Are we now going from global to (hyper, augmented) local reality?

Written by on November 24, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Marcus Weldon said an interesting thing at the Great Telco Debate the other day. Actually he said several interesting things. As President of Bell Labs, you would expect nothing less and he didn’t disappoint. This particular interesting thing was about becoming local. And latency.

You may think that latency is not a particularly interesting thing, and we would hesitate to argue. What he said, though, it that to deliver the types of services that we are in the hype of at the moment – virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence based services – the latency needs to be as fast as human latency. In other words, when you tilt your head you do not notice any difference in the thing you are looking at – that is how fast the bandwidth must be.

Otherwise you feel sick.

To do this we need to be within 100 kilometres of the service delivery point, not thousands of kilometres.

We need, to paraphrase further, local delivery.

Setting aside the discussion about whether some of us are any good at actual reality, never mind virtual and (the mind boggles) augmented reality, it started a chain of thought.

That the world has almost done going global and is beginning to become local again.

Facebook and Google are nearly done (give or take a few years) connecting everyone and giving them the internet. Now they are concentrating on local services.

Facebook recently launched Marketplace, which, against all odds, we not only rather like, but have used successfully already.

Also, of course, to deliver items within an hour or so, another recent and slightly ridiculous trend, you need to have very local delivery depots.

It seems that the goal of many is to recreate those halcyon days when calls to a switchboard in North West Scotland would go something like this:

Caller: Can you put me through to Mr Mackenzie at the Manse please.

Switchboard Operator: Aye, I could but it would do you no good. I just saw him go into the butcher (pronounced bootcher), shall I put you through there?

Caller: That would be kind. Thank you.

Or the corner shop that would order you a new pot of your favourite jam, because it is a couple of months since you last had some and you must be running out.

The new local, perhaps parochial, focus is being aided by Governments too. The United States, under its new President, looks as if it will take a far more protectionist stance than of late. In Korea, Google must use local servers for Government mapping.

The privacy issue is forcing a debate about data security and location, and about trust. And that is pushing a more nationalistic agenda.

Meanwhile the tech giants, in this local push, are trying to get into your home. Amazon is putting buttons on your wall, that you simply push to order whatever it is you need. The others are right there with them.

At the same time the customer is beginning to push back, beginning to understand that his data has value and not just for these giants to sell to advertisers. Their data can be used to manage advertisers and suppliers, to get the best deals while retaining control of their data.

The question is, though, as the conscious or sub-conscious journey back towards our own communities grows in pace, what happens to the mega players?

Will Facebook face a situation where its users (we are not its customers) realise that what is great about Facebook is keeping up with friends. The rest, the adverts and political bullshit from other countries, is disposable.

Son, you can be sure, there will be a ‘local’ social media site where I can just keep up with my friends.

Ah, the winds of change….they are strong indeed, and the current giants need to keep their wits about them

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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