Acquainted with the visionaries of information technology? If so, you may notice that
the title of this editorial resembles the title of a landmark article by Vannevar Bush.
Back in 1945, Bush published "As We May Think," a forward-looking piece on how
computers were likely to evolve. This piece, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, was
extraordinarily prescient, predicting many features of the Internet and the World Wide
Bush's work, prepared during his tenure as director of the Office of Scientific Research
and Development, came to mind while I attended Lucent's Global Media Day, an event
showcasing Lucent's vision of the future of communications. Lucent's vision, it seemed to
me, described how certain aspects of Bush's vision -- his as-yet-unrealized predictions--
were soon to become reality.
MEMEX, HYPERTEXT, AND THE UNEXPECTED
At this point, we would have to say Bushs prediction of a memex a kind of
microlibrary on a desktop, filled with information ready for instant retrieval and display
has been realized. Even the more esoteric aspects of the memex, namely, the
associative recall of relevant bits of information, has been achieved to some extent, if
not by hypertext, then by such things as collaborative filtering, a technique for sifting
through mountains of data to yield unexpected associations.
But what about the rest of Bushs hypermedia, that is, Bushs description of the
interactions among modems, fax machines, personal computers, and various voice-activated
appliances? How might we use these devices to avoid worsening the information glut, and
instead facilitate the exchange of relevant information not just by means of
indexing, but by more personal, more particular, more associative techniques?
SKIN THATS MORE THAN SKIN-DEEP
Well, it so happens that Lucents vision suggests ways in which technology may help
us meet this challenge. Lucent foresees a mega-network of networks, a communications skin
with ubiquitous connectivity and enormous bandwidth. And, just as real skin is sensitive,
studded with nerve endings, the communications skin will include countless sensors and
other devices, including all kinds of phones, PDAs, and voice-activated notebooks.
These devices will even talk to each other. In fact, there may be so many
interconnected devices that the volume of infra-chatter (in Lucents terms) may
surpass the volume of communications among humans. Since the interfaces for connecting all
the sensors and other devices to the mega-network will become dirt-cheap, just about
anything that can be connected to the network will be connected including
thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, alarm systems, household
appliances, and automobiles. (Perhaps my favorite result of this technology will be the
day when I can turn on the heat in my house before I arrive.)
Other devices will gather useful information by monitoring cities, roadways, homes,
offices, and the environment. Theyll also monitor peoples hearts and the
calories they consume. If you want, theyll keep track of your children, even your
pets. And theyll transmit all this data directly to the mega-network, just as our
skin transmits a constant stream of sensory data to our brains.
One outcome is that we will no longer need to confine our wills to that which we can
perceive at any moment. As more and more of life falls within the realm of real-time
communications technology, we will find ever more opportunities for exerting our
preferences, ordering matters exactly as we would have ordered them had we but the
time and attention.
Ultimately, individuals and businesses will have a vast variety of individualized,
custom services written by countless programmers on an open mega-network. This will
be a dramatic departure from today, when new services come largely from service providers.
In the future, a cottage industry of independent software vendors will spring up to create
customized services. For example, you could have the network track and automatically
report on your favorite ISV segment.
All the new services will transform the Internet as we know it. Today, the Internet may
seem a vast morass of information and facts. Tomorrow thanks to natural interfaces,
interactive Web sites, and software agents we will be able to extract relevant
information via text, voice, images, and video. Finally, well move beyond using
technology to create heaps of information. Instead, well finally use technology to
expand human knowledge.
The rise of a mega-network has yet another outcome: the creation of self-renewing
resources. Such resources have often been seen as a key benefit of information technology.
For an example, we can return to Vannevar Bush, who followed up on his Atlantic Monthly
piece with a report for President Harry Truman. In this report, Bush cited economic texts
that pointed to the need for new frontiers and new resources to exploit. Without them, so
the texts claimed, capitalism was bound to stagnate. (Recall that this was in 1945, when
memories of the Depression were still fresh.)
The report, entitled Science The Endless Frontier, suggested that
capitalisms need for an endless succession of new, undeveloped frontiers could be
satisfied only if we turned to science and technology. Bushs suggestion, I must say,
is certainly borne out by what I saw at Lucents presentation. The growth projections
for sheer capacity, bolstered by developments in optical networking, reveal new vistas
encompassing enough unexplored tracts to satisfy even the most adventurous spirit.
Bell Labs, in their portion of the presentation, even put forward what they call
Butters Law of Photonics, a formulation which deliberately parallels Moores
Law. According to Butters Law, the cost of transmitting a bit over an optical
network decreases by half every nine months. Further progress seems assured. In a recent
experiment, Bell Labs crammed 1000 wavelengths or channels on one fiber. And they see no
reason why they couldnt go to 15,000 wavelengths per fiber. To put these figures in
perspective, consider todays systems, which carry about 100 wavelengths per fiber.
BACK TO THE PRESENT
Information technology and communications technology are already demonstrating dramatic
growth, even though were just embarking on quests such as those described by Lucent.
