In this post I will discuss and demystify the exponential technology building blocks that are cornerstone to our new digital:
Computer processing power:
The brain of a computer is the microprocessor chip. As it improves, software leverages the additional power and more complex solutions can be developed. As of this writing the fastest supercomputer can process 200,000 trillion calculations per second. First hardware is developed and
then software is written that takes advantage of the hardware improvements.
Processing power has improved exponentially over many decades. Computer chips are measured by speed and how many transistors they press on a silicon wafer.
As the size of the transistors rapidly became smaller and more efficient, more of them could be packed onto a wafer. The cost also became exponentially less.
No conversation of computer processing progress is complete without a short discussion of Moore’s law:
On April 19, 1965 Electronics Magazine published a white paper by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel. He made a prediction about the semiconductor industry that has become legendary. Specifically, his Moore’s law says the
number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. David House, an Intel executive, said the period was approximately “18 months”. Overall, they were both right and this amazing prediction has been correct for 53 years and counting.
Recently the popular consensus is that the rate of advancement is slowing down to approximately doubling every 2.5 years. Some ’experts’ have even said Moore’s law is dying or dead. I totally disagree! I believe Moore’s law will continue for the foreseeable future and around 2025 everything that we think of as exponential will become super-exponential.
‘Marty Fox’s’ law says that when, not if, quantum computing makes its way from the laboratory to desktops and our mobile devices processing power, speed and the types of solutions we will enjoy will be 1,000,000 times better than what is possible now.
The evaporating cost of producing a microchip:
In 1958, a scientist at Texas Instruments developed the first-ever integrated circuit. It had two transistors (the more, the better) with a “gate process length” (the smaller, the better) of about 1⁄2 inch. This scientist would go on to win the Nobel Prize. Each transistor cost about $1, on average.
Now fast forward to 2012, Nvidia released a new graphical processor unit (GPU) with 7.1 billion transistors – the cost of a transistor: ~ $0.0000001. In that relatively short period of time chip technology experienced a 100 billion-fold improvement, right on schedule for Moore’s Law.
In 2018, transistors the size of an atom are being created in research labs. As I said before, technology marches on, getting better and better!
In the post, ‘How to Digitally Play, Prototype and Profit’, I describe the Maker Movement and using inexpensive components such as miniature microprocessors. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are two examples of these super fun tiny, powerful and very inexpensive ($5 – $40) computers.
They are a direct result of the impact of Moore’s Law.
More (not Moore) on how they can be used later.
Data is made up of bits and bytes. A byte is the smallest piece of information people can understand. For example, each byte can represent a letter or number. There are eight bits to a byte. You can think of a bit as an on-off
switch. Depending on the on-off patterns bytes are created.
Bandwidth is the transfer rate of data. In a relatively short period we have advanced from super slow 3600k baud ‘data-thru-a-straw’ ‘to wide-pipe fire-
hose data transfer rates measured in megabytes and gigabytes. Data transfer rates will make a giant increase to 5G in 2019 to 10 gigabytes per second. Data transfer cost has dropped to near zero. There are many reasons for faster and cheaper transfer rates including upgrades from copper wires to glass fiber optic cables.
The significance of faster and wider bandwidth is it enables the creation of customer delighting services such as Netflix, YouTube, and real-time gaming. Business applications will leverage this seemingly unlimited bandwidth with applications including immersive long distance
meetings, virtual and augmented reality.
Exponential data storage capabilities went from single-sided floppies, to double-sided, to 3 1/2”, to ten megabyte Bernoulli boxes (which were a beautiful thing) to terabytes and exabytes and big data cloud drives for pennies a megabyte. Storage used to be a concern but is now virtually
free. Almost infinite storage capabilities enable YouTube to store millions of videos and Google to store millions of scanned books.
The global network gives us access to billions of connectedpeople and in the near future trillions of devices. As the network grows and there are more people and devices (nodes) added, it becomes exponentially more valuable.
It has the same network effect as the old fax machines. When the first fax machine was sold, it was not very useful, as there was no one to send a fax to. As millions of fax machines became staples of most businesses the fax
machine became a valuable business tool. By the way, the fax is a great example of a formerly indispensable device on the wrong side of digital disruption. I am sure some of my readers are asking what a fax machine
The next step for the Internet will be going from Internet Protocol (IP) v4 to IPv6. This is very important. We will skip IPv5, which was an experimental streaming real-time streaming protocol. Each computer and IOT device we add to the Internet uses an IP address. You can think of an IP address as your unique street/city/state address or your telephone number. IP is the magical plumbing of the Internet.
Because of hyper-growth we will run out of the approximately 4.3 billion address capacity of IPv4 soon. IPv6 fixes that problem for the’ foreseeable future’ as it has a capacity of, hold onto your hat, 340 undecillion addresses.
