Google's Skybender project using Titan drones

“To Google” may have become a transitive verb for “using search to obtain information” but at some point in the future one of its variants will be a synonym for “think big and disrupt everything”. Ok, let’s unpack this statement to add a little substance to its style. 

Disruption, in any industry, happens when a traditional bottleneck that creates a “Gatekeeper Effect” similar to the one traditionally associated with mass media. The steps that lead to it are familiar enough: 

  • A technological breakthrough drastically reduces production costs
  • Access is given to the ‘masses’
  • Traditional linear models of delivery are bypassed
  • A new paradigm emerges

The internet, first and then search are two classic examples of this in a very broad scale. Taken to a more granular level we see the pattern being repeated with mass media advertising, television, newspapers, film companies, retailers even manufacturers. In most cases Google, thanks to its search dominance, has had a hand to play in the disruption of most of these fields. But most of these cases have been inadvertent. The byproduct of connectivity in a massive scale and very cheap access to information. 

Now the gateways to information and connectivity are still traditional “Gatekeeper” style models operated by Telecoms and their ISPs. The whole conversation around net neutrality that, should it fail, has the potential to destroy the vision of a world where access to information and connectivity provides a level playing field, took place precisely because Telecoms and their ISPs are using the mentality that comes with a traditional Gatekeeper role and are flexing their muscles to squeeze out a little more profit and gain a little more power, misbehaving in exactly the ways we don’t want to see.

Google Joins the Dots for the Future of the Internet

Now let’s join some dots here to see the picture that emerges. Back in April 2014 Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a startup that makes solar-powered drones with the potential of perpetual flight and the grand vision of environmentally-friendly, global coverage. Code named Project Titan, it was absorbed by Google’s moonshot Google X division in December 2015

The move marked the maturation of the project as Google announced that it was experimenting with ways its high-flying drones could deliver net connectivity to the people below. In many regards this was complementary to the success achieved by Project Loon where Google’s high-flying balloons managed to bring internet access to people who traditionally had none. 

Google’s vision of a globally wired world however needed a little more than just an efficient, cost-effective sky-presence. It required a new way of delivering internet access. Enter Project Skybender (and don’t ever dare say Google doesn’t know how to wackily name projects). Skybender is the name given to Google’s 5G technology project that makes use of millimeter wave transmission to create an entirely new spectrum of radio waves and increase wireless data delivery speeds. 

The ability to immerse the globe in a sea of information freely transmitted over high-speed wireless internet could change everything. It would disrupt the costs associated with data plans, ISP-initiated throttling of internet access and the now so-last-century mindset of control-and-squeeze model of making money out of information. One of the direct byproducts of this would be the eventual demise or complete rethinking of Telecoms and ISPs, two industries which despite the fact that they are delivering cutting-edge services in 21st century technologies, still operate from a top-down approach and throw their weight around. 

But there would be way more implications associated with this, than just that: 

  • Search would become a tool of service for countless millions around the globe.
  • Internet access would be a utility, just like drinking water and electricity and associated with the capability of an economy to develop itself.
  • Mobile devices, traditionally marked by inferior access speeds would become as good at accessing the web as desktop computers and laptops.
  • Wearables would not be hamstrung by no connectivity or poor connection speeds.
  • Connectivity costs across the globe would plummet as the costs and labor traditionally associate with the laying of wires would be overcome.
  • But the biggest disruption of all would be the one whose potential we cannot even adequately visualize: the digital world would be, simply, everywhere. 

All of the above developments impact on search, entities and the convergence of digital and non-digital. That would turn a business, a brand or a person into something more real, transparent and accountable than ever before. It would present challenges to security, privacy and identity that we have never quite encountered. 

It would take the power of ascribing an identity that traditionally resides in the hands of a government, a country, an institution and a community and place it in the hands of the individual. Trust and trustworthiness, attributes that arise out of family groups and are necessary within a community setting would now play a pivotal role globally. 

The future is happening as we speak. The real question now is: are you ready for it?