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How much will it cost to live in the future?

There has been fanfare, bluster, condemnation and apathy following the government’s Digital Britain report which outlines what needs to be done to safeguard our infrastructure for a digital future. It’s a fascinating document for a number of reasons, but mainly for me it provides a snapshot of our society in transition between old and new technologies, and perhaps the last push into the Information Age…

Apparently consumers now feel broadband is as much of a necessity as water or electricity. This strikes me as a little unusual considering broadband would be more or less useless without either of the other two, but nevertheless it is proof of how quickly we have become attached to the online world. Electricity is still powering the modern world, but digital information has put the evolution of all communication technologies into stratospheric overdrive during the last few decades.

The Digital Britain report is evidence that the continued development of these technologies is seen as vital to our industrial, commercial and social future and is a defining moment in our detachment from an analogue past.

I was very surprised to read that most analogue radio signals will be switched off by the end of 2015 according to government targets. Depending on your view, this is either highly ambitious or evidence of a doomed government overstating its capabilities in an attempt to win back votes. Either way, I hope WEEE processing is in better shape ready for an influx of obsolete FM radios in a little over five years’ time.

The switch over to digital radio is particularly interesting because the intended replacement technology is considered by many to be vastly inferior to the current one. Poor sound quality and patchy coverage have dogged DAB since its launch and although take-up is increasing, it’s way below original expectations.

Maybe there is something to be said for a more organic transition period which allows the technology to develop and then sell itself to consumers on merit rather than being thrust upon them, half-ready and unwanted. But that approach would probably not create such dynamic headlines.

Another switchover has been in the news recently. Europe’s leading science academies have stated they believe the continent’s ageing electricity grid will need a complete overhaul if it is to cope with the added burden of renewable energy being distributed over long distances. The overhaul and installation of high voltage direct current lines will need to be carried out soon if (highly ambitious) targets are to be met by 2020.

Again it seems as if policy has overtaken, or ignored, the real world which could be extremely damaging for the technology governments are falling over themselves to promote. I’m aware that setting targets is important, but in the grand scheme of things doing it properly is even more important.

This transition period we are witnessing will have a profound impact on everyone, but especially for the electrical industry which will provide much of the labour and products needed to carry out the work. Hopefully the various switchovers, overhauls and developments that take place will be carried out when the time is right and not under the influence of a politician anxiously looking at his watch.

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott
01732 359990

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