Imagine it is this time next year. Or even the year after when all the bugs are ironed out of the new web-enabled devices that will pop into Christmas stockings this December. Your organisation has some visitors arrive. They are all wearing Google Glass. What do you do? Ask them to remove their eyewear or accept that your interactions are likely to be live-streamed or captured on video to be shared with their stakeholders?
Or you're serving in a restaurant. The customers come in, again, with wearable transmitting devices. Do you quietly present them with their meal or, as was the case last year, create a scene that ends in physical assault because the augmented-reality digital eye-wear cannot be removed?
In the same way that ten years ago the developments on the web disrupted the way we communicate and interact with others, bringing us to today's point of ubiquitous mobile engagement, the next wave of wearable (or implanted) devices will change forever not just the way we communicate, but the way we live. I wonder how many people, organisations, businesses and governments are ready for this shift?
There are countless scenarios that can be conjured when you think about the effect the next wave technologies will have on our lives and, from a professional standpoint, they are scenarios that all public relations and communication practitioners should be rehearsing before they find themselves, and their organisations, 'always on'. It is a big leap for most - a leap highlighted by the recent instruction to journalists not to tweet from a press conference. Even today this is a redundant instruction, but how would the organisation concerned react to the press conference being live streamed through a device such as Glass? The journalist attends a press conference as the representative of others. The expected delay between briefing and publication is the assumption of the host, based on older communication speeds and use of technology. As a journalist, my expectation would be to get the information back as soon as possible, and, if that means as it happens, then all the better.
The reality is not what shall we do if this happens, it is actually what are we going to do when this happens - and that 'when' is just around the corner. It's not just Google Glass either. Many companies are working on wearable devices and the next 'next wave' is likely to include invisi-wear, such as contact lenses, implants and the like. Unlike today when people at least have to speak to their phone, pretty soon you simply won't know who is communicating 'elsewhere' when you meet as the process will be seamless and simultaneous.
I meet with a lot of people who debate and discuss their 'social media strategy'. Frequently it revolves around tactics on the big networks - Facebook, Twitter and the like rather than creating a digital strategy that underpins their organisational and communcation goals. Rarely does it include Google+ or Hangouts and it inevitably involves a discussion around how to convince the organisation involved that today's communication channels are chaotic, concurrent, confused and cannot be controlled.
Over the last ten to twelve years I've said many times that the available technologies we have at our disposal don't simply transform the way we communicate - they transform the organisations themselves. That's where the biggest changes occur. Individuals and organisations that meet with success in social communication have inevitably undergone this transformative process from the inside out. They have a clear understanding of their role, provision or service, they have identified the communities that are critical to their licence to operate then set about forming networks of engagement mutually beneficial for all those involved. Yet even those organisations will find themselves disturbed once again by the device-shifts ahead as the reality of what we do rather than what we say becomes the primary organisational asset it should have always been.
As a matter of urgency, I would hope that practitioners convince their organisations to focus on their inner workings and deliverables. To focus on their employees and how to equip them to be 'always on'. On their suppliers and customers and agreed levels of acceptable shareability.
As the mobile phone is replaced in its ubiquity by the wearable or implanted device the question every public relations professional should be asking is this: how ready are you for the technology waiting around the corner and the change it will bring to your organisation?
Stumbled over this video from Altaeros Energies today. It's a few months old and I can't track the company down via its website (which is only returning cached results at the moment, so it could be a start-up still starting-up) but I thought the innovation was exciting. I also thought it would have enormous potential to help in certain types of disaster situations, given its transportability. There were lots of hyper-critical comments on the channel and while I'm sure it's not a perfect solution this type of thinking needs to be done. Exploring different ways to harness natural forms of energy can only be a good thing for the future.
We live in a switched-on world with an insatiable appetite for power and the poor old planet can't go on forever suffering the things we do to it for energy's sake. I hope we see more of this thinking along with a greater understanding of geothermal, photovoltaic and tidal energy generation.
The beginning of August saw Pacific Fibre close its doors after valiant attempts to finance and construct a second cable to secure New Zealand's connections to all things web. At the moment we have only the Southern Cross cable to keep us going, which to me seems utterly foolhardy - if not reckless.
If you are looking for the latest technology developments to dazzle your friends - or yourself - then look no further than the International Consumer Electronics Show which has just kicked off in Vegas.
One thing's for sure - the interconnectedness of the technologies now available means that we have moved right into a year where we can work anything from anywhere. I can switch on my aircon in NZ - even if I was in Vegas - or turn on the home monitoring micro-camera from the office to see the faces of those who have just triggered my house alarm. I can tap my credit card on my ultrabook to pay for stuff and turn my phone into a gaming console for a quick play while I wait.
Here are my top five 'most excited about' announcements so far:
If you like checking out the new and you can't get across to Vegas in the next couple of days (I wish) then you can follow the updates and breaking news on CESweb.org/news or check out the YouTube channel from CES Unveiled.
Here's some honourable mentions, including 'print your own objects' now available for the consumer.
A neat scanner mouse that will cause more copyright havoc no doubt...
And for a general round up of things green, comfort-inducing 'work it from anywhere' innovations, here's their taster:
Today, Wednesday 24 November, has been dubbed 'National Naked Scanner Opt-Out Day' in the USA in protest at the new full-body scanning devices now installed at airports across the country. Travellers crossing the States on one of the busiest travel dates of the year - tomorrow being Thanksgiving - are being urged to refuse the scanner and opt instead for the even less pleasant invasive pat down.
Essentially, the public's agreement for the intense security measures employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is being withdrawn and the issue is leading, slowly but surely, to a withdrawal on the part of the public of the TSA's 'licence to operate' - in short, it is a real public relations crisis.
