Sunday, February 20, 2005

From 750 Million To 14 Billion Devices

From The Lowdown On High Tech Trends.

Forrester Research CEO George Colony deflates outsourcing, predicts Net links for billions of products, and sees GM's CIO as a pioneer

In a sea of buzzwords such as RFID (radio-frequency identification tags), offshoring, and open-source initiatives, what's really driving information technology? And what's way overblown?

On Feb. 8, editors and writers of BusinessWeek sat down with George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research (FORR ), a technology research and consulting firm, to talk about IT trends today and what he likes to call the "Ralph Revolution" in recognition of GM (GM ) CIO Ralph Szygenda. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow.

Q: What do you see as the biggest growth area in technology right now?

A: A very big area is what we call the physical-to-digital connection. The difference between 1994 and 2004 is that in that 10-year period, a piece of wire was created from every company to every customer -- the World Wide Web. From 2004 to 2014, a piece of wire will be created from every company to every product they've ever made. I'm exaggerating here a little bit, but that's where we're going. Forrester predicts that we're going from 750 million devices connected to the Internet today to 14 billion by the end of this decade.

How do these 14 billion devices get "turned on"? Every product eventually will have an RFID tag and an Internet address. A domain name only became valuable when the browser was introduced for the PC.

There will be a "browser" for this physical world. An application that deciphers the hidden RFID tag and connects to the corresponding website.

750 million devices use a couple different types of browsers to surf the Internet. Microsoft Expolorer, Netscape Navigator and Mozilla's Firefoz are the big ones.

Those 14 billion devices will contain an RFID tag, a barcode, a DNA, a fingerprint and will need a browser that can decipher the identifier and take you to the appropriate website.

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