I may be preaching to the choir on this point, but just to be thorough here
is some confirmation in the form of growth rates (CAGR projections from 1999 to 2003) for
a selection of communications sectors:
- Carrier-class routers, 86 percent.
- CRM, 46 percent.
- Broadband including DSL, 35 percent.
- DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing, a technology that allows multiple colors of
light to be transmitted over the same optical fiber), 32 percent.
- ATM switching, 26 percent.
- Communications software, 23 percent.
- Wireless networks, 22 percent.
- Optoelectronics, 21 percent.
- Messaging, 18 percent.
With growth rates like these, I am sure you will agree that the communications industry
will continue to be one of the most dynamic markets into the next century. I could make
this point even more powerfully were I to go into more detail about what I learned at the
Lucent event, but I feel constrained by space limitations. (But theres always next
SEIZING THE DAY
Of course, we dont expect to simply trip over new frontiers. On the
contrary, the new frontiers that are technologically based demand our imagination and
effort. But where might we seek inspiration? Where might we find the tools to make our
One answer is to attend quality, educational events. And, if I may be so bold, I would
suggest that such an event is Communications
Solutions EXPO. I invite you, our valued readers, to scrutinize the brief
editorial which follows. It describes the success we have enjoyed with CTI EXPO, the
precursor to Communications Solutions EXPO. In addition, it outlines our plans for
the future of our events.
Guide To The Communications Frontier: Communications Solutions EXPO
last CTI EXPO, held this past December in Las Vegas, heralded the beginning of a new
era in two senses. First, it ushered in the end of the millennium. Second, it was the last
time our event was to carry the CTI EXPO banner. In the new millennium, our
conference and exposition will be called Communications
Aside from standing on the verge of a new era, I was overwhelmed to find that CTI
EXPOs conference attendance had doubled to well over 1,200 total attendees in just
one year. Agog, I couldnt help but survey the attendees. The attendees explained
that they decided to participate in CTI EXPO because they perceived that TMCs
expositions are objective and in-depth, and dispense with the hype that is all too
familiar at many other shows.
We attribute this perception to the fact that TMCTM conferences are designed by the
editors of TMC publications (Communications
Solutions, Internet Telephony,
and C@ll Center CRM Solutions) as
well as the engineers of TMC Labs. It is the industry knowledge of these editors
coupled with their longevity in the industry three members (including myself) go
back over 18 years that contributes to an unusually powerful conference program.
Since the designers of our conferences stay on top of the latest technology, our
conference programs are always up to date. And, since our mandate has expanded as
technology has evolved, we feel we should emphasize that our new name, Communications
Solutions EXPO, describes more accurately the types of products and services on
display in the exhibit hall floor. The response to our new name has been extraordinarily
positive, and we look forward to staging our next event and officially inaugurating
Communications Solutions EXPO in Washington, DC, on
April 2628. (If you register online today, at www.comsolexpo.com, you will save the $50 entry fee
that will be charged at the door for exhibit hall admission.)
We realize that you are busy and that your time is precious, so we have dedicated
ourselves to constructing a conference program so comprehensive that you will be
guaranteed to learn more from Communications SolutionsTM EXPO than any other industry
event. We believe in supplying you with the most rigorous, non-commercial conferences, so
that we may impart the most relevant and readily assimilated information, making it easier
for you to integrate the information into your own corporate strategies.
Given the gratifyingly high level of interest in our conference program, we will soon
post the full conference program on our Web site. In the meantime, I will list a few
conference topics, summarizing what I feel are among the most appealing sessions.
CTI AND INTERNET TELPHONY SOLUTIONS
- The Open Telephony Trend And Its Limitless Possibilities. (Come learn
about the next generation of communications servers with open interfaces that you will
- The PC-PBX The Next Big Disruptive (And Empowering) Technology. (A less
expensive PBX, a more open PBX, and a more programmable PBX. You cant lose!)
- All Eyes Are On Applications That Are All Ears The Triumph Of Speech
Recognition. (Computer recognition of human speech was once the stuff of science
fiction, but soon talking to computers will be as familiar as the GUI-based desktop. With
speech-enabled applications and business systems, you can gain an advantage over your
competition. Sit in on this session to learn how to teach your application to listen to
- Getting the Response You Want: Creating Customer-Pleasing IVR Applications. (Did
you install an IVR system to handle basic customer service, only to find that now
youre getting calls from people complaining about the IVR too? Likely the problem is
not your IVR, but the scripting and menu options. A user-friendly IVR is a must today, and
this session will help you decide what your customers are looking for when they call you
in the first place.)
- Is Your Voice Processing System Somewhat Spartan? Maybe Its Time To Consider
Something More Sumptuous. (With everything voice processing has to offer,
theres really no need to settle for something austere. But do you want upgrades or a
new system? Attend this session, and explore your options.)
- IP @ Work Advances in Enterprise LAN-Based Telephony. (It is common
knowledge that voice and data networks are merging. Come find out what you can do so as
not to be left behind.)
