September 14, 2019
ByJamie Del Grosso
Digital technology has become such an integral part of our lives that it is now hard to find an aspect of our lives which has not been changed by the digital revolution. We have digitised the world around us through the use of IoT thinking and move ever closer to "Smart Cities". We have digitised ourselves through the growth of wearables and health aggregators such as Gyropscope. We are also bringing the digital world beyond the realms of a screen and into the real world through integrated reality platforms like Augmented Reality and Virtual reality, with ever more portable and powerful devices like Magic Leap One and the recent announcement of the Apple Glasses project.
Studies have also found that our technological abilities are improving at an ever increasing speed as the current wave of technological developments provide us with new tools to develop each consecutive wave. A recent study by The Emerging Future predicted that in the next five years, our technical capabilities will have grown to over 30 times our current ability set.
When this is compared to the same growth over 10 or 20 years, the number rises significantly with the incline of the graph sharpening up dramatically (see below). This is suggested to be due to emerging technologies such as machine learning and neural networks which are able to help us develop solutions faster and more efficiently than ever before.
With all this information, it is hard to see anything that could slow down something with such momentum. Our senior team have been looking into the potential roadblocks to this growth and what companies looking at embracing the digital landscape should consider when developing concepts and services in this arena.
As we rely more and more on digital platforms in our lives, we are consuming and storing greater amounts of data than ever before. With buzzwords such as "Cloud based" and "Virtual Storage" being used so heavily in the digital landscape, it is understandable why many people do not consider the physical toll their data storage and consumption takes on the world around.
Contrary to the way some of these buzzwords may make things seem, data is not stored in an ethereal void. Our data is stored on physical machines that, like any computer system, consume power, space and require maintenance. Data is stored on a server, an internet connected storage device that runs a series of softwares to ensure it is safe and performs to users expectations.
These servers are usually housed in a Data Centre, a large building created specifically to house and manage the servers they contain. These buildings can be of huge scale. The Citadel, a data centre being built in Tahoe Reno, Nevada has a footprint of 7.2 million square feet. It is said to have a power consumption of around 650 megawatts which is enough to power almost 12 million LED televisions at once.
While these structures are impressive in both scale and capabilities, the questions remains, how many centres of this scale are we able to build and maintain? With our level of data consumption ever growing and data heavy companies like Facebook or Google becoming common place, is our current storage ability enough to keep up with such a snowballing demand?
Developments have been made to improve our storage capabilities such as solid state hardware and better compression algorithms, these developments will need to keep up with an issue that is only becoming greater and is often unseen or overlooked.
As the race to release new technology picks up speed the cost of newly developed technology increases too. Components are not granted the time to allow them to be brought to mass market in the most cost effective way and the cost of devices are jumping up in value. With the latest big brand phones retailing at over £1,000 a piece, less people are able to afford the latest technology.
The biggest downfall to this is that most modern technology and trends rely on a majority of people being able to access it to make it viable. As cost rise less people will be able to access new tech and brands may find it harder to gain traction for their ideas.
Everyone has heard of the recent controversy between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. With such high profile cases as this becoming public knowledge, consumers are becoming less willing to willingly give up their personal information. This will mean that brands embracing digital growth will now how to think more about how they collect data and the transparency of the data they harvest from users.
Despite digital platforms being such an integrated part of our lives, it is estimated that only 48% of people are able to access the internet. Many countries have limited or no access to the internet or are simply not able to afford the infrastructure required to become connected.
There are well known companies that are currently looking at ways to bring internet to many of these places to improve global connectivity such as Facebook who have been developing a large drone that is capable of emitting a wifi connection across vast areas to create better accessibility to millions of people.
Other tech giants have also made progress developing solutions for the same issue. Tesla are developing a series of mini-satellites which they hope will one day create a global mesh network to provide everyone with internet access. Google have also developed something along these lines, using weather balloons to float wifi emitting devices above the visible atmosphere.
While these efforts are noble in intention and will improve the lives of millions of people, when this is considered alongside the information above, we may find that it is harder and harder for us to maintain the infrastructure and technological to accommodate the huge demand for integrating digital within our lives.