Trendlines

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - HOLY TECHNOLOGY! To celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' birth, the city of Rome is holding a jubilee that includes cultural exhibits, family events, World Youth Day and Masses celebrated by the Pope. The 13-month celebration began on Dec. 24, 1999. It's a momentous event for worshipers, and the jubilee's orchestrators don't want technical or logistical difficulties to diminish their ability to worship. Toward that end, they have developed the Pilgrim Card, which they hope will give travelers "peace of mind in [their] stay devoted to faith, conversion and prayer."

With its magnetically encoded strip, much like that on a credit card, the Pilgrim Card gives holders access to transportation in Rome, acts as a prepaid phone card and allows access to medical insurance. A card costs 65,000 Italian lira, or about $32. All visitors need to do is provide the jubilee's Central Committee with their personal information, length of stay, itinerary and medical conditions. Visit www.vatican.com or www.jubil2000.org.

SMART APPLIANCES WHAT'S COOKING? After a long day at the office, who among us couldn't use a little help in the kitchen? Two new innovations are using IT to make your cooking time more efficient and effective.

First we have The Intelligent Microwave Oven, developed by Kit Yam, an associate research professor at the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Unlike traditional microwave ovens, which can leave some foods soggy, or conventional ovens, which can take a long time to cook, Yam's device uses a combination of heating modes to obtain optimal results. "By using a combination of microwave, convective heat and radiant heat, we can have the best of both the speed and quality," says Yam.

And that's not all: The infopliance also features a bar-code scanner that can read package information from the food about to be cooked. Rutgers is currently working with food companies and bar-code manufacturers so that bar codes will include information about nutrition and cooking instructions. Once that happens, the oven will be able to display the information.

Commercial units of The Intelligent Microwave Oven may be available within a year or two, priced less than $1,000.

Meanwhile, CMi Worldwide's internet-enabled iCEBOX lets you send e-mail, shop online, watch television and play audio and video CDs--all while keeping an eye on those cookies in the oven. With the addition of a video camera, it can act as your second pair of eyes anywhere in the house, allowing you to monitor Junior sleeping upstairs, for instance.

The iCEBOX is shaped like a small television and weighs only 16 pounds. It is due in July for about $499. Visit www.cmiworldwide.com. -Kelli Botta ANTI-GLARE TECHNOLOGY DON'T LET THERE BE LIGHT Driving into a rising or setting sun can be temporarily blinding--and dangerous. But a new LCD film might someday allow the development of goggles or a rearview mirror that can screen out glare and still allow a driver to see.

The new material is a specially constructed sandwich of liquid crystal and two sheets of glass. A dab of red dye enhances the liquid crystal's ability to reduce glare or intense light sources. "The film protects against continuous, long-term light that's below the level that will permanently damage the human eye but still intense enough to make seeing impossible," says Iam Choon Khoo, a professor of electrical engineering at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and the film's chief developer.

Other than car and truck drivers, the anti-glare film could also help pilots, athletes and book-addicted sunbathers, as well as optical sensors and optical communications equipment.

BY THE NUMBERS NET SALES AND MARKETING The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) recently concluded a benchmarking study comparing online sales and marketing processes at seven identified best practice companies ("partners") against a group of companies looking to improve their practices in this area ("sponsors"). The selected results below suggest that the average company relies too heavily on tracking hit and page-view data, when more specific and substantive measures of online behavior are available. Providing a personalized experience for online customers also differentiates the leaders from the laggards.

BEST PRACTICES FOR IT

1. Build a standards-based, open architecture for net commerce. This practice provides two advantages. First, it lowers the cost of doing e-business. Second, it provides the greatest flexibility for future capacity growth. "Projecting site usage has become an arcane art," says Ron Webb, project leader for the APQC study. "To ensure proper architecture for the future, excess capacity and failover routines [procedures to follow when a server goes down] have to be built into the systems."

2. Think way ahead. Webb says many of the partner organizations forecast technology changes at least two years in advance. That's clearly difficult in a time of rapid technological change, but online leaders recognize that it's the only way to attempt to stay ahead of the curve.

PERIPHERALS POWER OF THE PEOPLE What if all the energy you expend typing away on your laptop were stored for your benefit? Thanks to a crafty Compaq Computer Corp. employee, it could happen. Adrian Crisan, a software engineer at the company's Houston headquarters, has devised a way to harness the pitter-patter of your fingers to recharge laptop batteries.

