Where will gigabite-speed internet take us?


Remember dial-up internet access? How could anyone possibly forget? Although it drove the global uptake of email and made shopping on the internet accessible to millions, it took forever to whistle through the phone cables and into our homes.

Then along came broadband. Not only can we now cruise the internet uninterrupted on any number of devices, we can watch video content, download apps and even watch TV on our phones. From dial-up to here seems like a giant leap for mankind. But the journey is by no means over. In fact, it is only just beginning.

The advent of gigabite-speed internet connections is a realistic expectation by 2025. In view of this, Pew Research Centre and Elon University asked 1,464 ‘experts and internet builders’ what they thought would be the technologies of the future. A piece of research entitled Killer Apps in the Gigabite Age looks at the implications of broadband connections 50 – 100 times faster than the average home connection now.

The predictions include some familiar futurology themes: holograms and virtual reality, wearables and 3D printing. There are also predictions for the education sector, forecasting virtual classrooms, making greater use of devices and teachers as ‘teacher-coach’ figures to children who divide their time between school and distance learning.

Healthcare is likely to be influenced even more. One industry expert predicted that having a personal health pod will become the norm. Another foresaw tools to monitor us from birth, predict sickness and heal us faster.

Yet, in spite of these flights of imagination, the report also mentioned those who baulked at making predictions. After all, although Taylor and Licklider predicted networked computers in 1968, they could not foresee Google, Facebook or YouTube. In an era when even the brick-sized mobile was the stuff of Tomorrow’s World, who could have imagined an off-beat Korean pop song or a dog running amok in Richmond Park going viral?

Perhaps the only prediction it is safe to make is that whatever happens over the next twenty years is almost certainly beyond the powers of our current level of imagination. Whatever unfolds, there are exciting times ahead.