Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
September 12th, 2006

Sometimes it is Easy to See the Future – Number 2

A couple of months ago I made a post with this same  title.  I opened that post with the following language:

“Across the full spectrum of human endeavor, it is often hard to see what the future might be. Trend lines can be seen, and directions understood, but specific pictures of the future can be vague.  However, our future shows up most clearly in the area of technology.  Technology lets us see new potential.  It shows us new tools that may or may not become universally useful but provides us with possibilities to expect.”

Since I have an attraction to the ‘new’ and I consume a lot of media I often read about things that are interesting, but when combined with another news or product story point to a clear trend or possibility.  As I wrote in a recent post, part of being a futurist is pattern recognition and connecting the dots. Therefore I realized that, from time to time here at www.evolutionshift.com I will have posts like this one, hence the numbers.

We all know that in the past decade, the price for computer hard drive storage has dropped precipitously.  Then came flash drives that, in the past couple of years have also dropped dramatically in price.  You can now buy a flash drive with 1 gig of memory for less that the price of 256 MB two years ago.  The other dynamic is the miniaturization of memory.   Memory that fits in one’s shirt pocket

 There was a recent mention in the press about a new line of Sony USB drives that take this to the next stage.  Called the Micro Vault Tiny U.S.B. drives, they are approximately an inch long, half an inch wide with the thickness of a quarter.  They utilize a compression technology called Virtual Expander that allows up to three times as much data as usual to be put on the device.  The storage range is from 256megabytes to 4 gigabytes.  Just think about that for a minute.  More storage in a flash drive the size of a quarter than was in the average laptop 10 years ago.

I write a lot and I don’t always want to be lugging around a laptop, even an ultra-light one, so flash drives have been a wonderful thing.  I always carry one with the contents of this blog, posts I am working on, the book I am writing, everything on the flash drive.  Most places I go there is a computer available.  So, if I have downtime at a client, or am staying with a friend or am making a quick trip without a laptop and am staying at a hotel, I can always plug in the flash drive and continue to work.

Another recent development has been the increasing storage capacity and miniaturization of external hard drives.  You can now buy one with 60 gigabytes that is the size of a small paperback book.  This of course makes it easy to back up files, but it also means that you can have stripped down computers at work and at home, or in your second home and just carry a small hard drive back and forth.  The other new combination is with the stripped down laptops coming on the market in the years ahead that I wrote about in the post about One Laptop Per Child.  Buy a $200 laptop, a $50 flash drive and a $75 external hard drive and you have cheap and very portable computing.  Combine that with another coming development and by adding a video camera you can be broadcasting live from anywhere.

That new development is the Sprint Nextel commitment to a 4G wireless network.  Basically this will combine broadband internet access with wireless communications.  Using a technology called WiMax this development will allow for such things as mobile video conferencing, live video feeds without the cost of satellite time, and connecting to practically anything live, on-line, and do it with a device in your hand.  Amazing!

Think about some progressions.  Video conferencing started out in the 1980s when communications companies set up studios in different cities that had uplink capability.  In every city the employees went to that location for a scheduled, expensive interaction, usually one way with top management.  The next step was having downlinks into each corporate office so employees didn’t need to leave the office.  The next step was the imbedded camera in a lap top, which connected to the Internet, allowed basic video conferencing, as long as you were plugged in and at your desk.  Now, with 4G you can be video conferencing with anyone from anywhere, at anytime.  Talk about disintermediation!  Think about the current poster child for disintermediation in the world of video: YouTube.  It could have what it now has, which is videos made in the past along with a section of live streams from around the world.  Hey it’s that Evolution Shift futurist guy live from the beach or that real estate TV mogul live from Albuquerque.  Live streaming from anywhere to everywhere. Everyone is a network. One to many and one to one telecasting. All the possibilities of broadband combined with mobility and freedom from place.

Sprint’s partners in the 4G effort are Motorola for equipment, Samsung for network infrastructure and Intel for chips.  I mention this because the 3G effort to date has been underwhelming and could lead to one being under whelmed by this new effort..  However, this combination of four companies that are at the top of their respective markets is one that will not stand down from this wonderful vision.

So put your memory in your shirt pocket, your wireless device with video camera in your shorts pocket and head for the beach, mountaintop or backyard for a live interactive day at the office with your colleagues.  Not a bad solution to the near future when gas is $7 a gallon making commuting pricy and business travel is too expensive to undertake on a frequent basis.

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