Ok, I never heard of an ‘undecillion’ until now and I cannot resist giving you a bit (pun) more info.
Fun fact, this is the exact astronomical number of addresses that we will have available to us:
That is far greater than all the grains of sand on earth and even greater than all the atoms on the face of earth.
The cloud levels the playing field for small companies. For a reasonable price, that gets lower every year, a small company or solo entrepreneur can have access to supercomputers and all the storage space they need.
Services such as Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and Digital Ocean provide world class infrastructures. No longer are business required to purchase and maintain costly infrastructure hardware and hire people to maintain it. The cloud is
generally more economical and secure than maintaining your own local data center.
These super cloud platforms also carry a lot of panache with corporations. When I am evaluating a cloud solution, I always ask the vendor who they are hosting with and usually I get the right answer, which is one of the
previously mentioned cloud services.
Importantly, cloud migration also means that our local devices such as smartphones, Chromebooks and tablets do not require expensive internal processing power to do incredible things such as real-time language translation, artificial intelligence and realistic simulations. The heavy-
duty processing can be done on supercomputers in the cloud that are only a click away and the results are then displayed on the local device. If your company will be developing mobile apps you will want to consider where it
makes the most sense to do data processing and storage.
The miniaturization of devices is changing our world for the better. Our smartphones have at least 11 sensors in them and more computing power than the supercomputers that only a few decades ago took up an entire floor of a building and put people on the moon.
Travel directions and the ability to order anything from a taxi to a pizza is in your pocket or pocketbook. When was the last time you fumbled with a crumpled-up 2-foot paper map? There are now millions of apps that make our lives easier and more productive. People who previously could not afford a computer can now afford to put a supercomputer in their pocket or pocketbook.
Your business depends on your mobile capabilities. Mobile apps have saved me many times when sending a critical mass notification to employees during a crisis event from a donut shop or library to thousands of employees. As our technology becomes exponentially more powerful our
devices become smaller. They are already tiny enough to be woven into our clothing, imbedded in our skin and swallowed in blue-tooth enabled pills. We will discuss the benefits of these products and learn who is making them in other technology related posts on Ultimate Business Continuity.
Think about how fast miniaturization has shrunk our computers. A few short years ago, we all had similar beige desktop computers that were anchored to our desks. Yes, every desktop had to be beige and it had to be tethered to a desk. When Osborne and Compaq released ‘luggables’ (35
pound ‘portable’ computers) it was both a breakthrough and a back-breaker. I remember going on vacation with a luggable and a suitcase full of 500-page technology text books – total weight over 50 pounds! The luggable still had to be plugged into a wall socket or it was just an expensive
workout weight. It would have taken a car battery to power it, and yes that experiment crossed my mind briefly.
Currently we can easily carry thousands of times more computing power using mobile devices weighing ounces, not pounds. I will not insult these devices by calling them mobile phones as they do so much more. In addition to a mobile device, you can bring along thousands of books, documentsand magazines on an eReader.
Internet of Things (IOT):
IOT gets me extremely excited. It consists of billions of value-laden smart sensor enabled devices that allow us a deeper understanding of the world, whether it’s for health, sports, entertainment, or business. It is a game changer for innovative organizations.
IOT opens up a world in which digital and physical elements connect and gather information in real-time to predict circumstances, prevent problems, and create immense opportunities and benefits for our society.
Internet connectivity and smart sensors are being integrated into industrial processes, transportation routes, workforce practices, buildings and every type of operational system. This is improving and revolutionizing the efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness of individuals, businesses and
governments. The Internet of Things – or the Internet of Everything – is transforming the way we work and play in today’s world.
Application Programming Interface (API’s):
I strongly feel API’s belong on this list of critical technologies. They are the connectors that allow us to mash and mesh systems and data. They allow machines to talk to other machines. They provide the ‘sum is greater than the parts’ building blocks we need to create simple and complex systems.
They enable you to connect applications to provide customer delight and create an infinite number of innovative solutions. API’s have so many benefits for business continuity, critical event management, safety and security. I like to use the analogy of snapping together Lego blocks or Tinker toys to create amazing structures.
By the way, if you have a child that loves building with Legos or other such blocks, it is an excellent sign of good things to come. I speak from experience as the proud dad of my favorite professional software developer, engineer, technologist and son. He was a Lego master builder.
As a bonus, in ‘The Internet of Everything’ post, I share some amazing new
middle-ware tools that make using APIs as easy as inputting a few pieces of information and snapping systems and physical devices together in minutes. It is magic and no technical skills are required to do it. How cool is that!
I hope you are ready to Digitally Rock the World!