Having been travelling the last few weeks, crossing the USA, UK, Europe and finally Hong Kong, the issue of airport security and the way in which it is handled has been much on my mind. Although I had my share of adventures, I did not experience anything like the search suffered by the six-year-old boy in the YouTube video below. Social media is being used as the catalyst to encourage people in the USA to take part in the 'opt-out'. How effective it will be, I really don't know - fear plays a part for travellers who are loathe to do anything that might draw attention to themselves, not because they are plotting some ghastly event, but simply because they don't want to undergo the humiliation, rudeness and downright nastiness displayed by some of those responsible for 'heightened security'. It is interesting to see that the 'fear' barrier so cleverly and effectively erected by the powers-that-be since 2001 is now being dismantled as people lose patience with a system that tags them as 'suspects' and subjects them to humiliating and very personal scrutiny just for heading off to visit Grandma.
What has happened, I believe, is that the balance has been lost. Security in Auckland is tight but polite. We understand the need for vigilance but nobody is treated like a criminal just because they are travelling - something which is, unfortunately, often the case at USA airports. In Hong Kong, Zurich and Geneva again, security was tight, but passengers were treated with courtesy and responded with cooperation, a match which, if anything, speeds up the whole process.
Somewhere along the line, the powers-that-be in the USA have got so absorbed with the implementation of security measures, they have forgotten the purpose - to catch the baddies, not harass the travellers. Even Hilary Clinton has been added to the list of those unhappy with the process. The sad fact is the real 'baddies' will find ways through even the most ingenious and stringent security measures as they have proved in the past. Meanwhile the rest of us suffer indignities, delays and humiliation or, as is the case with the organisers of Opt-Out day, work out a way to redress the balance and have their voices heard.
The new kids on the block are all set to make their first sprint into a new type of web. I know - we've heard that before, but I wonder if the boys from Diaspora will be one of the few to make it. A dozen ago, the lads from Google had not yet grown into the mighty men they have become in today's world and, although I'm not sure if they can take on the web giants, I wouldn't be surprised if a decade down the line, Diaspora has scattered at least a sizeable proportion of the 500 million Facebook users into another type of web engagement where we manage our own social graph.
Next month sees the release of their 'first sprint' and post-September 15 (a date often cited as Google's birthday by the way) I suspect we will see some interesting conversations. October will see the rest of us able to have a play with the ideas they have come up with during their 'northern hemisphere' summer.
Last week I blogged here about the community pages auto-generated by Facebook and the headaches that will cause not just for organisations but for the individuals whose status updates are being scooped up and used to auto-populate the auto-pages that nobody really wants.
If Diaspora helps people to 'break free' from the Facebook mindset then good on them. I wish them luck - but I am still a little cautious. I appreciate that their idea is to decentralise personal and social information and have that information scattered on a 'need to know and consent to share' basis, but I still see problems ahead if they do reach the size of Google. Google's information reach is phenomenal and I've long questioned such access being in the hands of one party. So imagine a network where the information reach is as big - but it's not train timetables, company details and maps. Instead, it's all personal. It is all about You. I understand that security will be tight, built in, bolted on, capable of dancing a jig and making the tea, but ultimately, anything is hackable.
So, watch the space carefully in the weeks and months ahead. It may spark and fizzle into nothing, but sometimes sparks take a long time to ignite. One thing is for sure, there's a sea change ahead. It will be interesting to see who battens down their information hatches and who decides to sit astride the bow and welcome the waves.
A gossipy PS concerning Google's birthday: Often cited as September 15, yet Google has doodled its birthday graphic variably on September 7, September 27 and on Google's Tenth birthday timeline, the company is said to have been registered on September 15. So an interesting choice of date for Diaspora's launch don't you think?
Today, Finland becomes the first country in the world to enshrine internet access as a legal right for its citizens. This piece from the BBC provides a quick overview of what has been accomplished, and follows on from the BBC survey earlier this year which identified access as a fundamental right. The Finns passed their bill in October 2009 and the aim is to provide citizen access to 100mbs - by right - in 2015.
Last year, France declared in its courts that internet access was a human right and other countries are following suit - but Finland wins the game today with its activation of last year's law.
Here in New Zealand, where we still struggle with connectivity, an effective duopoly of provision between Telecom and Vodafone with a few minnows struggling upstream, means the statistics are not so good. In Finland, 96% of the population is already on line. With a population of 5.3m, that's not so much bigger than us, yet Statistics NZ's number release in April this year advises that only 1m Kiwis are active broadband users, 80% are regular users but rural populations are still struggling along on dial-up.
There was a reasonable and robust programme of digital engagement under the last NZ government. Since John Key and the Nationals were elected, there has been far less emphasis and discussion on how we can ensure that the digital divide is bridged - and bridged quickly. Areas of access, digital literacy, digital education have all faded into the background. Sadly, basic infrastructure is lacking along with the will to change and despite our much vaunted Kiwi ingenuity, I fear that unless there is some real leadership, we will soon find ourselves far behind other countries in the world. And it is very easy to 'slip behind'.
Technology is a key enabler. It facilitates education, change, progress and problem solving. Access in itself is not a 'human right' but making it a 'legal right' certainly helps us all to improve the level of human rights around us.
Below is a great TED video from Hans Rosling from 2007, which looks at progress through the eyes of a very creative statistician, who demonstrates that change is possible, nothing is impossible - but we do have to be able to distinguish between goals and means if we are to make any progress at all. I hope that our own New Zealand government uses Finland as a credible and praiseworthy example as to what is possible in the area of digital access and starts sorting out an infrastructure that will allow everyone here to benefit in the same way as the citizens of Finland.