Sometimes a simple picture puts it all in perspective. Reading through National Geographic this morning, there was an infographic, Wiring the World, that captured the state of the world’s connectivity perfectly through IP address mapping. The yellow, orange and red areas showing concentrations of IP addresses are primarily located in Europe and North America.
If you think that might reflect population, think again. Asia, with its 4.3 billion residents, has slightly fewer internet connections than Europe, with only 740 million people. North America (well, the U.S. and a sliver of Canada) have more than twice as many IP addresses as people.
A ridiculous headstart
These aren’t small differences…they’re massive. IP addresses, are how networked people and machines talk to each other. They’re the world’s digital addresses. While cell phones and computers make up a great number of the IP addresses, more and more, IP address reflects a “thing” that senses its environment, relays information, and performs calculations and other work. The infographic shows a population of both people and things that are potentially available for collaboration and innovation.
Connectedness itself is a powerful tool that multiples the value of every node that exists on the Internet. Connectedness represents an economy of ideas and information. Connectedness represents future influence as the rest of the world comes up to speed because it allows the most connected societies to innovate within a connected ecosystem that includes everything from connected homes to pill bottles and bathroom scales. At a level above the consumer, connectedness allows a society to innovate around resource use and conservation, whether that’s the electrical grid, irrigation for industrial-scale farming, or more efficient government. These are all things with enormous potential to change the world, but at their core rely on connectedness that fosters innovation.
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out as the Internet becomes less about people or populations and more about the value of all of that connected data. It will be especially to see if Europe and North Americas head start accelerates their technology leadership.