Yesterday I was able to watch a live stream of Google’s IO keynote from San Francisco on a Blackberry Q10 travelling at up to 70 mph as a passenger in a moving car through the rural East of England.
It represented one of those watershed moments which made me realise how far mobile technology has progressed. Consider the scale of infrastructure investments, compatibility testing, hardware development and software iteration which went in to making that experience possible.
- Content creation: how long ago was it that live streaming an event was the exclusive preserve of broadcasters equipped with full time camera crews, truck-sized studios, dedicated satellites and broadcast towers? Today anyone with a smartphone can live stream what they’re doing with the same device they have in their pocket everyday. While I’m sure Google’s set-up for IO was rather more complex than this, the core capability is now accessible to literally hundreds of millions of people with mid-range smartphones.
- Network capacity: the infrastructure is now in place to transport high quality video from San Francisco and replay it live to over a million people watching on YouTube for a 3 hour event. Furthermore, I was able to maintain a reliable connection in a moving vehicle, travelling through a sparsely populated area of fields and farms (using an unlimited data plan from UK operator Three, costing about GBP 15 per month).
- Compatibility: I used my Blackberry Q10 to Google for ‘Google IO’. I clicked the first result in the search page and the video just started streaming in the browser. The audio was piped to the car sound system over Bluetooth so the driver could also listen to it like a podcast. Remember when you could only watch certain videos in certain apps if you had certain codecs and only some Bluetooth devices could pair with each other? Yesterday it was seamless.
Working in this industry day-to-day, especially with a focus on the experiences which still need improving, it is easy to forget the progress which has been made. It took a moment like this to remind me how much has been achieved.