Getting a sense of the future

"The computer revolution hasn't begun yet. What we have today is primitive junk. The trouble is, the people in the computer business don't understand that. The ultimate use of Internet technology is unknown to its developers today."

Over the past few weeks predictions and comments such as these have been flowing from Jupiter, Intel, McKinsey, Avnet and Terry Shannon on Compaq sessions that The Rust Report has had the privilege to attended.

These sessions have all presented a compelling picture of future marketplaces. We'll have extremely fast and capable "pandora boxes" able to communicate instantaneously, connections that give us access to other boxes anywhere, providing applications smart enough to quickly change the way we do business.

When an industry is changing like this, having a sense of where things will go will separate the high performers from the also rans. There's also an overwhelming need for sensing skills today, not only to where IT will lead us next, but also into which industries.

To strengthen their sensing skills vendors also need to spend more time walking the markets with their customers to really get the feeling for what is going on.

Keep the customer satisfied

You can read all the research reports and attend all the analyst and vendor roadshows you like but it's your own sensing ability that will give you confidence that you're making the right decision - and a little dose of paranoia doesn't go astray.

We do have to discern nowadays what our customers really need and how competitors could do what we're doing now only cheaper, faster and better.

Emerging technologies throughout history have disrupted, transformed and even destroyed entire industries in what the economist Joseph Schumpter described as "gates of creative destruction." (And that was before Bill!)What's also going to be tougher is putting people and organisations together. The guiding principle will be collaboration. Knowing how to integrate people and enterprises with different ideas and cultures will become a premium skill. Enterprises are now being hit by a combination of factors including technical, human resources, economic and organisational.

All up for grabs

More efficiency in work will lead to a change in how many jobs are done, and that will likely disrupt many people. In this next IT revolution, the fundamentals, politics, careers, economies, resource capabilities missions and relationships -- will all be up for grabs.

However, it all turns out, it will shift IT from technology to people.

High-tech will also become increasingly high commodity; computers will disappear into the woodwork, thousands of chips will be embedded in everything including phones, cars, home appliances, clothing, the walls of buildings and roads.

We are quickly moving from the distributed computerising world to the ubiquitous technology age. A key attribute of the ubiquitous age will be the massive increase in the use of sensors and a complete overhaul of human-machine interface technology.

We will also see a true move in personal computing with speech-based response and with camera response. We will also find that our computing devices will actually know more about us and will also collaborate with us.

Home alone

In the past we have generally separated our home life from work and shopping. Increasingly, the home will become a place for us to work, shop, get an education and enjoy many forms of entertainment.

The technology challenge is how to empower and protect individuals in their own homes. Tomorrow's successful technology-based products and services must be pleasing to our senses, more or less intuitively obvious, safe to use and, most of all, fun.

Increasingly home health care will also help contain rising health costs while serving an ageing population, and will provide people with the convenience and privacy of taking care of themselves and their loved ones in their own homes. Home health monitors and treatment devices with links to professional care centres present a huge challenge and an enormous business opportunity for the health care industry.

Relatively inexpensive health monitors will quickly track a wide range of physical functions and will also be able to analyse out nutrition and exercise programs.

The benefits are many as we move towards a truly connected environment. Cords and cables will disappear from view in our workplaces and homes as we move towards wireless communications, data transmission and energy distribution. This will mean more cordless devices, telephones, wireless hook-ups to the Internet, and even electric lamps and appliances that don't have to be plugged in.

Dog eat dog

With all this, as prices come down and competition heats up, companies will be fiercely at each others throats to provide consumers with a better deal. In many businesses this will still depend on the fundamentals of doing business where you are or whatever the time. The future will also not be just throwing money at the new IT domain. It will be about sensing the right systems/devices and developing the appropriate business models to make our work easier, our leisure times more fun and Sydney traffic to flow more smoothly - just like we experienced during the Olympics.

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