Total-coverage and the dawn of the Exponential Age
Whether you were aware of it or not, several emerging technologies are about to reach maturity simultaneously promising exponential growth in human development. But as always, there’s a catch.
The only way to realise their world-changing potential will be to ensure everyone has access. Yet, with 40% of Globe still offline, how will we achieve a network with total-coverage and welcome in the Exponential Age? - Enter stage left, Mr Musk and the final piece of the puzzle
For most of us, it's hard to imagine a day without internet use. Whether it's emails, streaming TV or the endless swipes on Insta, often our first (and last) action of the day involve being connected online. So it is almost unbelievable to conceive that so many lack the connections we take for granted.
The vital role of a connected world came into sharp focus this past year as the pandemic forced us into isolation, remote working/learning, and telehealth. For many, this lack of connection meant missing out on far more than just a daily Insta-fix. But Elon has a plan and the blend of ambition and near-infinite resources required to pull it off.
Starlink, satellites and Musk's cunning plan
Like him or loth him, Musk is the ultimate challenger brand, managing to fundamentally change attitudes and reshape what is possible, whether electric cars, renewable energy storage or space travel. With this track record, understanding the aims and ramifications of his latest project, Starlink, is vital for anyone wanting to stay ahead of the digital curve.
The aims of Starlink is simple - Use a network of satellites to provide the World with total-coverage. So that would mean access to a high-speed connection for everyone, all the time. Total-coverage is not a new idea. All telco businesses are frantically trying to expand and improve their networks to keep up with ever-increasing bandwidth demands. But where they are limited to ground-based techs, like 5G and good old copper wire, Mr Musk literally has a rocket in his pocket.
I'll skip the deep dive into the technical nuances of why satellite networks like Starlink are superior to ground-based solutions. However, to put it simply, beaming a signal straight down (Starlink) means there is less stuff (trees, houses etc.) to get in the way. Compare that to existing tech that must be physically connected or beamed horizontally from a locally positioned cell tower, and you start to get the picture.
The result of total-coverage and a near doubling of users follows something called Metcalfe's Law. Metcalfe's Law states the more users you connect, the more valuable the network. This value is due to an exponential increase in our ability to share and develop new ideas.
Welcome to the Exponential Age!
The exponential age will be defined by this dramatic increase in the speed of change brought about by a fully connected world. Machine Learning/AI, Automated Manufacturing and Logistics, Quantum computing, and Massive Data-sets are all compelling concepts in isolation. But when networked together, the power of these technologies to turbocharge research and development grows...well, exponentially.
One of the very few positives of the global pandemic was the use of networked systems to expedite a historically slow process; vaccine development. Commonly taking closer to a decade from inception to approval, networked systems and a more collaborative approach resulted in a vaccine researched, developed and distributed in a fraction of that time.
This dramatic reduction in the time and resources required to research, develop and distribute ideas is what defines the Exponential Age. However, navigating this sudden increase in connectivity is going to need careful consideration.
Access is not the same as accessible
Although access to these powerful technologies might be on the horizon, making them accessible is something else altogether. Anyone wanting to capitalise on the sudden increased market opportunity must first consider what will be required to support a user group with limited digital experience.
For companies and brands looking to provide a soft landing for new users, significant investment in customer service will be needed, particularly in conversational AI and automation.
Conversational AI and automation
Automation, whether a full or a blended approach between a chatbot and a live agent, will be the only way to deliver on the kind of increased customer demand total-coverage will bring. Supporting existing customers with increasingly complex requests while still providing for the potentially repetitive functional requests for support from new users will be critical. But the future role of chatbots goes well beyond customer service.
The North Star for chatbots technology will be replacing traditional user interfaces to allow seamless access to the most advanced technologies independent of language and, importantly, without the need for a computer science degree!
At VERSA, we have recently taken some tentative steps in this direction with a total redesign of our website. This research and development project places the chat experience front and centre, creating a new and innovative way to navigate. Go take a look, check out the chatbot on the left of this screen.
Our collective digital roadmap
The Exponential Age is undoubtedly the most exciting thing on our collective digital roadmap, with satellite networks like Starlink providing the final piece of that puzzle. Yet if we are to realise the exciting potential of exponential change, we cannot afford to forget that access is not the same as accessibility.