Information Defines Tech Trends

    GRAND RAPIDS — The coming year in technology might not be as sexy or sci-fi heavy as in years past, but it will be a lot more practical.

    In his annual technology forecast, local software pioneer Keith Brophy is predicting 2006 will be dominated by “change warriors and data gladiators.” Terms of his own creation, they are among the common lexicon at Brophy’s NuSoft Solutions — where he is president of business development — and refer to individuals who use technology and data, respectively, to facilitate innovation and improvements within an organization.

    “This year, we’re focusing on what will make a difference, as far as touching lives,” he said. “We are in an era where technology is not rolling out, as much as leap-frogging. Organizations that are bold and leverage the technology will see a lot of impact.”

    Brophy selected his 10 largely interrelated trends from among more than 200 different ideas referred to him. There were sexier trends out there, he assured, such as the shrinking size of memory devices and the increasing prevalence of household robotics. There were also a number of interesting trends outside of the software and intelligence segment.

    “Last year, we talked about some very exotic technology,” he said. “But the talk over the last year has been about the changing work force — the creative worker and the knowledge worker.”

    Only a few years ago, the West Michigan work place was dominated by procedure-focused jobs. Today, those are giving way to knowledge-driven jobs.

    “This is so relevant to the work force,” Brophy said. “It strikes right to the heart of life sciences, health sciences and education.”

    Some of the trends are scaled-down versions of his year-ago predictions. Most notably, he again predicts increased usage of Global Positioning System tools. Last year, he felt this would be primarily to track people or property. An extreme usage was imbedded chips as next-generation biometric identification.

    While his first prediction this year may seem like a step back from that, Brophy noted, it is actually the logical next step, developing and integrating applications for GPS.

    Brophy will discuss his trends at a number of venues in the coming month, the largest being the Feb. 23 GlimaWest meeting at Watermark Country Club in Cascade.

    **GPS-Driven Smarts: The ability to integrate geographic awareness into a variety of work-flow applications.

    **Content Is King, But Pedigrees Are Checked: The days of the Wild West Web are numbered. Even well-regarded outlets like Wikipedia are under scrutiny. Users will come to expect content to be scrubbed, validated, audited and sourced. This applies to both the World Wide Web and internal company data.

    **Info Picnic Never Stops: Before the end of the calendar year, information should be available virtually anywhere and through literally dozens of platforms (PC, phones, iPods, TVs, dashboard navigation systems, etc.). Advertising will travel through all these.

    **Think Before You Leap, Or Breathe: The ease and prevalence of business intelligence spreads throughout all aspects of the organization. All activities within an organization will be habitually monitored. Business intelligence can influence even mundane decisions.

    **Power Of Human Connectedness And Human Relations Soars: Communities and subcultures are now common on the Internet, possessing the same identity and trust of hard-fought “real-world” relationships. The Web will begin to facilitate relationships once predicated on wining, dining and a firm handshake. Increased collaboration will result.

    • The Customer Is Always Right, And We Are Always Right About The Customer: Customer relations management will become much more sophisticated, as different levels of customer data are integrated for easy visibility.
    • Duct-Tape-Free Plumbing: Integration will reach a new level of sophistication. Databases once cobbled together in a network will be easily and cheaply connected. These will be more robust and require less attention.
    • Specialized Communication Facilitators: When the next generation of cell phones reaches market, quick-use communications panels will become pervasive. Like many of Brophy’s trends, these will function as a “data sponge,” showing patterns and data to help individuals better understand their behavior.
    • Shock And Results: The massive concentration of collaboration and business intelligence technologies will be applied to industries that have been historically resistant to it, particularly health care and education.
    • Skiing Down Highly Marked Trails: The nexus of the previous nine trends, information will be indexed and sorted in ways once unimaginable.    

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