What’s On The Technology Horizon?
UKOLN, University of Bath, Bath, UK
Abstract: We are continuing to see rapid technological developments taking place which will
affect those working in the library sector. But unlike the technological developments we saw in
the mid-1990s following the release of the Web and its acceptance as a transformative
technology, we are now in the midst of significant political and funding changes which will
affect the working practices of those working in the information profession.
This paper describes recent work sponsored by the JISC Innovation Support Centres, UKOLN
and CETIS, which produced a Technology Outlook for UK Tertiary Education 2011-2016 report
on technology developments which are felt to have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or
less; two to three years or four to five years.
The paper introduces the technologies mentioned in the report and invites discussion on the
implications for those working in libraries and as information specialists.
The JISC Observatory is a JISC-funded initiative to systematise the way in which the JISC
anticipates and responds to projected future trends and scenarios in the context of the use of
technology in higher & further education and research in the UK . The development and
management of the JISC Observatory represents the first major collaboration between UKOLN
and CETIS in their role as JISC Innovation Support Centres.
The JISC Observatory team have been involved in exploring developments which are occurring
in the sector or are likely to have implications across the sector. In seeking out significant
patterns and trends we are aiming to help inform policy makers, managers and implementers
within the sector of innovative developments which may have significant impact in areas of
work addressed within higher and further educational establishments.
2. NHM Horizon Report
During 2011 JISC sponsored a study by the New Media Consortium as part of their Horizon
Project which produces a series of widely-read Horizon Reports . The “Technology Outlook:
UK Higher Education” report  was published in September 2011. This report explores the
impact of emerging technologies on teaching, learning, research and information management in
UK tertiary education over the next five years. The emerging technologies were identified by the
Horizon.JISC advisory board; an international body of experts representing a range of diverse
perspectives across the learning sector. The study involved several stages of discussion and
refinement of description of potentially influential technologies, their time-lines and impact.
As described in the report “In an effort that ran from January through August 2011, the team
behind this report considered a wide range of relevant articles, news, blog posts, research, and
project examples as part of the preparation for a carefully selected group of 33 experts that
ultimately pinpointed the most notable emerging technology topics, trends, and challenges for
tertiary education in the United Kingdom over the next five years”.
Table 1 lists the short-listed topics which were identified as relevant to UK tertiary education for
the period 2011-2016.
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
Table 1: Short List Topics for UK Tertiary Education
3. It’s Here (Almost)
The relevance of Cloud Computing; Mobile Technologies; Open Content and Tablet Computing
to immediate decision-making should be unsurprising for those who are involved in IT and
Library activities within the UK’s higher/further education sectors – although the separation of
mobile and tablet computing may appear to be somewhat arbitrary.
4. We Need to Plan
The areas of Game-Based Learning; Learning Analytics; New Scholarship and Semantic
Applications are predicted to become widely adopted within a period of two to three years. We
might therefore expect these areas to be being used by the early adopters, with the mainstream
community aware of these areas, but either unconvinced of their immediate relevance to or
sceptical that they will have any relevance to the core areas of work across the institution
However the NMC report suggests that these areas are likely to be relevant within a period for
which Library services will need to be making their medium term plans. Libraries should
therefore give consideration to the implications of such technological developments becoming
widely accepted within this timeframe.
5 We Need to Speculate
The areas of Augmented Reality; Collective Intelligence; Smart Objects and Telepresence are
predicted to become adopted within a period of four to five years. These might be areas which
are not currently regarded as having any relevance to planning within libraries. These may
therefore be areas in which Library staff with particular interests in technological developments
may find it useful to gain a better understanding of the terms.
6 Implications for Libraries
In order to initiate discussions on the implications for libraries on the developments highlighted
in the report the following tables are provided. Table 2 provides suggestions for actions. Tables
3 and 4 are left for readers to complete.
Mobile and Tablet
Computing of new working practices; experiences of accessing library services,
etc. Update Acceptable Use Policies to address use of mobile devices.
Update Web developments tools and standards to ensure mobile
access is treated as ‘first class citizen’.
Cloud Computing Staff development to provide better understanding of Cloud
Computing concepts and implications. Update Acceptable Use
Policies to address use of cloud services. Ensure potential risks are
understood as well as opportunities. Develop risk minimisation
Open Content Staff development to provide better understanding of open data as
well as open access including licensing issues for open content.
Understand personal and organisational barriers to provision of open
content as well as consuming open content. Seek ways in which the
Library can provide open content.
Table 2: Actions for Developments
Table 3: Actions for developments expected to be adopted in two to three years
Table 4: Actions for developments expected to be adopted in four to five years
Personal use of mobile phones & tablets in order to gain experiences
Acknowledgments are given to Adam Cooper, CETIS, and other JISC Observatory team
members at UKOLN and CETIS who contributed to the work of the JISC Observatory.
Parts of this paper are taken from the Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education report which
is licensed under a Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0 licence. The full citation for the report is:
Johnson, L. and Adams, S., (2011). Technology Outlook for UK Tertiary
Education 2011-2016: An NMC Horizon Report Regional Analysis. Austin,
Texas: The New Media Consortium.
1 JISC Observatory Blog, <http://blog.observatory.jisc.ac.uk/about-the-jisc-observatory/>
2 NMC, <http://www.nmc.org/publications/2011-technology-outlook-uk>
3 Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education, NMC, 5 September, 2011,
About The Author
Brian Kelly is based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information
management which is located at the University of Bath. In his role as UK Web Focus Brian
advises the UK's higher and further education communities on best practices in use of the Web.
He is also responsibility for managing UKOLN’s Innovation Support Centre’s communication
and dissemination activities across the JISC community.
Brian is an experienced presenter and has spoken at previous ILI conferences. Brian has given
many presentations on Web 2.0 and Library 2.0. In recent years Brian has been an invited
plenary speaker at international conferences held in Stockholm, Taiwan, Singapore and
Melbourne. Brian is also a passionate user of a variety of Social Web tools, including his UK
Web Focus blog (http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/) which has been shortlisted for several