Technology is constantly evolving, and it is a testament to man’s creativity. I remember not having a mobile phone as a kid. We had a single landline telephone, reserved for important or emergency use. We listened to the radio and recorded music from albums on tapes and CDs to create mixtapes. The internet was around, but the internet as we know it today was a theoretical idea.
Nowadays, most people have a smartphone. We shop, we chat, we play, and we learn online. It isn’t easy to imagine our lives without the internet. Over the past 15 to 20 years, digital has changed our personal lives and has also transformed the business world, and no industry was left untouched.
Digital technology over the last few decades has progressed exponentially. Let’s look at the progress technology has made due to three fundamental laws that have made it all possible. These laws address the core concepts of digital information management: processing, communication, and storage.
At first, it was formulated slightly differently. Moore’s Law states that every 18 months, your computer will have twice as much power to process information. It says on a given silicon chip — every 18 months, you can pack twice as many transistors onto it.
This Law has been challenged because the more transistors you fit on a chip, the higher their density becomes, and eventually, you reach a point where quantum effects take place, stopping the processor from working the way it was intended to.
Many people think of this as a temporary problem, not a permanent one. There are some solutions, and we can change the way we design the chips from 2D to 3D to increase their surface area. We can change the materials we use to make computer chips instead of silicone; we can use graphite or even radically change our approach and go to quantum computing.
Butter’s Law states that the amount of data communicated through a single optical fibre doubles roughly every nine months. If you plot the typical speeds and megabytes per second on a log scale, there will be a straight line, which means an exponential increase over the years. There’s a variation of this Law for other communication media, whether wireline like ADSL, VDSL or wireless like 3G, LTE and, more recently, 5G.
This law looks at hard drive storage capacity and states that the amount of data stored per centimetre square of a hard drive will double every 13 months. This was the case in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Mark Kryder created the Law. This trend has slowed down to double every 16 or 17 months. Still, this remains even faster than Moore’s Law. Remember some large blocks of hard drives almost the size of CPUs in the early 2000s? They even required us to plug in a power supply to store half a terabyte or a terabyte of data.
Now, a one-centimetre thick external terabyte storage device is about the size of a passport. Theoretically, this Law describes the technology potential. Only part of that potential goes into performance improvement for the mass market devices. The other part, however, will go into consumer cost reductions so that computers, internet connection, and storage capacity become better and cheaper.
Our human intuition is used to seeing linear developments, and we tend always to underestimate the progress. Therefore, it’s not surprising that companies also tend to minimise or even be utterly blind to the impact of digital technology.
If companies develop in a straight line and technology evolves exponentially, a gap appears in the difference between the company’s current level of value delivery and what would be possible technology-wise. And the gap is growing more quickly all the time, with innovative startups filling that gap in a very different way. Spark can help bridge that gap, providing consulting, education and expertise services in machine learning, AWS, AI and big data. Book a Discovery Workshop with Spark and see how we can help your business achieve success.