Five Tech Problems We Need to Solve

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted Monday, September 10, 2012 16:30 PM

By Samuel Greengard

Breathtaking advances in computing power and information technology have solved many problems. However, they have also created new challenges for both businesses and consumers. Here are some of the most pressing issues:

Digital Wallets: Cash is dead, credit cards are obsolete. There's a need to combine loyalty cards and a payment system so we can get rid of all the plastic and coins. Unfortunately, we're still mired in 20th century payment technology. Google, PayPal and others have pushed digital payment systems, but until a provider gets off the proprietary bandwagon and builds a system that works universally and across mobile devices (or strong-arms the rest of the industry to get on board), digital wallets will continue to languish.

Privacy Protections: Soon, a digital device will record virtually every move we make. We're already leaving a forensic trail through financial transactions (including the ATM that withdraws cash), mobile phone activity, Web browsers, photographs, toll booths, data recorders in automobiles and much more. We need some type of device or system that provides a decent level of protection, lest we devolve into George Orwell's 1984.

Digital IDs: There's a lot of bark about digital security but very little bite. We need better algorithms and authentication methods to replace weak and inherently insecure passwords and PINs. Financial data, voting records, email identities and more are at constant risk. Digital identity cards, already being deployed in the United Kingdom and other countries, offer a reasonable solution—as long as adequate privacy protections are built into these devices.

Next-Gen User Interfaces: Today's GUIs are woefully inadequate. QWERTY keyboards are more than a century old and slow data input to a crawl. Although speech recognition is advancing and gesture-based input is maturing, some company needs to put the pieces together more completely and holistically—particularly as more and more people go mobile. Think Minority Report.

Information Management Tools: Organizations and individuals are awash in data. Yet, for all the talk about big data, few are making any real progress in putting it to work. The challenge isn't finding information; it's finding relevant information. We need better algorithms for sorting and storing data and auto-generating metadata, as well as smarter storage devices and retrieval systems.