Business unusual

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A world of 'business unusual' is emerging due to the combined impact of a hyper-connected world, rise of the digital natives and the resultant need for reframed business models.

This is according to vice-chairman of the innovation focus group for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Pieter Geldenhuys, who spoke at the fifth annual Innovation Summit in Johannesburg this week. Geldenhuys is also a futurist at the Innovation Agency and founder of Mallinfo.

Among Geldenhuys' predictions of the next decade is the capacity to download entire movies in less than a minute via a cellular network, the reality of over 1 000 IP addresses within each home (by virtue of IPv6), and 3D printers driving small companies out of business.

Geldenhuys also says personal TV channels will perpetuate in the next 10 years, whereby individuals can broadcast their own content that will be accessible to anyone in the world.

According to Geldenhuys, innovation in this space will be spurred by the emergence of technology such as 'Google Glasses' which will create millions of specialised channels.

“The mobile revolution will be far more disruptive than the previous e-commerce revolution.

“Processing power, bandwidth and storage will define the ecosystem of the future, destroying business models left, right and centre.”

Bandwidth capacity is currently doubling about every eight to nine months, while storage doubles every year and computing power doubles every 18 months.

“The electronics space provides abundance, and this will have an impact on everything. Scarcity is no longer a factor, so this rewrites the rules of economies around the world. It's about exploiting the abundance.

“The Internet is like oxygen,” says Geldenhuys, referring to its ubiquity and the potential to connect to any device with IPv6. “Our mobile phones and other devices act as a means to give us access to the frequencies around us. Augmented reality is an example of this, where invisible information becomes visible.”

Geldenhuys says the real and virtual worlds are becoming one, in what he defines as the 'cybersphere'. He adds that preparing for the future is not necessarily about technology, so much as it about completely reconfiguring business models.

“We are seeing the rise of the 'stupid network'. Cellular and landline companies are losing their power because the power has migrated to the edges.”

To illustrate the way technology is disrupting the traditional value chain, Geldenhuys refers to the emergence of services such as Zipcar, which is a social car sharing service that essentially eliminates the cost associated with owning a vehicle.

Geldenhuys' own product, Mallinfo, allows users to scan the bar code of a product and create their own 'wish list' or gift registry that can be shared with others - indicating exactly where it can be purchased.

Another example used by Geldenhuys is that of CurrencyFair, a service that acts as a peer-to-peer currency exchange system - disrupting traditional exchange systems.

“The innovation space is literally exploding,” says Geldenhuys. “The emergence of platforms such as iOS and Android have removed barriers to connectivity, and allow for developers to disseminate their products to a global audience.

“Businesses must ask themselves if they are simply preparing for the future, or if they are going to be the agents that create it.”

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