Below are the Grand Prize-winning entry and the four runners-up for the PC Forum 2005 contest. See full prize details here.
What IT innovation have the experts underplayed...or even completely missed?
Grand Prize Winner: Peter Glaskowsky, California
The next five years will see major innovations in standard high-volume computing platforms such as virtualization, partitioning, and the universal deployment of multiprocessor configurations. All of these advances represent significant improvements, but none will be as pervasive and dramatic as the introduction of hardware-based security and reliability technology. Microsoft has delayed the debut of its Next-Generation Secure Computing Base technology, but this merely reflects the magnitude of the effort involved in the initiative. By the end of the decade, NGSCB will completely change the way we think about PC hardware and software. It will be literally impossible for unauthorized software to infect PC operating systems or applications. Even legitimate configuration changes will be strictly controlled-- and some changes will even be beyond the authority of the system's users and administrators. The same technology will support unbreakable digital rights management, effective piracy prevention, and-- depending on how it's used-- allow improved personal privacy or undetectable remote monitoring. Hardware will keep these controls from being bypassed under most circumstances, forcing users and IT staff to come to grips with these new limits on their customary freedoms. This new technology will shake up the computer industry far more than anyone suspects today.
Runner-up: Ben Christy, Illinois
I believe the modular mini-program is GREATLY under valued in our web based computing today. The various standards require far too many support programs for an industry that has been virtually relegated to games and hard to find newsfeeds that remind me of post-a-notes. While the big-boys treat the modular programs like insects the insect world shows us how they can work together to do great things. Likewise, the modular programs can work together to do great things.Imagine a webpage that could read your address book and forwarn you of your anniversary or your bosses birthday. It can calculate the next holiday, its true day and when it will be celebrated. With a newsfeed connected, it can alert you to traffic problems and suggest an alternate route as well as check the weather to see if you need to cover the tomato plants. This is technology, not of the future, or even today. For years all we've needed to do is to agree on how to port the information. WE NEED such standards YESTERDAY. As soon as we have a standard then we can set it and forget it.... That is until it reminds us. Oh, what a great day that will be.
Runner-up: Ira Victor, Nevada
The gurus have failed to accurately visualize the mature stages of VoIP. It's a two-part failure, and my prediction will address both parts.First, the emergence of an inevitable user behavior pattern as VoIP evolves. Online services like Prodigy and CompuServe were initially viewed as the dominant model for internet transactions. Today, the experts are overemphasizing the ultimate role of the closed-network VoIP providers.The future of VoIP will be in open networks. Prodigy and CompuServe are a distant memory. And does anyone remember eWorld? An eWorld executive once told me they saw no way to profit from the open" internet. I predict consumers will exercise the same level of autonomy for voice communications as for online transactions, once VoIP is fully understood by mainstream users. Additionally, the gurus have failed to recognize a security and privacy problem that will persist when the pattern plays out.If spam and phishing are a security crisis now, imagine 300 voice mails each day, offering hair replacement, or special mortgage rates. Open VoIP will be as significant as the web. The bad guys will exploit the open systems. Securing open VoIP will be one of the most significant technical challenges to arise.
Runner-up: Armando Viteri, Arizona
RFID might seem an unlikely topic to suggest as being underplayed by analysts and technology gurus. But in reality, many network managers and systems integrators will break their backs by charting a course through the waves of hype that roll in from vendors and the industry pundits who follow them. RFID is being defined exclusively in its passive form, which experts predict will mature any day now with the arrival of mandate-inspired, low cost passive tags. They say this tipping point will give rise to an RFID economy where billions upon billions of items will be tracked and traced. An "internet of things" will emerge overnight as bar code disappears into the technology tar pits. It is rare indeed to find any research roadmaps which identify a migration path incorporating collective auto-identifiers. Both passive RFID and active RFID are evolutionary identification tools with natural supply chain, asset management and personnel tracking applications. They are empowering agents only when integrated with barcode, GPS, remote sensors, mesh networks, cellular networks and central information systems. Only when IT industry influencers begin to embrace the concept of hybrid RFID will their constituents derive any meaningful insight from their work.
Runner-up: Mac McCarthy, California
The missing innovation: Project management software tailored for *knowledge workers.*
PIMs are too simplistic--planning your day with one is just frustrating, but it's all we've really got. Project management, collaboration, workflow, and team systems --none of these are right for the job.
Yet everyone in Esther's audience--and Esther!--works according to a *completely different* model--juggling a daily hodgepodge of large and small projects, standalone tasks, of wildly varying and changing priorities, all competing for your scarce time. No software helps you keep track, prioritize, think though, juggle, adjust, and reprioritize on the fly to achieve your goals--and it should! David Winer's outline-based products started moving in this direction in the 1980s; so did Lotus Agenda (the first example of 'artificial stupidity').
*Somebody* has to be chewing on this problem: How to help knowledge workers juggle their chaotic multithreaded constantly varying workday, with elements that come and go and priorities that shift with every passing hour. The need is greater than it's ever been--the number of knowledge workers in this fix continues to grow, and will never go backwards. This will be the breakthrough software task of the 21st Century.