Forrester event offers look at new technologies for a connected world

Dozens of IT decision makers are flocking to Scottsdale, Ariz., this week for Forrester Research's annual Emerging Technology Showcase, which promises to provide a glimpse into the future of RFID, security, communications and other hot technologies. In this interview, Mike Gilpin, chairman of the event and Forrester's vice president and research director for application development and infrastructure, discusses the types of technologies being showcased at the event, as well as the marketplace trends that are driving the need for those technologies. For more coverage as the event unfolds, visit our news page all this week.

What is the Emerging Technology Showcase?
Mike Gilpin, Forrester Research
We've run this event now for seven years. It's different from our other events. The intent is to bring some of the most interesting, most innovative new information technologies in front of our clients and other people. The technology presentations at the show are broken up into categories, or technovistas, as your company calls them. What are the different technovistas this year?
Each technovista is linked to a specific technology domain. This time, for example, we have RFID for one; customer and product data integration for another; security for another; voice communication technology; and leading and bleeding edge. In each technovista there are a number of vendors that get up and do demos of their technology. [Except for the leading and bleeding edge technovista], we focus mostly on near-term new products. These are things that are intended to be on the market within the next six months.
The themes that were behind our choice of these technology areas were that the world we live in is a much more connected place than it ever was before.
Mike Gilpin
Event ChairmanForrester Emerging Technologies Showcase
Why did you pick these particular technology areas? Are there any common themes across the categories that reflect a need in the marketplace?
The themes that were behind our choice of these technology areas were that the world we live in is a much more connected place than it ever was before. This drives both requirements and opportunities. For example, there is a requirement for RFID. You know there is a mandate from Wal-Mart [to its suppliers that they support RFID technology]. The reason that Wal-Mart wants this technology to be introduced into the supply chain is that it will save them a lot of money. The manufacturers of the equipment, or the goods that are sold through Wal-Mart, don't get as great a benefit from the RFID technology, and yet they may also find that there are ways that they can optimize their business processes to take advantage of knowing where everything is all the time. This is part of the 'everything is connected all the time' theme. Is connectivity driving demand for, say, customer and product data integration technology as well?
The connectivity of everything is also a driver for customer and product data integration. The systems that we use to do business used to be stove-piped. They weren't connected to each other. You'd go into your banking branch and that would be one system. You'd call up the call center of the bank and that would be a different system. And they wouldn't know about each other. Now they are connected. The bank wants those systems to have an integrated view of their complete relationship with you as a customer. And they use that information to drive new business, to offer their best customers new opportunities. What exactly is driving the need for new communication technologies?
There is also a question of real time business integration. Having everything connected is not the only factor that is going on. The pace of business is also increased. Information flows in real time or near real time from one part of the business to another. And this makes it necessary to have much more flexible ways of communicating. Now that I have this real time visibility into information, the ability to communicate with customers more effectively becomes even more critical. The innovative communication technology technovista will highlight that aspect of the trend. Are any of the new products being showcased especially useful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)?
I think the technologies for customer communication and security are probably the ones that are the most applicable across both large and small businesses. The RFID and customer and product data integration technologies, those are problems that big companies have, for the most part. That is not to say that SMBs don't have those problems to some extent. But they probably solve them in fairly low-tech ways because the problems are not that large. Can you tell me a little more about the leading and bleeding edge technovista?
[Companies presenting in this technovista include] Intel, Microsoft, Nsite, N-Tara Inc., OpTier Ltd., and Virtual-Mirrors Ltd. There is some interesting stuff going on across these companies. There is a lot of 3-D video. Virtual-Mirrors has a product that scans your body, takes very precise measurements and then communicates that data to an automated piece of equipment that manufacturers clothing to fit you precisely. What are Microsoft and Intel showing off?
Intel is showing a new kind of 3-D technology, and Microsoft is showing a new kind of real time video collaboration technology. Are there any technology users presenting anything that you found to be particularly innovative?
British Petroleum is there to talk about sensory networks. BP has been using sensory networks in order to have much more precise data about what is going on not only in the oil field, but also in the pipelines and the retail locations that are selling the fuels they market. They have a type of networking technology that allows them to wirelessly deploy a network across a wide area without having to run a physical wire to every location where a sensor is going to be based. It's a type of networking where each of the wireless participants is communicating with other wireless participants in a sort of sensory grid. The usage of that kind of sensory grid is very innovative. We were able to snag them to come and tell us what they're doing.

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