Emerging technologies grab MIT spotlight

SAN FRANCISCO (09/26/2003) - A handful of somewhat futuristic technologies manifested themselves during discussions at the Emerging Technologies Conference this week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Specifically, what Intel Corp. referred to as proactive systems, wireless mesh networks, and the convergence of wireless devices garnered the most attention.

David Tennenhouse, director of research at Intel, described proactive computing as a scenario in which computers anticipate people's needs and, in some instances, act on a person's behalf.

Tennenhouse explained that to achieve proactive computing the industry needs to create sensors, make computing and data ubiquitous, distribute systems, equip machines for learning, and make systems personal.

"The ability to infer cause and effect from data is going to change the way we do things. It's going to be difficult; however, it's a change we need to make," Tennenhouse said.

Another Intel representative, Lakshman Krishnamurthy, senior staff engineer at Intel's network architecture lab, described wireless mesh networks as "a new class of computing."

Much of the discussion focused on current obstacles to making wireless mesh networks widespread, namely a lack of standards and security and the difficulty of balancing the demands of scalability with mobility.

On the topic of wireless devices, Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Inc., said that the highly anticipated convergence will be different than many people expect.

"I don't think everything will converge to one device. You'll have convergence of the data, not the devices. You want the data to work together," Dell said.

What Nathan Myhrvold, managing director of Intellectual Ventures, said about nanotechnology -- another emerging technology -- can be applied to all of the emerging technologies: The trick is to achieve practical significance before getting over-hyped in the short term and then under-hyped in the long run.

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