Techies gaze into the crystal ball

For all the hype in the industry, computer technology’s evolution has been, for the most part, a gradual and methodical process interjected with bursts of innovation which change the way we interact with technology. For the longest time, we communicated with computers using keyboards and punch cards. Today it is with mice and voice.

At the recent Comdex 2001 in Toronto several talks focused on predicting everything form the next generation of Internet appliances to the digital innovations of tomorrow.

The advancement of digital innovation is all part of a trend of removing barriers that hinder our ability to go about our daily tasks, said Ross Chevalier, director of technology at Novell Inc. in Markham, Ont.

“We will see…a difference in the way people interact with the services that they consume,” he said.

Our interactions with the Internet first focused on our relationship with the browser, which was the first step, he said. The next phase is to achieve location independence. Historically, machines knew who you were and what you wanted to do, since they tended to be task specific, Chevalier said. It is no longer that way now and it is time to remove policies, profiles and rules off of the device and on to the Internet where the network does the authentication, he said.

This is slowly becoming reality, yet users are still at the mercy of the device at hand.

The third step, according to Chevalier, is to remove all device dependency by using technology such as Bluetooth.

Nick Tidd, president of 3Com Canada Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., agreed with Chevalier. “It is the first time a hardware and software vendor agree,” he joked.

With the Y2K burp (as he called it) now over, it is time to focus on technology’s “ability to address the needs (of users) regardless of location,” he said. Networks have to become more intuitive so they can tell where a user is coming from. In order to do so, the technology has to be simplified since it should be moot whether users are accessing the network via broadband, wireless, analogue or digital means, he said.

The consensus was that Bluetooth technology, or something similar, was going to be one of the waves of the future. Tidd talked about omni and bi-directional wireless up to four kilometres in the next year or two.

He did admit however that there are challenges to be overcome, especially surrounding standards as companies tend to want to advance their own technology on their own terms.

Tidd also took the opportunity to take a stab at the media’s fear mongering over security issues surrounding wireless technology.

We have to get rid of the fear, uncertainty and doubt over the stories about lost and stolen data over wireless, he said.

Internet applicances

Another talk focused more on the types of appliances that would greet us in the days ahead from the talking fridge to entertainment systems where televisions and computers are integrated.

“It comes down to ease of use and if I have a compelling use [for a technology],” said Steve Dotto, the host of TV’s Dotto’s Data Caf