From pubs to hubs – life changing innovation flows along fibre connectivity
Advances in technology certainly inspire us. A friend of mine, for instance, has been contemplating buying up rural pubs because he is almost convinced that driverless cars will eradicate the scourge that is drink-driving and lead to major changes in drinking habits. With people likely visit country pubs more often, free of the concerns about drink-drive dangers, it is quite possible the revolution in driverless technology may head off in a very different direction. Prediction can be a risky occupation.
One thing is pretty certain, however – driverless cars are on their way and will require significant new connectivity infrastructure, whichever country we inhabit. Next-generation communications have already changed the nature of the entertainment business, spearheaded by Netflix and similar providers using our internet connections. Now we have advances such as driverless technology and telemedicine which have the potential to alter society profoundly, provided we have 21st Century infrastructure.
It is clear that reliance on the old copper phone networks to support this level of innovation will not work. Driverless technology, for example, requires a robust network of road sensors and base stations to transmit information more efficiently and reliably than the already overcrowded airwaves. Retrofitting the phone network will not provide the speed and capacity needed.
Innovation requires new fibre-based infrastructure to act as the plumbing along which the incredible volumes of data will pass to facilitate access to the amazing capabilities of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. If we neglect it, a terrible bottleneck in data transmission will reduce any chance of the innovation on which the future of society depends.
Ubiquity must nonetheless be a key aim of the undoubted economic benefits are to be reaped from new fibre broadband infrastructure. Areas remote from the cities are attractive to many entrepreneurs with young families and can become hubs of innovation if they have the super-fast connectivity that is as vital to digital businesses as clean water is to us.
Ireland is relatively well-placed to enjoy this predicted surge of innovation on the back of expanded fibre infrastructure. Although we have a dispersed and heavily rural population, governmental initiatives such as the National Broadband Plan will bring smaller towns high-quality connectivity.
As a country, we have also been surprisingly bold in changing behaviour. Few would have expected Ireland to have introduced a public smoking ban when it did and the country led the way in banning supermarket plastic bags.
Now we are on the brink of huge change that may well transform many parts of the country, setting an example for other areas of Europe that feel they need to catch up in the race for super-fast connectivity.
It is true that when the first homes were connected to electricity, nobody foresaw that dishwashers, computers and home entertainment systems would be normal domestic devices. As with the driverless car, we may not be entirely sure where we are going just yet, but we know we cannot get there without ubiquitous, open-access, super-fast fibre networks. It is the only way of freeing up the data bottleneck that will otherwise throttle the innovation on which our economies will depend.