The next generation of a more powerful internet is evolving the way we create, consume, share, and experience digital content in our physical world, and this is how.

With the onset of 5G’s mobile edge computing (MEC) networks, the internet is getting some serious new hardware. Currently, when you’re walking around the United States accessing the web, your digital self is likely heading physically to one of four major data centers operated by Amazon Web Services in either California, Oregon, Ohio, or Virginia.

5G MEC physically entails major telecommunication companies deploying mini data centers around town, similar to a city’s density of cell towers. There’s also been much discussion around stocking these edge networks with GPUs — the CPU’s more powerful cousin — which will allow for a far more complex and graphically interactive internet. So, what does all that mean?

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GSMA Intelligence forecasts there will be more than 50 5G networks worldwide by 2021

The Next Generation of the Internet

Enter the Spatial Web, the next generation of a more powerful internet that will evolve how we create, consume, share, and experience digital content in our physical world. It’s a wave of technology layering information and context to physical space as the boundaries between the real and digital continue to blur.

Web 1.0 was realized with the first static internet pages, followed by Web 2.0’s multimedia content, interactive applications, and social media. The Spatial Web is Web 3.0, a computing environment that blends virtual content with 3D space.

The Internet of Things and Cloud will enable the Spatial Web by connecting objects and incorporating them into increasingly AI-driven, autonomous processes. Image Recognition will help devices optically understand where they are in the world and what their user’s focus is. Augmented Reality will serve as a user interface for this new internet, stitching into our real world through mobile screens today and the AR-enabled glasses and lenses of tomorrow.

In 2020, over four billion people have access to the internet, and one billion devices are enabled for Augmented Reality. We’re living in a powder keg of potential and all that’s needed is the spark of 5G MEC.

We’re Already Surfing the Spatial Web

The Spatial Web is sailing into a blue ocean of opportunity, impacting how we interact with each other and the world around us, in ways yet to be discovered. And, as is often the case with the rollout of any major technology platform, we already find ourselves on the Spatial Web curve.

Take this 2016 figure released by Accenture as guidance to commercial insurers. It lays out various technologies over the development/adoption cycle. Notice where the assortment of technologies that comprise the Spatial Web fall on the chart. Hyperscale computing, IoT sensors and networks, APIs, cloud, and big data are all in the steep “improving” slope, predicted to be 2–10 years away from adoption. Four years later, these predictions remain on point, and some of these technologies have already reached maturity.

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Figure 1 by Accenture

Building Your AR Strategy

As the Spatial Web moves toward ubiquity, we are seeing new lexicons, content formats and other means of expression develop, prompting marketers to examine how they can best leverage this powerful new tool to engage audiences. For companies looking to lean into new user behaviors and technologies, the time to develop a Spatial Web strategy is upon us.

Just as with the social web and AI, article headlines will start to ask, “What’s your AR strategy?”

You’ve probably already experienced the Spatial Web without knowing its name. The wide success of Pokémon GO, Google Translate and Snapchat Lenses points to markets of users ready to adopt and adapt to the features of the new internet.

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(Left to right: Pokémon GO, Google Translate and Snapchat Lenses)

Whether you are catching animated dinosaurs in city parks, picking a song at a karaoke bar in Japan, or decorating your dating profile with Snap Lens selfies, you probably aren’t thinking about the Spatial Web or how it’s enabling this new dynamic of experience.

But brands generally flock to new opportunities that cut through clutter, and their marketing teams are beginning to make active use of the Spatial Web.

Content In Context

Here at Geenee, we recently collaborated with Warner Bros. and partner shop Pretty Big Monster to develop an AR experience for IT: Chapter 2. Triggered from billboards, posters, and social and digital ads for the film — and accessible through the web without an app — the experience makes use of AR to bring the user into the murderous world of Pennywise, driving ticket sales, trailer views, and a shareable surprise selfie. You can check it out here.

As the cost of creating these experiences drops, more companies and users are finding themselves on the uptake of the adoption curve, and experimenting with the Spatial Web in new ways that redefines commercial experiences. The internet is maturing to the point where its integration and impact on physical space collide with the old marketing adages of “content is king” and “location, location, location” to create a new intersection where context is king.

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Image: Street artist KAWS just launched a global AR art gallery that changes how we think about both the museum, space, and the nature of street art