E-SALES E-SERVICE SOLUTIONS
- Dot Com To Income: Turning A Profit In The Internet Channel. (Online, your
competitors are just a click away. This session will cover whats needed to compete
and win in the e-marketplace.)
- Foiling The Hack-ers: Implementing E-Commerce Security. (Studies show that the
average e-commerce site is so non-secured the average teenage hacker can collect personal
information in less time than it takes to make an online purchase. This session will
discuss how you can safeguard both your company and your consumers.)
- Helping Customers Help Themselves Through Better Web Site Design. (A
well-designed Web site provides potential buyers with all the information they need,
offering customer service and increasing sales at very little cost. Find out how the most
successful e-commerce ventures help customers help themselves.)
- Why You Need Chat And Instant Messaging On Your Companys Web Site.
(Properly implemented, chat and instant messaging capabilities can take the place of
expensive toll-free telephone calls. Learn about the available products, and the features
and functions served up by these essential e-service solutions.)
- Listen To Your Customers: Using Feedback To Improve Sales. (Want to know why
two-thirds of your e-shoppers never complete their transactions? By listening to your
customers concerns, you can better understand how to implement changes to make them
happy and see your sales rise. Gain valuable insight on how to design effective survey and
polling campaigns to learn as much as possible from the best advisors and critics around
- Using Knowledge Bases For Better CRM. (This session will examine the techniques
and technologies for connecting your companys touch points to your corporate
knowledge bases, ensuring that everyone has access to the same information. Access to the
right information doesnt just mean more power it means better customer
- Technologies And Techniques For Data Mining And Warehousing. (Where is that
information you need to make the sale, or qualify a prospect, or resolve a customer
problem? You know its there
somewhere. This session will focus on the database
tools and resources available that allow access to information by the people who need it.)
- The Nuts And Bolts Of CRM. (CRM is more than software: its a way of doing
business. This session will discuss which departments are involved in CRM, how to change
your business processes for successful CRM, and which technologies will help you implement
an effective CRM solution.)
- Using CRM To Target Your Best Prospects. (Feedback and statistics from phone
calls, Web site surveys, and customer e-mail: attend this session to find out how to get
the information from your customer contact points to your marketing department and learn
how to develop one-to-one marketing campaigns that keep sales in the loop.)
- How To Use Web Portals For Improved CRM. (The Internet is the perfect medium to
provide personalized information not only to your customers, but also to your sales and
support staff. Find out how Web portals can take advantage of existing systems and provide
timely, targeted information for both customers and staff.)
- How CRM Can Reduce Customer Churn. (Its a simple truth: You need to
understand what your customers want before you can give it to them. Here youll learn
how to provide a consistent message and quality service across all customer interaction
channels within your organization.)
- Implementing CRM Systems: Turnkey Or ASP? (Endless upgrades, systems
integration charges, IT staff nightmares these are some of the problems when
adapting piecemeal CRM components from various different vendors. Examine the pros and
cons of using an all-in-one integrated system versus outsourcing to an application service
CALL CENTER SOLUTIONS
- SuccessFactors For Virtual And Distributed Call Centers. (The benefits of
virtual and distributed call centers are alluring, but achieving those benefits may be
beyond your grasp if you dont understand the particulars. This session will cover
such challenges as managing your dispersed staff, establishing the appropriate network
configuration, and more.)
- Hello, Its Me: Self-Service With Speech Recognition Technology. (If you
were unimpressed with speech recognition in the past, its time to take a new look.
This session will bring you up to date on recent advancements and provide new application
ideas that can benefit your call center through customer self-service.)
- Present and Future IVR: Taking Advantage Of The State of the Art. (With
todays technology, your customers dont have to endure the trials and
tribulations of a feature-poor IVR system. You owe it to yourself and the future of your
company to attend this session to learn about the latest developments in IVR, including
new and innovative Web-based features.)
- Web-Enabling Your Call Center? Think Twice. (That is, think twice about how
youre going to do it. A shoddy setup is worse than no setup at all. While customers
are demanding the latest venues of contact, they are also demanding complete
professionalism, convenience, and ease of use. This session will provide a framework of
the critical elements to consider before you begin.)
- The Call Center: Gold Mine Or Money Pit? (Traditionally viewed as just a
cost of doing business, enlightened companies are learning that their call centers
are anything but cost centers. Attend this session and turn your existing call center into
a profit center.)
- CTI, The Call Center, And The New Millennium. (As time goes on, customers are
becoming more demanding. Computer-telephony integration (CTI) in the call center is the
answer. Come to this session to gain a comprehensive (and comprehensible) understanding of
CTI and how it can help you maintain a strong and lasting relationship with your present
and future customers.)
- Your Place Or Mine? Call Center Outsourcing Options. (Call center bursting at
the seams? Time to implement new avenues of customer contact, but lacking the expertise?
Considering setting up a call center for the first time, but uncertain about the cost?
These situations, and others, call for serious consideration of outsourcing. This session
will provide you with a comprehensive formula for evaluating call center outsourcing
providers, including the services you should expect and the financial commitments you
should plan for.)
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