Part II – where we’re going we don’t need roads..

In Part 1 of this series,  Anthony Clarkson of ProLabs took a nostalgic look at the past.  Now he's going to look at the present and future of computing and the internet. 


The first thing to note is that ‘computers’ are everywhere. Now I use the term ‘computers’ loosely because I really mean any device with a CPU in it.  Whether that is a traditional PC, a smart phone (or phone as they tend to be called nowadays – non-smart phones are the exception, are they called dumb phones?), smart watches, Amazon Echo, smart TV or even a connected fridge. 

A few years ago, I made a network diagram for my home and it filled an A3 page, but now there are too many connected devices to properly document it.   That’s another thing to note – all of these ‘computer’ devices are now connected to the internet via a fixed, wireless or mobile connection.  To give an idea of the scale of this, here is a snapshot of my home network:

  • Network Devices (Access points, routers, switches): 5
  • Traditional PCs/Laptops: 5
  • SmartPhones/Tablets/SmartWatches: 5
  • Smart TV/Consoles/Entertainment/eBooks: 11
  • Home Automation/Voice Assistants: 3

In addition to the above list, let’s not forget the Echo Dot in my car (which could also be counted as an additional smart device as it has it’s own SIM cards to connect to the internet for diagnostics, accident management and of course Google Maps).

To cater for all these devices I have cable internet providing 330Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream connectivity and it doesn’t end there.  Companies like Ring and offer smart video doorbells and door locks, and my previous dream of the ultimate connected device – a connected fridge – is now a reality.  Innovators like Google and Amazon are really invading our homes!

As I’ve mentioned cars, we are seeing a big increase in connected cars in the past few months with innovators like Tesla driving (no pun intended) this space.  Driverless cars are already being tested on the open road.

In order to be able to connect more devices, wherever we are, we need a fast and always-on connection.  In our homes and workplaces that means fibre (and by this I mean real fibre, not the ASA accepted definition of a hybrid fibre-copper rollout).  Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the Premises (FTTH & FTTP) is already delivering speeds of 1Gbps, and with technologies like XGSPON and NGPON2 this will increase towards 10Gbps in the medium term (3-5 years) and beyond.  Bidirectional fibre technologies and WDM will provide true 10Gbps speeds to businesses and in the longer term (5-10yrs+) we will see fixed access speeds of 100Gbps.

When we are ‘out and about’ we currently have 4G LTE speeds of 20-30Mbps.  The fifth generation of mobile networks (5G) is coming and will bring speeds of up to 1Gbps to your phone/wireless devices.  This will of course eventually increase to 10Gbps and beyond.

On the computing side, devices will get smaller and more powerful to the extent that everything will contain a chip and be connected.  The technology is already there (look at Amazon physical stores) for retail/goods tracking.  Expect to hear ‘smart’ in front of more things in the years to come – Smart Sofa, Smart Toothbrush, Smart Hairbrush. 

I want to leave you with something to think about.  In 1969 the most powerful computers in the world launched men into space and on to the moon.  Today there is more computing power in your TV than there was onboard Apollo 11 and in the future there will be even more computing power than this in your sofa. 

Maybe flying cars will be a reality sooner than we think.  Where we are going, we don’t need roads…