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Living in an always connected world

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DisconnectedImage: Chris Sharp / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve seen a huge shift within the last ten years, and more specifically within the last 2-5 years, with regards to the volume of people who are participating in what’s fast becoming an always connected and “on” world. Long gone are the times where checking email used to be an occasional activity, and for many, using a work provided email address. The days where we’d not know what our friends and relatives had been up to other than whilst catching up at functions or gatherings have since passed. The Internet and advances in technology that connect us with it have allowed us to integrate our lives as much or as little as we’d like.

I’d like to think that I’ve always been an early adopter. Not a pioneer or leader, but someone who embraces technology and change with enthusiasm and energy. Thanks to the relationships and connections I’ve forged over the past 15 years of being part of the Internet, I’m able to quickly find out about new developments and upcoming news. I love being able to tell people about new and upcoming technologies – although, bless my wife, she doesn’t share the same interest and does brilliantly putting up with my little moments of excited chatter when I’ve found or done something very new.

A few years ago I ran a network lead from our home office down our stairs and into our lounge so that we had a fixed network point behind our sofa. This was the start of our computer equipment and the Internet creeping into other areas of our home. At the time the network point’s main purpose was to allow my Wife to connect her laptop physically to our network so she could work from home in the company of our TV. We moved house about three years ago and I didn’t bother doing the same thing once we’d settled, instead whilst more of our household was getting online, I was hooking devices up using wireless technology rather than physical cabling. This is something I’m going to reverse within the next couple of months by running ethernet cable between our office and lounge for HD streaming purposes.

When I started to think about the number of devices in our home that had a connection to the outside world I was quite surprised:

  • Computers (including laptops)
  • XBOXs (one in lounge and one in bedroom – both media centres)
  • Wii
  • Television (yes, our TV has an integrated network point and the PS3 media interface!)
  • Blu-ray player (was surprised to see this but brilliant for extra content and firmware updates)
  • iPhones

I am more than sure that this list will grow as the years go by. We’ve a toddler in the house at the moment and would like to extend our family further. I, in the last week, replaced our home router. The integrated b/g wireless switch has been replaced by a more advanced a/b/g/n model. It’s capable of handling more devices, faster and over greater range. I’m ready to add more devices as we see appropriate – I’m very excited about it, the only downside comes when the Internet goes on it’s arse.

Connected worldImage: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the day I decided to install our new router, there was an issue with our Internet connection. We have a static IP address rather than a dynamically assigned one. I was unable to input our static details – a call to our Internet Service Provider revealed there was an issue in our exchange. For the whole of that evening, we were without Internet. It felt like we were cut off from the outside world. We are so reliant upon the web and connectivity to it, and often don’t realise how integrated into our lives it is, and only realise when it’s taken away. We don’t live in a 3G covered reception area, so had to make do with 2G services on our iPhones which was both cumbersome and frustrating. Had I remembered, we could have dropped on to our neighbour’s wireless since we look after their computers as a favour on a regular basis. This did get me thinking, I wonder how many years it’ll be before we start to see more than one service provider in our homes so that we’ve got at the very least fail over provisions for our Internet service and load balancing the rest of the time?

It’s not just our homes that are always on – the wide adoption of smartphones has seen data plans becoming commonplace on the average consumer’s mobile handset. I personally imagine that this was driven forward by peoples desire to be able to access Facebook anywhere with access to rich information, email on the move and a web browser in your pocket being secondary. The iPhone 3G coming to market really drove this forward. The general public saw an easy and convenient medium by which to enhance their lives. Operators recognised this revenue stream and from mid to late 2008 we saw data plans as optional extras then in 2009 a move to a more common standard feature of any service plan with handset manufacturers packing more and more features into their products to take advantage of it.

Of course, not everyone shares the same enthusiasm as I do. I finding it interesting to see people who once had little to no interest in the Internet embracing it and filling their homes with more gadgets and technology that they once swore blind they’d never have in their home. My own Father shares many of the same interests in technology (but not all) and it could well be him that I get this avid interest from. My Mother (RIP) would have a fit if she saw the size of the TVs and integration we now have with all these devices in our homes.

Whilst I mentioned earlier the strange feeling we encountered when disconnected, getting offline and taking a break from it all is a healthy experience. At the time we had our outage I’d got plans that necessitated being on-line. I’m confident that we’ll see new medical conditions diagnosed as the years go by. Anxieity related situations where people suffer as a result of saturating their time on-line or even being disconnected from it. Over the years that text messaging became more commonplace and mobile handsets more available we’ve seen virtual bullying grow and mediums of exploiting others increase. There’s a dark side to most things, but with common sense I really believe that the technological advances that surround us are going to benefit and enrich us phenominally.

How do you feel about the ever increasing presence of the Internet and being permanently connected?

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