Tech for Commercial Property - Megatrend No 4: Connectivity

May 2013

Megatrends 1, 2 and 3 – Mobile, The Cloud and the Internet of Things – are dead in the water without Megatrend No 4: Connectivity.

Everything progressive, innovative, transformational about technology today is dependant on connectivity. It is the connective tissue that allows ‘The Modern World’ to function.

And we need more of it, at much higher speeds, available whenever and wherever.

Why?

Because every time bandwidth increases it enables a whole new cycle of technological innovation. Some things wished for years are suddenly possible and some things totally unexpected suddenly appear.

Go back to 2000. Early days of broadband. Lucky early adopters got access to 2mb broadband. Great BUT. Billions were wasted by media/web companies developing high spec sites and trying to roll out ‘video on demand’ type services. Nothing quite worked. The connectivity just wasn’t good enough. Today, with 100mb broadband at home, we think nothing off streaming live TV or movies. Hello Netflix, goodbye Blockbuster.

Or cast you mind back to 2007 and the launch of the iPhone. Yes, just 6 years ago. Transformational wasn’t it? The hot thing the day before was the clamshell Razr. Bang, game over. Then to now have been all about Apple and Android. The 1st iPhone didn’t even have 3G – now we have 20mb 4G. And how we use our phones has been revolutionised. Many of us hardly even use them as phones, or if we do we use Skype. No, these are portable computers with instant on and constant availability. Hell, we can even get fast wifi down the tube.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube. None even ten years old. But central to our lives. Or most of us. All the product of a world that moved from Dial Up Internet access to Broadband.

The image below shows the same scene, from the Pope’s inauguration, in 2005 and 2013. Spot the difference? Everything is the same, but different. Extrapolate to 2020….

 

Now let’s speed things up.

Larry Page of Google was asked at their developer conference this week why they were connecting up whole cities with Gigabit fibre internet (Google Fiber). His answer amounted to saying it’s just silly to not connect all their data centres to people at the fastest speed possible. So much computing power is now available (via the Cloud) that if you give people access to that power they will think of amazing things to do with it. Such as driverless cars, real time language translation, real time satellite mapping, voice controlled search and on and on. We simply do not know what will emerge. The key though is that we need connectivity at a speed comparable to the computing grunt we have available.

One hears much talk today of information overload, but that is exactly the wrong way to see things. The problem is not too much information, it is filter failure. The inability of your software to filter out what information you actually need. Who would not want the perfect answer available on demand? That though requires great filters. And it is these that swarms of developers are now working on providing via the cloud. Think of Apple’s Siri software on the iPhone. You ask it a question, it goes off to a monster data center, parses all the information available and returns you an answer. All in seconds.

Which is of course where superfast connectivity comes in. Get that and the unimaginable will happen.

Ironically the best chance you have of getting this today is if you live in rural Yorkshire. Fed up with being unplugged the great people at Br4n decided to lay their their own ‘fiber to the house’. And this is what they offer:

 

The UK Government has a stated aim to have the whole country wired up at at least 2mb by 2015. That is almost beyond parody it is so laughable a goal. In South Korea the aim is 100% at 2 Gigabit.

For about £5 billion we could fibre wire up the whole UK, in a few years. Instead it looks like we’ll spend £32 billion on a shiny new train set ready for use decades hence.

Time to get real UK. Connectivity matters. More than almost anything else.

Antony

PS: Two specific requests to the commercial property industry. First, if you are wise enough to offer free wifi in your buildings (you are wise aren’t you?) please make it fast enough that it is usable. Sharing a couple of mb between many users is not good enough. And secondly, stop the practice of offering free wifi but for only a short period of time. That does not help anyone.