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What is Supranet?

By Theresa Miles
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Supranet is the network communication infrastructure that represents the symbiotic relationship between the electronic and the physical worlds. The crux of the Supranet concept is the connectivity of embedded computers, wireless networking, bidirectional interfacing technology, and applications that are adaptive across various devices. Mobile business, or m-business, is considered the primary driving force behind the continued development of the Supranet.

This term was first coined in 2000 by the US-based information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc. as part of its framework analysis on convergent communications. The concept was further developed as part of a series of seminal research papers published by Gartner employees over the course of 2001. Over the years, the term never became quite as ubiquitous as the word “Internet,” but some of the definitions and subsumed terms that fleshed out the concept have become popular, and many of the underlying concepts and predictions have proven prescient.

The physical word, or p-world, that is part of the Supranet definition is comprised of the tangible objects such as paper, houses, people, and vehicles that need to be connected to the electronic world, or e-world, of devices, such as phones, computers, cameras, and televisions. Under the Supranet concept, the e-world devices are connected to the p-world through embedded computers with bi-directional interfacing that allows the device to transmit identifying information about the user or uniquely tag the information being transmitted. Wireless networking and smart application architecture that can adapt across devices and allow profile management is what powers the information exchange between worlds.

Gartner theorized that the development of mobile business would drive the development of the Supranet. Mobile technologies, such as Bluetooth, GPS, geotagging, and Wireless Application Protocol, that make communication between the physical and electronic worlds easier and more secure support the mobile Supranet lifestyle. People using the Supranet can be connected anytime and anyplace, and can be located and tracked through the devices they use, ultimately benefiting electronic commerce.

A natural progression of the Supranet is the increasing convergence of the physical and electronic worlds into a virtual world that mirrors the real world with increasing precision. Products, such as gaming systems, that convert three-dimensional movement in the real world to movements in a digital landscape are an example of the Supranet at work. Many of the location-mapping and geo-tagging products offered other Internet companies are also examples of the Supranet concept in practice.

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