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The Future of The Internet

The following story was published in the April 2012 issue (Page 16) of  Sun and Surf Magazine

The Future of the Internet
By John R. Patrick
Speaker at podium
The future of the Internet in our lives is very positive but we are only about 10% of the way there. Of all the things that could be done online that would save us time and simplify our lives, only 10% of them are there. Travel and banking web sites are getting better, but we are still at the early stages of what is possible. Consider retail e-commerce. Although there has been continuous and steady growth of retail e-commerce, it still represents just 5% of total retail sales. Why isn’t it 25% or more? Much is written about that here at patrickWeb but the short version is that there are still a lot of lame web sites. “Click here for the location of our nearest dealer where you can visit” or “call to get a price on the product you just found” or “Click here to download this form, fill it out, and fax it to us”. It is no wonder that Amazon captured 28% of all online sales in the fourth quarter of 2011. One company out of 4 million retailers got more than a quarter of all the sales. Have you ever heard a friend complain about poor customer service at Amazon? They walk in the customer’s shoes and deliver a terrific experience. Most of the rest of the e-businesses in the world have a long way to go. And in the physical world, there are the ubiquitous clipboards at doctor offices where we take a pen and provide a lot of information that they already have.
The changes in Internet technology have been continuous for decades and there is no end in sight. For the past fifteen years, I have been writing about the evolution of the Internet by describing developments in seven key areas: Fast, Always On, Everywhere, Natural, Intelligent, Easy, and Trusted. In the following paragraphs, I will hit the highlights of some of the more important trends and developments.
Check markFast
Broadband in the U.S. is not a pretty story compared to other parts of the world. We are second after China in the number of broadband users, but 28th in the world in the number of broadband users as a percentage of our population. The problem is that there are too many lobbyists, and the FCC is a political organization. The new FCC head is a very smart guy with technology and business experience. He totally gets it. The only problem is that AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have more lawyers than the FCC does. Meanwhile France is offering 100 megabit access for $90 per month and rolling out WiFi throughout the country. Thanks to the telco lobby, many states have banned the offering of WiFi by municipal entities. Every citizen in Greenland has Internet access. We have 31,000 post offices.
Check markAlways On
WiFi is part of the fabric of the world. The big shift is the streaming of data — not just tweets, but data from *things* — bridges, toll booths, traffic lights, buildings, cars, iPhones, Androids, handheld GPS devices, weather instruments, and health monitoring devices attached to people. The growth in creation of data is staggering. Of all the data in the world, 90% of it was created in the last two years. YouTube receives 60 hours of new video every hour – an hour every minute. Wikipedia has 4 million articles and 8,000 editors. Hospital physicians will soon be adjusting the drip rate on infusion pumps in the hospital from their office based on real-time data from the patient. WiFi-enabled infusion pumps will enable hospital administrators to know where the pumps are (they never have enough of them) and which ones need maintenance.
Check markEverywhere
There are one billion computers (including tablets), one billion cars, 1.5 billion televisions, and 2 billion Internet users. Small numbers compared to cell phones — 5.2 billion paid subscribers. The Internet used to be where your PC is, but now the Internet is where you are.  Most of the cell phones are dumb but soon most of them will be smart and they will all have Internet access. The mobile web is unfolding and is taking part in creating data by streaming data to the Cloud and then consuming data by streaming it from the Cloud. When you take a picture on your iPhone, it goes into the photostream and from there to iCloud and from there to all of your other devices and, if you choose, to the devices of your friends and family.
Check markNatural
Social networking has become fundamental to all aspects of our economy and society. Integration of social networking with a full range of web applications will evolve to become the primary means of finding jobs, finding employees, finding business partners, and collaborating on projects. The emerging issue is that many people, especially young ones, are a bit liberal with sharing their every movement — what they are eating, listening to, where they are headed, their current latitude and longitude, and where they slept last night. They are not thinking that some day they may run for office or interview for a job. A new protocol will emerge to enable people to “erase” things they placed on the Internet. The Europeans may legislate it. OpenSocial is an important new standard that will enable social media apps that work across all of the social media sites.
