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November 28, 2014

Is the age of hyperconnectivity closer than we think?

Mike Hollands, director of connectivity at Interxion, looks at how a new age of hyperconnectivity will force a re-think of IT infrastructures.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

You could be forgiven in thinking that in 2014, true digital hyperconnectivity is already here. On the surface it may look like we’re one, giant networked community glued to our smartphone or tablet. But just 40% of the world’s population has an internet connection today – which equates to about three billion citizens and counting.

While internet connectivity has undoubtedly and quickly pervaded our lives – the number of internet users has increased 10 fold since 1999 – there are areas of the world that still do not have adequate or consistent access to what we might consider a staple in today’s modern life, even in the UK’s most remote areas. Hyperconnectivity might be more of a reality for those of us living in the world’s smartest cities with gadgets glued to our hands. But recent research points towards a more connected future for more citizens of the world. And that could edge us that little bit closer to true hyperconnectivity.

Wi-fi to become widespread?

In November, a global survey claimed wireless will become even more widespread. Network aggregator iPass predicted that by 2018, the number of public Wi-Fi spots deployed around the world will grow from almost 48 million, to more than a staggering 340 million. So by 2018, there will be one hotspot for every 20 people on the planet, compared with one for every 150 people today.

But with great hyperconnectivity comes great responsibility, certainly for companies such as internet and mobile service providers, responsible for the creation and provision of internet-enabled services. As we teeter on the brink of a new age of connectivity, how can we ensure people are actually connected, rather than teasing with the promise of Wi-Fi but leaving users with poor signal, patchy connectivity and sub-par service?

Defining hyperconnectivity

The official dictionary definition for digital hyperconnectivity is ‘the state of being constantly connected to people and systems through devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers – and sometimes through software that enable and promote constant communication.’ According to the International Telecoms Union, in 2013 there were 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions compared to 7.1 billion people in the world. The same report also predicted that by the end of 2014, mobile subscriptions would outnumber people. Some countries are more connected than others – the Soviet Union boasting the highest mobile penetration of 1.7 subscriptions per person. Countries like Africa and India, however, were less connected; the former has just 63 subscriptions per 100 people.

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Despite connectivity differing from region to region, the explosion of the internet and internet-enabled devices means that billions of emails, SMS and instant messages are sent through the world’s public networks each day. That’s just the technology we know about and use right now. Newly-connectable devices such as wearables, connected cars, fitness trackers and even connected white goods for our homes are appearing before our eyes. As we use these devices, share and store information, the implications for our IT infrastructure are great.

The implications of a networked society

How do we maintain a society that is creating networks and new connections by the second? Internet connectivity has become so commonplace nowadays that we often take for granted the mechanics behind it. IT infrastructure has become the backbone of today’s digital age. We’ve come to expect instant access to the virtual world and the proliferation of devices and gadgets perpetuates our want and need for information and interaction.

While the old adage ‘if you build it, they will come’ rings true, the hyperconnected era relies on a constant cycle – new technology innovation prompts a behaviour shift from its consumers, which in turn breeds unprecedented demand for things like Wi-Fi hotspots. And as this cycle continues, it’s the responsibility of service providers to ensure that expectation and demand are met.

An IT infrastructure for the hyperconnected age

To welcome this new age of hyperconnectivity, internet service providers, mobile service providers, content platforms and other businesses offering internet-reliant services will need to consider whether their current IT infrastructure is adequate enough to meet connectivity demands. The role of the data centre is key in connecting businesses and consumers seamlessly, without buffering or delay impacting the customer experience.

Data centres: the heart of hyperconnectivity

Data centres play an integral role in powering some of the world’s smartest cities. They reside at the heart of today’s digital economy, ensuring that data, internet services and transactions get from point A to point B in a matter of milliseconds. If we’re to see more Wi-Fi hotspots pop up across the globe over the next four years, then businesses will need to harness the power and agility of colocated data centres. This will help achieve the coverage and connectivity that consumers and businesses alike have come to expect – instant internet access, whenever they want it, wherever they may be, whatever the device.
Anticipating the future

Businesses need to anticipate demand and fortify their IT infrastructures now in order to meet the demand of tomorrow. This means leaning on technological trends like IPv6 – which will become crucial in supporting the massive address explosions we’ll see from increased connectivity – and Software-Defined-Networking (SDN) to facilitate the process.
While the promise of widespread global connectivity is appealing, it will only become a reality if the right technology is in place to allow it to happen. In today’s digital age, when societies are competing to become the fastest, smartest and most digitally-savvy nations, only those that get it right will share in the success.

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