Can the USA Regain Its Love of Speed?

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We used to love being the nation of the leading edge: the fastest and tallest of everything: fastest computers, tallest buildings, fastest cars, and so on. Below is a picture from Wikipedia of the Stanley Steamer in 1903 setting the world wide speed record for the mile at the Daytona Beach Road Course. I have a particular fondness for the Stanley Steamer because my house, and the house next door, were built in 1896 by the twin Stanley brothers who invented the Stanley Steamer car and the founded the eponymous company.

Google recently announced that it will demonstrate ultra high bandwidth wireless in some communities. It is old news that our country has slower and more expensive broadband than many countries — including France. I don’t for a minute think that Google is doing this out of the goodness of their heart, because faster broadband will play to their strengths in many ways. Faster, more capable devices and connections allow them to promote not only search, but YouTube as well. When broadband is everywhere, the company who “owns” your search behavior and your preferences as Google does will have even more influence.

I do think that as executives we should be helping to increase the availability and speed of our digital connections, because we know that the internet is the “highway of the mind”. Fast internet is to knowledge work what the interstate highway system was to physical productivity — it an essential infrastructure that creates value for everyone. Dr. Larry Smarr, the director of the CalIT2 lab for advanced visualization and connectivity, and Diamond Fellow, just announced the Cyberinfrastructure for Comparative Cancer Research. When looking at cancer, researchers often have huge amounts of data with complex visualization and models — and faster digital connections can open up a whole new world of understanding and exploration.

Visitors from The University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
look at a 3D representation of proteins in Calit2’s StarCAVE virtual-reality environment.

We are going to a world in which people and cars, and many other “things” will always be connected to the network, if the person wants to be. Just think about how different innovations could be enabled when ever car has a GPS in it as standard issue, and it can send and receive information on its location, movement, etc. This will enable tremendous efficiencies in traffic flow to be designed. It will create an infrastructure which could allow peak-flow tolls which have worked so effectively in countries like Singapore to decrease traffic congestion. It will enable the creation of new products and services like on-demand car insurance, tailored to your actual driving behavior.

Any company that has coordination needs, moving talent, people, goods, or serving customers will be able to track and coordinate at a much more focused level. It will create a platform for innovation where people can deliver new media, customer experiences, and interfaces. There is some amazing work by Pravan Mistry at MIT called Sixth Sense which is creating an integration of the physical world and the virtual world. In the lab, a person has a small camera and projector which allows them to project an image on any surface, and sense that environment. This means that any surface can become a keyboard, or an interface.

Just imagine what technology like this looks like when we have very fast, ubiquitous wireless. My question is what applications can you imagine? I’d love to hear. How is your business preparing itself for it?


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