Check markIntelligent
The Semantic Web is the next big turn of the crank for the evolution of the World Wide Web. Most web pages have links but do not have context. The words on the web page do not necessarily mean anything — but they could. For example, if a web page said “Join us for a concert by The Eagles at Kimmel Center in Philadelphia next Tuesday” that set of words could have a lot of context. Clicking on it could add the concert to your calendar, knowing what “next Tuesday” means. It would also know exactly where the Kimmel Center is and provide a map. The Eagles is a performing group that performs a particular genre and your music player would receive a list of suggestions of music they have recorded or links to live concerts under way at the moment and make recommendations about their music to your friends. This is the tip of the iceberg. The semantic web will lead us to a point where most of the interactions of web pages will be between computers, not between computers and people. The biggest growth of intelligence is occurring in the field of analytics. Exabytes of data are being stored. A byte is 8 bits (a bit is a zero or a 1) and represents one character. An exabyte is a 1 followed by 18 zeroes! Business Intelligence and analytics are poised to enable new insight into the mounds of data – “Big Data” — that are being accumulated. Analytics will enable businesses to make sense of the explosion of data, develop digital models of their business, and continuously adapt it to what is going on. IBM’s Watson successfully challenged humans on the Jeopardy Show, but what is more interesting is the ability for a primary care physician to call and get a recommendation based on patient symptoms and measurements they describe to Watson. Within a couple of seconds Watson technology will be able to review all available medical information in the world and make a useful suggestion.
Check markEasy
Technology is not the easiest thing at times. There are many dimensions to “easy” but one good example is the Nintendo Wii. At a local senior center, members find the Wii to be their exercise coach. It is not just for kids! The iPhone and iPad have shown how easy it can be to get applications on a handheld computer. Amazon has done the same with the Kindle. Most companies still don’t get the idea that the Internet is about power to the people. If you can’t make it simple, people won’t buy it. Cloud computing has become the mainstay for me and for millions. The ease, convenience, and reliability of the Cloud is compelling. Add Dropbox to your laptop and your iPad and your iPhone and you have a completely replicated set of data – all of your data at your disposal wherever you are and with whatever device you may be using. How about the future of TV? Three of the most common remotes — BlueRay, Cable box, and TV — include 151 buttons. Even a savvy child could not possibly master this impossible user interface. Boxee TV has produced a good model of the future of TV – think of it like TV Guide on the web — but I suspect that an upcoming Apple TV will be what finally provides the needed regime change.
Check markTrusted
This is the big one. Can we trust the Internet? Security technology is available to achieve much higher levels of security than is presently deployed both at enterprise and consumer levels. It is a constant battle and requires significant budgets and a lot of talented people to maintain the needed security. The equally important issue is privacy. The good news is that there are some good technology solutions available to help us control access to our Internet habits. The bad news is that politicians have gotten interested in the subject. Banks have our personal information and they are using it. Healthcare insurers have more information about our health than our doctors do. Nevertheless, there is much to be optimistic about when it comes to electronic medical records. Perhaps 25% of doctors and hospitals use them but they are not easily interchangeable and accessible. This will change over the next few years as the government adds dollar incentives to make it happen. The result will be better quality of care, better outcomes, and fewer errors. And, fewer clipboards.
In January, I gave a talk about the Future of the Internet and Healthcare at the SIIA Conference in New York. The slides and a video of the presentation can be found here.

About the author
John R. Patrick ([email][email protected][/email]) is president of Attitude LLC and former vice president of Internet technology at IBM. Mr. Patrick was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in 1994 and of the Global Internet Project. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.  He is a director of Knovel Corporation, WebMediaBrands, Inc., and Western Connecticut Health Network. He is the author of Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can’t Survive Without It (Perseus, 2001).

About SUN and SURF
SUN and SURF Magazine is published quarterly and mailed to all property owners in Hammock Dunes in Palm Coast, Florida. The magazine currently has a circulation of approximately 1,000.

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