Context 166 - November 2020

C O N T E X T 1 6 6 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 0 45 conservation workplace. Instead, the perceived needs of the intangible, art, tourism and creative industries, civic regeneration, and the manage- ment, maintenance and preservation of digital cultural content predominate in the study. Embracing digital technologies An increasing variety of new devices and tech- nologies emerging on the marketplace have the potential of bringing economic and productivity benefits. At the same time they are creating chal- lenges for practitioners to keep pace with the changes, to future-proof emerging results and to keep adequate records. The essence of time – the fourth dimension – is determining rapid change, while creat- ing significant additional pressures to keep up to date. A bewildering new language of tasks and descriptions that individuals might embark on is emerging. Promoted job titles include algorithm engineer, machine learning expert, data scientist, analytical insight consultant and IT project manager. The question is how these new disciplines and their evolving knowledge might be integrated with the heritage sector’s needs, and its professions, technologists and vocational skills. While the Future Technologies Review ⁴ offers insight into the evolving issues from the UK perspective, a broader appreciation of pend- ing changes might be had from Gartner. The Gartner consultancy, which specialists in infor- mation and communication technologies (ICT), has predicted the arrival of some of the most eagerly-awaited innovations of the last dec- ade. Detailing its ‘Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020’, it suggests that: • The hyper-automation branch of robotics will automate business processes to make them more precise, more efficient and up to 10 times faster by combining technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence and machine learning. • Multi-experience anticipates a future that offers virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR, AR, MR) applications to transform ways of perceiving the digital world and interacting with it. • The use of technology will be democratised, with people accessing technical and business experience without expensive requirements. • Human perfection could be developed through technological trends involving the use of innovation to improve physical and cognitive abilities, from subcutaneous implants for greater access to information. • With consumers demanding greater control over their personal data, transparency and traceability will be fundamental to meeting regulatory requirements, maintaining ethics in the use of technology and halting the increasing mistrust of companies. • The edge-computing branch of IT will have a big impact on the internet of things by making it possible for data generated by devices to be processed locally, without the need to be uploaded to the cloud or sent to an external data centre. • Hybrid clouds will involve the decentralisation of most cloud services, although the provider of the source public cloud will retain responsibility for the operation, control, updating and evolution of the services. • Autonomy of things will develop as their acceptance grows, and as regulations and technological progress allows. There will be more autonomous vehicles, drones and robots on the streets. • Blockchain will create the ability to undertake secure internet transactions without intermediaries, including smart contracts that can be used in urban management. • The popularisation of artificial intelligence and machine learning will bring new challenges to information security through increased system vulnerability.This will make it essential to develop new technologies to strengthen cyber security. Integration From a built heritage point of view, and on considering what the future interdisciplinary mix of digital and heritage professionals might look like, among others, a number of questions arise: • Will such an approach need to be guided by innovative conservation charters, conventions and legislation that might need to be recrafted with a greater digital emphasis? • How will data scientists, technologists, innovators and others be professionally integrated alongside those with an understanding and analysis of heritage construction decay mechanisms and effects? • How will conservation and digital processes that require access to traditional knowledge, skills and materials be integrated? • What additional support training and supply needs will have to be developed to make the new approach work? • How will GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), artificial intelligence, intellectual property rights and copyright matters be resolved alongside future-proofing heritage archival needs? More detailed consideration is called for on how the new digital influences might be devel- oped and impact on the conservation sector (and vice versa). It will be necessary to progress this in a spirit of mutual collaboration and understanding if the sector is not to be left in the dark. References 4 https://assets. publishing.service. gov.uk/government/ uploads/system/ uploads/attachment_ data/file/827507/ Final_Version_-_ Future_Technologies_ Review.pdf Ingval Maxwell is a consultant at Conservation Architecture.

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