Going ‘Digital’

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Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/ktsimage

It seems that everyone is excited about ‘going digital‘. The ‘digital’ moniker is now being used as a synonym for almost all that follows – it’s not about the ‘web’, ‘social media’, or ‘smartphones’ (they are so last decade …).

Ten ‘disrupters’, in no particular order, and not necessarily exhaustive, that people may not be considering, that can come under the term ‘Digital’:

  • Artificial intelligence (or at least machine learning)
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality
  • Internet of things
  • Bitcoin / cryptocurrencies, and blockchain transactions
  • Internet to everyone (all 9 billion people or so, wherever you are in the world, whoever you are)
  • Drones
  • Self-driving cars, trucks, etc (and self-flying planes?)
  • 3D printing
  • Big data / analytics
  • Melding the digital world with the real world

What connects the above? At every stage, computers are involved. But we’ve had computers since the 1970s, right? So what’s new?

The big differences are, and more importantly the combination, convergence, and compounding effect of, development of the following:

  • The Internet
  • Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, smart-watches, etc.)
  • Deepening penetration of sensors (in mobile devices and standalone)
  • Increasing network speed (video capable, even over mobile)
  • Ubiquitous network access (wifi, 4G, etc.)
  • Coding moving into mainstream (no longer just the realm of ‘computer scientists)
  • Online communities (empowered by social media)
  • ‘Unicorn hunters’ (crowdfunding, venture capital, etc. looking to find / develop the next $1bn startup)
  • Consultants helping companies try to adapt to keep pace with new developments, opportunities

In the long-run, it’s not (just, or maybe even) about the hardware – that can eventually be acquired, copied, or superseded (look at Sharp, just recently bought be Foxconn); it’s about design / brands (Apple), proprietary software / platforms (iOS, Android, Facebook, Google, etc.), and media content control (English Premiership football).

Hardware only counts if it’s either monopolized, or continually innovative, at the front of the pack, or breaking new ground – even GoPro, who jumped onto the scene with their video cameras, often capturing views previously not seen, are now seemingly being caught up by, and perhaps overtaken by others.

What’s next?

Of course, if we knew the answer to that question, it wouldn’t be ‘next’, but ‘now’. Nevertheless, we can look to science fiction, and dreams, for the next frontier(s) – cyborg-style appendages? sentient androids? autonomous, self-learning machines … Do we want or need all this? It doesn’t really matter – unless regulated (anyway difficult to do, globally), someone somewhere will seek to gain an advantage (or at least satisfy their curiosity) from it.

Billionaires, who have made their money with start-ups, are now even turning their hand to venturing into space (Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX). There seems to be almost no constraints to what can be considered possible. If you can imagine it, the question becomes ‘Can you finance it’? At the very least, there’s often someone who can self-fund it (overcoming the need for investment committees, and investment criteria such as ‘net present value maximization’, etc.), and so it seems nothing is impossible.

Right from the moment that Kodak’s film-based photography started to disappear under the onslaught of digital photography ‘digital’ efforts have been increasingly disrupting all sorts of industries, as well as creating new ones.

It’s tempting to say that the next ten years will be very exciting, but maybe we wouldn’t even recognize the world, compared to today, in much less time than that!

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One Response

  1. Exciting times.

    Of course there’s all the well known names (AirBnB, Uber, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.) but there’s so many new names coming onto the scene too (Oculus, Magic Leap, Meta, etc.) as well as the revival of some old names, with new ideas (Microsoft’s Hololens, Samsung’s Gear VR, HTC’s Vive, etc.).

    Check out this list of ‘unicorns’ (on fortune.com), and see how many you recognize (at the time of posting, the list was last updated on January 19, 2016):

    http://fortune.com/unicorns/

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