TECHNOLOGY Back to the Future – 2005 technology preview


Buckle up as we fast forward you to some of the technology highlights of 2005 tipped by the experts to impact on overall business efficiency, marketing strategies, and ultimately the bottom line.
While ordinary peripheral devices will become cheaper, more clever, more feature-rich, and in many cases, wireless, there have been, and will continue to be number of software-based, internet-driven, mobile-enabled technologies under the spotlight.
You may recall the hype that surrounded the rollout of the 2.5G networks by mobile carriers and their partners? Now with the launch of the upgraded 3G (Third Generation) networks (Telecom was clearly out of the starting blocks first) those expectations can finally be delivered on.
According to ECONZ chief executive Michael Hartley, in the next six to 12 months early adopters will experience genuine ‘turbo-charged’ mobile performance and the web will become much more useful tool than ever before.
Hartley’s company specialises in wireless field force management (EService) and he sees the 3G networks bringing whole new level of functionality to the handset. transfer rate of 356Kb/sec will allow smooth video and TV images to be transmitted to handsets.
“The new 3G-capable phones will have chips that provide lot of integration. For example, the screens will have the same megapixels and screen refresh rate of Nintendo GameBoy, the cameras will be three megapixels, voice and data integration will be seamless, and Wi-Fi will be onboard,” says Hartley.
One of Telecom’s early 3G phones is the Pocket PC-equipped Harrier, which also comes with an MP3 player, 128Mb of expandable memory, Bluetooth, infrared and USB connectivity, 500Kbps to 2Mbps network speeds, plus keyboard and camera.
Hartley also says 3G devices will be multi-network capable – including GPRS, CDMA, EV-DO and UMTS. In other words, one phone for all markets, and no one provider has handset technology advantage (competition will be about service and price).
LBS (Location Based Services) are another 3G-enabled trend according to Hartley – these include ‘GPS-assisted’ variants that work out where cellphone is located (even if it’s 20 metres into carpark).
The 3G networks also enable the “Push to Talk” concept. Already deployed in the US, this is ruggedised, configurable, walkie-talkie technology, ideal for field worker communication, and step on from SMS.

The wireless wow factor
We’re only just getting started in the mobile stakes. SMS, while maturing in the consumer market, has bright future in business applications. The Hyperfactory, for example, has created Dulux Trade TXT, which enables Dulux trade customers (such as independent paint resellers or painter-decorators) to communicate directly with sales reps via text. It’s much cheaper and less time consuming than going through call centre. The TXT application allows trade customers to lodge orders or queries using key words, all at the push of one button (type ‘rep’ and push send). Such service can also be used for internal corporate messaging – it’s sort of ‘modern day’ paging system.
In fact, paging systems as we know them will continue to evolve in 2005. Leading the charge is product that arrived in New Zealand six months ago, albeit with very little fanfare. IBM’s “Wearable Instant Voice Communication” device, or Vocera, is an on-site communication device worn on the lapel or around the neck. It is voice activated – connecting users to other workers and interfacing with the organisation’s PABX system. As IBM’s Brent Menzies points out, the Vocera device provides “instant” communication. Traditional technology requires seven steps to communicate, and three to 15 minutes – whereas with Vocera the average time is cut to 45 seconds and just two steps. Ideal for hospitals, retail, and warehousing applications, Vocera replaces cellphones, pagers, overhead paging, and all the accompanying maintenance.

Email archiving
Take look in your computer’s inbox and you’ll appreciate that email will continue to be the fastest growing business communication tool in 2005. However, with the requirement to archive email to comply with business reporting standards, the pressure is on to find an effective management and storage solution.
According to Andrew Perrier, VRetrieve product marketing manager at Datamail, 35 percent of organisations in the US don’t have an email retention policy. He knows of one Australian company that recently had to search through 20,000 backup tapes to find vital piece of information, at cost of $1000 per tape.
Datamail markets an email archiving package (e-MARC) to capture and store email and other unstructured data securely off-site on its VRetrieve server. Users still access and search their messages as normal, but the pressure on the client’s mail server and internal storage is greatly reduced, and IT administration is minimal.
Email volumes will continue to explode in 2005, so it’s no wonder some 150 customers already use Datamail’s service.

Tracking and tracing
“Everybody’s talking about it, but nobody’s doing it” – the words of Simon Spratt, GM, Asian operations for supply chain integration specialist Certus. He’s talking about RFID (radio frequency identification), long regarded as the Holy Grail in tracking and tracing products from manufacture to customer.
However, the recent “big stick” approach by US retail giant Wal-Mart could finally result in some action – in order to do business with Wal-Mart, you must buy into the technology.
RFID technology involves embedding tiny chips into products – so the cost of manufacturing these chips dictates the speed of adoption. However there is now the potential for chips to be manufactured and sold in large volumes (millions, even billions) for just few cents each.
Spratt says RFID will ultimately answer lot of security issues, and the technology’s accuracy should lead to substantial supply chain cost efficiencies. He says they’re ready to implement the new technology from the point of reception, but are just waiting for the tags and gantries (to scan whole containers) to catch up. “The back half of the RFID equation is there, unfortunately the front part is still at the tyre-kicking stage,” he says.
One of the key objectives of RFID technology is ensuring that products are never lost – and on similar theme, GPS (Global Positioning System) technology is all about ensuring that people never get lost.
This year is shaping up to be landmark year for GPS-based products – particularly in the new vehicle and after-market automotive navigation systems market. Smart new multimedia hardware that co-exists with car audio systems and links into extensive ‘Points of Interest’ databases and Location Based Services is set to become mainstream in the next five to 10 years. Perhaps back seat drivers have finally met their match.

A new level of VC
New technologies will impact on the way organisations share and distribute rich-media, video-driven presentations.
One is Mediasite Live, technology demonstrated at the International Conference on Priorities in Healthcare in Wellington late last year. Mediasite Live has been described as “VCR on steroids”, recording all the auxiliary device content used in presentations such as camcorders, PowerPoint images, document cameras, and whiteboards, along with the presenter – and then synchronising and encoding it all to be made available for live viewing, on demand via the web, copied to CD or DVD, or zipped for emailing. Viewers can watch the entire presentation on their PC using standard browser (at least Explorer 6 or Windows Media Player 7) and can navigate the presentation in real time using familiar VCR-like controls.
As BDT’s Julian Lefebvre points out, postproduction on one-hour presentation would traditionally take up to six hours. “With Mediasite it’s all done on the fly.”
Another product, Ectus MEDIA (developed in New Zealand by Waikato Innovation Centre for Electronic Educat

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