Our Phygital World and What This Means

Just what we need, another buzzword. Yet it is quite accurate as cyberspace (our digital world) continues to intertwine ever so deeply with our physical world. The rise of the smartphone has made that happen. Today, about 75% of our use of a smartphone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) is not about making well, phone calls. We shop, look up products, find places to eat, schedule our lives and find directions. And take lots of pictures.

Phygital and The Internet of Things
Already, over 7 Billion devices from fridges and crockpots to smartphones, cars and thermostats are connected to the Internet. This is called the “Internet of Things” or “IoT” in tech parlance. Companies are increasingly embedding sensors and Internet connections into every conceivable product they can. Cisco estimates that by 2025 there will be over 1 Trillion devices connected to the Internet.

Okay, but Why?
For corporations, they gain value by collecting all kinds of data on how people use their products. They want to do two things; find ways to reduce features and costs and design better products to sell more of them. For consumers, the hope is we can automate more of our lives, freeing up time to do things like tweet or hang out on Facebook more. Or maybe go hiking and canoeing.

We Are Already Cyborgs
Thinking of that famous line from Star Trek made by the Borg character; “Resistance is futile”? When you post something to Facebook, Instagram a blog, Twitter, news article comment…you are extending a part of your “self” into the digital realm. You may post and eat your lunch while an entire conversation happens around the posting you made. You may jump back in and out, but you’ve placed your “self” out there in a digital way. When your at work and your Nest thermostat sends a message to your smartphone that the kids just turned up the heat, there’s a series of actions happening connecting your life and your kids. And of course, you can turn down the heat and lock it in. Or when the kids forget their smartphone, you can unlock the front door from home.

Add to this how scientists are connecting our brains to the Internet. A new implant device has made it possible for a quadriplegic man to pick up things with his arm. New skeletal technologies are enabling the paralyzed to walk again.

The Phygital Future
Not all of these devices will succeed with consumers. Some are a solution in search of a problem. But many will be. It is simply the n nature of humans. Throughout our history we have developed tools; fires for cooking, arrowheads for hunting, the wheel for transport. Technologies, primitive and advanced, play a key role in our world. Every year we spend $10 Trillion on energy, communications and transportation infrastructure. That’s quite a lot of money. As our world becomes ever more connected, technologies will become more “invisible” and that’s when they get useful. Think of the telephone. That is an “invisible” technology. We all use them. We learn how to use a telephone at a very early age, now the telephone feature of a smartphone is just that, a feature. It is no longer the purpose of the smartphone.

Our world has already become phygital.

Article by Giles Crouch