Managing and using the huge amounts of personal data that individuals now generate is another hot topic the panel highlighted. In the past, people bequeathed photo albums to their children; how to preserve and pass down digital archives in the face of format obsolescence is an important challenge. In addition, people used to jot down on the backs of photographs or on videotapes the names of people and locations pictured. Although people can add this metadata to images and video manually, it’s hard to keep up. Some automated methods of generating metdata already exist, such as GPS tagging, but longitude and latitude won’t tell someone in 20 years’ time that, say, a picture was taken at their grandparents’ favorite restaurant during a celebration of their aunt’s engagement. Being able to tap into social networks and see other tags on photos and videos is one way computers could automatically establish a consensus view of the most useful metadata to attach to images.
Storing so much data is another challenge. As we approach the limits of solid-state memories and rotating hard disks, engineers are going to have to start tackling quantum entanglement and other subatomic effects for future generations of devices. This will have to happen “within the next 15 to 20 years,” said Thomas Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Systems, a data consulting firm, and a member of the ICCE technical committee. Coughlin added that we may have to consider storing data using analog techniques, as our brains do, if we want to keep improving information density.
Coughlin’s long-term view was unusual at this year’s preview session. Several speakers highlighted the accelerating pace of innovation in consumer electronics. In previous years, technologies would show up at the ICCE three to five years before being implemented in an actual product. The lead time has been shrinking, and this year, some technologies appeared on the show floor of CES in prototypes before being presented at ICCE, such as new systems for viewing 3-D images without the need for special glasses.