Visions for the Future – Telstra Webcast August 8 2000

 In future, futurist, practical futurist

This was a webcast I delivered back in August 2000 – how things have changed since!

In my 15 minute talk, I cover ADSL, portals and mobile internet.

One quote from the video was that in 2000, 40% of Australians had a mobile.

Watch the video below or read the transcript.

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Hello and welcome. It doesn’t matter if this is the first Networked presentation you are viewing, or if you have been watching the whole series, I hope that from today’s presentation you will gain an insight into what the online world might look like in a few years time as we look into the future.

It is interesting to note that the whole networked series is presented online.  Just a year or so ago it would have been hard to imagine that a program like this would have been attempted – but thanks to the advances in technology, and the adoption of the internet by Australian Businesses, regular web-casts such as Networked are a reality.

Just by watching this web cast, you are already in front, and you are not afraid to try new ideas. The fact that you would watch a 30 minute TV show on the internet is still foreign to some. Think back to the introduction of colour TV in Australia in the early 1970’s. Back then many would have asked why we would need colour.

I remember the introduction of our existing GSM digital mobile network in the late 1980’s and remember many people wondering why you would want a mobile phone with you. These days it is unusual for a business person not to have a mobile.

Over the next 20 minutes I want to share with you what is available now, what is around the corner and what we can expect in the not too distant future.

Recently, renowned futurist Nicholas Negroponte visited Australia as a guest of Telstra and presented to a group of business leaders on the digital future. One of the key messages he delivered was that the notion of e-business and e-commerce would become a thing of the past. We would simply refer to it as business and commerce- as it would all be transacted electronically.

Let’s have a look at where we are now

Internet access is available in most places in Australia, even by satellite for those remote areas. Permanently connected internet is available, but for small businesses, a dial-up connection is more common. The internet is also available on your mobile. Email services are available, and the majority of businesses that are connected to the internet also have an email address. Basic videoconferencing between 2 people using a cheap desktop camera and software such as Microsoft’s “NetMeeting” is available, and it even allows you to share files between people.

Basic trading of goods and services is available to consumers, and last Christmas we proved that Australians are taking to this in huge numbers stretching our delivery and fulfilment services to the limits.

Online banking is a reality, and online share trading is becoming popular. Clearly the landscape is changing due to the “new economy” brought about by online services.

Australian’s also love mobile phones! Over 40% of us have one, and we expect to be able to be contacted and make calls anywhere – even underground! I travelled on the new airport Railway in Sydney recently and was able to chat the whole way on my mobile! Mobile data services are also available, and the new WAP or Wireless Application Protocol phones allow us to interact with the internet while mobile.

Services such as email, news, and financial information can be viewed on these new phones. Even today, you can send short text messages via our SMS or short message service to other GSM phones – allowing you to send and receive information instantly. Did you know that Telstra processes more than 800,000 SMS messages every day!

Well that’s a snapshot is what is available today and you may be aware of some of these, but what I wanted to concentrate on is the exciting world of what is just around the corner.

Soon we will see the availability of permanent internet access. Technologies such ADSL (short for asynchronous digital subscriber line) will mean that your existing telephone line can be turned into a permanent internet connection.  Telstra is running trials of this technology at the moment – and you hear more about this later in the year.  Dialup access could be a thing of the past – and as our big pond cable customers know – being always connected has its advantages.

The concept of electronic trading between businesses – called business to business eCommerce or simply B2B will become the established way of trading online. Just as the online consumer trading sites such as eBay and sold.com allow you to buy and sell goods on the internet, business grade trading hubs will emerge that will allow you to select from a huge catalogue of items, check their availability, and order them online. The ability to issue electronic requests for information, or respond to electronic tenders from larger companies will be facilitated through these hubs. As we are seeing in the united states, large multinational companies such as Ford, General Motors, and Boeing are moving the majority of their purchasing online. We can expect this to flow through to Australian Businesses, and it may be the only way to trade with these larger companies in the future. Small businesses will also be able to buy and sell goods and services between each other – streamlining this activity.

You may have heard recently about the concept of portals or virtual communities. Sites such as telstra.com are just that – a virtual community or portal. Simply they provide a gateway into the rich services and content telstra.com has to offer. In the future we will see the development of portals or communities for specific vertical markets – such as mining, construction, and even small business. You would access a portal via the internet and be linked to services and information relevant to you and your business.

As a small business, you would expect to see news relevant to you (such as GST and cash-flow advice), you would be able to trade online utilising a B2B trading hub, and access some of the tools I have already outlined. It may be that a particular industry drives the development of specific portals to suit their needs or larger organisations develop portals through which they provide a link to their business. Portals will drive the development of online communities as similar businesses will all access the one site. This area is relevant for businesses of all sizes, and you can expect to see a lot of activity in this area over the next few months.

Collaboration tools will become more popular, as eTeams form. Sharing of documents, ideas, information and even appointments will be done online. If you are always connected, another member of your team can see if you are available for a meeting and book you online! That design you have been up all night working on can be reviewed and approved by your European client or team as you sleep, and be waiting for you the next morning.

