The failure of companies to respond quickly enough to changing conditions is also prompting many of them to take a more holistic view of their information architecture. We are seeing many organizations questioning some of the established limits on information flow in the organization–between front and back office, between operational and reporting and analysis systems, and between structured and unstructured information.
There is a recognition that we need to break down existing silos of information–in the past, this has been one of the goals of collaboration tools, content management repositories, data warehouses and CRM systems. Each of those initiatives has attempted to address the problems of information islands, but in the end they have often raised as many problems and barriers as they solved.
The rising interest in taxonomies and information classification suggests, however, that we are becoming more sophisticated in how we view and manage information assets across our organizations. In addition, the emergence of common–and more importantly workable–standards for information exchange and application integration (such as XML, WSDL, SOAP) holds out the possibility that we can finally start to overcome the recurrent barriers to developing a unified approach to managing information and knowledge across an organization.
Web services standards will provide the technical basis of such integration. And the increasing use of XML as a standard for information description holds out the hope of developing semantically rich infrastructures in which new forms of information publishing, information discovery and information sharing will be possible.
News.com writes about what is being touted as the world’s largest rural wireless network:
The community Internet kiosks, named Akshaya, have been set up by the Kerala State IT Mission Department. More than 550 of the kiosks have been opened in the Mallapuram district, spread over 3,500 square kilometers. The local government plans to introduce kiosks in other districts later this year. The centers will offer services such as Internet access, Net-based phoning and videoconferencing to state offices as well as private businesses. Five Wi-Fi hotspots have also been established around government offices and a tourist resort.
“This is the world’s biggest rural wireless network,” H.S. Bedi, managing director of Tulip IT Services, said at the launch. “The decision to provide a completely wireless solution was dictated by the Mallapuram’s rugged terrain. Other options could have been leased lines or cable or fiber–all of which would have involved digging and would have been more difficult as well as more expensive to roll out.”
The broadband backbone for the network has been set up by Tulip, an Indian IT services provider, using gear supplied by a clutch of North American wireless-gear makers. Wi-Lan, a Canadian maker of broadband wireless products, has supplied base stations, while AirSpan has provided Wireless IP Local Loop Systems. Some subscriber premises receivers have been sourced from Marconi, while routers are from Cisco Systems.
n-logue, a wireless company incubated by the telecommunications group at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, has set up kiosks that provide Internet, telephony, e-governance and telemedicine facilities in seven Indian states. Those kiosks rely on wireless technology for only the last mile, using CorDect wireless technology developed and marketed by the IIT Group and Analog Devices.
Jon Udell discusses “what do you do with an item you might need in the future?”
Option one: nothing. Rely on search to be able to find it again. That’s been a poor option in the past, but a number of forces — including Gmail, WinFS, and Apple’s Spotlight — aim to improve it.
Option two: tell someone else about it. Various motivations govern the impulse to send an FYI (for your interest) email to a group. Maybe you’ll simply inform the group; maybe the group will act on something you can’t; maybe the group will respond with information that’s new and valuable to you. But the FYI email is a blunt instrument at best. It requires the sender to know, a priori, something that is unknowable — namely, who should receive the alert.
Option three: tell your subscribers about it. In other words, blog it. That way, the self-selected group of people who subscribe to you will be alerted. And the search engines will ensure that everyone can find the item later. The problem here is that the item is not categorized unless…
Option four: blog it to a topic. Now people can subscribe to that specific category or topic. The problem here is that when you subdivide an individual blogger’s output into topics, the flow for any specific topic will be thin.
Option five: blog it to a shared topic. This is what del.icio.us enables. It supports the operation “route item to topic,” which is distinct from “send item to individual or group” or “post item to blog” or even “post item to blog topic.”
Jeremy Zawodny writes about the TCO of computers:
TCO or “Total Cost of Ownership” is a notion that one can calculate (with some accuracy) the complete cost of owning something, including all the weird side effects of acquiring and owning that thing.
For example, I can by a new 3.2GHz notebook for $2,000 and it comes with Windows XP. But odds are that I’ll spend 20 hours in the first year dealing with device drivers, spyware, and viruses. If I value my time at $50/hour, then the total cost of owning that notebook for the first year is actually $3,000.
