Connections in the Sky

Connections in the Sky

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4454-0.ch008
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Information is becoming more and more accessible, and the most recent watershed development in this trend is wireless data transfer. This technology has become so mainstream so quickly that it constitutes a “wireless revolution.” It holds significant implications for many industries, of which a few examples are given in this chapter, and for society in general. In the future, much more data will be transmitted wirelessly, but before this can happen on a truly massive and global scale, tremendous infrastructure development will need to take place. Still, various companies are further developing wireless technology, and networks are becoming more widespread even in developing areas of the world. The future of the information industry and the way individual users interact with it will be highly impacted by wireless technology, and the role and extent of government regulation and the issue of privacy will become two pressing questions.
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The Wireless Revolution

But how did we arrive at such a state, and what is its implication for infonomics and professional information services? Even ten years ago, we did not see anything close to the number of wireless users that we do today. The platform simply did not exist yet. That means that in just a few short years, the technology has been developed, distributed, and integrated into society on a massive scale; it is perhaps the fastest moving industry in the history of the world. Figure 1 reveals the stunning growth of wireless information transfer by showing the percentage of the United States population that made use of wireless technology in 1995, 2000, 2005, and the present day.

Figure 1.

Wireless penetration over time in the USA (Data source: CTIA, n.d.)

As you can see, the last ten years have seen the number of wireless users more than double. It’s strange to think of such growth in light of the fact that really advanced mobile devices like the iPhone or the Droid have only been around for a few years.

This whole trend originally began just before the turn of the twentieth century, when German physicist Heinrich Hertz’s experiments in electromagnetism yielded interesting results. Hertz discovered in 1888 that, by various means, electromagnetic waves could be produced and transmitted to distant receivers. By 1909 his theoretical work had developed into the first radio transmitter and receiver system. Originally dubbed “wireless telegraphy,” the use of radio waves to transmit information was the world’s first example of wireless electronic information transfer.

From there to the telephone, the mobile phone, the wireless router, and the development of WiFi, wireless has taken the world by storm. It is stunning to think that just 20 years ago, the majority of people in the country had never owned a computer or a mobile telephone. Now some 4.6 billion people across the world are not just online but making use of advanced wireless technology. That is more than two-thirds of the world that is involved in the “wireless revolution” (International Telecommunications Union, 2010).

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