It’s not like building a widget! Software is both engineered and crafted but in its final state is invisible. Most people never see the code that makes things work, yet there can easily be huge quantities of it involved. And it is practically ubiquitous.
Software is the invisible magic behind ‘smart’ everything!
Software underpins the digital world. Software is the invisible magic behind ‘smart’ everything! The Internet, and the World Wide Web built on top of it, rely on layers of software. The ever-increasing demand to exploit data relies on software.
Software provides the brains behind autonomous systems
Not content with being responsible for automation of a previously manual process world, software now increasingly provides the brains behind autonomous systems and devices which think and reason for themselves about the world around them. Software is increasingly taking over whole tasks that were previously done by electronic hardware or people.
Almost all everyday activities are linked to software
It’s hard to imagine anything we do now in our everyday lives that isn’t linked to software. Software is behind:
- communication and using our smartphones
- buying groceries, including getting those items to the stores or delivering from warehouses
- travelling by car, train or plane
- paying for services
- consuming content
- keeping safe and enabling others to keep us safe
Most professional activities depend on software
The supply chains of industry, the day to day running of organisations, and the trading of our currencies and commodities across the globe depend on software. Our national infrastructure, energy, transport, health, and defence is controlled and enabled by software. And so it is true globally.
Innovation isn’t only new algorithms
So where is the innovation? Fundamentally, it is the creation of new innovative algorithms, step-by-step sequences of processes to achieve some desired outcome. This outcome might be a better way of doing something in software, or something new done with software at all. But there’s much more than that. To understand this, we need to look at how software has changed over time.
Software needs to be written in a different way
As computer hardware has advanced and become more powerful, including combining lots of processors together in parallel to compute results quicker, the software has to keep up. Software systems are now amazingly complex systems. This requires new innovative tools, most of them also made in software!
Innovation in software quality is required
Software, by its nature, is very difficult to test exhaustively. When engineers build a bridge, their understanding of physics allows them to prove that the structure will perform correctly and not break.
When software engineers do their work, although there are some mathematics principles that can help, it is still often impossible to verify that the software will work in every possible situation. Innovation is therefore required to address, maintain and improve software quality too.
Innovation is needed in user experience
Software is increasingly embedded in all sorts of devices that anyone can use, usually without any training and without any consideration for the users’ abilities. This demands innovation in the ways that people use and interact with software systems. We don’t want software to complicate our lives; we want it to simplify things!
Software creation has changed
Software, often expensive, used to be the domain of larger organisations and came shrink-wrapped on magnetic media to be installed by technically-aware users.
Today at virtually no cost, anyone could develop an ‘app’ at home and distribute via the Internet to millions of people, who will use it almost without thinking. Innovation needs to support both the producers and consumers in this modern world to encourage enterprise, and ensure usability and safety.
Future software won’t be only based on electronics
But what of the longer term future? Software and computer systems will move on from the digital electronics of this decade, into computer science based on optical components, devices that exploit quantum physics, and biological cells that can reproduce.
UK is at the edge of software technology innovation
In computing and software, the pace of change and innovation is not just rapid and exciting; it is also accelerating to whole new levels, enabling even more ‘magical’ and ’smart’ aspects of our daily lives. The UK is well-placed to lead in this future world at the edge of software technology innovation.
Software is truly the enabling technology of our time
The continued expansion of our digital world puts additional new requirements on the software that powers it, and the computer science that underpins it. Software is truly the enabling technology of our time, and of the future.
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