Future Technologies: The Inside Scoop From Silicon Valley

In the TecHomeX California Keynote, integrator Rich Green took event guests on a fast-paced journey through the tech that soon will be taking over – for better or worse.

As builders, architects, integrators, designers and contractors consider their best tech strategies, it is important to understand what is on the horizon. The TecHomeX California keynote was designed to do just that.

Integrator and tech expert Rich Green, president of Rich Green Designs in Palo Alto, Calif., delivered that message with his Future Technologies: The Inside Scoop From Silicon Valley talk. It’s an honest presentation he has been updating and giving around the world for 18 years.

Green says we are about to enter a world of pure functionality in which hardware disappears. One of the first phases of that so-called post-app era is voice control. But, that is only the start.

“The best technology is invisible,” explains Green. “You don’t know it’s there.”
“The best technology is invisible,” explains Green. “You don’t know it’s there.”

“In terms of the future, it’s coming on faster than we can possibly imagine,” Green says. “The next five years won’t be anything like the last five years. This is the law of accelerating returns. Exponential growth.”

To understand the rate at which the tech landscape will change, one simply can look in the not-so-distant past. As Green highlights, in the early 2000s, photography giant Kodak, with its 130,000 employees, collapsed because it wasn’t prepared. That same year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg bought photo-sharing social network Instagram, with its 14 employees, for $1 billion.

Tech has not stopped rapidly advancing since then, with machine learning becoming an integral piece of the puzzle. Tech devices now are more social and intimate with humans. For instance, the Google Home Assistant can anticipate a person’s next move by learning everything about him or her by looking at emails, text messages, address books, videos and voice.

Green cites Google group product manager Brad Abrams who said, “One of the things that we’ve noticed is, to be a really successful assistant in the real world, you can’t wait for your client to ask you. You have to reach out sometimes and help.”

That intuitiveness from artificial intelligence, while seemingly helpful, has the potential to become too powerful. There are AI systems that are able to learn from each other, which eventually could lead to a dangerous situation.

“Sometime between the year 2030 and 2045 we achieve what is being called the singularity,” Green explains. “$1,000 worth of computing power will buy you the equivalent of all human minds combined. What happens is we see non-biological intelligence continue to improve upon itself without human intervention. That’s a point we can’t see past. That’s called the singularity. It’s like a black hole in the history of human evolution.

“It’s happening so fast it’s become a black box. We don’t know what’s going on inside the mind of some of these AI… And, the AI researchers are scared of this. They’re absolutely terrified of what’s going on.”

“Please remember this -- as you design your products and you design your systems, make it fit the people who will actually be using it,” says Green.
“Please remember this — as you design your products and you design your systems, make it fit the people who will actually be using it,” says Green.

The advancement of 5G also is going to be pushing tech capabilities to new limits as soon as the year 2020. The 5G network improves upon the current 4G network exponentially, and it will create a landscape upon which a massive number of devices will become smart.

Green describes an environment in which every device in the home can be connected through a network that comes from outside the house, meaning home Wi-Fi may no longer be necessary. And, that network will be high-speed and low-latency, making it suitable for things like virtual reality, gaming and autonomous vehicles.

All this technological advancement means new opportunities for builders, integrators and designers. Green believes the next million-dollar room soon will be one that can create immersive, virtual and mixed reality experiences.

“You look at the accelerating pace of technology, and will we reach the vision of the Star Trek holodeck? Absolutely we will,” Green prophesizes. “To get the resolution we saw in Star Trek in the holodeck, that means we’re going to have these nanobots crawling around in our brains amplifying the virtual experience from within our minds. This is within the next 15 years.

“This is when most of us will still be in business. We don’t know what that business is going to look like, but it’s going to come on like a freight train, and we don’t know right now what to do about this. It completely transforms the whole notion of home entertainment and personal entertainment.”

Even though there are questions about the tech that will influence the homebuilding, integration and design businesses in the coming years, Green lays out steps everyone can take to put themselves in the best position to succeed for the inevitable changes that will come:

  • Brand yourself – earn loyalty
  • Build a design center – test and use new technologies
  • Sell great ideas and charge by the minute
  • Focus on people – hire and keep talent
    • Women
    • Software engineers and network specialists
    • User interface designers
    • Smart kids (they know what’s going on)
  • Practice respectful design for human beings
  • Enhance your truck roll capability (digital truck roll techniques)
  • Never compromise on customer service
  • Never, ever lose a customer to new technology

Ultimately, Green says, when working on a project featuring tech, it should be made to fit the people who actually will be using it.

“Slow down. Think about what we’re doing,” he stresses. “Let’s be present all the time with what’s actually going on around us. Let’s get some clarity about how we’re being persuaded to do things. And then let’s develop some products and services and systems that are gracious and fit the human condition for the end user perfectly.”