Jim Duffy: Lots more to come from the Uber pipeline

When the iPhone came to pass and we were treated to smart technology, life as we knew it changed almost overnight.
Jim Duffy says 'true disruption is still to come' from Uber. Picture: Ian HowarthJim Duffy says 'true disruption is still to come' from Uber. Picture: Ian Howarth
Jim Duffy says 'true disruption is still to come' from Uber. Picture: Ian Howarth

Imagine that! A phone that can make calls, send emails, complete text messages and handle Facebook, banking, hook-ups and of course any other app you can shake a stick at.

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Indeed thousands of apps that one can use to almost do anything with one’s phone. So, what is the iPhone? Is it a phone? Is it a music-playing, video-producing, communications tool that allows us to “get stuff” really easy? Is it a mobile bank? Or is there something else going on that we haven’t quite worked out as of now?

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For me, my iPhone is all of the above, but a whole lot more. In short, it’s a big old pipe. Yes, a pipe that Apple allows others to shove a whole load of content to me, while it makes an absolute fortune. My iPhone allows me to get as much content as I want rammed down the pipe and into my life, my brain, my hand.

And if you also just think of your iPhone as a big old pipe that fills your life with content and applications, then the whole business model and strategy of Apple is opened up and much easier to understand.

This pipe works both ways of course and I can also put as much stuff up it the other way as I want. I can tweet to customer services at BA on how I am feeling about its IT outage and why they might consider not taking out the plug at night. I can email my mobile phone provider and ask them why their broadband signal keeps coming and going despite them selling me 4G as the new big thing in innovation.

I can write a review on Amazon on the book I have just read, while complaining to them about the protein powder I ordered and how the tub was damaged when it arrived. Yes, this huge pipe I have in my hand is pretty awesome. Maybe it should have been called the iPipe.

Using this analogy, I’m beginning to think of the new big old pipe that is coming our way and we may not recognise it yet… It’s called Uber. This is not just a taxi app that is apparently taking over the world, it is one of the biggest pipes that is being laid before our very eyes. And I while I may not be totally comfortable with it, there is nothing stopping it…

There was a day when all of us old Generation Xers hailed a taxi in the street using our hand and perhaps a whistle. We would see the orange light of a black hackney carriage and when eye contact was made with the driver he would stop and the meter would go on.

There was many a night standing in the cold with a bellyful of chips and beer that I was delighted and thrilled that a taxi drove along with its light on! But this quaint anachronism is being replaced by tech. I simply go to the Uber app on my iPipe and within seconds I have hailed a cab that I cannot see, but is circling nearby.

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It tells me the name of the driver, the car and registration and how long it will take to get there. And the price for the journey is already agreed and upfront. The Gen Y and Gen Z population will in the future hail a cab using their phones and not think about standing in queues at taxi ranks. But, a lot more is coming down this pipe.

Uber will have set up one of the biggest communication and logistics pipes in the world. From this app, you are already able to order takeaway food. But, it won’t stop there. How about grocery deliveries, Amazon deliveries, picking up the kids from school and a whole lot of other things as well?

And while there is no “real” disruption with roads being dug up to lay this pipe, the true disruption is still to come as Uber lays this notional pipe around the UK that it fill with goodies for us as consumers.

Yes, a lot more than just a fancy taxi service is coming you way. The clue is in the name – Uber!

• Agitator and disruptor Jim Duffy is head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark