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A future when we’re all online

by Adam Brodowski, Made by Many / November 17, 2014

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

Last week Quartz held a conference focusing on the next billion people to connect to the internet as the developing world comes online quicker and quicker. The conference brought in speakers from all different fields and backgrounds. Google talked about Project: Loon, an architect specializing in developing world city design, and professors all took the stage to discuss how different the world might be in a future with many more billion connected. Most talks took the form of one on one interviews instead of lengthy slideshows, this meant a lot of topics were covered. My coworker and I attended and these are the key points we kept talking about afterwards.

Next generation of data

The next billion will connect primarily with mobile phones. Each of those phones will be loaded with dozens of sensors. This means as emerging markets being to connect to the internet they’ll start generating billions of new metrics the world can tap. More data doubles down on the current problem of having too much information to generate meaningful insights from it. Mike Abbot from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers touched on this. He broke down our generations of data. Starting with a generation of collecting. Devices sensing the world and services collecting all of these inputs. Next came a generation of sharing. These services started to talk to each other sharing what they’d been collecting. The upcoming generation is knowledge. To make the jump from sharing to knowledge we will need machine learning to make sense of how that data was collected, how it’s trending, and what it relates to.

Decentralized

Within our digital world there are different eco-systems and services we subscribe to. Airplay is a great example of a eco-system you have to buy into, you need to have an all Apple device line up to take advantage of Airplay. A consistent topic during The Next Billion conference was the idea of decentralization apps and services. The next billion will see the web with a fresh set of eyes, and many speakers expected they would approach using the web very differently. Using parts of various services and eco-systems as they needed them. New smaller services would lay on top of the tired and true ones, adding specific features, an example was Gotenna. A bluetooth connected radio frequency smart phone accessory. Once two are paired to separate phones they create a personal local network between the devices, no cell tower required. Designed for use during natural disasters the creators imagine this tech easily expanding allowing remote groups of people to create small networks as needed.

Deeper connecting the first billion

It’s projected that by 2016 connected devices will be ubiquitous, you’ll be hard pressed to buy something for your home that’s not connected. Alex Hawkinson of SmartThings touched on the biggest hurdle to the internet of things at the moment, it goes back to the eco-systems we live inside. Each device we buy will be connected, but existing in it’s own eco-system. A new standard open system for all of these devices to talk together will have to emerge. As Mike Abbot covered we’re entering a generation of extracting knowledge, that will only come from devices sharing and learning from each other. Devices currently have quasi open systems, but those relationships will have to keep expanding to be truly valuable.

Hawkinson also talked about the derivative businesses the internet of things will inevitably create. Think of how Uber built a service on top of the phone you already have and a broken cab system. Connected homes will be open to similar disruption. Imagine a nursing home app that tap into the noise, video, motion tracking, kitchen monitoring devices already in place there. A new large system will emerge that as it becomes more open will allow new ideas to sit on top of.

We left the Quartz Next Billion conference loaded with new ideas and way to think about the digital future. It’s going to just keep getting more and more interesting. Designing for this future will require getting comfortable and exploring new social dynamics, communities, and people. We’re excited about the shift that’s coming.

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