When was the last time you opened a White Pages phone directory or dialed 411 for a phone listing? How often do you bounce between book stores or libraries to locate information? If the answer is "not recently," “not much” or “never,” then you are among the masses who take advantage of the nearly endless resources now available in large part on the Internet.
The Internet–as one of modern day’s most intriguing innovations–has impacted us on individual, community and global scales. While our attention frequently is on the gadgets that link us to the Internet, the Internet itself, while frequently taken for granted, is a bona fide technological marvel. And even though the Internet is decades old, there is still much to learn about this tech tool and those of us who use it.
The search engine Bing describes the Internet as a “global computer network: a network that links computer networks all over the world by satellite and telephone, connecting users with service networks such as email and the World Wide Web.” (Of course, I used the Internet to look this up.) In short, the Internet allows millions of users to share information.
In a recent technology survey that Harris Interactive conducted on behalf of Verizon, 52 percent of respondents named Internet service as one of their most important household utilities. Think about it. Internet service is considered by a majority of participants in the same vein as electric, gas, telephone or water service.
If you carry an Internet-connectable device like a smartphone, then you are probably one of the 40 percent of Americans the survey identified as “borderless consumers.” The borderless lifestyle is about empowerment. Old technologies are being eliminated. Wireline and wireless broadband networks are converging. We can now connect and accomplish what we want or need to do whenever we wish, wherever we are, using whichever device we choose.
Borderless consumers are found in every racial, ethnic and age group – including millennials, Gen-Xers, baby boomers and the mature generation. To no surprise, 18- to 34-year-olds constitute the largest number. Diving deeper into the survey's data reveals that women outnumber men 53 to 47 percent. Also, 82 percent of the respondents are interested in using network services such as cloud-based data storage to access data files from any device. Ninety percent look forward to having every connectable device in their home seamlessly link and work together via their in-home network or online.
In addition, 60 percent of borderless and 40 percent of non-borderless respondents consider wired Internet service as their most important home utility.
The Internet is an expanding gateway to information and services, where public and private sector organizations are preparing for increased usage. For example, the Maryland Access Point website (see www.marylandaccesspoint.info) was created to benefit senior citizens–a group not traditionally viewed as techies, but recognized as wanting to stay at home to maintain their independence – by allowing them to “assess, learn and search for long-term support information and services” over the Internet.
The borderless lifestyle survey shows that consumers want the benefits, convenience and intuitiveness of a connected life and a “smart home,” where machines communicating with each other are possible (the latter will be my topic next month).
This means that the near future should be full with new products, applications and services that will enrich our experiences – and in particular, those fostered by the borderless lifestyle. And that should provide plenty of future content for What’s New & Next in Tech and, more importantly, a better life for us all.
Tabb Bishop is Verizon’s vice president for state government affairs for the mid-Atlantic region.