Digital crime and online security threats will skyrocket in 2005 as a result of the rapid growth in portable Internet and mobile technology, and the technology industry will see a boom in the development of nanotechnology and fuel cell batteries, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu predicted this week.
These are among 10 predictions Deloitte issued in its "TMT Trends: Technological Predictions 2005," the company's first publication of technological predictions. Other predictions in the report include: increased dependency on Web browsers; an increase in mesh networks; widespread use of robotics in private households; a boom in flat screen TV and computer monitor sales; private sector space exploration; and strong development in quantum computing. Deloitte defines mesh networks as "an ad-hoc network (in which) every node has a connection to every other node in the network, either directly or by hopping through intermediate nodes. This allows operators to generate a very precise picture of what is happening within the network."
The company places major emphasis on its belief that connected devices such as computers and mobile phones will increasingly become the targets of harmful attacks from viruses, worms and malware, while nuisances like spam and now "spim," the mobile phone version of spam, will also worsen both quantitatively and in terms of damage capabilities.
"Some of the problems we've seen in the past with viruses will worsen with the use of more wireless devices, and it will surely drive the rate and complexity of Internet crime up," said Jonathan D. Dharmapalan, principal and leader of Deloitte's Northern Pacific Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) division.
While it appears that experts agree that the spread and complexity of computer viruses and attacks will proliferate in the coming year, the severity of attacks on mobile devices is debatable. The wide variety of cell phones and mobile devices on the market make it hard for a single virus to attack a broad user base, said Gregg Mastoras, senior security analyst at Sophos PLC.
"There is no homogenous operating system for cell phones, PDAs and mobile devices ... so there isn't a virus that can work on all phones," he said. Instead, he considers phishing, spyware, noncompliance and the hijacking of the Internet infrastructure as the major threats to online security.
Internet security aside, the Deloitte study also predicts major developments in technology that will start at the corporate and production levels, and eventually trickle down to consumers. Nanotechnology, a name given to the ability to manipulate an object's atomic structures, will increase in both usage and public understanding, the report said.
"When we assemble components from an atomic level we will see much better materials, and make things better faster and stronger," Dharmapalan said. The list of prospective items that nanotechnology could be used to create includes more durable plastics, heat-resistant cell phones and stain resistant pants. Nanotechnology has already been used to generate high-Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, sunscreen and in car tires, the report said.
The report also predicts fuel cell batteries, which offer much longer battery life than lithium ion batteries, will gain popularity in consumer electronics. There are many obstacles that stand in the way, however, as fuel cell batteries have yet to be deemed safe for airline travel and also must gain access to the retail market so they are readily available for replacement, Dharmapalan said.
Deloitte, a tax auditing and financial consulting firm, released its 2005 predictions based on input from 200 of its employees holding managerial positions or higher, said Paul Lee, director of research at Deloitte, which is based in New York. The input was then reviewed by an editorial committee within the company, and the results were funnelled into 10 predictions, he said. The company has no set schedule by which it releases predictions and reports, but it felt that 2005 was a "turning point" in technological innovation, and that predictions were appropriate, Deloitte's Dharmapalan said.
As a word of caution, Lee said that the predictions are just predictions, not facts. Nevertheless, he feels that they are an important part of his company's functioning. "To be a good auditor of a technology firm, you need to understand your customers, understand technology," he said.
The full technological predictions report is available for download at Deloitte's Web site, http://www.deloitte.com.