Then I’d take that number and compare it to the Powerbook I was thinking of getting. It’ll cost me $2,600 and have a “slower” CPU, but I’ll only spend 2 hours screwing around with it in the first year figuring out why my scanner doesn’t work when I plug it in. That puts the total cost of the Powerbook at $2,700 in the first year.
We need a way to quantify the negative effect that these decisions often have on the day to day folks (who’d rather be left alone to get their jobs done). The pain they endure. The countless hours spent fighting with a technological choice that was clearly not optimal. The effort required to work around product glitches or to bring in a replacement “under the radar” and keep it there.
I think this should be the TPU or Total Pain of Using.
This is why I believe the future is going to be about server-centric computing and clients: it is about affordability and manageability.
The seven rainbow revolutions that need to happen to address the five goals to meet the six challenges are:
Grid: Computing needs to become centralised to simplify the end points and also reduce their cost. We are already seeing some signs of this as Google starts to move beyond search to provide email (Gmail) and discussion forums (Google Groups). With bandwidth becoming less of a constraint and smart software making interactions real-time, it is now possible to imagine and construct a public computing grid which takes care of processing and storage, providing a reliable, always-available virtual desktop for users.
Virtual Computers: The end points that connect to the grid need be little more than thin clients handling local input/output. What these virtual computers need is, for starters, the ability to take keyboard and mouse inputs and send them off to the Grid, and get back the virtual desktops for display. In due course of time, they can also support local peripherals like printers, scanners and webcams, along with multimedia processing so that only the compressed audio/video needs to flow over the networks.
Ubiquitous Connectivity: As both wired and wireless broadband networks proliferate, connectivity between the virtual computers and the Grid will be taken for granted. In fact, within a local area (an enterprise or neighbourhood), it is possible to have wireless access points which provide the hub for WiFi-enabled virtual computers to connect. This scenario is in fact very similar to that of cellular phones.
Loosely Coupled Software: David Weinberger likes to talk of small pieces loosely joined. The same philosophy needs to apply to software. Rather than looking at massive monoliths which can take forever to build (Longhorn, Microsofts next-generation operating system, is one example), there is a need to modularise software through openly accessible interfaces at various levels. For example, one can imagine Visual Biz-ic as a Lego-like development environment to construct business process management libraries for small- and medium-sized enterprises to mirror their information flows.
Two-Way Content: The next iteration of the Web can be seen in the world inhabited by bloggers. The PubSubWeb the publish-subscribe Web is built around the syndication enabled by RSS, and feasted upon by bloggers and early users of information aggregators. What this web does is create the platform for community-centric content in which content is continuously enhanced and a group mind starts to take shape. Blogs, RSS and OPML (to construct personal directories) become the building blocks to contruct the Memex.
Humane Interface: The user interface that is at the edge of human-computer interaction needs an overhaul. Whether it is a shift away from a keyboard and mouse to an increasing use of speech and gestures or 3D virtual reality interfaces or contextual workspaces, it is time for move away from files, folders and icons. The need is to put users at the centre and focus on assisting them to accomplish tasks, rather than having to worry about specific applications.
Tech 7-11s: To make computing available to the hundreds of millions at the bottom of the pyramid, it is necessary to look at neighbourhood computing centres which provide a shared infrastructure for access, much like the public call offices (PCOs) have for telephony in India. These points of presence could also be local training and support centres, providing the much-needed last-mile distribution for the computing ecosystem.
By taking a holistic view of the ecosystem and building a chain of integrated innovation, it will be finally possible to fulfill the dream of making computing accessible to every family, student and employee in every corner of the world. Only then will the true promise of the computer as a means to deliver solutions and services for the next users be realised. This is where the future of computing lies. This is why computing needs to be reinvented. This is where the next technology cycle will begin. This is the next big thing platform and opportunity entrepreneurs have been waiting for. This is a transformation that will take root first in the worlds emerging markets. This is what we need to make happen. This is the next computing Kumbh Mela.