Magazine article Management Today

A Line to the Future

Magazine article Management Today

A Line to the Future

Article excerpt

Big brother is at hand. Soon intelligent telecommunications networks will know where we are most of the time, and recognise us whenever we attempt to make a phone call or access a computer. But unlike the figure created by George Orwell, these global electronic brains are intended to be friendly and helpful -- servants not masters.

By wearing infra-red badges or electronic tags we will be able to keep the networks constantly aware of our movements. Or we might tap PIN numbers in to phone handsets and computer keyboards to identify ourselves, just like using a cash dispenser.

Computers will also become much easier to use. By knowing precisely who is at the keyboard, they will be able to deliver a personal service. The same familiar screen will greet you, whether you switch on in Sydney, Seville or San Francisco. If you prefer touchscreen menus, or spoken commands, the machine will invite you to point a finger or begin speaking in the language of your choice. Graphics, software commands and special functions will all appear according to your chosen style. The same will apply to telephones.

Hidden somewhere in these intelligent networks will be each subscriber's personal mailbox. Here messages will be stored in voice, video, fax, computer data or text form. Whenever you pick up a phone or switch on a computer, the network will tell you what has arrived.

If you are on the phone, text-to-speech processors will be able to read your text messages down the line. You might then choose to have them stored, deleted, forwarded to your partner, or faxed to your nearest fax machine. Thanks to your electronic transmitter, the system will know which is your closest output device and can make sure printers and faxes are sent there.

If you have access to a screen, however, you may wish to view your video-mail -- probably consisting of 30-second transmissions from friends and business contacts. Video is not yet possible on desk-top computers because it needs so much processor power and memory. But by the year 2000, ordinary workstations equipped with a video camera, will be able to create, store adn transmit instant video film at 25 frames a second, says Andy Hopper, MD of the Olivetti Research Centre in Cambridge. 'This will produce the same quality as a cinema or TV screen,' he adds.

"Video-mail is a very personal form of communication which is faster than writing a note. …

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