The problem with information today is not the lack of it, but its oversupply and lack of integration. Most information available today is in silos, and not processed enough to make us more productive. To look at what can we done to harness information better, let us take a look at the information pipeline.
Input / Collection: Information originates in multiple different ways. For many of us, email is the primary way we are creating new information daily. Then, there are the Personal Information Management (PIM) programs like Outlook in which we store a lot about our life. Information also is generates by websites and weblogs. In some cases, there are agents which filter some of it for us. Within enterprises, forms and databases work as additional generators. In the machine world, sensors create information.
Storage: The first step in harnessing information is storing it in a format which can be used by different applications. This is where XML comes in. XML provides a way to represent information such that it can be exchanged between applications and enterprises much more easily than in the past. The other aspect of storage is centralisation: storing it in databases on servers such that it can be processed and we can be alerted.
Processing: This is where the greatest efforts need to go today for information to become valuable to us. It is not just about integration, but also about assimilation. Information needs to be intelligently aggregated together to avoid duplication (so that we need to enter it only once) and cross-linked (so we can drill down deeper). Information also needs to be personalized. It will also need to learn from our usage to make us do things faster.
Output: The final challenge in the information pipeline is getting the right information to the right people at the right time. So, instead of us pulling it from databases, it should be pushed to us – on the device closest to us. In the coming years, as the functionalities of cellphones and PDAs merge, we will have a wireless personal device which ensures accessibility all the time. This means alerts and notifications based on triggers or exceptional events can be sent to us instantaneously. The delivery of information will need to be in real-time, and not when requested.