EL SEGUNDO, CA /PRNewswire/ -- An American business traveler awaiting a flight in Rome uses SlingBox to view last night's episode of CSI: Miami on her laptop. Wireless sensors inform workers of an equipment failure in a remote area of an oil refinery, saving the company thousands of dollars. Skype, an Internet company, shakes up the telecommunications industry by offering conferencing services for free.
"Advances in connectivity and mobility are changing everything," said Paul Gustafson, director of Computer Sciences Corporation's Leading Edge Forum (LEF). Speaking about the LEF's new research report, "Connected World: Redefining the Geography of Business and How We Work and Play," Gustafson says technology companies have for years boasted of "anytime, anywhere" capability, but that wasn't really the case. "Today, we're much closer to that goal, and 'anything' is now part of the equation. The technology has advanced to the point that it's really not about technology. It's about imagination and reengineering to adapt to a new reality."
The report examines eight trends that illustrate what it means to live and thrive in a connected world—a networked world marked by abundant bandwidth, powerful devices that leverage that bandwidth in new areas and to new users, and changing work styles and lifestyles that are more mobile. What business areas will be impacted? What will mobility look like in the coming years? Who is in the lead and why?
The trends are as follows:
The concept of network is changing from one of plumbing to platform. Using Internet Protocol (IP) at the core, companies can have a single, converged network that carries all data, voice, video, and applications. In an enterprise environment, this approach unites previously disparate organizations and systems, increases performance and reliability, provides new capabilities and greatly reduces costs.
With voice absorbed into the network as just another data type—voice over IP (VoIP) —voice networks will become obsolete. As evidenced by Skype, VoIP can effectively eliminate long-distance and video conferencing charges. This has presented a major disruption to every telecommunications company, forcing a reinvention as market demand (both commercial and consumer) rapidly shifts to providers who can offer converged services.
With IP the common denominator, companies are crossing into new industries and businesses, colliding as well as cooperating in staking out their digital turf. Television, music, and computer companies are increasingly focusing on mobile phones as the next entertainment platform. Examples include MTV's alliance with Sprint and Google's relationship with CBS.
This crossover world was envisioned in the 1990s by computer pioneer Gordon Bell, who painted a picture of the colliding worlds of telephony, television, and computing. This "triple play," which is often extended to the quadruple play when mobility is added, is obliterating stovepipe companies and services of the past, while ushering in new multi-service scenarios.
Bandwidth at the Edge
A proliferation of mobile broadband networks is providing access to the Internet and enterprise core networks at greatly increased speeds, solving bandwidth issues. Until recently, access could be likened to siphoning ocean water with a straw. Today, large network pipelines are here in the form of Wi-Fi, WiMAX, 3G, and soon-to-come 4G wireless broadband.
"Bandwidth has been unleashed to the edge—to the home user, the mobile user, and various remote locations," said Gustafson. "Technologies that had sufficient bandwidth have extended their reach, and technologies that had sufficient reach have gotten more bandwidth. The days of unconnectedness are just about over."
FON, a start-up company in Madrid, intends to create a global federated network of Wi-Fi hotspots. The goal is 1 million hotspots worldwide by 2010 or earlier.
Networks in New Places
Networks are going into new places in new ways. Organizations are bringing dormant environments to life by leveraging wireless mesh networks and advanced radio-frequency identification (RFID). Not constrained by physical infrastructure, these networks enable new forms of machine-to-machine communication that automatically monitor, adjust, and control systems at significantly reduced costs, states the report.
The technology is helping oil refineries monitor equipment and employees in remote and hazardous locations. It's also allowing buses to become mobile Internet cafes. San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge has approximately 200 wireless sensors monitoring its structural integrity.
Along with networks going into new places, new things are being connected to the network. With this come radical changes, because newly connected devices access information and perform differently or enable people to perform differently. Such things range from personal devices, such as consumer electronics and washing machines, to hardware in broader systems, such as vending machines, highway toll readers, and electronic signs.
Networked TiVo brings Internet life to the digital video recorder box. In healthcare, Bluetooth wireless technology enables devices to monitor blood pressure and glucose levels and heart and pulse rhythms within a 10-meter range, freeing patients from hospital beds. Utility companies are also starting to use this technology to remotely monitor meters and detect and resolve issues.
Liquid Time and Place
Time and place shifting began with TiVo and is now enhanced by technologies from companies such as Sling Media and Orb, which allow viewers to watch TV from a laptop connecting to home remotely. Orb says that it takes the "home" out of home entertainment. But this trend is much larger than TV. Companies are shifting work to cut costs, speed operations, and free up local employees to do other work. Fixed time and place are becoming liquid as the boundaries defining work and home dissolve.
"Today, we have liquid time and place like never before," said Gustafson. "In the past, we were limited by where we could run wires, but we're no longer confined by wires or clocks. The network facilitates new dimensions of reach, new spaces to infiltrate, and new innovation."
Pervasive Presence and Location
As connectivity increases, understanding someone's context before communicating to them is increasingly important. The person's availability, presence, and location provide key information that improve communication and enable new location-aware services.
The defining moment for presence was the emergence of instant messaging, which "announces" an individual online, in real time, states the report. Presence boosts productivity by enabling individuals and teams to communicate in new ways, brainstorm, and solve problems faster. For example, the technology supports homeland security efforts by facilitating emergency response effort coordination. It also allows commercial companies to provide real-time customer service for online shoppers.
Mobility: The Next Frontier
"Mobility offers major opportunities for business growth and innovation," said Gustafson. "The culmination of all the preceding trends, mobility is made possible by the connected world and the rich underlying network. E-mail is just the start. The real power comes from mobile-enabling operational processes, such as sales, supply chain, and field service. Wireless phone badges, electronic clipboards, and text messages are bringing about dramatic changes in a variety of industries.
"The enterprise mobile market is in transition, shifting from point solutions to leveraged platforms, with consolidation around major players," he added. "Some analysts say mobile opportunities have the same potential impact as the Internet to drastically change business."
Conclusion: Rethinking Business Connectedness
If the world is only two seconds away, what does this mean for business? What do corporations and organizations need to do to survive and thrive?
"Today, we are in the exact same position as in the 1980s pre-reengineering era, but with more complex technology and more complex issues that need to be addressed," said N. Venkatraman, David J. McGrath Jr. professor of management at Boston University and one of the experts cited in the report. "The connected world is at a point where we need to have a conversation with business managers about how to create new business models. We need to reengineer for networked business."
The report recommends examining nine business areas when assessing the organization's connectedness: value systems, business models, ecosystem role, service delivery, customer focus, stakeholder alignment, employee model, industry shape, and IT shape. Detailed descriptions and guidelines regarding these areas can be found on page 82 of the report.
Founded in 1959, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) is a leading global information technology (IT) services company. CSC's mission is to provide customers in industry and government with solutions crafted to meet their specific challenges and enable them to profit from the advanced use of technology.
With approximately 78,000 employees, CSC provides innovative solutions for customers around the world by applying leading technologies and CSC's own advanced capabilities. These include systems design and integration; IT and business process outsourcing; applications software development; Web and application hosting; and management consulting. Headquartered in El Segundo, CA, CSC reported revenue of $14.6 billion for the 12 months that ended June 30, 2006. For more information, visit the company's Web site.