Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

What the weatherman never does

January 17, 2017

Famously in 1943, Thomas Watson, president of IBM claimed that the world had room “for maybe 5 computers”.

According to Robert Metcalfe, the man behind the Ethernet cable, the Internet was set to implode in 1996. A prediction made only a year prior.

Luckily for most, cataclysmic foresight is often proven inaccurate when it comes to near term technology predictions – thankfully they were wrong about the millennium bug (but we still have another 983 years to plan for the next, phew!).

You could take the moral of the story to be that predictions shouldn’t be made lightly (more the later than the former, as such foresight would’ve been more of a challenge in 1943), but where would we be without something to wonder towards?

As one annual closes and another gets underway, we are once again drawn into the cycle of predictions. With the benefit of hindsight, I wanted to take the opportunity to do something that most weathermen and politicians never do; fact check our predictions.

Back in 2013 we predicted that global Internet traffic would grow three-fold between 2012 and 2017, forecasting that by 2017 there would be 3.6 billion Internet users – more than 48% of the world’s projected population (7.6 billion). So, to what extent do these stats reflect reality? How far have we come to meeting our own expectations; and in what elements of our lives has the internet most affected us?

True to form, at the end of 2016 there were an estimated 3.5 billion internet users in the world. In Ireland, alone, there are 3.8 million (with a population of 4.7 million!).

Major developments in Smart Cities, Workplace Anywhere, Big Data, Hybrid Cloud adoption; these are just a couple of technology trends we at Cisco were predicting four or five years ago and we are clearly seeing come to fruition.

A framework created to facilitate the interaction between machines, the Internet in its many guises continues to do just that, but moving more and more towards a more human-centric approach.

When we talk about smart cities, it’s how that city and the experience for citizens is enriched. When we talk about the workplace, it’s how connected solutions enable better, more productive environments for us as employees. It’s now less about automation and more augmentation; with less focus on devices and more on ‘living services’ that let people program and connect devices to enrich their lives.

Our own Minister for Data Protection Dara Murphy recently hosted a seminar to discuss the implications of smart city technologies for data protection and privacy in Ireland. He stressed the importance of implementing smart city initiatives in line with data protection legislation whilst also emphasising that we showcase our own developments and shared learnings from Ireland’s smart cities. Likewise, researchers at the National University of Maynooth are helping to create smart cities from both the technological and social perspectives, focusing on Human-Centered Design and reshaping urban infrastructures.

In today’s world wherever you go, whatever you do, an element of connectivity will be influencing your life, whether through your mode of transport, in the workplace, in or out of the home. Previous predictions of home automation, wearable technology, same-day shipping, data agility and fitness technology are now all becoming fact, and for their existence I am truly grateful.

I’m sure many will agree that we are yet to fulfil many of the industry’s predictions. That said, in this fast-changing communication and technology landscape we are now in a position to predict trends with such capacity and depth that years ago would have seem unfathomable.

However outlandish a prediction might be, striving for bold goals is never a bad thing. In 1898, Mark Twain predicted what sounded very much like the makings of the internet – catchily referred to as the ‘Telelectroscope’ – and who’s to say that he didn’t subliminally inspire someone to create the internet as we know it? On the flip side, let’s not forgot, when Bill Gates’ prediction that Spam would be eradicated in 2006 didn’t come to light, the world didn’t end – far from it.

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