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CES 2011: Great show, new stuff, same bandwidth issues

The gap between your 'average mobile customers' and the 'smartphone power user' is starting to narrow quickly.
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Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

What a whirlwind CES 2011 was this year! More than 140,000 industry professionals and 30,000 from overseas attended the show according to their official Twitter account. There was no shortage of Smart TV's & appliances, gadgets, and other digital solutions made for just about any aspect of your life. There was so much cool stuff to share. From tweets to photos to video, the content whore that I am felt like it had finally met its multi-tasking match. I realized I couldn't possibly share all this great content with everyone at the rate that I wanted to. Not even close. It just wasn't humanly possible.

Starting with the barely-spotty-at-best network connectivity during Pepcom that got progressively worse during the following days of the show, I started to realize that the inability of our current infrastructure to keep up with our imaginations may be a very real problem in this day and age, one that could definitely hinder progress. On January 6th there were 43,000+ tweets that went out using the #CES hashtag and a large portion of those included links to photos and videos that were taken with mobile phones. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said at his keynote that, "the network is the new hard drive." While this is evident at every CES, this year was overwhelmingly so. Verizon also announced their 4G network plans for 2011 but until some of the old broadcasting companies start letting go of the rest of the frequency spectrum they're squatting on, we're going to continue to be in reactionary mode when it comes to "fixing" bandwidth issues.

The four aspects of social growth

In my opinion, there are four components to keeping this technological innovation machine we've created, purring smoothly as it scales, ensuring that it continues to feed progress and tech adoption from the masses.

1. Infrastructure 2. Application (mobile, tablet, etc.) 3. Visionary Entrepreneurship 4. Great Ideas

While running around trying to get video/photos (and other fun bytes) tweeted and uploaded to my various networks using my monstrous plethora of mobile iPhone 4 apps, I realized that it seems like numbers 2-4 in the list above are, and have been, growing and moving forward quite nicely. It's that old codger, infrastructure, that always seems to be the culprit genesis behind the list of burning questions that surface at every watering hole conversation inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, ones that pop up every year during CES - "Why is the network so slow? Why are all my social apps timing out 9 out of 10 attempts to send something out even though my phone tells me I have full signal?" I believe there's a bigger issue here that needs to continue to be addressed but maybe bumped up a little higher in priority.

Thanks to the era we are in and the resurgence of creativity coming out of several young tech executives (and some of the older forward-thinkers), great ideas and visionary entrepreneurship seem to be proliferating the American workforce and beyond. These smart new leaders are creating a relevant social application (as in 'applied', not software) for mobile phones, tablets, the cloud, and everything else under the sun. They hire amazing engineers to execute their vision and before you know it yet another content push channel is opened up and launched across the masses. The problem is that no matter how many upgrades and how much expansion we've done on the infrastructure side of things, imagination and the amount of methods available to us to share and syndicate content seems to progress 3X faster. The equation of content push over supporting infrastructure always seems to be out of whack. The trouble is that it's hard to be proactive sometimes when we don't know what is coming up next technologically.

How do we stay ahead, let alone keep up, without proactively building out more massive 200,000 square foot data centers worldwide out of more extreme assumption vs. forecasted growth by numbers? Will there ever be a CES where people leave the show talking about how great all the connectivity is? Companies like Apple and Facebook are building their own new data centers but that's just to serve their own business purposes. Something needs to be done on a global scale as the race for mobile content and connectivity will only heat up exponentially.

Younger and younger generations are getting more savvy online. Many of them somehow coaxed their parents into thinking that they needed an iPhone or a Droid. I see my teenage sons' friends walking around pushing up content with their phones as much, if not more, than I do. I believe we have definitely reached a critical plateau for the content-push generation. Now the gap between your 'average mobile customers' and the 'smartphone power user' is starting to narrow so much that we're seeing the mobile content-push crowd pound on our current systems and infrastructure in a way that was once unfathomable.

Will infrastructure growth and streamlining ever be able to scale with the times or will it always be behind?

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