“The future is already here, but it is not equally distributed”, William Gibson once said. Well, the present (or at least what we call the present) isn’t equally distributed as well. While China is testing out walking lanes for people who are lost in their screens while walking (THIS IS NOT A JOKE), I was looking at a mapping of connectivity data. This map, created by John Matherly of Shodan, shows all the connectivity in the world today.
He used a stateless scanner to send a Ping request to every public IPv4 address and kept track of which IPs responded with a Pong. After the Pong he would find out where the IP is physically located using a GeoIP library (i.e. translates from x.x.x.x -> latitude/ longitude). The map clearly shows some darker areas in which connectivity is not as dense as what we are used to in Europe and the US, or not even existing (although there are some non-populated areas of course).
The next 4 billion connections
That’s why Google’s announcement of a $100/80EU fully packed smartphone is a way bigger deal than Apple’s addition to the growing list of not that impressive smart watches. While the Apple Watch is just adding even more connectivity to those that are already connected, these phones are paving the way for the next 4 billion new users of the internet. With all this talk about disruptive trends, this one truly is disruptive; both culturally and economically.
Culturally, this is about not easing into technology like we did; moving from a computer in the office to computers at home, laptops, dumb phones and eventually smartphones and tablets. This is going from local stories and information to Google’s entire web index. Economically, this is about going from doing business within a 50km radius to connecting to a web that is more and more about transactions and trust. And while $100 smartphones have been around for a while now, they usually do not come packed with functionality like the Android One.
This disruption will only take place if we handle key necessities like devices, content (in native languages), connectivty, power and some kind of transactional/financial protocol like Bitcoin to facilitate money transfers and trust management. This disruption will not take place tomorrow and devices like the Android One are just a start, but this kind of technology news is getting me much more excited than adding a screen to my wrist while still needing a phone to make it work.