The technology works like this: Small magnets are mounted on each key, and a coil is mounted on both ends of the magnets. When the typist hits a key, the magnet moves across the coils and generates a current. The currents from the tapped keys travel to a pump that charges the computer's battery. The more the user types, the more electricity the keys generate.

Crisan's innovation could increase a laptop's operating time or reduce the size of its battery, thus resulting in a lighter computer, according to the abstract he and Compaq filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Though it sounds like a promising concept, there's been no word yet from Compaq on when the technology will find its way to your desk.

HOT TOPIC CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT ALL ANSWERS, ALL THE TIME By Mindy Blodgett Imagine you've found the perfect site on the web to order something special for your mom on Mother's Day. Before ordering, though, you have a few questions and can't find answers on the website's FAQ list. You try to contact the company by both phone and e-mail but end up on hold and receive no electronic response. What do you do? If you're like many, you give up and move on to another site.

That scenario is just about every online vendor's worst nightmare. To help avoid it, some companies are increasingly outsourcing their customer service contacts to application service providers (ASPs), which step in to field the low-level, initial contacts. Many questions at this early stage can be easily dispatched before they escalate into full-blown customer complaints, customer relationship management experts say, so it's cheaper to handle them as quickly as possible.

IslandData Corp. is one such ASP that can handle these contacts. IslandData execs claim the need is great, citing reports that show that 70 percent of Fortune 1000 companies do not respond to customers' e-mails. The IslandData program, ExpressResponse, works by providing clients with a 24/7 service that fields customer questions and responds within 10 seconds.

Norman M. Williams, CEO for the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company, says the service works by tapping into the client's knowledge database. IslandData works with its customers to build the database from existing documents, such as FAQ sheets. The automated service then reads and analyzes user inquiries and answers questions on the best course of action, according to Williams.

Automating responses through this type of service "allows our customers to handle huge increases in e-mail without having a major impact on their existing staffing levels," Williams says. For more information, visit www.islanddata.com.

WIRED TEENS SO MUCH FOR PAPER ROUTES... As if companies don't have enough to worry about these days, it turns out executives need to watch their backs to make sure their neighbors' kids aren't stepping into their marketspace.

According to a recent survey of 101 San Diego County high school seniors, 8 percent of students are running an online business and 56 percent are planning to start one in the near future. The survey, performed by Computer Economics, an independent research firm in Carlsbad, California, found that developing businesses included Internet services like network solutions, website hosting or design and development.

What may this entrepreneurial spirit portend for businesses run by people who don't need a fake ID to buy a six-pack? "Before the internet, established businesses did not face competition from a teen's paper route or even a small local business run by a teen," says Catherine Huneke, a senior research analyst at Computer Economics. "But by using a professional-looking website and e-mail to interface with clients, teens can overcome the credibility issues that are likely to result from their [youth] and lack of experience." -Meg Mitchell INTERVIEW THE MYTHICAL MAN-MONTH DEBUNKED Twenty-five years ago, computer scientist Fred P. Brooks Jr. wrote The Mythical Man Month: Essays on Software Engineering (Addison Wesley, 1975), in which he established his now widely accepted principle that, in programming, as in pregnancy, nature must be allowed to take its course. Specifically, Brooks argued that if a programming project was behind schedule, adding more programmers to the project made as much sense as adding more women to a given pregnancy. In other words, it made no sense at all.

Brooks' "law" was widely embraced in the IS community, but it has since found a challenger. Steve McConnell, president and chief software engineer of Construx Software in Bellevue, Wash., and editor-in-chief of the journal IEEE Software, recently wrote an essay debunking Brooks' theory. CIO asked McConnell to explain.

Q: WHAT IS BROOKS' JUSTIFICATION FOR HIS THEORY? A: Brooks believes that some tasks are partitionable, and some are not. For instance, if the task is picking cotton and you add nine people, you get nine times the productivity. But other tasks, such as having a baby, cannot be so partitioned. He believes it's absurd to "throw" additional programmers at a job that's behind schedule because of the high overhead expense of educating them and bringing them up to speed on that particular project.

WHY DO YOU DISAGREE? For what Brooks says to be true, the amount of effort lost to training new staff must exceed their productivity when, in fact, they become productive. Yet, even insofar as this might be true, it obviously wouldn't apply to the early stages of the project, only to the latter stages, and would apply to only relatively few people. Programming is more partitionable than Brooks thinks.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO PROGRAMMING PROJECTS THAT ARE BEHIND SCHEDULE? The vast majority of programmers don't have any idea how to track what they are doing.

They think they are in the final stages when they still have a long way to go.

