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Hotwire at 20: Two decades of technology innovation

In the vast global technology industry where individual companies can be valued at over $1 trillion and where startups soar to prominence based on perpetual innovation cycles, 20 years feels like a millennium. To celebrate our 20th birthday, we’d like to take you back to the beginning of the century and recall just a smattering of the evolutions and revolutions that have defined our industry since.

To give some colour to the way the technology sector has changed, we also wanted to capture the voices of clients who work with technology day-in, day-out and have had a front-row seat to the amazing transformations that have occurred…


From ‘the Y2K bug’ to a new world (cyber) order

At the ripe old age of 10 years, I truly thought the world was coming to an end in the year 2000. Why? Because of the mass hysteria caused by the prospect of the Millennium Bug bringing our information universe to a crashing halt. Thankfully, a binary meltdown did not come but the rapid digitisation of the world did happen, sparking huge concerns over how best to manage data as software was eating the world, to co-opt Marc Andreessen’s later phrase.

The debate on how technology should integrate with our professional still rumbles on. Recent regulations such as EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have been rolled out but it feels as if the data protection/privacy debate will rumble on indefinitely as we adapt to the advent of new technologies. Accelerating internet access coupled with the ability to access cloud services, process and store massive data sets has been an incredible resource but these changes has also borne risks as the opening up of global communications across IP networks has invited threats everywhere, from state-sanctioned agencies to malicious individuals.

Fortunately, there is a vibrant cybersecurity community protecting businesses and society.

“I believe the industry coming together and launching NoMoreRansom demonstrates one of the biggest achievements,” says Raj Samani, Chief Scientist at McAfee.

“Indeed, other major initiatives such as HaveIBeenPwned demonstrate the overwhelming commitment from technology professionals to put aside their pressing commitments and develop initiatives that freely support digital citizens in a world where cybersecurity is part and parcel of modern-day life is something that sets this sector apart. This collective effort is why the cybersecurity industry needs to be heralded as the technology sector which makes the greatest contribution.”


From humans moving goods to code creating experiences

In the year 2000, goods were delivered to us either by our postal services or through a handful of specialist couriers. Amazon was only six years old and was focused on being an online bookstore. Over the next 20 years, the combination of e-commerce, ubiquitous broadband, mobility and cloud platforms have transformed how we find, purchase, market, sell and receive goods.

“The digital transformation of global supply chains has changed our world,” says John Bird, Public Relations director, EMEA & APAC at OpenText.

“Underpinned by cloud technology advances, supply chains have transformed into the core digital backbone, which not only enables today’s same-day delivery culture but allows organisations to maintain business as usual while navigating shifting regulations, natural disasters and even a global pandemic. The reality is that cloud-based, digitised supply chains drive today’s global marketplace. They offer secure collaboration, ethical supplier or sourcing checks and real-time business intelligence across internal systems, cloud applications, trading partner systems and even connected devices to power sustainable, global trade at scale.”


From catalogue holidays to living in instant digital economies

Flicking through a 500-page brochure, waiting on hold to speak to a travel agent and standard you were paying the best price for your holiday was the common travel experience in the year 2000. MySpace did not exist, let alone Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. The combination of social networking, data analytics and improved user experiences has propelled digital disruption across travel, just as it has in media, dating, hospitality and beyond.

Yvonne Bonanati, Senior PR Manager of holiday rental company HomeAway, gives the example of virtual walkthroughs as a way to change the model of how people make choices of holiday homes.

“The one technology innovation that stands out – maybe even more so during this unprecedented time – is the ability to enhance customer experience through virtual tours,” she says.

“This 360-degree experience of touring holiday homes before an actual trip allows holidaymakers to see important details that images might not be able to bring to life. Virtual tours allow holidaymakers to have a moment of holiday magic at the tap of a button.”


What’s next? A disclaimer.

We should be honest with you. Innovation in business software was never as fast as it is today and software upgrades and updates used to take an age to install. I’ll leave it with Graham Smith, Chair of Board of Directors at Splunk, to summarise how far the sector has come, and yet how far it still needs to go, at a technological as well as cultural level:

“Just over 20 years ago the Millennium Bug was threatening a technology Armageddon,” Smith recalls. “We were all literally tethered to a physical office, with PCs connected to corporate systems that were expensive, slow and unreliable. Business software innovation was glacial. The Blackberry launched in 2002, 802.11g WiFi in 2003, GMail in 2004, AWS in 2006 and the iPhone in 2007. Today we can access all our apps and data from anywhere in the world and corporate systems are at least an order of magnitude better, faster and cheaper.

So, what’s next? I believe software that is actually helpful: RPA reducing human drudgery and AI/ML prompting best course of action powered by big data. Also, the slow, painful death of email.”

We would not have celebrated our 20th birthday without the boldness of our clients, plus the brilliance of our colleagues and partners. Here’s to the next 20!

P.S. I know there are many, many more transformational changes in technology over the last 20 years which we can talk about. However, that would turn the blog into War and Peace. That’s why we’d like to get your take on what’s been the biggest technology change. Please get in touch with me via