The Real Time Economy
As a preface to the list of URLs pertaining to a real time economy here is an extract from the 1968 publication "A Systems Analytic Approach to Economic Geography". The language reflects the state of computer technology prior to the emergence of the personal computer. It is an early attempt to sketch the outlines of the emerging e-economy:
A key feature of present technology is the increasing use of energy to augment human brain power, via electronic computers. Automation and space technology are ramifications of this new development. Concurrently there is a great increase in the use of mathematics and statistics in the solution of spatial problems, as we try to grasp the nature of whole systems. Up to now, though we were conscious of the many interrelationships among the things we studied in geography, we necessarily had to ignore many of these factors because of our physical inability to take them into account. Some of these problems would have taken a lifetime to solve simply because of the time-comsuming arithmetic computations required. But the electronic computer is changing all this,and it can aid the evolution toward a particular optimal spatial pattern of economic activities.
At present, systems exist for the storage of economic flow (input output) data in a computer data bank. Geographical locations can be coded in such a way as to permit computer mapping and various other computer based spatial analyses.
But whilst this development is one which will greatly alleviate the problem of data gathering, (as more and more firms resort to management information systems to facilitate and expedite control of production, inventory, and sales), our concept of a data bank is still a pretty primitive one. The second generation of such data banks is already being developed, and this is an on-line real-time (OLRT) information system. On-line is a "term applied to a system in which input data are processed as they are received," instead of periodic collection and processing. Real-time is the capability to receive data, process them, and return results to the source in a time commensurate with the response needed by the generative source. The information system which most strikingly illustrates an on-line real-time capability is the one which controls the various space voyages launched by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Real-time in this instance, especially during the launching and landing phases, is measured in nano-seconds.
But OLRT Systems are now contributing to the control of business organizations. For example, here is a quotation form the Scientific American:
"Probably the most extensive and advanced use of a real-time system in industry today is that of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Its tele-computer center in Pittsburgh is becoming the nerve center of the corporation. The center started operating in 1962 as an automatic switchboard for messages in the teletype network that serves all the Westinghouse divisions. Today this system, in continual communication with about 300 plants, field offices, warehouses, distributors and applicance repair centers, is taking over the functions of inventory control and order processing ona vast scale. It has also begun to take a hand in production control and is steadily moving into new fields. The improvements in the company's operations have been dramatic. By directing shipments to customers from the nearest warehouse that has the ordered item in stockthe system has speeded up deliveries and reduced transportation costs. It provides salesmen with information about the availability of products and about prices within minutes. It updates sales statistics continuously. It automatically requisitions replenishments when inventories fall below a given level. The data captured by the computer from the messages it is continually receiving and transmitting give the management a growing fund of timely information."
One cannot help wondering whether what is good for Westinghouse is good for the total space-economy.
It does seem clear, however, that if we are to consider data banks at all, then we should seriously evaluate the feasibility and the implications of the OLRT information system on a regional and a national scale.
Such a capability would add significantly to the time-dimension of our spatial studies. We would be enabled to effectively probe the dynamics of our space-economy - the everchanging spatial pattern stemming from continuous variations in the direction, volume and nature of flows.
But, it may be objected, information systems may be fine for giant corporations such as Westinghouse. What about the majority of firms which may not economically aspire to such a system?
Here, again, a new development may be observed which seems to offer a solution to this very real problem. This is the computer utility. This new technology is essentially an OLRT capability plus a time-sharing capability. Time-sharing takes advantage of the speed with which a computer performs its operations. When a person communicates with the machine from a teletype console, his speed of input is vastly inferior to the speed with which the machine obeys his instructions. Thus it spends a great deal of time (relatively!) just waiting for the next instruction. In a time-sharing system, the computer cycles among many users, giving its undivided attention for only a few seconds or often less than a second. But the cycling is so rapid, that each user has the impression that he is the sole user of the machine.
Parkhill discusses the computer utility as
"a general purpose public system, simultaneously making available to a multitude of diverse geographically distributed users a wide range of different information processing services and capabilities on an on-line basis. As in any utility, the overhead would be shared among all users,
with each user's charges varying with the actual time and facilities used in the solution of his problems. Ideally, such a utility would provide each user, whenever he needed it, with a private computer capability as powerful as the current technology permitted but at a small fraction of the cost of an individually owned system."
