Since its inception 25 years ago the internet has transformed all levels of business and society. Whether we’re at work, or on our morning commute, or shopping for a new iPhone, we rely on the internet and the instantaneous access to information it brings us. Our daily routine is so structured by the internet that we scarcely stop to remember what life was like before the world wide web.
Some research is suggesting, however, that we haven’t seen anything yet! In our opening segment we introduced the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project initiative along with its recently released report called Digital Life in 2025, which represents expert opinion and perspective on what the internet and digital life will look like in the next decade.
In this segment we want to kickoff a discussion on some of the findings of the Digital Life in 2025 report and the implications for the everyday business owner. We all get that the internet is huge and that it’s a major disruptor of business, but we want to dig deeper and consider what the outcomes of the next generation transformations will be for business and IT. The future is practically here and organizations need to be ready!
The first major thesis of the Digital Life in 2025 report is that “information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.” In other words, the internet will become ambient – less visible and more deeply embedded in our daily lives. David Clark, an MIT senior research scientist and contributor to the report, unpacks what this means:
Devices will more and more have their own patterns of communication, their own ‘social networks,’ which they use to share and aggregate information, and undertake automatic control and activation. More and more, humans will be in a world in which decisions are being made by an active set of cooperating devices. The Internet (and computer-mediated communication in general) will become more pervasive but less explicit and visible. It will, to some extent, blend into the background of all we do.
The biggest and best expression of this trend is the Internet of Things, which we highlighted briefly in the opening segment. This technology refers to rendering “uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure,” or essentially just connecting physical objects to the web.
We’ve already seen some popular expressions on the market. The Nest thermostat allows you to monitor the temperature and comfort level of your home through your mobile device. Fitbit is a popular form of wearable technology that traces one’s daily steps, sleep time, calorie burn, and other health and fitness metrics. And everyone has heard of Google Glass and seen the possibilities it will make available for a new realm of real time awareness and connectivity.
The Internet of Things is also sometimes referred to by the expression Internet of Everything. John Chambers, Cisco CEO, claims this space will have five to 10 times the impact on society as the Internet itself, and is projecting a $19 trillion dollar market for the Internet of Things market over the next decade. As a result, Cisco is dedicating a whole segment of its market to the future of the “Internet of Everything.”
The Internet of Things/Everything will be the biggest driver towards creating an internet that is ‘like electricity’ and that is part of our ambient environment – embedded but less visible. The ability to gather real-time awareness of our physical world, the ability to enhance decision-making with this data, and the opportunity to visualize this vast amount of information instantly are just some of the wide-ranging and disruptive impacts that the future internet will have on all levels of business and society.
If you’re a small business owner now is the time to get onboard with the Internet of Things. Start by researching the industry, try out a Fitbit, or become a Google Glass beta tester. Look at the area of machine to machine learning (M2M), which is about getting devices and sensors to communicate with other. Machine-generated data can, for example, report which remote service kiosks will need repairs the soonest, or which distribution centers are experiencing delays. These are small but incremental steps to being ready before the tsunami of technology changes really start impacting businesses. When that happens, customers will demand that organizations provide them with instantaneous, real time information and service updates.
The future of the Internet won’t be anything if not exciting!
To be continued . . .