The glitterati of the tech world are once again descending on a chilly Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Over the next few days, reports of the latest smartphones, tablets and netbooks will flood RSS feeds and whet the industry’s appetite for the latest must have gadgets. Of course, most of these new devices are geared towards one thing – driving data demand.
From the latest Android tablets to 4G phones, the speculation as to what will be displayed is rampant. What’s common to many of these devices is the focus on media consumption and sharing, specifically video. Whether in the form of movie downloads, video conferencing or online gaming, video’s impact on the tech industry is in many respects still in its infancy. We have yet to see the true impact of ubiquitous video. In a previous post, I highlighted how Netflix’s Instant streaming service now accounts for over 20% of North America’s traffic, even though only 2% of Netflix customers subscribe to this service.
Yet as video’s impact continues to be felt on our global networks, many within the industry are peering into the future to see what lies beyond. What’s the next killer app? This is a difficult question to answer. There are few who could have predicted video’s impact and the subsequent bandwidth explosion. The speculation as to what comes next is varied. A number of analysts point towards telemedicine, others remote learning and some the smart grid. While all of these are certainly contenders, I believe that work is the leading contender.
At a recent conference, Gigaom’s Om Malik explored the future of work, specifically the shift from the fixed office to a mobile environment. Malik believes the development of the world’s broadband infrastructure has given rise to a greater state of connectedness that enables us to work from anywhere. In many respects this is true. I’m currently posting this blog from a train. Several years ago this would not have been possible. Malik calls this shift from the fixed office and the corporate infrastructure ‘the human cloud,’ the intersection between web and work.
This is a change that I openly welcome and one that I believe companies need to embrace if they are to remain relevant and successful in a globally fierce marketplace. What I find interesting about the concept of work as a killer app is that it’s not really an app. Work pulls together all the killer apps of the previous five years under one enormous bandwidth-demanding umbrella. Video conferencing, file sharing, VoIP, etc, the list of apps that is required to make remote working possible is potentially enormous. Yet this is a shift that has to happen.
From a cultural, business and environmental perspective, the shift to the human cloud is one that is critical. Businesses cannot continue as they have for the past decade. What we need now is the networking infrastructure to make this happen. Video helped pave the way, but now we need to ensure that the network exists to make a true human cloud possible.
Are you part of the human cloud? If so, how has this impacted upon your work? Does the network limit you? How do we need to develop? I appreciate your feedback.