We live in a digital age. It’s all around us and it shows no signs of going away. It’s the smartphone you use to check your emails, the 3G that lets you post to Facebook, it’s the 4K OLED TV’s that catch your eye in the display; even affecting the light bulbs in your home. It has become so prevalent in our daily lives, that Ofcom now reports that many deem the need for internet and mobile technology essential.
This rise in the use of digital technology means that information dissemination is now much easier and more accessible across multiple platforms. Rapidly it is becoming apparent that people are more and more utilising mobile technology to access the Internet. As the sale of mobile phones has slowed slightly in recent years, the uptake of increasingly cheap and accessible smart-phones have filled the market gap. With the numbers of smart-phone users becoming more and more impressive, as an estimated 2.23 billion people are accessing the Internet at least once monthly via mobile means alone. Smart-phones, tablets, more powerful laptops, as well as net-books have made mobile technology more and more viable. With consumers increasingly choosing to use mobile technology to access the internet, it was only a matter of time before businesses began to cater more to this market. Mobile shopping apps have become prominent on every mobile operating system, more streamlined payment methods make the once complicated and finicky transactions easier than ever. Paypal, the wallet of the Internet, released a dedicated app on the android store in July of this year, this is in addition to their pre-existing QR shopping app. These apps seem to have a growing interest even with the easier access to desktop versions of web-pages on mobile technology, likely due to their simplicity. Growing interest that is unlikely to go unnoticed.
With businesses and consumers on board with these multiple platforms, an increasingly mobile trend in the market, businesses themselves are becoming more accepting of online transactions. Major chains have taken to offering an online service alongside their traditional business. Others opt for a purely online approach, everything from well-recognised names Amazon and eBay, to smaller independent businesses. But what if products themselves could be traded almost as instantly as the payments are made, no processing times, no waiting for the delivery van to pull up. While it seems far fetched, as 3D printing becomes more widespread and more affordable, the blueprint for your desired item could be just a click away. Sent directly to your printer allowing you to receive your product directly in the comfort of your own home. Some estimate that in three years time 3D printers and services could be a multi-billion dollar industry. This trading in designs for 3D items could lead to some interesting businesses and products being shared across the market.
Technology isn’t only interested in the physical but also the ethereal and holographic. There have been a number of augmented reality products that have begun to make their way into the market and public knowledge. The most obvious example is Google’s striking Google Glass. It aims to once again simplify and mobilise peoples various online information, documents and data in a singular access point. The aim, allowing people to move efficiently and incorporate, merge and trade audiovisual information from both the digital and physical world, via an easy to use the lightweight device. That’s the plan at least. Another that has a similar aim but with more of a concern on safety is the Navdy heads up display system for cars. Sharing a lot of the previously mentioned ideas the project looks to incorporate the data that people want to keep up to date with, social media, phone calls, news, weather and music with as little interference in the real world. It uses a heads up projection to display all the relevant information, using voice and motion commands to control the device, allowing the user to maintain focus on the road ahead, hopefully lessening the likelihood of accidents. Navdy has another interesting modern aspect to it, it was crowdfunded, something is truly representative of the digital age.
The future of the digital world isn’t only in technological advancement but also in the spread and better utilisation of existing technology. For instance, the Keepod Unite, produced by the same people who created the wildly successful Raspberry Pi, aims to allow better usage of older and refurbished computers amongst those without access to a personal computer. The idea of keeping the operating system and user data on a portable USB allows the sharing of communal computers, without each person’s data being compromised or taking up hard-drive space. This combined with the rapid and willing uptake of cheaper and older mobile devices and mobile internet in developing countries means that markets and people who were previously unreachable are now active technology consumers. Africa, in particular, is being touted as on the verge of a digital revolution and set to become a serious online market. It still remains the continent with the lowest current internet contribution to GDP, at around 1.1%, but that is not for lack of demand more a lack of adequate infrastructure. As countries that previously didn’t have adequate internet become more connected, new markets and opportunities arise for existing and new businesses alike. The instant nature and the global accessibility of the internet, anyone with a strong web presence will be ahead of the curve in these emerging markets and areas of growing connectivity. With instant translation technology already available and becoming more refined, there are even fewer barriers now to international trade via the internet than there was before.
It seems that the key themes for future digital technology is that of integration and communication. The ability to more easily transmit data across numerous platforms, websites, devices and countries, whilst being able to access all of that from each individual access point is an exciting prospect and poses some interesting questions about how it will affect our habits in the future. The sci-fi image of flying cars and in-home holographic projections may take a while longer, but this explosion of the digital world has caused such a change in the way we find, experience and share goods and services. The usage and uptake of digital technology is not going to slow any time soon so businesses, and individuals, must embrace and evolve with the current trends so their business can evolve in parallel.