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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: June 2007

Hyper-connectivity: the next mega-trend

June 2007
Magda Engelbrecht, Nortel country manager

A mega-trend that is about to unveil is the unstoppable force of change that is causing us to rethink the way we do telecoms.

Past mega-trends have been open source, corporate LANs, home networking and security. Each has caused disruption and then a reaction from the technical community, and each resulted in a new communications paradigm.
The next mega-trend that Nortel views as significant is hyper-connectivity. We define hyper-connectivity as a state in which the number of network connections exceeds the number of humans using these connections.
To understand the concept, consider the past. In 1994, only a small number of people were connected to enterprise LANs and even fewer connected to the Internet. By 2000, in North America, Europe and the developed areas of Asia-Pacific, full connectivity was achieved, where almost everyone who needed to be or could be connected to a network was connected.
Today, we are at the start of a hyper-connected phase where the number of nodes on the network are going to far exceed the number of human beings connected. In fact, analyses done at Nortel suggests that machine-oriented traffic is going to surpass people-oriented traffic in three to five years. This event will be as significant and as industry-altering as when data traffic surpassed voice traffic on networks in 2001.
We are already seeing evidence of this. In fact, it is not unusual today for a single person to bring two, three or even more Internet or network-connected devices to the network, such as a phone, PC, laptop and PDA, and this is just the beginning. If we consider the number of nodes that could be connected, and that would benefit from such connection, we could hit a level of tens or even hundreds of entities per person.
Imagine, for example, if your MP3 player, digital camera, home security system, automobile, refrigerator and everything else that could potentially communicate, connected to the network. This trend is inevitable. We are well on our way. But the discussion is whether or not, as an industry, we have considered its impact on the network, on the complexity of our operating models, on the security paradigms we depend upon, or on the time and budget we have for connectivity.
This is defined by the size of our IT organisations and the amount of funding we provide to support IT. While obvious, this trend and its inevitability have not been factored into much of the technology and architectures we use today in building networks.
Consider your own environment, personal or at work, and ask yourself what devices you currently connect to the network and what devices should or could be connected but are not yet. Imagine the value of being able to watch your favourite television program or music video whenever and wherever you want, with the network sending the video to whichever device you happen to be using at the time, a cellphone, laptop or PDA and automatically adapting the video to fit the device screen size.
For businesses, consider how much time could be saved setting up a conference call with colleagues around the world, if you could simply send an e-mail that would automatically check everyone's availability, set up the call, and immediately notify each person of the specifics without your manual involvement. Or, the time that could be saved by allowing a businessperson travelling in another city to securely open a corporate application on a laptop while in a taxi en route from the airport, set up a videoconference session and continue that session uninterrupted in a hotel room because moving across wireless and wireline networks is seamless and uninterrupted.
For governments consider how hyper-connectivity could help address a range of issues, from public safety and emergency response situations to environmental concerns. Electrical authorities, for instance, could economically deploy sensors on consumers' power meters to monitor consumption levels, enabling them to better optimise the flow of electricity to perhaps reduce peak-hour demand enough to avoid the need to build a new power plant.


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