The future of computing is being shaped by breakthroughs in many facets of the industry, but no matter the devices or the Internet services they access, all will be influenced by the computer chip. Innovations in this area will help drive advancements in others, and big names in the field are hard at work to enable emerging capabilities.
From the first graphical user interface to high-definition video streaming over handheld devices, computing has advanced exponentially during the last 30 years. Though the current application space enables individuals or small groups with little capital to become big players, two of Ma Bell’s titan offspring are setting trends as well.
Microsoft and Google are two of the most recognized company names in the world. And just as they revolutionized the past, these leaders are striving to invent the future.
The future of the Internet is beginning to take shape as Web 3.0 capabilities become available for everyday lives in both personal and professional capacities. But as technology continues to blaze forward at blinding rates, the opportunities for innovators to affect that future abound. Leaders of major companies agree on some of the trends consumers can expect to experience, but they also have their own ideas about how their organizations will shape, and fit into, the new digital landscape.
No one knows yet what a working quantum computer will look like, how long it will take to develop or how many functions it will perform, but one thing is almost certain—it will be critical to national security. If such a computer is ever built, it likely will be the most powerful machine on the planet for encrypting or decrypting information, easily capable of cracking current encryption codes used by the military, intelligence agencies and commercial entities such as the banking and financial services industry.
Actionable knowledge will be available to commanders at lightning speed as the U.S. military and industry institute more adept methods to sift through terabytes of raw intelligence data. With the help of language-crunching software, intelligence analysts will be privy not only to crucial data about people, organizations, locations and weapons but also to the relationships among them. The key that unlocks the door to this obscure information is technology that enables computers to recognize and collate words and their meanings. In a matter of minutes, it then organizes the data in a way that would take weeks for a human analyst to accomplish.
As the military world continues its march toward network centricity, software developers are making strides toward better collaboration as well. A project expected to roll out in the next few months will connect disparate researchers, allowing them to share ideas and products. This open-source idea swapping takes practices already in place in the private sector and moves them into the defense arena with the aim of accelerating production time while reducing costs. The purpose is to enable the rapid development and certification of products for the Global Information Grid.
Misconceptions about open source software have made many U.S. Defense Department sectors reluctant to employ this technology. Although a 2003 department policy allows its use, many still believe that open source software poses an increased security risk to networks and that it is not supported as well as commercial products.
Developers are using an ultra-fast broadband engine designed to make video games faster and more realistic to improve warfighting tools. This breakthrough capability-called the next disruptive technology by some experts-is smaller and more powerful than its predecessors and is causing the military and defense contractors to rethink the way they design systems.
An emerging design methodology allows system designers to connect different vendor applications to share information across a network or networks and to adapt rapidly to changing technologies. With this structure, a variety of software tools can interoperate and organizations can establish metrics to monitor system use and data sharing between internal departments or external agencies.
Prototype technology could someday help exhausted or stressed front-line officers make sound critical decisions by providing advice based on their own career experiences. The software program can create a database consisting of an individual's professional knowledge that can be expanded and modified throughout a person's career.
A series of desktop central processing units combines the attributes of workstations and personal computers into a single platform. The new hardware can bring detailed imagery and graphics manipulation into the hands of more users throughout government and the military at prices comparable to those of mid-level personal computers.
Researchers at one federal agency are adding a new dimension to remote access computing via the Internet. A computer program created through research at the agency provides a web-based interface that simplifies command-driven queuing systems and applications environments. Without extensive expertise in complicated command language, users can now perform computing tasks on remote systems as if directly connected to them.
A new twist on age-old logarithms may hold the key to faster computer microprocessors. An improved approach to logarithmic arithmetic is finally allowing it to compete with current algorithms used in the central processing units of computers.
Sophisticated, pattern-recognizing artificial intelligence agents are solving quandaries faced by organizations that are being inundated by massive amounts of information. The design of these technodrones is based on the characteristics of structures that allow the human body to function. It enables systems administrators, both military and commercial, to monitor and pre-empt network catastrophes and allows corporate leaders to tap available data and take advantage of opportunities.
In the coming decades, autonomous robotic devices will patrol battlefields and vacuum the floors in homes. Recent advances in software and hardware are preparing the way for a generation of vehicles and tools able to operate with minimal human supervision for prolonged periods of time.
Now that computers have established themselves as the main driver for socioeconomic change in the foreseeable future, many analysts are questioning whether their perceived productivity gains are largely illusory. Issues such as software complexity and time efficiency weigh against a prevailing mindset that businesses and individuals cannot succeed, or even survive, without their new silicon-based mentors.
A new method of delivering software promises to reduce the cost and time required for infrastructure setup, software installation, maintenance and support. Known as the application service provider model, the approach reduces the burden on internal information systems resources and enables a predictable cost model for running programs.
A growing industry and government effort to provide nationwide Internet services has created an intricate maze of accessibility, content and quality control challenges. With the number of Internet users now totaling 320 million, more than a score of browsers in use and the development of constantly changing Internet technologies, the online challenges are complex. Navigation has been difficult, errors continue to creep in, and many users are excluded from access to a large number of World Wide Web sites.
An information retrieval tool that is more powerful and accurate than standard search engines allows users to quickly retrieve information within several mouse clicks. The application combs through the "hits" produced by investigation programs to find documents based on specific word associations and creates a database from these results. By highlighting only specific paragraph-sized sections of text, the technology streamlines the research process by eliminating the task of scanning entire documents to find bits of relevant data.