in the U.S.), and
Google was not yet a verb. Becta celebrated its first birthday. It would be two years before
the iPod was introduced and one year before the Human Genome Project completed.

It might also be useful to sh
ow some statistical trends:

Table
2
: Various trends, 1999
-
2006

Trend

1999

2004

2006

World patent
grants

560,000

610,000

727,000

UK broadband
penetration

1%

11%

31%

Mobile phone
penetration

50%

84%

114%

Size of average
TV screen

27 inches

34 inches

42
inches

(Various)

In education we note that three years ago Futurelab published an excellent white paper
(
Opening Education
,

2020 and Beyond)

attempting to predict how technology might impact
education in 2020. With one important exception, almost all of t
he blue sky technologies





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referenced in their report are out of the lab and in consumers’ hands today, at least on a
trial basis. We do try and keep in mind the admonition of the head of Google’s public sector
division, who advised us last year that he expe
cted more dramatic change in the next six
years than the previous 12 that comprised the entire lifespan of his company. (That one
exception to Futurelab’s report was security. If anything, the complexity of IT security
challenges has increased since 2007,
and solutions appear to have moved further off into
the future.)