In our own group at Telstra we work collaboratively with each other, other teams and our customers and suppliers. We can provide secure access to documents, news, appointments and presentations so that Project teams can be assembled online in a matter of moments, and the whole team has access to all of the documents, no matter where they are.

One of the most exciting new developments just around the corner is that of rentable software applications. We are used to renting a car, a ladder, or a house. You may ask why would you want to rent software?

It may be that you don’t wish to outlay a large expense on buying software that you may use occasionally, so you can opt to rent the software for a particular project or purpose. It may be more cost effective to rent all of your software and let someone else worry about software upgrades and maintenance.

Telstra are establishing an Application Service Provider or ASP capability that will allow you to rent applications online. At the moment we are running trials of Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. The way it works is that you would simply rent these applications (say on a monthly basis) and you would only need an internet connection and a browser. All of the processing is performed in Telstra’s ASP network, and only the screen changes are sent to your PC. It’s just like having your keyboard and monitor plugged into a supercharged PC online. You will here more about rentable applications and ASP thought the year. You can also expect that rentable applications relevant to a particular industry will be hosted on relevant industry portals.

Finally in the mobile world, the slow data rates available will increase dramatically through technologies Telstra are introducing such as General Packet Radio Service or GPRS. Simply speaking, GPRS will provide a permanent internet connection at greatly increased speeds. Mobility will become an attractive option when you want to take your business on the road and stay in touch.

My predictions for what we might see just around the corner are….

More businesses are permanently connected to the internet, Fax numbers will disappear from business cards and email addresses will replace them. All businesses will have a web address and more information will be available while mobile.

Finally, I thought I would share with you some predictions for the future beyond what we know today. Much of this hasn’t even happened in the US, but given what is available now, and what is just around the corner, the future is not that far away!

It is an accepted fact that Australia is about 12-18 months behind the US in the development and adoption of eCommerce. In the future we will see this gap narrow, as Australian businesses take up eCommerce services at an exponential rate, and demand more online solutions to improve their business efficiency.

The internet will no longer seem foreign, or a competitive advantage as we will all be using it – it will become a ubiquitous tool just like the telephone.

As anyone can set up on the internet – the head start that you have now may all but disappear.

Individual phone numbers and email addresses will be gone from business cards – instead a single identity such as a photo, symbol, logo or phrase will instantly connect us 1 on 1 or 1 to many instantly. We may ‘connect’ to another person – or machine via voice, send picture or transfer information.

We will see huge advances in the area of mobility. 3G or third generation mobiles will allow you to access many different services, even live video from your personal communications device (it may not be called a mobile phone any more as it will perform many more functions than a standard telephone). Your 3G device will become your personal communicator through which all information will be sent and received.

PC’s will become faster, but will contain little onboard software – the majority of it being rented from an Application Service Provider.

Global broadcasting will be the norm – webcasting may replace regular TV and we will demand more detailed information on everything we see, even while being entertained.

In short we will be able to connect anyone, anywhere, anyhow.

I’d like to close off with a futuristic example of how a small business might use all of the things I have spoken about today.

For example, if your business provides a service – let’s say a plumbing service, have you considered the efficiencies in allowing your clients to book you online?

By sharing your appointment book online (not the customer names – but just your availability) this would allow you to concentrate on what you do best, and streamline the administration of your business. Take this one step further, and imagine if you were able to take your PC into the field with you – and it was permanently connected to the online appointment book.

As the jobs came in, the system would organise the jobs in a way that makes sense, and allow travelling time to each job. As you finish a job, you would enter the details in your communicator, and the financial information (including tax invoice) would be produced on the spot and would also update your accountant’s records online. You would also receive the next job on your communicator – in a similar way the taxis despatch jobs. Does this seem a bit far out? ….

Well right now in America, the Coca Cola drivers all have a ruggedized PC – this is a tablet about the size of an A4 page – a bit like a big Palm Pilot, connected via wireless technologies to the internet where they receive scheduling and job information. They can even browse the web and check email while mobile. If it is happening in America – it can’t be too far away from being a reality here.

As the whole of the business community comes online, and is permanently connected, the opportunities to interact, transact and share information will increase exponentially. Connection is just the start – like the opening of a new road. The value will come from the smart applications and services that are provided on the road – in this case the internet.

So what should you be doing now to take advantage of the efficiencies that will come through eCommerce? And what does it mean for your business?

You have taken the first step – in being connected – and being open to new ideas – such as web-casts like this. You might like to earmark some of next year’s budget to test and trial some of these new ideas. How about renting an application online for a month, experiment with a website for your business and trial some collaborative tools. You may like to take this further and offer your goods or services online at a trading hub.

Most of all, you need to be informed, be prepared for change and embrace it!

I’m online myself and I can be contacted at www.andrewgrill.com, but I look forward to seeing you all online in the near future!

Entire text © 2000 Andrew Grill

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About 

Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here.