Today, there is a 1:1 co-relation between how we input information and how we access it. If we put a contact into Outlook, the access of that piece of information is also expected to be from Outlook only. If we store a person’s phone number into the cellphone’s memory, the only way for us to access it back is via the same cellphone. This is what will change as information access becomes independent of how it was created. Going ahead, the sources of information may be many, and so will the access points.
The building blocks for this are already falling into place. The key two developments which will facilitate the creation of this “information grid” are the mobile Internet and Web Services.
The mobile Internet is creating a pervasive envelope which allows for real-time sending and receiving of information. Sensors and GSM “cores” (the guts of a cellphone minus the keyboard and the display) attached to machines can now broadcast machine status on a continuous basis. Whether it is a cellphone or a wireless-enabled PDA, we will have a device which can be used to deliver information to us at the right time. (If we are on the desktop, the system will sense our “presence” and just send an alert through the Instant Messaging client).
Web Services are the next big battleground in software. The Internet helped commoditise connectivity between people and computers; Web Services will help commoditise application-to-application interactions. This is the vision on which most of the major computer companies now agree. Whether it is Microsoft’s .Net platform or Sun’s ONE platform, the future is about weaving applications together into a grand tapestry. Exchange of information and interoperability of applications is the next phase in the evolution of the Internet.
Information in the future will be available to us “just-in-time”, wherever we are. The system will have a sense of our location availability, and an understanding of our preferences – be it as individuals or as part of an enterprise ecosystem. The system will have an infinite memory, so we don’t forget. No longer will we have to worry about how and where we put the information. As long as it is entered into the grid, it will be available to us.
The march of technology is inexorable. What is needed is to envision how the coming pervasiveness of the Internet and aggregation of information can make a difference to individuals and enterprises. Just as the unbundling of the cord from the telephone created a new set of applications and changed the way we use the telephone (think of all the SMS messages that now flow between people everyday), this information grid will also make possible uses and applications that are difficult to imagine currently.