Only four hundred years ago, life and work in my home country, The Netherlands, like much of Europe, was governed by the ringing of the local church bell. With its daily toll, hordes of workers would be summoned to and from their agricultural toil.
Over time, rapid advances in engineering, miniaturisation and mass production brought timekeeping first to the wealthy and then the mass market. Today, of course, it’s virtually impossible to escape ‘the time’. Its ubiquity truly shapes the way we live and work.
In the last 50 years, the story has been repeated in information technology. No longer are computers the preserve of our elite institutions nor even the rich. Today, there are more transistors on our planet than grains of rice, embedded in things we might not even recognise as computers:
phones, cars, appliances, even bridges, roads and waterways, all linked together in networks as parts of increasingly complex systems.
As a result, the amount of data we are generating is growing exponentially – tenfold between 2007 and 2010 alone. We see no let-up in that rate of growth. High performance computers, in turn, are able to mine this data for intelligence and insight.
Set this technology trend against the changes going on in the business world: only two of the world’s top 10 largest companies in 2000 remain on that list today, as the world’s competitive landscape reshapes. Meanwhile, citizens are become more demanding in the services they require from business and Government institutions alike.
In this context, I believe the emergence of Cloud computing stands out as one of the key technological advances of the last 30 years.