Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be an early adopter. If you purchased one of the first cellular telephones, for example, and paid thousands of dollars for a wonky brick-sized device that you carried around in a briefcase. Or you created one of the first search engines, and later had your lunch eaten by Google.
Sometimes it does pay to be an early adopter. Like the first people who claimed web domain names in the 1990’s, and ended up with some extremely valuable digital real estate.
And sometimes it is absolutely critical to be an early adopter. Just open your history books and look at all the businesses who didn’t see the warning signs of the financial markets of the 1920s and lost everything in the Great Depression.
This blog post is going to talk about something that is a combination of #2 and #3. A trend that few people saw coming even a couple of years ago, that will soon radically change the way you look at information technology – and, in all likelihood, your business itself. We call it the Global Mesh.
The Global Mesh, simply put, is a move from centralized resources to distributed peer-to-peer ones. It is a technology-enabled revolution that has radically changed many segments of society already. For example, look at how quickly Uber (which owns no vehicles) and AirBnB (which owns no properties) have upended local transportation and lodging. The move from bricks-and-mortar stores to publicly accessible marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are further examples of how market democratization and crowdsourcing are changing life as we know it.
Now, think about how you use information technology today. Or banking. Or communications. Or intellectual property. In our view, these things are going to change radically as well as a result of the Global Mesh. And this represents both an opportunity for businesses that plan ahead, and a risk for those that do not. Here are some examples:
- Imagine a world where data storage and telecommunications are essentially free. The cost of IT, along with the general costs of marketing and transacting business, are going to decrease significantly.
- Old school models of finance will change or even disappear, as capital sources become available through the mesh and the role of central banks diminish. Capital to invest in infrastructure and R&D will be easier to both acquire and to pay back.
- You won’t need a FICO score or an eBay reputation anymore: reputation management will become democratized, using technology such as the blockchain model currently used for applications such as Bitcoin. We predict that a single blockchain product will dominate someday, much like what happened with word processors and search engines.
- Insurance firms will become clearinghouses, driving rates down and service quality up, further reducing costs for consumers and most businesses.
- Unfortunately, copyright, and the value of content may be one of the biggest casualties of the mesh. You can see this already, in areas ranging from the breadth of content on YouTube to the micro-level royalty payments artists now receive through services such as Spotify. It won’t be the outright death of the pay-for-content recurring model, but its utility of scale will diminish greatly. We might even be returning to a society similar to the the one before the invention of the phonograph, where people will be paid to perform rather than for a reproduction of their work.
From a technology standpoint, much of the infrastructure for the Global Mesh is already there. P2P encryption technologies are already mature and in use, with examples such as WhatsApp and BitTorrent. Mesh routing protocols are prevalent in most consumer Wi-Fi devices such as home routers and smartphones, with more to come. Google has already mapped the location of many Wi-Fi hotspots, and we can get real time information on nearby Android or iOS devices. And if a small firm of 50 engineers like WhatsApp can build and deploy a 900 million user messaging network with bulletproof end-to-end encryption, it is inevitable that large technology firms will view mesh networking as a potential revenue stream.
Of course there will be regulatory challenges to the mesh, particularly from existing telecom giants whose business models are threatened, but history isn’t on the side of people trying to stop disruptive technology. One telltale indication is that most of the major providers have been positioning themselves in the content market, such as Verizon’s curious 4.4 billion dollar purchase of AOL. Regulatory bodies tend to always be playing catch-up with technology, and the reality is that the cat is out of the bag.
So what does all this global mesh conversation mean for most businesses?
First and foremost, they will need to establish a baseline of where they are right now when it comes to IT infrastructure, IT policy procedure, security analytics and most importantly social media data science. Existing workflows and budgets should also be simultaneously re-assessed. Infinize recommends that companies commit to creating a strategic roadmap: a vision and strategy for the next five years with defined project budgets and goals. This will in all likelihood require third party input, as it will be difficult for staff and current vendors to be willing to plan their potential obsolescence. It also means that we can expect radical changes in technology and business models, followed by a flurry of legislation intended to control the datastream. Most IT departments and firms will be so busy fighting fires that you may need to hitch your wagon to a firm capable of interpreting these new technologies and policies to your benefit. And in time, you may need a nw role to manage this: perhaps a Chief Technology Regulatory Officer (CTRO), a technologist, lawyer and accountant combined into one.
Above all, the Global Mesh will change the way you do business. Just like the recent PC revolution, our populations have an innate desire for low cost, decentralized products and services that promote privacy and choice. Companies that do not plan for this inevitable change either won’t be able to compete in the new market place or will potentially miss the upside completely.
I’ll cover this more in a future blog. For now, just be sure that you hold the future in the palm of your hand, literally. The Global Mesh will be here before you know it.