Big Ideas Aim To Make Tech Easier, But Also Eat Lots Of Bandwidth

Ideas range from technologies that replicate original images into 3-D virtual images that can be touched and broadband technologies that support huge amounts of data.
What are the next big ideas some of the largest information technology companies are working on? They may make things more collaborative but they are also bandwidth hogs, according to a panel discussion on Wednesday.

The ideas range from technologies that replicate original images into 3-D virtual images that can be touched, broadband technologies that support huge amounts of data -- including collaborative video -- and developments to make all sorts of devices more intuitive.

The ideas were presented as part of a "big ideas" panel at EmTech -- emerging technologies -- conference at MIT.

At Hewlett-Packard, the research focus is on several areas, including next-generation datacenters, imaging and seamless integration of mobile devices to servers, said Prith Banerjee, who was named senior VP and research director of HP Labs just over a month ago.

HP datacenter research includes developments in sensor technology that can assist in reducing energy consumption by identifying hot spots to be cooled, rather than having the entire data center "freezing," Banerjee said.

Also, high-speed connection technologies that provide "fast access to data no matter where you are" will enhance gaming for consumers and increase business productivity in corporate environments, he said.

Increasing network bandwidth, broadband and "tele-presence" technologies are also a key area of interest at Cisco, especially as the company intensifies its focus on collaborative video, said Cisco Systems chief technology officer, emerging markets technology group Guido Jouret, also a "big idea" panelist. Cisco, which recently acquired Web conferencing company WebEx, expects that high-quality and collaborative video accessible via PCs, TVs, and mobile devices will transform entertainment, and is already providing platforms for new applications in oil exploration and telemedicine, he said.

A challenge for "tele-presence" types of applications is that they require enormous bandwidth, the equivalent of one year's worth of email with attachments included, he added.

At Intel, a focus is on inference, or ways of making technologies easier to use, noted Andrew Chien, VP of research at Intel.

"We're falling short in how invisible and intuitive technology can be without a lot of effort on our part" as users, he said. Inference finds ways to deliver to users not only rich data from sources like the Internet, but also analyzes it, he said.

Trying to take this to the next level, inference takes quantum leaps to take technology and use in devices in ways that enrich our lives," he said. "We're right on the verge of that," he said.

Meanwhile, HP, which is so closely identified with office printers, realizes that "the world is moving away from printing," said Banerjee. Consumers are moving away from prints to sending digital links. "Print 2.0," or printing from web pages, said Banerjee. And so, the company is also developing for this new frontier, including technologies that create 3-D virtual images "that you can feel," he said. Such developments however, would require "tremendous pipes" in terms of bandwidth.