of Internet Everywhere
soon be living in an immersive Internet environment with
pervasive wireless access.
media operators seek to deliver broadband Internet access
on computer and television screens over cable, satellite
and terrestrial broadcast networks, but this is only the
beginning. We are rapidly moving into the era of
"The old Ram Dass
saying 'Be here now' is being transformed into the new
catchphrase 'be there now,'" said John Gage, chief
researcher and director of the science office at Sun
Microsystems. Speaking last month at NAB, Gage foretold
an immersive Internet environment of "global immediacy,"
when everything electrical will be intelligent and linked
to the Internet
Within a decade, he
predicted, the network of networks will be accessed
through all sorts of devices, starting with wireless
personal data assistants (PDAs) and smart cellular
phones. There also will be wireless "wearable computers"
embedded into eyeglasses and clothing. Retailers will use
wireless barcode scanning for instant debits, such as in
the IBM commercial where the man stuffing products into
his trenchcoat is stopped by a security guard because he
left the store without his receipt.
forecast a technical and social transformation from the
introduction of "molecular electronics," where computer
circuitry will be constructed on the atomic level.
Devices will be so tiny that a digital source can be
embedded imperceptibly into a human body.
At the first
Internet Everywhere CEO Summit in San Francisco in March,
MIT Media Labs academic head Alex Pentland described
research into "reasonable accommodations" to help the
deaf and blind communicate effectively. "The goal is full
interactivity without the need for screens or
As an example,
Pentland introduced an conference badge with wireless
sensors that could tell if another attendee shared common
interests, indicated by a green or red light. The
technology "tells me how I relate to them, not the other
way around," he said. Potential applications range from
trade shows to dating services.
An expanded view of
ubiquitous access was presented at the Internet
Everywhere Summit by Sean Maloney, senior vice president
at Intel. As growing bandwidth meets public demands for
universal access, he said, the biggest problem will be
information overload. The solution is a natural and
intuitive user interface.
"Recent progress in
speech recognition has been stunning," he said during a
demonstration of the IBM ViaVoice system. Application in
home networking, for instance, may include hands-free
readouts of cooking recipes or assuring home security at
night from the bed.
To take advantage
of immersive Internet technologies, however, cable
operators defined by a coaxial plant may need to rethink
their systems. If the set-top box is used as a terminal
for the home network, for instance, linkages to wireless
household devices becomes more acceptable.
There are right now
170 million PCs in the world, almost 500 million
cellphones, and almost 1.5 billion television sets,
Maloney noted. "Linking these devices to the Internet is
only the beginning, so we need to get ready for a future
when the Internet is everywhere."