World Future Society Looks at Tomorrow's Internet

June 10, 2009 (PRLEAP.COM) Technology News
BETHESDA, MD: The recently-signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (U.S. stimulus bill) allocates $7.2 billion to support the development of broadband capabilities across the United States. Some experts forecast that Ethernet will reach speeds in the terabit range (one trillion bits per second) by 2015. What might expanded Internet capability mean for business and consumers, and what obstacles lay in the way of fully realizing the benefits of the Web in the years ahead?

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, says expanded broadband will allow for a much faster and richer Internet-surfing experience, more lifelike teleconferencing, and the outsourcing of more services to the Web. He'll discuss the future of the Internet at WorldFuture 2009, the annual conference of the World Future Society.

"People may feel that we already have the processing speed we need to do our e-mail and download YouTube videos, and that's enough, be we can't rely on the status quo," said Atkinson during a recent Washington appearance. "We have always been able to find transformative uses for increases in processing power, computing power, storage, and communications."

Greater bandwidth in more places is essential to bringing the full capabilities of the Internet, particularly live, streaming video services, to more people. According to a recent white paper co-authored by Atkinson, live videoconferencing is already changing education, work, and the delivery of medicine.

Videoconferencing is allowing doctors to monitor the health of patients around the clock, in patients' homes according to Atkinson. "The Renaissance Computing Institute in North Carolina has developed an Outpatient Health Monitoring System (OHMS) for patients with chronic conditions such as asthma. The OHMS uses multiple wireless sensors to monitor both a patient's condition and environmental factors that might affect their condition (such as pollution, allergens, temperature, and humidity). Using an OHMS, patients can work with their doctors to more effectively manage their health before crises arise," he writes in the report.

The same technology is enabling patients to access hard-to-reach medical specialists. A Hawaiian heart specialist named Benjamin Berg dictated a complicated surgery over an Internet feed for a Guam man located 3,500 miles away. Berg monitored every move and heartbeat of the patient via sensors embedded in the catheter that had been inserted into the patient's heart.

Wider broadband would allow millions around the world to better telecommute, writes Atkinson, decreasing traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and giving people more time to spend with their loved ones. Employers would also realize the ability to look for computer-savvy workers in more places. The report goes on to project that the number of jobs filled by telecommuters could grow nearly fourfold to 19 million by 2012.

The United States also faces a geopolitical and economic incentive to develop faster broadband, says Atkinson-namely, to catch up to the much more developed networks of Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. U.S. broadband speed was a median 5 megabits per second (Mbps) in 2007. Median download speeds in were 63 Mpbs in Japan, and 49 Mpbs in Korea.

At WorldFuture 2009, Atkinson will argue that expanded information technology capabilities will be the major driver of quality of life in the decades ahead.

WorldFuture 2009: Innovation and Creativity in a Complex World, the annual conference of the World Future Society will take place July 17-19, 2009 at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Illinois Professional Members' Forum: July 20, 2009.
Founded in 1966 as a nonprofit educational and scientific organization in Washington, D.C., the World Future Society has members in more than eighty countries around the world. Individuals and groups from all nations are eligible to join the Society and participate in its programs and activities.

The Society holds a two-day, international conference once a year where participants discuss foresight techniques and global trends that are influencing the future. Previous conference attendees have included future U.S. President Gerald Ford (1974), Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy (1975), behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner (1984), age-wave expert Ken Dychtwald (2005), U.S. comptroller general David M. Walker (2006), and scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil (2006).

This year's speakers include: Ambassador John W. McDonald, labor expert John Challenger, longevity expert Michael Zey, bioweapons expert Barry Kellman, and bestselling author of Grown Up Digital Don Tapscott.
More information and registration can be obtained from The World Future Society's Web site:

Patrick Tucker
World Future Society
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