Beware of the ‘electronic butler’ in 2008

TORONTO — Both enterprises and consumers will catch up to the reality of technological change that is the “double-edged sword” this year, according to Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) predictions for 2008.

The annual list was compiled from 6,000 respondents globally including Deloitte staff and industry analysts.

Several predictions were announced in the areas of data security and privacy, including a growing industry around digital protection especially given the plummeting prices of mobile devices that are easily lost or stolen. “Hardware is disposable but the data on it is priceless,” said Duncan Stewart, co-author of the report and head of Deloitte Canada Research, at the Toronto event announcing the annual predictions.

Fraud will be the biggest issue this year as people willingly exchange anonymity for usefulness of the Web, said Stewart, who cited social networking platforms like Facebook where members readily expose their identity.

Along the same vein, while online purchases are often made easy with historical personal information stored by retailers, that “electronic butler” might turn into a stalker. User pushback, rather than governmental regulation will be the new control mechanism.

In the same area, there will be a continued and perhaps stronger crack down on online piracy with measures like better digital rights management technology, tougher copyright laws and heftier fines.

Location will continue to matter for global positioning system (GPS) technology to be successful. Although falling GPS chipset prices have allowed cell phone manufacturers to integrate the technology, this doesn’t mean that they should integrate it nor is it entirely useful for consumers.

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The issue of identifying and retaining skilled IT professionals will continue to exist in 2008, but there will be renewed interest around retaining COBOL programmers as “legacy becomes the future”. A large number of Fortune 500 companies continue to perform transactions on legacy systems, noted Stewart.

Vendors who target mobile devices to the older generation will reap significant return on investment. Companies can make telecom and technology accessible to this under-developed market with things like bigger buttons and fonts, and better ergonomics.

The line between traditional and online media will continue to blur. Although this is already the case in Canada, it hasn’t caught on globally, said Stewart. Big legal battles in the online world will test libel laws around whether “citizen journalism” sites are legally responsible for what they post.

There were also green TMT forecasts by Deloitte that see companies being more cautious this year around the adoption of virtualization technology given that it’s not a one size fits all nor does it solve all data centre problems. There are real benefits to be reaped from virtualization, said Stewart, however, it raises other issues like security. He added that despite the caution, companies with large data centres will continue to adopt virtualization.

Furthering the green IT cause, Stewart said this year will be “nanotechnology’s green renaissance” in that the technology will regain the spotlight in environmental applications, like power production, transmission and storage, lighting and LEDs and controlling automotive emissions.

Chris Sacca, former head of special initiatives with Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. was on on-hand to share thoughts on several of the 2008 TMT predictions. He said that although nanotechnology has been a topic of discussion for several years by institutes like Menlo Park, Calif.-based Foresight Nanotech Institute, he does agree that it will garner more attention this year.

He also agreed that GPS technology is heavily reliant on location to be useful: “GPS is still a battery hawk and it doesn’t work indoors.”

On the topic of the slowing down of virtualization adoption, Sacca agreed with the importance of the technology for the environment but cautioned that there “are a lot of shady characters in the virtualization business” who claim they deploy virtualization but really aren’t.

Sacca wasn’t so sure that the movement of media from traditional print to online necessarily grants blogger legitimacy. The Web still has a “democracy of content where if content isn’t good, it won’t come to the top [of the search],” he said.

“People are voting with their clicks.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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