The Future of The Internet

The Future of The Internet

February 11th, 2013 // 7:13 pm @

lg-internet-fridge-420x0The Future of The Internet

Do you want an Internet Fridge?

The Internet has now been with us for two decades, yet it still has a long way to go in its development, technically, how we interact with it, and where we stop its incursions into our lives.

It is worth remembering what the Internet actually is. It is just a way of moving information quickly and cheaply between two computers, and as such is simple but its impact has been, and will be revolutionary.

The technology has come a long way, but has a long way to go. Developments in hardware, software, user interface, data storage and communication speed, have still to develop and be optimized.

Hardware will inevitably get smaller and faster, and will ultimately be limited only by its interface with the human form, in as much as making things too small eventually becomes pointless.

Software will get cleverer, as the hardware becomes better, the limitation will be the human ability or motivation to interact with it. Already with much of the software in our lives we use only a fraction of the abilities offered. As there is a limit on our willingness to invest the time to learn the finer points, against the perceived benefits we see. I am a big user of Excel and Photoshop for example, yet I know I probably use less than half of what they offer. We see this effect as Microsoft keeps upgrading its software, 15 years ago these upgrades were big news because they added important useful features, now such launches are of little importance as the added features are relevant to few users.

How we interface with the computers in our lives is still a work in progress. We still type much of our communication using language formats as old as civilization. However voice recognition is beginning to come of age, with our computers talking to us, and us to them. I note with interest all the talking computers in my life are women, possibly this is because most developers are men?

The mountains of data each of us are collecting will only grow, but as technological access to the cloud becomes better this storage will disappear into that cloud. For example all our music will be in the cloud, and wherever we choose to listen to, be it in our homes, cars, or as we walk the streets, the devices we use will merely access this central database.

The Internets communication speed, particularly in mobile applications is probably the biggest technological limiter for the web at present. Even in developed countries truly high speed fibre optics are still rare, and those internet connections to our phones continue to improve but are still rarely robust enough to stream a film in HD for example, but it will come.

So within the technical side of the web there is still much development to take place, and significant infrastructure investments to make.

The other key are that has yet to fully mature is how we navigate the web, the www.whateveraddress.com is an unwieldy tool, and clever as Google has become finding what you want can still be difficult and time consuming.

Other ideas have been tried such as virtual malls (Shopping centres) but this is trying to take a bricks and mortar model and put it online and has therefore failed.

It remains one of the great breakthroughs yet to be made, how we navigate the world of the web into the future, accurately, quickly and seamlessly.

So I believe the web still has a great deal of development to go before it disappears into the background of our lives, and all we see is what it does, not how it does it.

Making predictions about the future is notoriously dangerous, but I will make a few, although I am not going to make the leap to predict timescales.

The Commercial World

The big change will be in new business models; the communication speed and cost benefits of the Internet will allow the rewriting of many business models. We have already seen that in the music industry, we listen to more music than we ever have, but how it is supplied to us is in the process of being revolutionized.

Within the development of these new business models how we pay, and who gets paid will change. In many parts of the Internet, developing a workable revenue model remains elusive. However the changes in who gets paid also will change, as in the example of the music industry, an artist can record a song put it on ITunes, and split the revenue between themselves, the traditional “Publishing House” is becoming less relevant, and perhaps they will reinvent themselves a music marketing companies?

The other big change in the commercial world will be information flow. We are already generating more information than we know what to do with. As an example a supermarket chain can tell a supplier how many women aged between 30/35 bought their product on a Tuesday between 8pm and 8.45pm, when it was raining.

A modern supermarket knows:

  • Who you are from your loyalty card, and from that all your socio economic information
    • Where you live
    • What you earn
    • What you do for a living
    • Your credit worthiness
  • They know what you bought today, when and where
  • What mix of products you buy
  • What you have bought previously, when and where

Put this together and you get a mountain of data that can be cross-referenced forever to generate a mountain of facts. And this is only one small example of the information being collected.

The clever trick is to take this mountain of information, mine it into something useful, and then make managerial decisions based on it. The opportunity for information overload is already significant and will grow.

I have already sat through many presentations from enthusiastic managers in awe of the knowledge they have of their market, yet unable to turn that knowledge into understanding.

The underlying nature of business has not changes since the start of the industrial revolution, what has changed and continues to change is the speed of business. This change will only accelerate, it is notable to look at how many major companies did not exist 15 years ago, and may well not exist 15 years from now. MySpace went from being formed to being sold for $500,0000,000 and back to near extinction in one decade.

