I went to Lotusphere in January 2011 and I was surprised at how many people were using iPads, bearing in mind that iPads came out only a few months earlier. While I was there, I visited Disney World, and assistants were using iPads to find me information and record my details.
As time goes on, I become even more amazed at how the world has changed since that innovation. It wasn’t an invention, although I’m sure there are lots of patents on it, it was basically just a bringing together of various concepts that already existed and making them consumable. There are a few points in our history when something happens and suddenly everyone can see the value that they can get from building on it. A phone and an iPod existed and were put together to make an iPhone, and then it was made bigger to be an iPad. Yesterday I went to register at a conference; the registrars used an iPad to scan my QR code, I entered my Twitter ID on the tablet, and then they printed out my badge.
I’ve been using Twitter since I got my first iPhone. Twitter already existed, as did personal digital assistants (PDAs), but bringing them together suddenly made them consumable. I’m sure that’s happened for many people and this has led to a sudden uptick in the use of Twitter, the world of social media, and even the Internet of Things have taken off. Suddenly the world is a different place because people are building on the innovation.
People are now familiar with the concept of using a thin client to access web services. Cloud has become the default paradigm and decision-makers are taking this into their businesses with an expectation of instant access and low-cost consoles.
My light-bulb moment, when I realized the difference cloud was going to make, came when I met with a group of start-up companies at Bournemouth University. I’d been asked to speak about cloud. The University’s Digital Hub consultancy helps to sustain a competitive advantage for its clients by educating them about cutting edge digital technologies; the consultancy recognized cloud as one of these. Amongt other topics, I told them about the Wuxi iPark in China.
The local government for Wuxi New District has been pursuing a strategy of economic growth by encouraging the development of industry. The Wuxi iPark hosts hundreds of small and medium-sized companies that need business software to run and grow their businesses. IBM Research and the Wuxi New District implemented a cloud platform to enable Wuxi iPark residents – whether they are ISVs, technology manufacturers, or bakeries, for example –access to low-cost, pay-as-you go applications such as ERP, CRM, and e-Procurement to help them run their businesses. The cloud provides integration between these applications, which enable SMEs to share information with their business partners and supply chain when they need to. Cloud reduces their up-front investment in infrastructure, and allows them to concentrate their resources on developing business solutions for their markets more quickly, more cheaply, and with less risk. This way is stimulating growth both for resident businesses and the wider economy, and also is providing opportunities for employment and training to local residents.
So, while discussing this story with small businesses in Bournemouth, I suddenly understood that cloud enables anyone with a good idea to get that idea out into the world without needing any initial investment. I also understood how this approach opens up a massive amount of possibility for innovation — not just for the initial ideas, but for all the ideas that other people will develop based on the first one. And not just for technological ideas, I’m thinking about all the business ideas people have had in the past and that have been lost because of the effort of setting up a business. I really think that this way could give an exponential increase in our quality of life.
These businesses could be providing the foundations of technology needed for medical research; they could be charities that couldn’t afford to run with a normal infrastructure.
So this was my light-bulb moment, when I realized that cloud will accelerate the evolution of mankind.