March 30, 2015

The Internet is disappearing. Disruption opportunities are emerging.

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the internet is disappearing

Recently, Google’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt made a profound statement: “The Internet will disappear”.  This seems an odd comment to make, especially at a time when most hardware suppliers and enterprises are talking about the plethora of devices customers are using and how to support them. How can the Internet just disappear when our focus is so concentrated on new smartphones, smart watches, tablets and general Internet-enabled electronics?

It seems we are more aware of the Internet today than we were five years ago; just have a look around at people’s behaviour on the train next time – so many looking at their smart phone screens!  Why is it, then, that the chairman of Google would make such a comment, when clearly today’s market is focused on providing services across these many device types? Do we expect devices will disappear and be replaced by some other technology?

I think the answer is very clear: it’s not about devices, it’s about context-sensitive servicing. What l mean by this is pretty simple – when a customer is living their day-to-day life, many situations arise that impede their ability to interact with business services.  For example, in the car – the customer might have a specific need to use a service that is delivered on the Internet and therefore, in today’s world, requires interaction with a mobile screen. Perhaps they want to get some directions, or even make an emergency payment to a family member who has run out of money. Such interactions today are only available through a mobile device when on the go. In many countries, though, it is illegal to use your mobile phone when driving (for obvious safety reasons). The boundaries of the digital experience here are definitely clear and visible.

Using another example: fitness enthusiasts typically enjoy collecting and analysing data that is relevant to their fitness goals. Today’s devices – such as the Fitbit or even mobile devices – can store, categorise and analyse this data; however, in accessing their fitness data users are restricted to using a mobile device, which can be quite frustrating (not to mention the tedious nature of managing one’s historical fitness data). Again, the boundaries are clear.

Within these boundaries is white space that is yet to be filled. Filling this space is part of experience design; as more and more devices are delivered to consumers, more and more opportunities will arise to engage with customers when they want, and how they want.  As these opportunities are seized, the white space will be filled, and eventually there will be a saturation of interaction possibilities for the customer – mobile phones, wearables, voice services and other innovations – all working in combination to deliver the context-sensitive user experience. At this point, as Eric Schmidt has predicted, the Internet will disappear.  It will no longer be about devices and channels; the focus will shift to services that are finely tuned to the context of the customer situation.

For example, when you’re in the supermarket and have a shopping basket filled with groceries, your watch will detect you are near a self serve checkout location and will automatically launch the appropriate electronic wallet application ready for a touch payment: it will anticipate your need before it even arises.  Perhaps – more bizarrely – the cameras on the self service stations will even perform face detection and automatically identify your Code Halo and associated payment methods.

When you’re at home, simply saying “I’m bored” could activate the intelligent home entertainment system and – through insights into your past interactions with social media sites, Internet browsing history, fitness data and a collection of other personal information as captured in your Code Halo – bring up entertainment options that are relevant to your interests and your particular ‘state of mind’.

These context-sensitive services will be driven through the Internet of Things (IoT). Intelligent, connected and data-rich devices that continually send data that is processed into information which is categorised into context scenarios and then grouped with other information to build a profile of your ‘state’.  The system will continually be predictive and learning.  If a customer engages with a service, this will be recorded and remembered for next time; if not, it will be ignored and perhaps not presented again in the same scenario in future.

Imagine the business possibilities this presents. Those at the forefront, detecting and proactively providing services that are likely to be in the immediate need of the customer will be the winners in this age. The possibilities are enormous.

Are we ready for this revolution? Is this picture of the world even achievable with our current technologies? It’s exciting to think how close we really are. Cloud technologies with auto scaling provide compute power to run data analytics and social media listening.  Application architecture and principles are ready to take advantage of these super scalable cloud computing resources.  Devices are ever pervasive with wearables and mobile devices in the hands of over 4 billion people. Technology delivery is accelerating with greater speed through DevOps and Agile processes, by empowering development teams to manage and build their own infrastructure.

It’s clear – businesses need to start thinking about this new wave of engagement. The white space is filling. The Internet is disappearing.

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Categorised in: Digital, Innovation, Technology

This post was written by Oscar Huseyin