For a project that's already behind schedule, adding new programmers can only help it from falling behind even further. But the real solution is to establish sound quantitative measurements for estimation and tracking -Thomas G. Dolan STEVE MCCONNELL DISPUTES BROOKS' "LAW" REMOTE ACCESS THE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE Remote access to company networks has long been something of a privilege at many companies, conferred only on those who make special arrangements for working from home. Today, however, a growing number of organizations are building corporate portals on the web to allow all employees to access corporate networks from home.

Take Ford Motor Co., which recently announced plans to create a corporate portal for its more than 350,000 employees worldwide. For $5 a month, employees can get Hewlett-Packard computers and printers and internet access through MCI Worldcom's UUNET; at retail prices, such a setup could cost more than $1,000 per employee. The program will be administered by PeoplePC of San Francisco.

A day after Ford's February announcement, Delta Air Lines disclosed similar plans. The Atlanta-based company is still considering its PC system but will use AT&T's Private Label IP Portfolio to provide employees with internet/DeltaNet access. The service will cost at most $12 per month for 36 months.

In a survey of 300 large organizations, Boston-based consultancy Delphi Group found that 55 percent of them were working on similar portals, and 25 percent more were planning to do so within the next two years. But the trend isn't necessarily entirely good for employees. "Though Ford and Delta are currently taking the high road, there are two privacy issues at stake," warns Hadley Reynolds, Delphi's re-search director. "The first is the obvious one: how much an employer should know about its workers. The second is that the selling of consumer internet habits is big business. Within a few years, companies like Ford and Delta may be able to make more selling the internet data about their employees than they do their regular businesses." -Thomas G. Dolan HOT TOPIC E-COMMERCE A DAY IN THE LIMELIGHT By Carol Hildebrand One doesn't generally think of the CIO career track as being a sure path to fame and celebrity, but stranger things have happened. After all, it's how Pete Solvik ended up at the White House.

When internet hackers shut down a number of popular e-commerce sites last January, President Clinton convened a hastily assembled council on internet security. Solvik, the CIO of networking giant Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., was one of those summoned. "It was a kick. Twenty-four hours beforehand I had no clue [that I was going to Washington, D.C.]--I had to take the red-eye to get there on time," he says.

Next highlight: sitting between Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno at a meeting on security. Clinton was no figurehead, either, says Solvik. "He rolled up his sleeves and ran that meeting for two hours," says Solvik, who was impressed by the prez's intelligence and knowledgeability.

But the very best thing, he says, was when his kids saw him on TV, delivering the statement that represented the technology industry's interests for the council. It's not easy to explain what a CIO does to such constituencies as kids or grandparents; the title really doesn't define the position as does that of, say, doctor or lawyer. But seeing dad on TV sitting next to the president is something anybody can grasp. "My kids were jumping out of their skin," says Solvik with a laugh.

ON THE MOVE COMPILED BY TOM FIELD

CIO SHAKEUPS AT WAL-MART, DELL Randy Mott, longtime CIO at Wal-Mart, has resigned to become CIO of Dell Computer Corp., replacing another longtime CIO, Jerry Gregoire, who quit last fall to raise horses.

Mott, 43, had been employed by Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart since 1978, holding various technical and management positions before being named senior vice president and CIO in 1994. Under Mott's IT direction, Wal-Mart became renowned for its pioneering use of the internet to link customers, stores and suppliers in a vital supply chain and distribution network. Mott emerged as one of the best-known and respected CIOs in the business.

At Dell, headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, Mott will be charged with managing the company's IT infrastructure, including the web-based applications that support the company's state-of-the-art sales, service and supply chain processes. As senior vice president and CIO, Mott will serve on Dell's executive committee and will report to Vice Chairman Kevin Rollins in the CEO's office.

In announcing Mott's appointment, Rollins said in a prepared statement, "We believe [Mott] will strengthen Dell's capabilities as we continue to integrate the internet and world wide web into our direct-to-the-customer business model.

His contribution to Wal-Mart's growth and his extensive global experience also will add significant depth to our management team."

Although Jim Schneider, Dell's senior vice president of finance, had been serving as interim CIO, Mott really is the heir to Gregoire, who resigned from the company last October. Gregoire, 48, joined Dell as CIO in 1996, rising to senior vice president in 1999. Under his direction, Dell developed the web-based applications that put the company on the e-commerce map as an early innovator.

