More Predictions on the Future of Mobile/Wireless Computing

Our call for predictions about the future of mobile/wireless computing elicited dozens of prognostications. Here's the best of the rest of the collection:

With the notable exception of the i-mode service in Japan, the most significant mobile/wireless applications have been in the enterprise market rather than the consumer market, and this situation is likely to persist through 2004. The existing enterprise applications have largely been used by "field-force" employees (salespeople, service technicians, delivery people). During the next two years, these will be supplemented by applications used by a wider variety of professionals and by more horizontal applications. Tablet PCs will make mobile access to conventional desktop applications more attractive and could lead to mobile computing being used as much in the office as it is out in the field. -- Eric M. Berg, technology forecaster, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Menlo Park, Calif.

By the year 2020, the use of mobile computing in health care will extend average life spans by 20 to 25 years. Implanted wireless devices will continuously monitor our health, enabling the medical profession to treat most diseases in their absolute infancy. Mobile computing will also be used to monitor our diet and its effects on our health, control unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and enable us to maximize the effects of exercise. Diseases such as diabetes will be virtually controlled through wireless monitoring and corrective-action devices, which will automatically adjust insulin levels without the patient even knowing. -- Phil Asmundson, deputy managing director of the Technology, Media & Telecommunications Group, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Stamford, Conn., office

By 2004, more than 1 million remote and mobile devices will be integrated with enterprise applications. Early adopters will include industrial, oil and gas, manufacturing, and utilities. Typical applications will include homeland defense sensors, monitoring flow and pressure of petroleum production, meter readings, and field communications. -- Bob Ross, WebSphere integration program director, IBM Software Group, Somers, N.Y.

Mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs will merge and become indistinguishable. The device itself may even take the place of all credit cards and physical money, and become an automatic transmitter for recorded personal preferences such as room temperature, favorite TV programs and food preferences. Wherever we go, this information will be with us; for example, when you check into a hotel room, your device will automatically set the temperature, TV and dinner menu choices. -- Brian Terr, director of advanced products, Edmunds.com Inc., Santa Monica, Calif.

The forthcoming 802.11i wireless security standard will make 2003 the year that wireless is finally taken seriously at an enterprise level. The 802.11i standard satisfies enterprise security fears without requiring costly, complex products such as third-party virtual private networks. As a result, the health care, insurance and financial industries -- where wireless always made sense but was held back by security concerns -- will see dramatic increases in wireless implementations. -- James Placer, senior security analyst, Interactive Business Systems Inc., Oak Brook, Ill.

In the next five years, wireless access will revitalize a lot of back-end applications -- such as sales force automation -- that had limited success in years past. -- Dale Gonzalez, vice president of wireless engineering, Air2Web Inc., Atlanta

The low cost of basic wireless communications will drive a growing market for embedded machine-to-machine communications in industrial equipment and major appliances for monitoring and problem notification. For example, British Gas is working to put wireless devices on their bottled gas and allow them to phone back when they're empty. -- Sumit Deshpande and Don LeClair, technology strategists, Computer Associates International Inc., Islandia, N.Y.

As more and more nonvocal transactions are performed on our mobile phones, these devices will become the holder of our identities within the next five years. Much like the role of a driver's license, our mobile communications device will serve to authenticate individuals and securely contain credentials and certificates. Biometrics, embedded appropriately, would thwart identity theft. -- Peter Athanas, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Wireless providers are doomed until they fix the billing infrastructure. Since they can't bill for services, except a flat charge for a ring or song, they can't reap new revenue. Contrary to everyone's assumption, wireless providers can't bill like wireline providers, which is why all the services only use minutes -- all they have is a clock! As long as the billing structure is fouled up, they are doomed. -- Richard Weddle, CEO, Weddle Consulting Inc., Los Angeles

After years of focusing on consumers rather than enterprise users, 2003 will be the year of the wireless business user. It's the enterprise players that can afford to pay the bills and buy the services. And carriers will start to learn the importance of opening up their networks to third parties that can bring value-added content to users. The future of wireless is less about making calls and more about users getting critical information -- whether it be voice or data -- through their wireless devices. -- Jon Auerbach, principal, Highland Capital Partners Inc., Lexington, Mass.

By the end of next year, there will be more than 50,000 publicly accessible "hot spots" around the world for Wi-Fi communications. The vast majority will be created by major wireline carriers around the world, but some will be created by packet wireless carriers and cheap "Wi-Fi-in-a-box" products. Virtual network aggregators will be the glue that binds together all these Wi-Fi "islands." By 2004, different network variants will begin to merge into a seamless, "wireless broadband" global network for roaming purposes. End users won't care what acronym or standard is used; they'll just want "wireless broadband." -- John Rasmus, vice president, GRIC Communications Inc., Milpitas, Calif.

Having realized they wasted millions of dollars on a bad standard for wireless data applications, carriers and device makers will abandon their third-generation (3G) network investments and turn to alternative, next-generation technologies. One alternative is Flash-OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), which supports high data rates with very low latencies over an IP wireless network. -- Bruce Sachs, general partner, Charles River Ventures Inc., Waltham, Mass.

