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Digital Ubiquity

Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the world that we know it is coming to an end… but not for the reasons apparent.

Yes, the economy is getting worse, planes are dropping out of the sky, mother nature is sending whatever she can throw at us, and human nature is leaving a lot to be desired.

But my anticipation (or trepidation) stems from a change coming on the technological side of things. A change that will affect how we function as a society, a change that has been building for some time.

This change is ‘ubiquity’. It is everywhere. It is the turning point from where we view technology as a tool and instead view it as an integrated, invisible part of our lives.

It’s where we wonder how we ever survived without it in the first place.

Ubiquity is – in essence – being everywhere at once — a balanced, harmonious correlation of many different aspects.

The First of Which is Communication

There is an advertisement which recently aired called “whalesong”, which – initiated by Optus – has a small orchestra set on a raft in the ocean, using their instruments to encourage a nearby whale to communicate with them.

Whilst the ad itself is spectacular, it was the tagline which was the key inspiration for this rant; “When you have communication, anything is possible”.

So simple, so true.

If you were to take a look at our current means of communication from a decade-old viewpoint, you would consider today’s methods as overkill.

Not counting the phone, you have: Twitter, Yammer, Messenger (IRC), Skype, VOIP, SMS, MMS, Streaming, Blogging, Email… All ways to communicate.

10 years ago the only three of these which existed was IRC, SMS and email.

20 years ago it was pick up a phone or actually start a conversation with somebody. Face-to-face.

You see then that Communication = Information.

This ease of communication allows for what is basically a hive-sharing of information to exist – and that can only be a good thing.

This month when the power was cut to the majority of the St. Albans, communication didn’t stop – it increased. Those of us with mobile internet access flooded twitter with messages – sharing information with each other to reveal who was affected and to what extent.

The Twittersphere knew more than British Energy for the first half-hour.

This communication is becoming so instantaneous and so ingrained into our lives that it will become a kind of digital telepathy – a sharing of thoughts and information.

When US Airway’s Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River, one of the first photos taken was not from a news photographer – but from a bystander with a camera phone. And while the photographer could have held on to that photo to profit from it by selling to a paper or magazine, it was instead uploaded to TwitPic – shared for everyone to see – for free. 

The photographer’s motive wasn’t selfish. In fact, it was probably instinctive to get the word out as quickly as possible.

It is an indication, things to come.

The Second Aspect is Content

Digital is fast – and very quickly becoming our preferred medium of choice for our day-to-day content.

Information is delivered to our browser, our phones and our televisions. Anything unknown can be discovered within minutes… or less.

The new Amazon Kindle, designed as a digital ebook reader, is being touted as the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (or at least the Earth) due to its wireless connectivity and ability to look up Wikitravel and Wikipedia from wherever you are.

So I could wake up and find myself in a backwater town in the mid-western states and without too much trouble working out exactly how much trouble I was in. (Finding out HOW I got there in the first place is another story).

Now the great part about this is that the majority of this information is crowd-sourced – that is: information is gathered from those who have knowledge on the subject, verified and then made available for the rest of us.

I can ask a quick question on twitter and have an answer almost immediately – and if that answer is misinformation, it would be very quickly corrected.

I can search on Wikipedia for practically anything with the knowledge that what I’m reading is true and correct due to the wiki’s verification process.

I can search for a particular object on getting the price and get a list of the cheapest stockists of that item in Britain.

Heck, I can even listen to the radio on my phone, hit a button when a song I like comes on to get the title and artist, and then hit another button to purchase that song and download it straight to my phone. Right there.

This Leads to the Third Aspect – Availability

Today we are breeding a new generation. I like to call them “gen-now” because that’s when they want everything. Now.

And they want it now because they can get it now (pocket-money or pay-check excepted).

When was the last time you bought a boxed CD? Personally, for me, I can’t remember.

Customers are increasingly choosing to download digital versions of their purchases rather than acquiring a physical version — everything from software to music to video.

Technically you don’t even have to go to the supermarket anymore. 

There is a lot of opportunities out there for those with a broadband connection. And whilst change can be good – it can also be hard, and it can also leave people behind.

So whilst I maintain that a change is coming – it is important to remember that it’s been coming for some time now and may take some time yet. But little by little – and you won’t even notice it – we will find ourselves in an instant, informed and involved society.

It will be interesting to see how our future generations assimilate this information, it will be interesting to see how ubiquitous, or “Everywhere” our lives become.

Digital ubiquity changing business landscape, and you can see why. Did your business adapt to rasing trends? Let me know in comments. 

This is an exciting time to be alive.

Assuming the planet doesn’t destroy us first, of course.

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