This is my first and last post of 2013, my blogging really has took a back seat this last year although I wrote two articles for the Havas Lynx blog, one on Alan Turing and one more recently on the drive of my team. I hope to write more posts in 2014, although I will keep this blog more reserved to my own thoughts on technology and anything that interests me.
I won’t blog about MbUnit. That chapter in my life has closed, I am keeping the posts around for those that find them useful but I won’t add anything new.
2013 for me has been a hard, challenging year. My team have worked very hard and I am very, very proud of what they have achieved in the last 12 months. The dedication and commitment of my team has been a humbling experience for me, they are all hardcore technology enthusiasts and we have really explored and implemented some great tech, from Durandal to Node, from WebAPI to Xamarin iOS. We have also explored databases a lot, from Riak to MongoDB and we have evolved into database polyglots (next year we will push this further and blur the lines between NoSQL and RDBS).
Our work takes us into heathcare systems and direct into the hospitals that our systems serve and I have really explored and learned a lot about healthcare informatics this year. We are a member of the HL7 organisation and this year was great to learn more from the HL7 organisation and share some of my own experiences at Health 2.0 Manchester. I have forgotten how much I enjoy speaking and sharing with audiences I really hope to do more in 2014.
This year was the first year I attended a conference that was not a software conference, with visits to Health 2.0 Europe and Pharma Creates. I hugely enjoyed both conferences and look forward to doing more and learning more at both next year.
I am hoping to write more next year, not just blogging and twitter but journals and more print media. I am also thinking about writing a book again, not sure it will happen in 2014, 2015 or 2016 and I am unsure of a subject so all those things combined makes it unlikely but I am keen to write another.
So looking into what I think will happen in 2014 here are my thoughts.
Machine Learning is fast becoming the biggest frontier in the IT industry, with Google, Facebook and Microsoft all hiring major talents in the field (and consuming companies in the field at the same rate). Everyone is also looking to deploy that talent to address different needs but it will be the first to a mass consumer reach that will have the greatest success. The biggest to watch will be IBM, very quietly they been selling off a lot of their other business and building up Watson to have a much greater reach in the cloud. I think 2014 will be about the application of machine learning in the cloud and IBM have the march.
Continuing this theme I also think that 2014 will see more main stream use of machine learning, I think R has it’s place but it the rapid climb of languages such as Python and Clojure that will see mainstream adoption of machine learning. The rise of Python in the space makes sense given it the academic use of the language in teaching and I think 2014 will see Python rise in popularity again as we start to see more articles and books (indeed a lot of machine learning books already use it) on machine learning grow for the masses.
I worry for the CLR and Microsoft’s plans. IMHO C# is already too general purpose and recent news indicates Microsoft will continue to develop GP languages. I just don’t see any community languages for the CLR and the JVM continues to pace ahead, the academic use of the JVM for compiler courses is really helping and some of the most popular languages in recent years (Scala, Clojure etc) have all been written on the JVM. I don’t hold out any hope that in 2014 Microsoft are going to change and language developments will more than likely be JVM based (with Go also developing).
NoSQL databases have see some interesting developments over 2013, I have been paying particular attention to FoundationDB (as an ACID distributed NoSQL DB) and RethinkDB (as a new kid of the block and one to watch). That’s not to say my love affair with Riak has changed (we never made it to the Basho customer list but were early adopters in healthcare). I am looking forward to Riak 2.0 and the SOLR integration (a very powerful match). The use of Riak in the NHS Spine 2 project is great to see and I really hope to see it more and use it more in healthcare. Basho are working to improve the distributed consistency in Riak and FoundationDB ACID approach are paving the way for improved support in NoSQL databases into next year. Another area I think will improve will be querying, I still miss the expressive, focused nature of SQL (it has it’s place but I dislike MapReduce for simple queries). Our approach is fast becoming to combine NoSQL with the talents of a RDMS, I do think that in 2014 that the lines will blur for those vendors that are brave enough to try, FoundationDB will be one to watch in 2014.
In the healthcare technology space I do think that FHIR (Fire) is going to gain traction in 2014, it is being developed in a very different way to the previous HL7 standards and as a modern REST based API could get the adoption it needs simply by having a greater reach and use beyond a EPR system. We are watching it closely and giving serious consideration in the systems we build.
A little more generally and an area I am interested in is the field of wearable devices and the ‘internet of things’ in the healthcare space. I think that Nike, Fitbit and Jawbone will face some interesting challenges in 2014 and I think Apple will have some say in this, with a dedicated processor and patients for the apple ear buds to measure blood pressure and more recently using the light to measure heart rate the IPhone could yet truly serve as a doctor in your pocket. Nike, Fitbit an Jawbone will also have challenges from other new comers in the field, Mio can for example measure heart rate (with no need for a chest band) and one to watch in 2014 will be AIRO with technology that is reported to measure calories by measuring your blood (via light emitted into the skin under the device). It is early days but if effective and within an affordable price these devices could render the others inaccurate, a challenge they will have to meet. Another challenge for the quantified self movement is the aggregation and display of the data the devices collect (life logging), I have seen some really interesting approaches such as Tictrac but I still think that the interfaces need to simplify and improve.
I am looking forward to 2014 and the continued growth of Havas Health Software, as David Hunt, Havas Lynx CEO wrote it has been very much a start-up model this year. I have enjoyed it and the new challenges that 2014 will bring, my team is expanding and if you are looking for a new challenge then please look us up.
Happy new year.