Realtime the publicly available version of the internet turns 30 next year. You read that right – 30! On 6th August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of his information sharing project on the alt.hypertext.newsgroup, in turn giving birth to a technology that would fundamentally change every facet of work and society.
From its humble, text-only origins, the internet has grown exponentially. It has seen the rise and fall of countless companies and technologies making household names of some, burning billions for others.
It has turned previously unimaginable concepts into everyday events, changing the way we work and communicate forever. From online booking and Facebook posting to Googling or vlogging, the internet
Is now an inextricable part of the modern world.
Yet in all that realtime– in all those 30 years – very little has changed in terms of how we interact with the web.
The way people use the internet today is, pretty much, exactly the same as it’s been for the last 30 years we make a request then wait for a response.
Almost everything we do online – whether it be typing, clicking, or tapping – follows this same request/response model.
We write an email – wait for a response Google a search term wait after type a web address wait for a response.
However, in the real world, things happen all around us all the time.
We are constantly bombarded with information – from work colleagues, other people, signs, in conversation.
The world doesn’t expect us to make requests – it offers information first.
Realtime applications (RTA’s) have the power to supply users with information before they’re even aware they want it
– without the need for the request/response model.
RTA’s vary in sophistication, but rudimentary versions can seen in apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Each of these apps now sends users notifications of information that is likely to be of interest.
Tweets and Facebook posts are sent to users directly; Pinterest boards of similar interests appear in your feed, and
In the Uber app, you can see your driver approaching. Your cellphone now pushes you live football scores (based on your
favorite team), weather forecasts (based on your location) and social updates (based on your friend network).
In each of these examples, the traditional request/response mechanism turned on its head.
However, while this is all excellent news for the casual user, the real power of RTA’s isn’t in person-to computer transactions
More, it lies in computer-to-computer interactions. Intelligent (smart) RTA’s can connect with other RTA’s and supply them with data. Data to make operating judgments or decisions – at lightning speed.
Say, a single set of traffic lights in a city-wide, smart transportation network.
In times gone by, the traffic lights might have been set to change uniformly, at fixed intervals.
Later, as our understanding of people patterns increased, the lights might have been set to change based largely on guesswork, e.g. in the morning, the bias might given to traffic moving towards the city while at night set to favor those driving away, on their way home.
The lights are now, on the surface of it, working “intelligently”, except, not really.
In truth, the lights are still working to a pre-determined schedule, based mostly on the assumption.
RTA’s have the power to change all that. With the introduction of a smart realtime system passing and interpreting data to our traffic lights, they could start to make intelligent ‘decisions’ based on the actual traffic flow throughout the city.
By connecting all the city’s lights and adding congestion monitoring (e.g. cameras), the lights could change on demand, based on traffic flow – around the entire city.
This new technology and connected way of thinking are only now starting to come to the fore. The possibilities are limitless, bound only by our imagination. The next few years will undoubtedly see significant leaps forward in terms of connected RTA devices.