It is in this modern world where it might be more appropriate not to ask what will Facebook be worth in a decade, but will it exist in a decade?

The people who will succeed will be the same people who did in the past, those with vision, insight and the ability to lead; they will just work in a faster environment.

At Home

The use of the Internet at home to link us to the outside world and let us control devices at home is almost limitless; the limitation will be how far we choose as people to take this.

What will change soon is how we interact with visual media. The idea of a TV channel will change or even disappear altogether. In the future, every movie, and every TV show every made will be available on line and on demand. The only limitation will be when new media is released, and how we pay for it. The music industry has been revolutionized by the Internet, TV / Movies are next.

It is already possible to program TV recording from your phone, or switch on your heating from your laptop in the office. The cost of these technologies will come down, and it will be possible to close your curtains remotely as you fly away on holiday if you choose. Or allow your fridge to scan its contents, measure your usage of products and reorder them for you.

The limitation is how much time we will choose to invest in doing such things based on the benefit we see. I was offered the ability to adjust every light or group of lights in my apartment from my IPhone by an excited salesman enamored of the technology. The system was expensive, but I am sure will become cheap, the problem was I really could not see even if it as free why I would spend time changing my lighting from my IPhone?

We already have many clever pieces of technology in our lives that we do not bother to use, and this will increase. We are enamored of technology just because of what it can do, as time progress’s technology will need to show us relevant real benefits in our lives, beyond just being cool.

Retailing

The changes in retailing are only just beginning to really shake that industry, and in the coming years it will change beyond recognition. The high street was devastated by the growth of large out of town supermarkets. As online shopping comes of age, the high street will be further devastated, and even supermarkets will come under huge pressures.

Those staples we need such as toilet rolls, cleaning materials and other low added value bulky items we will continue to buy from our supermarkets, either in person or for delivery.

The items we care about, those things that define us, such as the things we need for our hobbies, sports and pastimes, we will research on the web, and buy on the web, because we can get more information from the web, and buy what we want from anywhere in the world.

There are some key drivers of online retailing best understood by Amazon:

  1. Selection – we care about a wide selection. My local camera store might have 10 flashguns for my camera, Amazon has 156. Traditional retailing cannot compete with this.
  2. Information – My local store normally has staff that are not particularly well trained, but online I can get links to expert advice, technical information and most importantly peer group review.
  3. Speed of delivery is critical, as if online shopping for goods needing shipped has one downside it is the lack of instant gratification that shopping allows, retail therapy as it is often called. Amazon is investing billions in next day delivery as its default and even same day delivery.

It is interesting that Amazon is still at heart a retailer displaying products, selling their benefits, and selling them to consumers. It has just reinvented the business model behind that.

There will be products we will want to see and touch where shops have an advantage, but I suspect these will develop into showrooms not shops. Already when I was shopping recently I was shown a product that they did not have in my size, so they took the order in the shop, but delivered it directly to me not the shop.

The list of famous retailers going bust has started; it will only lengthen and accelerate.

Personal Interaction

It is within the area of personal interaction that the Internet may well drive its most profound social change.

Communication is becoming instantaneous, how many of us have watched people check their phone for email during even a coffee break? How many of us have sent an email and been checking for a response in 10 minutes? We are a society obsessed with the speed of communication.

Sadly this will get worse, it can not be long before we all have one communication code (Phone number come email address) and all our communication will be forwarded instantly to whatever devise we happen to be nearest to at that time, be it our computer at work, our car, our personal communicator, or even possibly our fridge!

The technology is becoming visual, with Skype calls, and cameras on phones. It will one day be possible to talk to a hologram of whomever you are talking to.

Increasingly the only limitation will be our willingness to be available continuously to the world. We all have screened our calls and we will have to do it more as time progress’s.

Within this area I believe there is a significant danger for us as human beings, and for our ability to function commercially.

We already live in a culture, which lionizes quick bold activity, over careful thought and considered action. We hear much of “immediate action”, and little of “lets take time to consider this” as the latter sound somehow weak.

The increasing speed of communication has lowered the quality of that communication and the thought put into it, and we are increasingly confusing urgent with important.

These pressures add to the stress under which many people function, and decreases their ability to do the key thing we pay them to do, to think.

Those who succeed in this ever-faster world will be those who make time to reflect, think, and make judgments because that is still what drives success.


Category : Blog &The Future

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