“The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.”

That was the opinion of Doug Engelbart – inventor of the mouse and pioneer of the internet and modern GUIs. A grand claim, perhaps, but there’s no denying the pervasive influence of digital technologies on our world in the last century. We have seen phenomenal advances in our ability to manufacture more accurately and efficiently, communicate instantaneously and share knowledge across the globe. AI is making inroads into healthcare, transport, education and other sectors, reducing the effort required from the humble human in day to day life.

Mobile technology in particular has changed the way we interact with the world and all of these new digital assets. Having been fortunate enough to work in digital technologies since the late 80s from the early days of Hypertext (HTML to most of the world), DVD and Digital TV and into early mobile technologies, experiencing the pace of change has been astonishing.

The biggest change however has been in how we interact. In the 10 years since we started emobix as a software development business, we have seen the smart mobile device go from an enterprise tool to the indispensable appendage it is today – providing effortless access to communications, entertainment, banking, news and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s the portal to our digital world. The mobile is now an extension of our existence, for better or worse. The nature of the interaction with devices, systems and individuals across the globe using this mobile communicator is a true feat of collaborative design and engineering.

It’s all good

These advances in digital technologies have brought us great benefits, especially in terms of reshaping our ability to work remotely – a capability brought sharply into focus in our strategy for coping with the COVID-19 situation. We can take an MIT university course remotely, interacting with top lecturers and doing video-conference workshops, monitor our homes remotely when we’re away using networked video cameras, or order a new TV and have it delivered next day, tracking it all the way on our phones using live map updates. We’ve never had it so good… or have we?

The inexorable drive for more, faster, cheaper and the continual focus on revenue growth is unsustainable and out of kilter with the increasingly pressing goals of sustainability and social responsibility. The increasing demand on our limited resources is concerning. Looking at global population graphs and wealth distribution it’s clear that simply focussing on revenue may not be the most important metric for business in the coming decades.

Digital Futures

Technological innovations aimed at better performance, efficiency or new capability are all laudable. Bill Gates once said “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time”. I would agree wholeheartedly with that perspective, but with a focus on maintaining and enriching the fabric of our society rather than just facilitating greater consumerism.

Balancing the need for revenue generation with a socially and environmentally responsible approach to business may seem like a difficult task, but we have some great technologies and tools at our disposal to help enable that. Our public sectors such as education and healthcare continually struggle for funding, and are heavily dependent on physical resources; people, buildings and other assets. Managing access to and effective utilisation of these assets is an ongoing problem, and funding issues will continue to grow due to increased demand on the services they provide. Finding ways to maintain quality of service while reducing overheads is an inevitable part of that process

No Problems, Just Opportunities

We have an opportunity to help ease these headaches by collaborating closely with experts from each sector, taking a more holistic approach to service delivery and processes. SMEs have a key role to play, but we need to see a shift in focus within our business community and governing bodies from rapid revenue growth to sustainability and stability in order to ride out the hard times.

It has been an exciting and successful initial decade for emobix developing mobile digital solutions in various sectors an we’re looking forward to some exciting collaborations in the next 10 years.

The future’s bright. The future’s digital.

Pete McLaughlin
MD at emobix limited, Glasgow