THE BLOG

Are You Ready for the Ubernet?

22/05/2015 12:11 BST | Updated 20/05/2016 10:59 BST

If you are in business and you haven't seen the figures about the explosion of data, the rise of automation and the effect of machine-to-machine connectivity, then you'd better start scrolling through Google for some help as soon, and as fast, as you can.

Estimates vary, but Internet capacity growth is, it's safe to safe to say, Unbelievably Ginormous. That's not a technical word, of course, but then let's not get in tizz about petabytes and exabytes. Or even zettabytes.

The question really is: how much can companies invest in IT to keep up with the demands of automation and the threat of tech brands?

At some point in the not too distant future, all seven billion of us will be connected as humans. And yes we'll be connecting and communicating with each other and creating global social agendas. And, of course, we all will be submitting data to machines which will automate the dull aspects of our life - like filling in passports and even income tax returns.

Every age that ushers in automation receives a slew of "anti-automation" scaremongers. "Technological Unemployment", a term coined by John Maynard Keynes, is the spectre that is raised.

Whether it be the Luddites of the early 19th century, or the heavy industrialisation of the 1930s, or the software development of the '60s and '70s or the mechanisation of manufacturing and delivery today, fear of robots taking over our lives has always caused alarm and created resistance. It often results in government intervention too.

What makes today's automation so imposing is the harnessing of Automation Technology to the Internet.

We can "do" and "get" so much more today than ever before and let's be honest - we love it. We love airbnb, Uber, Spotify, Hive, Click and Collect and so on.

I don't buy into the arguments that automation is automatically (sorry) taking us to global mass unemployment as some commentators suggest.

What is actually happening is an extraordinary revolution of space and time between (business) supplier and (customer) receiver. In this revolution, the latter is the supplier of valuable and competitive data to the former. And the former changes, develops and personalises its offering according to data received.

These exchanges take place in their millions every second. Invisible and never ending.

The Internet is morphing into the Ubernet; a vast global human-to-machine, machine-to-machine and machine to-human driven network. It is becoming almost exactly what was so powerfully and positively envisioned by H G Wells in 1938. In "World Brain" he predicted that in the future everyone would have a radio in their homes which would not only receive broadcasts but would also be able to transmit them. This receive-and-transmit process would form a giant "net" over the planet which would hold all human knowledge and communication. A simply astounding vision of the Internet Age.

The enabling power of the Ubernet to shorten space and time is not about redundancy of humans. It's about a new form of connectivity. An "in your pocket" 24/7 connection that has to be "cool and useful" or will be dumped with the swipe of a digit.

This is a world where products and services can commune with you rather than communicate. Just look at the BA app and you see what I mean. Do we want to go back to paper tickets or do we want a seamless flow from car seat to plane seat? The BA app is helpful and handy. It's also clever and creative. Using it defines its purpose in a way an advertising campaign can ever do.

Re-configuring your business to accommodate this is not as costly or as complicated as it might appear.

The main barriers to "Tech Transformation" are attitudinal.

Most of the competitors faced by pre-Google companies started as low-cost nimble upstarts which at BETA stage attracted the right level of financing. Most companies have the resources to do this, but do they have the organisational muscle to take such a project on?

I end with a short story.

I used Uber, the taxi app for almost every ride. Then my local taxi firm (established in the 1970s) offered an app too. It's very good.

We (the family) now use this app when we travel to and from our house. But note, this app comes with something Uber can never provide.

"Hello Mr Law, haven't seen you since you arrived at T5 from New York. Off somewhere else exotic, are we?"

Consequently I use Uber a little less.

The human touch is what pre-Google companies have, know about and are modelled on. Adding on a lightweight Ubernet customer connection can make them highly competitive and differentiated in a way people-light companies will find nigh impossible to do.