Have you ever stopped to think about how many times per workday someone attempts to reach you? On an average workday, someone tries to reach me every 1.78 seconds (approximately). I “beep” or vibrate are the result of email, phone / video calls, text messages, instant messages, and several others.
When asked where my office is, I will usually respond with either “American Airlines seat 21D” or “Your local Starbucks… I have 10,787 offices in the U. S., and you can find me in one of them.” By peeling away my sarcasm, you realize that I travel a bit for business. So imagine how difficult it would be if we weren’t connected almost everywhere we go.
Not So Long Ago…
I remember a time in the not so distant past when I would beep or vibrate. It was my pager, and all I would get is a phone number. I had to, based on that one data point, have to determine if and how important the call was, and based on my decision, find a phone, (hopefully) have change, and call the person back. Connectivity in the past was a privilege, and if you could afford it, it still didn’t mean you’d have it. Coverage for services like paging and cellular phones was spotty at best. Cellular service was $35 a month for activation, and $6 per minute for usage. There weren’t really any text messages, and you can forget about Internet (or even email) access. We carried map books to find our way, and radio stations would fade in and out when we moved from town to town.
The Age of Connectivity
Today, connectivity is not a privilege; it’s a right. Right now, I am blogging this from 39,000 feet, tracking our current location via the airplane’s global positioning system (GPS), and answering emails, instant messages, and even text (iMessage) messages. When we land, I’ll launch an “app” on my phone that will locate and notify a taxi of our location. On the way to our hotel, I’ll likely launch a video call with the kids to say goodnight before they get to sleep, and when we finally arrive at the hotel, I’ll be pretty well caught up with all of my communications and be able to relax and enjoy some time with my wife. After all, I’ve always said its not about work/life balance, its about work/life integration.
Today, many of us take for granted how connected we really are. Our ability to make decisions is infinitely faster than just 10 years ago, and we still are at the early stages of realizing the true potential of information availability. In business, we talk about topics such as big data analytics, data mining, and business intelligence as a means to make business move faster, but think for a moment how the availability of information has changed our personal lives. News is delivered as it is happening, and in whatever manner that you prefer to consume it. I can look up my children’s homework assignments online before they leave school, and most of the times know what grade they received on the assignment before lunch the next day. No more waiting until the end of the quarter to reward (or punish) the kids for their grades. I know by Friday whether they get to stay up late or lose their electronics from the assignments of that week. But the age of collaboration is moving in a new direction.
Connecting Information to People
We’ve all seen the cartoons over the years depicting someone sitting behind a computer screen chatting with someone online, and a punch line poking fun at the lack of interpersonal communication skills. Many people have “met” their perfect match online, without ever laying eyes on them or even trading a spoken word. Socially speaking, this lack of interpersonal skills has become somewhat of a norm. But this is also the beginning stage of an interesting phenomenon. People today are finding less of a reason to actually talk to another person. While building the question and answer session for a discussion panel I was hosting for higher education, I asked a CIO of a well known college about the criticality of voice and email services for the students. The CIO laughed and proceeded to tell me that phone calls and email are the LAST form of communication that students choose today. “They text, or send messages via mediums such as Facebook™ or Twitter™,” he said. So what could this type of behavior be an early indicator for?
There will be a day in the not so distant future, that communications will primarily take place between people and sources of information. According to Dr. Michio Kaku, by the year 2020, “The Internet will be everywhere, and nowhere.” Meaning that everything we do, everything we have, and everything we need will be interconnected. I’ve speculated that there will be a day when our health insurance rates will change on a daily basis, based on information the insurance companies learn about what we have eaten, whether we have smoked, drank alcohol, and how much we have exercised. Sound crazy? Progressive Insurance does this today with automobile insurance. Why would it be so far fetched to think that health insurance companies wouldn’t follow suit?
What Does This All Mean?
We live in a connected world, and yet we have still only begun to recognize the true power of connectivity. The ways in which we interact today will continue to evolve. Communications will continue to evolve, not just between people, but also between information and people. More and more devices will be connected, which means more and more infrastructure will be required to provide that connectivity, which ultimately leads to pervasive information availability. “Information is everywhere, and nowhere” might be a more accurate view of the future.