The Next Chapter

Predictions: The wireless life will include cellular refrigerators, privacy masking and roll-up displays.

Peer-to-Peer Wireless

By 2005, the typical cell phone will be indistinguishable from a PDA, and at least one U.S. carrier will support both 802.11 and 2.5G or 3G on the same devices.

As an unexpected consequence of this dual-band support, we'll see some instances of bottom-up networks, where devices connect directly with each other on a peer-to-peer basis. This will be a viable alternative to the current monopoly of carriers' antennas.

-- John Jordan, principal, office of the chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Cambridge, Mass.

Cellular Refrigerators

"Can I get it with side-by-side doors, an ice dispenser and a GSM connection in harvest gold?"

There's always been a lot of talk about networking home appliances, but little action due to the difficulties of pulling wire or making networking run over power lines. But inexpensive networking running over public cellular networks will finally make possible next-generation applications, like a refrigerator that hosts a Web site listing what groceries a family needs and accepts bids from the local stores that want their business.

And, of course, a screen on a refrigerator represents an amazing advertising opportunity for Duncan Hines, Kraft and every other food company. Retailer Fry's Electronics already has a refrigerator with an RJ45 jack installed. Cellular is just around the corner.

-- Sheldon Laube, chairman, CenterBeam Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.

Industry Shakeout

Within two years, one of the major PDA manufacturers will be out of business; Nokia will win the software battle with Microsoft for dominance of the mobile platform; and the monopolistic U.S. carriers will try very hard to squash 802.11 (but a couple of large technology companies will come to its rescue).

-- Amy Francetic, wireless analyst and producer of DemoMobile, IDG Executive Forums, San Mateo, Calif.

Privacy Cloaking

As location-based services proliferate across the wireless infrastructure, the hot software play will be "masking" services that hide who you are unless the ping is from a recognized source.

-- John Parkinson, chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Rosemont, Ill.

Disaster Recovery Via PDA

Wireless devices will revolutionize how companies build, distribute and invoke their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. For years, those plans have been immobile, existing in hard-copy form or on PCs. Now, with the ability to download status and individual action plans to handheld devices such as PDAs or cell phones, recovery teams will be more proactive and in better touch, wherever they are.

-- John Jackson, partner, Tatum CIO Partners LLP, Chicago

This Data Will Self-Destruct

Wireless devices developed over the next two to four years will include technologies such as GPS that will allow them to report their location when lost or stolen and provide an account of their current condition - what mode they are operating in and/or if they are damaged in some way. They'll also give the device owner the option to remotely secure or delete sensitive information.

-- David K. Black, senior manager of security technologies, Accenture Ltd., Washington

Walk Around, Or Sit Down?

In the next few years, I see largely separate roles for two distinct wireless technologies. 3G cellular services will emerge to provide the coverage for walk-around applications on a 3G cell phone or wireless PDA terminal - for example, text messages, checking e-mail and downloading location-specific information.

For sit-down applications at an airport, library or cafe, 802.11b wireless LAN technology provides greater data bandwidth and economy than cellular data services for more robust Web usage on wireless PDAs and notebook computers. Users will have the advantage of using the same 802.11b-enabled device in the wireless office, at home and at outside locations.

-- Howard Blum, professor of computer science, Pace University, New York

Roll-up Displays

The shrinking size of cell-phone handsets and their tiny displays will make it difficult for them to be used to access Web content. If Bluetooth is successful, it will enable handsets to act as wireless modems for other mobile computing devices such as PDAs. Eventually, new display technologies such as organic LEDs will make it possible to carry around larger displays in a convenient size.

For example, displays might roll up into something the size of a ballpoint pen when not in use, but they aren't likely to be in widespread use until mid-decade at the earliest.

-- Eric M. Berg, technology forecaster, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Menlo Park, Calif.

Special Report

Tiny Gadgets, Huge Costs

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Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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