04-09-2023 | By Robin Mitchell
In a somewhat humorous report published by Sky News, the Advertising Standards Agency instructed a broadband service called 6G Internet to stop confusing customers with the supposed existence of 6G networks via its advertising campaigns. What exactly happened with 6G Internet, how does this perfectly demonstrate the dangers of tech jargon, and what challenges does this present to engineers?
What exactly happened with “6G Internet”?
Recently, a report published by Sky News revealed a conflict between a broadband service provider and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), and when learning the name of the service provider, the takedown request by the ASA makes perfect sense.
According to the ASA, the company in question, called 6G Internet, has been accused of misleading customers with the use of its name, implying that its internet services come as a result of 6G cellular technology. While the company has argued back, saying that it has done so since 2013 with no complaints, the ASA believes that the use of its name in advertising campaigns, along with stating that it uses unique technologies unlike other providers who “still use copper cables”.
To unsuspecting individuals, it is understandable that the name 6G can be confusing because 5G cellular networks provide excellent speeds and latency, and that 6G cellular networks are even better than 5G with their long-range, 1Tbps connections supporting 5 billion devices per cell tower. Of course, anyone who is familiar with cellular technology will know that 6G networks don’t actually exist yet and that 5G is still being phased in.
It's worth noting the rapid growth of Chinese carmakers in the global market. According to a recent report by Motor Trader, Chinese carmaker BYD was the fastest-growing OEM in 2022, with a staggering volume increase of 184%, amounting to over 911,000 units in that year alone. Such advancements in the automotive sector could potentially influence the telecommunications industry, especially with the increasing number of internet-connected cars.
To make matters more complicated, the company 6G Internet also mentions how their routers utilise Wi-Fi 6, providing up to 40% more bandwidth compared to older Wi-Fi 5 systems. While this may be true, it only brings into question whether their name has derived from futuristic 6G networks or are referring to the 6th generation (hence, 6 G) of Wi-Fi. Finally, modern network systems are now utilising a combination of 4G and broadband to increase bandwidth capabilities and improve system reliability, thus making the position of 6G somewhat blurred.
Regardless, it is clear that this company’s choice of name is confusing many and likely brings plenty of network traffic when users search for 6G networks. But instead of being ordered to change the name, the ASA has simply asked for the company not to advertise products, implying that a 6G network exists.
How does this perfectly demonstrate the dangers of engineering jargon?
While somewhat funny, this is certainly not the first time engineers (and the media) have utilised jargon to try and get sales.
A prime example of this, which still occurs to this day, is the term “smart”. A system is considered smart if it can react intelligently in real-time, such as a smart thermostat that understands where users are in the house and when they will leave. However, in reality, businesses slap the word smart onto any device that has an internet connection, and this has applied to almost all smart home devices, including lights, blinds, kettles, and even energy meters. This use of the word “smart” in products that do not utilise intelligent data processing only makes it hardware for devices that are actually smart to take advantage of the term.
Another example of jargon that did little to provide any useful meaning is “cloud”. For reasons that are still completely baffling, when the IoT industry started to kick off, the term “cloud” became more and more popular, being used as a selling feature of products and services. Of course, the term “cloud” actually just means internet; thus, cloud storage is just internet storage, cloud connection is just internet connection, and cloud interconnectivity is literally the internet.
The rise of internet-connected cars is another testament to the rapid technological advancements. As per Statista, there were approximately 400 million internet-connected cars operating globally, marking a significant leap from the previous years. This integration of the internet into vehicles further blurs the lines between different tech jargon and their actual meanings, making it imperative for companies to be transparent in their advertising strategies.
Excellent example of engineering nonsense - Rockwell
These aren’t the only jargon words that commonly show up, and respectable engineers will be well aware of these terms. When such terms are thrown around and incorrectly applied to products and services, it only does a disservice to consumers and engineers, with customers being duped and engineers being both embarrassed and disrespected.
But the misuse of such words also carries dangers, as products with question origins and safety can often be found with these buzzwords, posing serious risks to consumers. Even if products and services themselves don’t cause immediate harm, those who use them are left disappointed and will lose faith in those terms, even in respectable products that actually do provide benefits. Going further, this has the opportunity to impact fundraising for companies looking to create new technologies (with buzzwords carrying a certain amount of stigma).
What can engineers do about this?
While not always true, the overuse of buzzwords generally comes from marketing and sales departments, meaning that there is little that engineers can do. For example, an engineer will hand over a list of specs to someone in marketing, they will do some market research, and identify what words trend with that product.
Even though this can be helpful in gaining views via search engines and advertisements, this separation from marketing and sales from engineering is what allows this toxic behaviour to manifest. In order to prevent such abuse of buzzwords, engineers need to take a more active role in the products they design and be present during strategic meetings with those in marketing and sales.
Of course, in the real world, this isn’t exactly possible, and it is also likely that those in marketing and sales will just outright ignore engineers. Thankfully, agencies such as the ASA can step in and prevent advertisers from producing spammy content, but only if it misleads customers.
Overall, there is little that can be done with regard to the use of buzzwords, and engineers can only do so much when convincing other departments not to incorrectly apply sales hooks. But, in the case of 6G Internet, their advertising plans came back to bite them, and it won’t be long before legislation comes into place preventing such business practices.
The Future of Connectivity
With the continuous evolution of technology, it's crucial for both companies and consumers to stay updated. Misleading terms and jargons can not only confuse the consumers but also harm the reputation of businesses. As we move forward, transparency and clarity will be key in ensuring that technological advancements benefit everyone.