Hyperconnected mobility and the automated and accelerated movement of people, items and goods will ultimately change the way that we interact with our environment, our suppliers and with each other. But to realise the true potential of hyperconnectivity across the world will require a significant change – in attitude, infrastructure and awareness.
The vast amount of data, especially location data, generated by the hyperconnected human, vehicles, machines and cities is just a tiny part of the hyperconnected model. How do we combine this data into something that is usable, flexible and fast enough to meet this rapid development and change in our society? How do we improve the speed of that data across the networks? How do we gain the trust of those allowing us to use their data and allow us to make the change to becoming ‘hyperconnected’? And, as a society, how do we ensure that vital hyperconnected emergency and health services gain priority over ubiquitous delivery and on demand travel apps?
A centralised, capture all, share all data model is not going to work. A local model could, however, unlock the potential for rapid delivery of vital local services. If the potential is to be realised, it is now essential for stakeholders actively engage in a debate about our hyperconnected future, insists Matthew Napleton, Chief Commercial Officer, Zizo.
Monetising a Connected Future
Businesses have been harnessing the power of technology to connect individuals for decades. But the speed with which hyperconnectivity is now being imagined, delivered and monetised raises both inspiring possibilities and very significant challenges – cultural, political and technical.
Elon Musk’s suspected vision for Twitter, notably the creation of X – the everything app – is a prime example of the commercial drive towards ‘super apps’ already popular across Asia that provide everything from taxis to restaurants to payments. Retailers are actively considering the power of hyperconnected humans to deliver direct to an individual based on their location data. With the rise in drones and robots, the goal is no longer to optimise the last mile of delivery, but the last metre.
Adding location data to AI will transform the way people interact not only with suppliers but machines. Rather than enjoying the benefit of using an app to remotely turn on the heating while travelling home, hyperconnectivity will ensure the system anticipates your needs based on behavioural patterns and turn on the heating automatically as you approach your destination. The hyperconnected vision is that every human and machine interaction and touch point will be captured, collected and monetised.
But this is not just location data. Or purchase data. It is everything data. The speed with which wearable health tech has been adopted – and the way that personal health data is now routinely monetised – highlights both the power of preventative care and the very different attitudes globally to data usage and privacy. It is one thing to use a fitness tracker to capture work-out zones and calorie usage; quite another to use FDA approved watches that can detect falls, arrhythmias and record electrocardiograms.
The latter information, if linked to a healthcare provider, can empower a rapid shift towards proactive care that can improve patient outcomes. It is also predicated, however, on the sale of highly sensitive patient information to third parties, information that will increasingly be used to inform health insurance premiums, just as black box technology is already used to determine car insurance costs.
But how many individuals recognise the difference between the Fitbit that is helping their ‘couch to 5k’ efforts and a medical device that is capturing the most personal of health data? How many understand that this information is being continuously uploaded to a central location, moving across thousands of miles of connected infrastructure? The implications for data privacy and the costs associated with resource consumption need to be urgently considered. Why, for example, are smart cities capturing individual location data, which is then moved to a central location, when the entire smart city model needs only anonymised, aggregated information stored locally?
Businesses globally are becoming hugely excited about the new revenue opportunities presented by the hyperconnected human. Many are side-lining, even dismissing data privacy and security concerns. They cannot, however, ignore the fundamental lack of infrastructure and its inability to support the planned scale of hyperconnected activity. The current infrastructure may support 1,000 different apps and the associated data, but it certainly can’t support a ten, hundred or thousand-fold increase which is where this current hyperconnected vision is heading.
Hyperconnectivity has the power to provide citizens with vital access to services – including healthcare. It is the foundation for smart city projects. But with the current centralised ‘catch all, store all’ model, a pizza delivery order will have the same priority as a request for emergency services – and if the system is overwhelmed, both will fail to reach their destination. It is simply not possible to continue with this attitude that every business can collect every single piece of information, including location, about its customers / equipment/ delivery vehicles and use the resultant knowledge to provide the best service. From complexity to lack of bandwidth and privacy concerns the foundation isn’t in place – nor will it be any time soon.
If hyperconnected solutions are to realise anything close to their potential, there are essential changes that must occur. Critically, the centralised communication model is not sustainable – in either sense of the word – and must be replaced by a distributed approach. Data can and should be held locally, for example. It is also essential to break the domination of the major telcos: hyperconnectivity cannot be delivered while these behemoths control every aspect of the communications infrastructure. It is crucial to embrace a distributed model that enables the shift from centralised points to edge location by focusing on the information content rather than network capability. And before anyone gets carried away by the power of 6G or the next generation of LoraWAN or SigFox. Let’s get 5G working first.
Local Data for Local Services
The distributed approach reinforces the value of local data for local services. Whether it is anonymised information to support optimisation within a smart city, the delivery of food locally (such as the Milton Keynes Starship Robots) or a short, three-way data flow between delivery robot, individual and local edge server, a distributed approach is scalable, practical and deliverable. It works for health data, for example, because the vast majority of health outcomes are treated within the local health service. There is no need for every piece of data to collected and transmitted to a central location. But today, where is the local ecosystem of information that allows the end user to have that data wherever they are, whenever they need it, with their own personal choice?
A focus on local services should also reinforce the need to consider priorities. The hyperconnected world unleashes an extraordinary array of opportunities – but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Yes, it is amazing that in a hyperconnected world a drone could deliver a sandwich to someone on the golf course who can’t wait until they get back to the club house. But when capacity is limited – should that really be an option? Maybe. But these are discussions that need to be aired.
Right now, the world is moving blindly towards hyperconnectivity, as businesses trial ideas and tap into new revenue streams. But success will bring the entire connected world down: it is simply not possible that all of these services can be made available to every individual, all of the time. If thinking doesn’t change fast, the hyperconnected model could fail badly – and that would be an enormous shame given the potential to deliver real benefit to individuals across the world.