Complementary with this development is the tendency for accounting firms, which "keep books" for many small firms, to introduce computer based information systems. To facilitate their operations, onemay antici pate a trend toward standardization of invoicing forms among participating firms in order that they will be computer-compatible.
When our primitive, isolated data bank has evolved into a full-fledged, complex OLRT information system, we may expect a rather different man/computer relationship. It may be argued that this difference is in degree only, but we think that it will be a difference with a special significance. Some geographers might label it the "second revolution" in their discipline.
Let us try to elaborate. At present, we tend to use the computer as an extremely rapid, and extremely efficient, calculating machine, and draftsman. But the data we use are periodic, and subject to long delays in updating. The maps, no matter how sophisticated the analytical tech niques employed, are static.
Yet another development is a graphic display device, the cathode ray tube (CRT). Given a time-series of spatially defined data (e.g. a series of digitized weather maps), perhaps transformed to a continuous surface, one can run this information sequentially through an appropriately programmed computer and display the results on the CRT. On the screen may be viewed a moving image representing changes in the climatological situation, or in the economic landscape over time. Such a dynamic image (which could be video-taped for repeated viewings) would provide further insight into relationships underlying the observed differential rates and directions of change.
An OLRT capability, in conjunction with the above CRT capability, would enable one to observe spatial changes as they were happening. This, we submit, is a difference in degree, which may lead to a difference in kind insofar as control of the space-economy is concerned. It would seem that such a continuous involvement (requiring as it must virtually continuous man/computer interaction) may lead to a mode of thinking quite different from that evolved in an environment kept at arm's length, so to speak.
But continual up-dating of data is very costly, and is it necessary? What constitutes real-time in one activity may lead to redundancy in another. Should data be reported daily, weekly, monthly, or hourly? The answer will depend upon the process speeds involved. Much research would be required to answer this question, using OLRT systems.
And how does a mere human cope with the problem of interpreting such a continuing flood of information? The solution to this problem may lie in some form of pattern recognition methodology. As we turn more and more detailed analysis over to the machine,we perhaps must devote equally increasing amounts of research effort to the development of modes of information display which the human brain can grasp. As humans, our strength appears to lie in the recognition of form and concept. Perhaps we have much to learn from the artist in this regard.
For a review of the context of the real time economy read a description the emerging digital environment.
- The Real-Time Economy - In the real-time era, companies are focused on finding new ways to collaborate with not only their customers but also their suppliers and business partners. This turn toward "enterprise relationship management" or "collaborative commerce" promises to dramatically improve the capabilities of companies, enabling them to address the preferences and priorities of their customers in an increasingly impressive way. As companies place ever more attention on their relationships with partners in their networks of supply, they are becoming ever more effective at generating customer value and staving off competitors. Such trends are paying off big in terms of productivity and economic growth. As Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan explains, "the remarkable surge in the availability of more timely information in recent years has enabled business management to remove large swaths of inventory safety stocks and worker redundancies. Information access in real time Š has fostered marked reductions in delivery lead times and the related work hours required for the production and delivery of all sorts of goods."
- Three Rules for Managing In The Real-Time Economy - In the beginning is the plan: That's how most businesses run. We make budgets, forecasts, schedules. We draw a value chain that goes from left to right in what looks like chronological order: First buy stuff, then do stuff, then sell stuff. Time, in a business like this, is something we manage. To operate a business in real time is completely different, both logically and chronologically. For a real-time business, in the beginning is the signal: Out in the market a cricket rubs its legs together, and the company jumps. Stephan Haeckel, a strategist at IBM, describes the difference between managed-time and real-time businesses (which he calls "sense-and-respond organizations") this way: Traditional organizations run like buses, with routes to follow and schedules to meet; real-time organizations are taxis, responding to a waving arm or a voice crackling on a two-way radio. Like it or not, more and more businesses must operate in real time, whipped that way by globalization, the relentlessly increasing speed of technology, and an economy of knowledge-intensive services, created and consumed on the spot. Customers expect you at their convenience, not yours. If you're not ready, someone else is.
