We are in the era of the digital individual.
Consider ‘smart’ homes. Ten years ago most homes only had a TV set and a computer. Today, research shows that the average UK home has 7.4 internet devices, and that is just the ‘screens’, such as smartphones, TVs and tablets.
By 2022 the average home could contain as many as 500 ‘smart’ devices, predicts analyst Gartner. Our home media and entertainment devices, appliances such as cookers and washing machines, transport technologies like the connected car, home security and environmental controls will all be connected up wirelessly.
All of these smart devices have knock-on effects – connected cars, for example, make us safer on the roads, but have numerous other possibilities; Tesla works on the next step, self-driving cars, and the impact they could have on industries like logistics, parking and retail. Imagine entire city centers without the need for car parks as the self-driving cars will simply deliver themselves to an off-site parking lot outside the city. Or the impact of self-driving vehicles on retail distribution and road freight. The potential impact is huge.
We have adapted incredibly quickly to becoming digital individuals. Cloud aaS usage and models are now in the consumer mainstream. We store important personal data in the cloud and benefit from being able to access it from anywhere via mobile device. Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive have almost a billion users between them, while Cisco projects that cloud traffic will triple in size from 2.6 zettabytes in 2012 to 7.7 zettabytes annually in 2017. We’ve quite clearly accepted the transformation and enjoy its “on demand aaS” benefits.
The tech-enabled individual
Just as the Third Industrial Revolution of the 1960s and 70s transformed our world from mechanical and electronic technology to digital technology, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will see the line between the digital, human and physical aspects of our lives continue to blur.
The speed of change and the scale of impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution however are far more pronounced than before. Unprecedented, in fact. And it is disrupting everything – our health, home life, work, the way we exercise, the way we manage our bank accounts, how we get our entertainment.
The entertainment industry is already addressing us as digital individuals; sports stadiums like the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in France – a venue for this year’s UEFA EURO 2016TM tournament of which Orange is a sponsor – is home to superfast connectivity to enable an amazing array of extra services form match statistics on the go to ordering a meal – all to enhance viewer experience.
A great real world example of how digital technology can truly transform landscapes is that of Canny Quest in Iraq. In a country which suffers from a lack of infrastructure and ongoing political uncertainty, citizens are able to get salaries and pension payments using the latest mobile payments technologies. This is genuinely life-changing for many people even in a very difficult geography and context.
As digital individuals we are empowered in ways that nobody could really have predicted. We already interact with artificial intelligence in the form of virtual assistants, and AI will continue to have an increasing impact on our daily lives. Other technology breakthroughs will also shape our digital selves, such as robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology and energy storage. It is already possible to 3D-print critical manufacturing pieces and all kinds of useful home gadgets, and that only looks like increasing as the technology matures.
Make no mistake, this is a worldwide transformation, not a trend. We have absorbed technology into our lives and it powers everything from smart energy grids in Scandinavia to mobile banking in remote parts of Africa. We love the ease, convenience and efficiency that tech brings to us, and as digital individuals we are now changed irrevocably. The only question now is “So what’s next?”
This article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse here.