One of the big no-shows in 2003 will be 3G services. In fact, I don't think we'll see significant 3G acceptance outside Japan until 2006. And if anything is going to drive 3G it will be the "three G's" -- girls, gambling and gaming. But bringing pornography to phones could come with its own problems, as mobile firms have to balance questions about morals and decency with the need to make money. I don't understand the business case that says: Let's spend hundreds of dollars per user in the hope that people will want to spend their days downloading content. Voice will remain the killer application of mobile. -- Nick Hunn, managing director of TDK Systems, a division of TDK Corp., London

Bluetooth technology will be supplanted by the 803.11b wireless standard about six months from now, because of the security problems inherent with Bluetooth and the growing acceptance of the 803.11b standard by the general public and companies alike. -- James W. Gabberty, adjunct professor of information systems, Pace University, White Plains, N.Y.

A good percentage of mobile phones will have integrated QWERTY keyboards within the next five to 10 years. -- Jeff Hawkins, co-founder and chairman, Handspring Inc., Mountain View, Calif.

By 2007, PDAs and cell phones will have merged into single devices. They'll have 802.11 (whatever flavor), Bluetooth, 3G and, possibly, direct satellite capability. They'll be voice-controlled and use a heads-up holographic display. Laptops will become unnecessary for most folks. -- Doug Jackson, director of technology customer services, University of Texas at Dallas

Web services today is about machine-to-machine communications, integrating different computing systems together using open standards. But we can't forget about the thousands of other devices, such as cell phones, PDAs and pagers that need to talk and coordinate with each other. In the next two to three years, Web services on small devices will become increasingly important for giving the sales force and other workers access to corporate information behind the firewall. It will also start being used in automotive and health care applications. -- Bob Sutor, director of Web services strategy, IBM Software Group, Somers, N.Y.

Carriers will begin to see the revenue needle move in 2003 due to downloads of time-sensitive information like weather updates and movie tickets, as well as simple entertainment applications such as games, songs and the insatiable desire to chat. -- Pamela Reeve, CEO, Lightbridge Inc., Burlington, Mass.

The marriage of Web services and mobile devices will have powerful implications for enterprise users and IT managers. It will give them customized access to relevant data in real time. For example, remote sales distributors using handheld devices in the field could use a single application that could access inventory records, price lists and customer profitability statements without having to build a huge data warehouse. Also, synchronizing data through a Web services interface allows the application to validate the data before writing it directly to the database, which is critical to maintaining data integrity. However, the limitations of current network connections will prevent the use of Web services for thin mobile applications until after 2010. -- Joe Owen, chief technology officer, XcelleNet Inc., Alpharetta, Ga.

The really interesting platform for mobile applications is the automobile. It has a big battery and the ability to generate electricity. It has space for all kinds of devices. People spend a lot of time in them. Look for in-car telematics to include GPS, data storage, docking for multiple types of handheld devices, hard-copy output and so on. All of this already exists in law enforcement -- and the new bus-based, 48-volt auto system standards will accelerate the vehicle telematics explosion. -- John Parkinson, chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Rosemont, Ill.

At first glance, Web services seem ideal for giving mobile workers better ways to access enterprise resources on the fly. For example, Java applications on a cell phone can access internal services like order-fulfillment status, ERP applications and customer data. But there are very real technology issues like security, network latency, data compression, processor speed and power management that create obstacles for Web services in packet cellular networks. The first practical use of mobile Web services is in campus settings across Wi-Fi networks -- places like factory floors, warehouses and retail points of sale -- where network latency and power issues can be minimized. For Web services to be suitable on cell phones, packet cellular networks and devices will have to resemble today's Internet computing resources in speed and power. That won't happen until at least 2004. -- Jody Hunt, director of telecommunications product management, Iona Technologies PLC, Waltham, Mass.

The killer device isn't a phone/PDA combo -- it's a GPRS/Wi-Fi combo card for whatever you want to plug it into and software that roams seamlessly across both networks. -- John Parkinson, chief technologist, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC, Rosemont, Ill.

Within the next five years, all front-end user interfaces for computing will be wireless. -- Sumit Deshpande and Don LeClair, technology strategists, Computer Associates International Inc., Islandia, N.Y.

In five years, we'll see a dramatic build-out of wireless LAN hot spots -- there will be as many hot spots as there are ATMs, a lot of them actually co-located with the ATM so that a banking customer can retrieve cash as well as their e-mail. -- Pontus Bergdahl, president and CEO, Columbitech AB, Stockholm

The cost of ownership of mobile devices at the enterprise is set to skyrocket between now and 2005 as devices proliferate and the use of mobile data, Internet and messaging significantly increases. -- Jim Offerdahl, CEO, Traq-wireless Inc., Austin, Texas

The enterprise will reach into the phone. You'll start to access work data with your wireless phone. Furthermore, your phone will start to serve as an identity token, just as building access cards have in the past. -- Daniel Lieman, founder, NTRU Cryptosystems Inc., Burlington, Mass.

In the next 12 months, the wireless arena will finally wake up and recognize the need to look beyond devices and focus on the software components such as middleware, smart client capabilities and information accessibility. Software is what makes a wireless solution viable for business purposes. -- Frank Brilliant, vice president, Arch Wireless Inc., Westboro, Mass.

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