Dire Straits' Telegraph Road Has Come a Long Way

While the commerce world was going through a sea change, so was the world of access and devices; one shaping and impacting the evolution of the other in ways no one could have predicted let alone planned.

The early clunky desktop computers have been replaced with slick personal computers, laptops and tablets. Smartphones, which pack as much power today as the early mainframe computers, make the first-generation cell phones look like doorstops. The number of cell or mobile phones now exceed fixed line phones, and the lines between feature cell phones and smartphones continue to blur, where sooner than later, we will refer to all phones – fixed, feature or smart – as just phones we carry with us all the time, in our hand or on our wrist.

Communication networks have steadily evolved from providing voice to messaging to data, going from the first generation to the second or 2G, to 3G, to 4G, with 5G well on its way. Innovations in network optimization have steadily helped providers increase bandwidth while decreasing their capital expenses per subscribers, effectively turning the telecommunication model based on access over density on its head. With better quality of service, though many markets have their work still cut out. There has been a constant evolution of value-added services and the related delivery and business models.

To the growing and rapidly maturing mobility space, wearable devices are now upon us in full rage. There has been steady innovation over the past several years around all kinds of smart and connected wearable devices, from shoes to jackets, and from socks to jocks. While some of these have already faded into oblivion, smart and connected devices like watches are here to stay.

While there is a lot of hype in the wearable technology space, it would be wrong to judge the utility of the underlying innovations based on the current products. If we were to track computing from the stoic mainframes to personal computers, to tablets, to smartphones and now to smart watches, the more admirable progression is of non-intrusive computing.

The access to and consequently the power of computing has steadily moved from a big building to the tabletop to our wrist. What required a walk down the hall could be done gradually over time on our own desks or in a café or in bed and soon may be possible through our watches or glasses. The smartwatch is but yet another strong move in the right direction, and irrespective of its adoption, it has definitely anted-up the stakes in the non-intrusive computing space.

If we were to roll-up the different transaction categories, they would broadly fall into the human-to-human category. Optimization of various processes and improving consumer engagement is leading towards more and more human-to-machine interactions. Going a step further, and of increasingly growing importance, are the machine-to-machine or M2M interactions and ensuing transactions.

The use of sensors in manufacturing, logistics, access, physical security, lighting, HVAC, smart power grids, automobiles, retail, healthcare and home automation has been around for a long time, steadily gaining elegance and acceptance. Combining proximity network technologies with these sensors, effectively giving them the ability to communicate remotely over the Internet to other sensors, expert systems, or humans enabled with smart interfaces, is creating a transaction ecosystem that will dwarf the current human-to-human transaction environment. The term Internet-of-Things refers to the interconnection between all of these sensors, devices and systems, equipped with an IP address, the necessary protocols, and supporting interfaces and intelligence.

A long time ago came a man on the track, built a cabin and winter store. Other travelers never went further; they never went back. Then came the churches and the schools; the lawyers and their rules; the trains and the trucks; the mines and the ore; the hard times and the war. Dire Straits’ Telegraph Road has come a long way.

The cross-pollination between transactions and telecommunication has to be one of the most fascinating developments in recent human history.

Check out Mehul Desai’s August of Money.