Replacing Mott at Wal-Mart is Kevin Turner, who was the assistant CIO since 1998. Turner, 34, has been employed at Wal-Mart since 1985, working as a store employee, a corporate auditor and an IS staffer. Under Mott's direction, Turner was involved in the company's Y2K remediation efforts as well as integrating Wal-Mart's information systems with those of the companies it acquired overseas. In 1997, Turner received Wal-Mart's own Sam M. Walton Entrepre-neur of the Year Award, which recognizes employees who best exemplify the spirit of the company's founder.

PLAYER'S GUIDE

Mintu Bachann EqualFooting.com has joined EqualFooting.com, a Dulles, Virginia-based B-to-B startup, as CIO. Formerly, Bachann worked at Oracle and Sun Microsystems. EqualFooting.com serves small business owners as a marketplace for industrial supplies and equipment.

Michael C. Crowley Campbell Soup Co. is the new vice president and CIO of Campbell Soup Co. in Camden, New Jersey. Formerly CIO of Rich Products Corp. in Buffalo, New York, Crowley joined Campbell in April 1999 as a divisional vice president of IS. In his new role he will have global responsibility for Campbell's use of IT.

Rina Singer Delmonico REN Inc. Formerly senior vice president and CIO of Schwinn/GT Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, Delmonico has left that position to concentrate full time on her duties as founder and CEO of REN Inc., an IT consulting firm based in Denver.

Ejaz A. Khan Vulcan Materials Co. has been appointed vice president, controller and CIO of Vulcan Materials Co., a Birmingham, Alabama-based industrial materials manufacturer. A graduate of both MIT and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Khan has been employed at Vulcan in a variety of capacities since 1979.

ELEVATORS ONLINE A DAILY LIFT

Ever notice how 30 seconds can seem like an eternity when you're riding in an elevator with a group of strangers? It's not really enough time to pull out a newspaper, so you probably find yourself either staring up at the slowly ascending floor numbers or scrutinizing the latest scuff marks on your shoes--anything to avoid eye contact with other passengers.

Such awkward situations will soon be a thing of the past if Captivate Network has its way. The Westford, Massachusetts-based company is busy deploying its information display screens in elevators throughout Boston, Chicago, New York City and Stamford, Connecticut. Each one delivers the latest internet-fed news headlines, stock reports, traffic conditions, weather and sports updates to elevator passengers via 10- or 12-inch terminal screens. Featured web content providers include Accuweather, The New York Times, Reuters and Smart Traveler.

Currently, Captivate has installed the screens in about 36 buildings so far, for a total of about 400 elevators. Next, Captivate plans to bring its screens to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, followed by Houston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

With weather and news information right in front of you on your next elevator ride, you may even be inspired to chat with fellow passengers. Just be sure you don't miss your floor....

For more information, visit www.captivatenetwork.com.

WEB GRAFFITI TELL IT LIKE IT IS Imagine you're reading an article at CNBC.com and think the reporter's analysis is a crock. Instead of exiting the page and entering a chat room (who's got time for that?), why not leave a comment right there on the page for all to see?

Collaboration software from Third Voice is allowing surfers to easily and instantly speak their mind at any website, on any public page. Just select the text in question and click your right mouse button; a window then pops up in which you can type your comment and let other readers feel your pain. To read a discussion thread, users click on the Third Voice icon on their browser toolbar, which brings them to a notes viewer. Want to play? Go to www.thirdvoice.com and download the software for free.

Third Voice is not just the latest consumer toy. Some businesses are setting up private discussion groups at the company's website, which restricts message access to designated individuals. A dental equipment manufacturer is using Third Voice to post analyses at competitors' websites for employees to review.

Eng-Siong Tan, CEO and cofounder of Redwood City, California-based Third Voice, isn't making a dime off the tool yet, but his latest release, Third Voice 2000, facilitates links in text to other related content and e-tailers, and Third Voice will get a cut of those transaction revenues.

As you would expect, a few large internet companies have griped that the software is unlawfully altering their content. Tan says his company has been free from legal hassles so far--and he doesn't believe there's a case, since users download the software themselves and can turn the Third Voice function on or off as they choose. "We really see ourselves as a service to empower users," he says.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about AccuWeatherAT&TBuffaloCampbell Arnott'sCiscoCMICNBCCompaqCompaqDABDell ComputerDelphi AustraliaDeltaDelta Air LinesFord MotorHewlett-Packard AustraliaIEEEMCIMCI WorldComMITNormanOraclePatent and Trademark OfficePeoplePCReuters AustraliaRich ProductsSun MicrosystemsTransportationUunetWal-MartWorldCom

Show Comments

Market Place