An iconoclast's glimpse into the future

The day ended with another glimpse into the future from Graham Whitehead of BT. He is a passionate and enthusiastic speaker and while I've neither met him before or heard him speak he is well known. He started with

"There will be more change in the IT in the next 10 years than in the previous 100"

and then asked who agreed. After the day we'd had we were all ready to do that, so he contradicted himself and stated that actually it'd only take eight years. (For the aficionados of the history of the Soviet Union, very reminiscent of the Five Year plans.)

Graham mentioned the revolutionary nature of BT's 21st Century Network (see also here...) as an enabler of the internet of things. He obviously thinks this is important, the Register reported a speech of his at the Irish Internet Association's Congress last year

"that the anarchic and hazardous nature of the public internet meant that companies were now constructing supervised private IP networks. These private networks would be able to handle the amount of traffic that would be generated when broadband was ubiquitous, phone networks were IP-based, and common household objects had their own IP addresses. "The internet is dead, or dying; it's full of viruses, worms and porn, you have to wear a kevlar suit before you go online," he said. "BT is creating a private network, which will be joined to other private networks, to which we will add voice over IP.""

He described the new paradigm (my word not his), as AORTA, "Always on Real Time", which goes down a storm in the healthcare industry.

One of the things he examined was around customer care, "there's never a queue in virtual reality", I bet he didn't try and file his income tax online in the last week last year. He suggests that machines don't say "Sod Off! I'm busy.", but actually they do. While he argued that people will deal with machines if they're better than people, (Bank ATMs are a proof point), if you want to speak to a person, that's it! People with machine generated scripts are as helpful as the machine, as Graham says, while no machine has ever passed the Turing test, many people have failed it. This is actually quite rude (what me worry!) and the problems with customer care call centre staff is often that their systems aren't good enough to help and the automated telephone menus absolutely infuriating. However the headline he offered that people will use machines if they're better than people is true enough and we'll probably get better at trusting and delegating stuff to them, which leaves the question as to what people are going to do?

He took this to a travel agency and asked them where he thought they'd be in 2015 and posed a not desperately unreal scenario that flight (well, aviation fuel) will be very expensive and rationed (anyone watch Dr. Who last week, the return of the airship) but that today's text/messenger kids will (or did he say may) be prepared to take virtual reality holidays. It wasn't at this point that he talked about a scent generator but it is an example of the extension of virtual reality to all five senses. (This is also a device that was not demonstrated during the day.) I'm really unsure about VR holidays, but some people go to Murder Mystery weekends today!

He was also quite keen on Robots, which put the demo of Sony's robot dog in a context in the Home 2.0 showcase. For him, robots extend the network's capability, and while the dog is not very useful, the programming packed into the AI is pretty amazing.



"There will be more change in the IT in the next 10 years than in the previous 100" Probably true, but since none of the old stuff will actually go away this is simply a prescription for increasing fragmentation and confusion. Of course this plays well into the business model of BT (or IBM): "Relax, let us take care of it all for you", so it's not exactly disinterested.....

Posted by Geoff Arnold on May 18, 2006 at 10:18 PM PDT #

I think your wrong about BT! Their basic self interest is to develop and deploy network computing and to drive corporate innovation. This is not what IBM Global Services look for! IBM as a whole thing, can't help but innovate, although they're a lot slower than when at their best! BT is not an IBM writ small. You should watch this space

Posted by guest on May 22, 2006 at 07:36 AM PDT #

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