Business Week has a special report on Web Services, stating that “instead of exploding, the movement to help disparate computer systems easily communicate is gaining in fits and starts. Still, it’ll likely have a powerful impact.” It gives an example of Cigna is using it:
Health insurance giant Cigna has created novel ways to mix and match data that it believes helps patients and doctors. Its Web-services effort, called MyCigna.com, offers nifty tools such as financial-planning modeling. Visitors can track claims, order medications, or change doctors on the site. The portal also offers side-by-side comparisons of drugs by cost and side effects, as well as comparisons of hospitals by cost and success rates of certain surgeries.
A patient can also get a list of questions to ask a doctor about a drug or can enter symptoms into the system to get lists and descriptions of the ailment he or she might have — along with a hot-line phone number to ask more about it. To create all this, Cigna pulls together, on the fly, information from its various computer systems using Web services. “We built MyCigna.com so the participants can get the most out of their benefits,” says Chief Technology Officer Andrea Anania. “This tool allows them to manage their benefits any time, any place, in a very personalized way.”
Another company aggressively using web services is Amazon. Business Week writes that “by allowing friendly hackers to access its data and feeds, the e-commerce giant is creating a fast-growing ecosystem where buying and selling thrive.”
In an interview, Adam Bosworth of BEA looks at the future:
I think Web services will have a wide impact five years from now — and not one that most people expect.
As we move to a world of mobile devices, it becomes increasingly appropriate that the information comes to us, instead of us having to browse for it. Browsing doesn’t work well on mobile devices, but having information come to you does. So, consumers are going to expect every system out there to track what they need to know and send them the information when they need it. If I’m in Chicago, I’ll get information on Chicago hotels.
That sort of thing is going to be huge. Once people start to take it for granted, it’s going to be as big a change as e-mail. And Web services are going to be the mechanism by which information flows to mobile laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs).