LIVE FROM CES ASIA, SHANGHAI: The number of people using the internet is forecast to double to six billion over the next 30 months, with mobile giving that growth the biggest push, according to figures from the Consumer Technology Association.

“It took about 50 years to get to the first three billion people on the internet; it will take 30 months to get the next three billion on the internet,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research at the Consumer Technology Association, organiser of this week’s event.

He said the mobile environment has “really started to influence and define how consumers are using the internet”, and gave the example of how mobile already accounts for the majority of online payments in many countries.

DuBravac pointed to the surprising stat that improvements in voice-to-text technology over the last 30 months have surpassed all the advances from the previous 30 years. In 1995 the word rate error was close to 100 per cent, by 2013 that had dropped to 23 per cent and last year it was down to just 5 per cent. The reason for the slow development: a lack of investment, he noted.

Aggregation learning
He also outlined five different levels of automation for automobiles, from zero to fully autonomous, and noted that Google vehicles have already clocked up more than 1.6 million kilometres on the roads, which is more than the average driver in the US would drive in 75 years.

Since all the data is shared across Google vehicle’s platforms in near real-time, it accelerates learning and the effectiveness of that driving environment. This a type of aggregation learning that can be applied to other sectors such as smart homes and smart cities, he said.

On the topic of wearables, he said we’re starting to see a shift from what is possible from a technological point of view to what is technologically meaningful. “In the last couple of years I’ve seen the conversation move from not just the specifications of the device, but looking at the user experience, how it fits into people’s lives and integrates into their activities. That is what will enable wearables to fit in.”