OPINION: Age of connectivity is here

All around us, people are focused on a device. Picture: Reuters
All around us, people are focused on a device. Picture: Reuters

THE Industrial Age was about mass production  and mass consumption. 

How much could we make/sell/buy/use? Business was about producing, distributing and marketing on a mass scale. The initial effect on consumers was ‘‘more buying’’ and we began throwing ‘‘things’’ out that were still in good condition to make room for more ‘‘things’’.

Unless you were a hoarder, and then it simply meant your house was more cluttered.

In recent times, business ideas were born out of this clutter. Storage sheds popped up everywhere and decluttering became a sought-after profession. If you are smirking at that thought, just Google ‘‘declutter’’ and see the results.

Efficiency was (and is) crucial for business survival. At the Boston Front End Innovation Conference in May, marketing guru Seth Godin quoted Henry Ford to emphasise efficiency: ‘‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.’’ Black paint dried faster. Painting cars one colour increased production fourfold. Production was four times faster and four times cheaper. 

But all this mass production led to average products. And people don’t really like to think of themselves as average any more. 

Consider these figures. It’s thought that by 2016, there will be 10billion mobile devices in the world. Traffic from smartphones alone will increase by 500per cent – 71per cent of this traffic will be video. And we will access this soon enough from anywhere in the world.

The race is on to provide free internet coverage worldwide. Google, Microsoft and Richard Branson have been working on it for years and are close to achieving the goal. 

Project Loon, affectionately dubbed Googloon, uses the strapline “Balloon-powered internet for everyone”. Balloons are floating in the stratosphere, algorithms are used to calculate wind changes, software directs the balloons into wind currents so they stay on course, and the balloons form a communication network relaying signals back to our devices.

We have already entered the ‘‘Age of Connectivity’’.

We are connecting our gadgets, our household appliances and even our toothbrushes. Oral-B has a smart toothbrush that uses Bluetooth to connect to an app on your smartphone, just like Fitbit and SmartBand.

Which leads me back to Seth Godin. To be noticed, or ‘‘remarkable’’ in the Age of Connectivity, we have to treat people differently. We now have a new system of ‘‘dating’’. 

Statistics show that we need to ‘‘touch’’ someone 13.3 times before we are noticed. This replaces the ‘‘meet someone three times and they will remember you’’ theory. Such has been the influence of social media and the internet.

 We are receiving so many messages daily, hourly and in each minute that we need multiple messages before a point cuts through. Marketers are already tearing their hair out because our eyeballs are saturated with movement and messages, and there are days when we simply can’t take any more in.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Viber, Skype and all other social media tools have us connected worldwide and (theoretically) uninterrupted. Look around you on the street, in the park, on the beach or in the cafe and people will be focused on a device.

But we are connected on devices often in close proximity to other people connected on devices. 

A new genre of connectivity has emerged. And it’s all about service.

Uber, “your ride on demand, transportation in minutes” has connected the traveller with transport. Airbnb, the ‘‘welcome home’’ accommodation service, has connected the explorer with home comforts. Trip Advisor is a travel companion and provides us with reviews on destinations, accommodations and activities. 

Closer to home, local internet business Deckee is connecting the boating community to worldwide boating services.

The Age of Connectivity has propelled us into a technological whirlwind. Where once we waited for products, communications and information, we potentially have it all at our fingertips. Where once information was scarce, we now have it in abundance. 

In connecting, we are sharing. In connecting we are reaching out and finding our communities, our tribes.

IDEO’s Tom Kelley summed it up beautifully in Boston: “Our best work comes as we blend technology with humanity and ask the question ‘What will humans need?’’’

The real value of the Age of Connectivity is in the value we create together. In Godin’s words: “All of us are smarter than one of us.’’

Christina Gerakiteys is creative director of Ideation At Work, facilitator of the Rippler Effect Innovation Program and co-founder of The Hunter Collective.

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