The Experiential Internet of the Near Future

Blog by: Jack Uldrich

On July 6, 2016, Nintendo unveiled “Pokémon Go.” Within a week, millions of people worldwide were playing the mobile game. In addition to its phenomenal growth and popularity, the launch of Pokémon Go represented the first widespread use of augmented reality—or the idea that digital information could be layered on top of the physical world. In this sense, Pokémon Go represented the first baby step toward the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

This was a significant step for the Internet. For its first 8,000 days of existence, humans accessed the Internet’s information through physical devices--first through desktop computers and, today, more commonly through smartphones. With Pokémon Go, the Internet, and its information, began coming directly to us as though we were living in the Internet.

This trend will soon experience explosive exponential growth and in the proverbial blink of an eye, society will shift from the Internet’s first stage to its next stage of development: the brave new world of “experiencing” the Internet. Massive amounts of customized information will soon be presented to us in compelling, engaging, new digital formats tailored to our precise needs and our exact locations.

Soon, satellites, solar-powered drones, high-altitude balloons and traditional telecommunications networks will be capable of delivering high-speed Internet access to all 7.5 billion inhabitants on the planet via lightning-fast 5G networks. In addition, billions and then trillions of physical objects will be connected to the Internet through the “Internet of Things” and these devices will produce yottabytes (one trillion terabytes) and then brontobytes (one thousand yottabytes) of data. This data will then be processed by ever more powerful algorithms, supercomputers and, eventually, quantum computers, and converted into useful information. As this happens, society will seamlessly shift over to the “experiential era” of the Internet.

At first, the transition will heed Arthur Clark’s observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And this new world will feel magical. Innovative organizations will harness the tools of the experiential Internet (5G, Big Data, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, etc.) to anticipate our needs and wants and then deliver personalized information, objects, products and services to us before we even know we need or want those things. Retailers will utilize Big Data to anticipate when a product is running low and ship us a replacement just in the nick of time; healthcare providers will leverage massive amounts of genomic information and powerful algorithms to prevent diseases from ever occurring; machines will optimize their performance without human involvement; autonomous transportation devices--requiring no ownership, insurance or maintenance—will appear when necessary to safely shepard us off to our desired destination; and education modules will be delivered to us before our existing skills can become obsolete.

The irony is that these advances will quickly fade from being “modern miracles” and “magical experiences” to becoming services that we won’t even think about--we will simply expect them to be at our beck and call. In this way the “Experiential Internet” will be similar to the introduction of electricity.

At first, electricity was a novel science experiment of limited value. Next, it was a magical advancement reserved only for the wealthy. Eventually, it was deemed an essential service that should be made available to the masses. Today and, in spite of literally turning darkness into light and extending humanity’s waking hours, electricity has quietly faded into the background and is something that is just expected to be available. So it will be with the Experiential Internet.

But the similarities don’t end there. Just as electricity required everyone from energy producers and entrepreneurs to city planners and manufacturers to think anew about how products and services could be produced and delivered, so will the Experiential Internet require every industry to radically question the status quo. And just as electricity spurred the creation of new industries such as radio, television, the computer industry and social media, so will the Experiential Internet require every industry to reimagine how to engage their customers with innovative new products and services that don’t yet exist.

Jack Uldrich is a leading global futurist, best-selling author and keynote speaker. His forthcoming book is Business as Unusual: The Big AHA!

About Author

Jack Uldrich, Global Futurist, Speaker, Author

Jack Uldrich is a renowned global futurist and the best-¬‐selling author of eleven books. He is a frequent guest on national media and regularly appears on the Science Channel’s television program, “FutureScape” and the Discovery Channel show “Inside Out." He is a prolific speaker on technology, change management and leadership and has addressed Fortune 100 corporations, venture capital firms, associations, not-for-profit organizations and state and regional governments. Follow him @JackUldrich