Vision and the desire to prove people wrong when they say something cannot be done has been the key to the tech world since the first cast iron bridge was built near Coalbrookdale. Thus it is with some interest to read what the UK Prime Minister has talked about in a speech at CeBIT 2014, perhaps not as inspiring as the John F Kennedy speech that put men on the moon within a decade, but at least it was a political speech that looked ahead beyond the next General Election.
The promise of 5G delivering a film in 1 second seems almost unbelievable, but Samsung said in 2013 there were proving some of the building blocks to deliver a 10 Gbps mobile broadband service. So yes a film in 1 second is possible if you are happy with SD resolution on your 4K holographic mobile screen in the 2020′s, somehow we doubt that there was a time when a JPEG image that was larger than 5KiloBytes in size was considered large. The mention of Samsung suggests the UK is out of the race, but actually the University of Surrey is one of the places working with Samsung on the big leap in mobile connectivity. The big question is that with the UK not in the handset manufacturing game at all, what economic benefit will we get beyond some research grants?
The UK has led the world in technology before, in the 1940′s and 1950′s we were a world leader in jet aircraft design and construction, but that lead was whittled away and in terms of actual aircraft vanished when the last Concorde flew. The UK still has a strong aerospace industry, with Rolls Royce engines powering many planes and other components manufactured in the UK, but we are just a part of the global economy rather than a driver.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS – if ever there was a marketing persons dream, this phrase is it, it means nothing but means so much. The talk is of fridges being able to talk to each other – why? Surely it would be the creation of appliances such as more thermally efficient ovens without the glass doors but a webcam so you can monitor the cooking and check temperature of food remotely. If there is one thing blocking the great connected home, it is the hassle of actually configuring all this stuff – the current WPS push button Wi-Fi security has been shown to have security holes in it, and I don’t relish entering long complex wireless security keys using four push buttons on the fridges control panel.
After the Snowden snooping revelations there is also the concern over tracking, e.g. if your fridge is talking to your personal cloud so you can check its contents from the office, who else is it also talking to and how long before rather than just campaigns to get us to use less salt in our cooking we will have fridges that refuse to allow us to order certain types of foods due to the health monitoring devices it has access to.
The key to an Internet of things is to actually produce devices that deliver something worthwhile and not to just become another 5 inch touch screen that can be used as a vehicle for adverts and Government health warnings.
The question really is not what is possible technically, but are speeches like David Cameron’s just an attempt to look geek cool, or are they really reflecting a see change in the UK outlook, where the tech industry is respected and not considered the area which you get a job in after a course in how to use Excel 2013 and a short hour or two introduction to HTML which taught you really no more than how to follow a set of assembly instructions than understand why it was important to do things that way.