- Planning in a Real-Time Economy - Business commentators are generally divided on the ability to effectively plan in the New Economy. Some opine that the pace of change is so rapid that it is actually impossible to plan for the future. Others, however, insist that planning is necessary. Successful companies during this competitive era are preparing very clear business plans that develop the vision of their intended destination. However, their blueprint, or business plan, needs to allow them the flexibility to respond when the unexpected occurs. Consider some ancient wisdom amidst the New Economy: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Planning is necessary to develop your vision, but it needs to be flexible. As a result, I am advocating a variation of the traditional business plan, called the e-Plan. The e-Plan helps you capture your vision while providing a flexible platform to respond to the inevitable changes and shifts in the economy.
- The Communications Age - It's Real Time - In the broadband era, we won't be limited to communicating through wireline phonesŠ faxesŠwireless phonesŠpagers and PCs. Virtually anything and everything with a chip in it will have the ability to communicate -- automobiles and trucks, vending machines, medical devices, security systems, heating and air conditioning systems, warehouse operations, manufacturing robotics.
You won't necessarily have to have a person on either end of these broadband-era connections. Much of the communication will occur automatically - almost in the background of our everyday lives, whether it's monitoring the status of vital systems, placing orders, tracking shipments, or completing transactions. In that sense, it's not an exaggeration to say that broadband changes everything for businesses and their customers. Broadband networks will fundamentally change many of the key assumptions we make about our ability to compete.
Think about it: In a broadband world, factors like timeŠscaleŠand political or geographic bordersŠall take on new meaning. Old barriers topple. New capabilities - like speed, flexibility and adaptability - become key ingredients in success. The network companies were - and are - among the first to experience this sort of wrenching change. But we're all going to be deeply affected by the flood of bandwidth. We're seeing the leading edge of the tidal wave today, with the growth of e-commerce over the Internet.
- QED Quantum Economic Development - A World First For ALL For 21C - This site is a forecast of the future evolution of Quantum Economic Developed Economies that are Safe, Open, Equitable, and Free to Enter, Use and Exit for All People (End Users) globally. As the Old Global Understanding of Economy has NO FUTURE - it is already CRITICAL and practically speaking: - DEAD! FINISHED! FINITE! (A rather rambling presentation and novel in its format!)
- Global Cultural Networks - We must embrace the battler-dictum of the 'real world'; the real world of abstract ephemeral cultural flows and networks, of one-to-one real-time global relationships, of cultural nodes in global cities (that have for over a century been too large for the individual to understand anyway). The world is globalising, we are creating a global real-time economy of global networked cultures or what Manual Castells terms a 'network society'.
- The Emergence of Networked Markets - The real time economy will experience tremendous gains as a result of new Internet-based exchanges. They eliminate market "friction," forcing companies that traditionally have relied on low value differentiators -- such as geographical proximity or customer ignorance -- to create real value. Many (perhaps most) companies will struggle to adapt. In the name of survival, they will be forced to build powerful new relationships with suppliers, partners, and customers. If they are to succeed, they must share knowledge with these parties and capitalize on what they learn. The networked markets of the future will draw their power not from arm's-length transactions, but rather knowledge-intensive relationships.
- Neteconomics - Internet economics is the study of the economic fundamentals of e-commerce. The interest in internet economics is driven by the need to provide an economic perspective to the formulation of business e-commerce strategy. Information economics, public economics, growth economics, and other economics fields have developed models and concepts with substantial value in understanding the market forces underlying the surface froth and bubble of e-commerce. This guide lists sources of information relevant to the study of internet economics. In addition to research papers, data, and books, this also includes university e-commerce programs, business consulting firms, and other sources, provided they have an internet economics research component.
- Communities of the Future - Building Capacities for a Digital World - Don't leave it up to the educators to create an intellectual environment for how to think about innovation. Always remember that educators are evaluated based on how well their students score on standardized tests. In a world of transformative change, thinking in standard ways is death to innovative thinking. Many educators resist change and many do not. You need to propel people to be open to change to maintain competitiveness in a global, interconnected, real time economy.
- The Coming Crisis in Real-Time Environments: A Dromological Analysis - This paper explores and critically evaluates the so-called "real-time" perspective associated with the new media of instantaneous digital communications. Drawing from the work of French postmodernist theorist Paul Virilio, the paper examines, as well as makes speculations about, the cultural implications of digital technologies, particularly in terms of the topographical texture of temporality as we move from chronological to chronoscopic time. In addition, the now popularized notion of "real-time" technology management criticized for its narrow technological determinism and instrumental disregard for lived time and human experience. Finally, the paper considers alternative topographies of time which involve the development of a participatory consciousness.