Steering your platform on wheels

The edge of the enterprise became a blur ever since people starting taking work from the office to do on their home systems. But what little distinction there is between the two environments is about to be obliterated with the proliferation of IP addresses.

The edge of the enterprise became a blur ever since people starting taking work from the office to do on their home systems.

But what little distinction there is between the enterprise and other computing environments is about to be obliterated with the proliferation of IP addresses. After all, it's pretty clear that during the next five years everything that has any kind of power source attached to it is going to have an IP address.

In the immediate future, the next largely unexplored frontier for computing will be anything to do with transportation, and specifically your car. As the old joke goes, if you're married and have kids, the definition of quality time is the drive to and from work.

Alas, that joke will go the way of the dodo after the advent of driver information systems.

The average car or truck already has a number of onboard processors. Most processors monitor specific functions and very few of them actually talk to one another. But in the near future, these processors will not only be linked together to form a local area network in your car or truck, they will also be linked in turn to the outside world via a wireless network.

Motorola, for example, is already working with Fonix to embed speech recognition software into its Java-based embedded processor platform and Pi Technology to create a wireless network for vehicles. Obviously, the first applications for these systems are going to be entertainment-based with people downloading music to their cars.

But right after that will come all kinds of other content, and it won't be too long before companies look to extend SFA (sales-force automation) and other CRM software out to the vehicles of their employees. In fact, as pricing continues to become more dynamic, the need to update salespeople on price changes taking place in real time may make this a necessity sooner than we all think.

Car manufacturers already have concept cars that highlight these kinds of capabilities, so as soon as costs can be brought in alignment, owners of high-end sports utility vehicles will be ordering cups of overengineered Joe from the parking lot over Starbuck's wireless network. That alone should boost the gross national product by saving everybody the 20 minutes they waste every day in line at the local coffee shop.

This may not be farfetched at all. According to HereUare Communications, there are 257 public access points in the San Francisco Bay area, 154 in Seattle, 107 in New York and 105 in Dallas. When it comes to 802.11, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston are significantly behind.

In fact, General Motors is already experimenting with wireless web services in conjunction with MagnetPoint for its OnStar service.

The common theme in all this is that wireless networks are probably the single-most disruptive technology for the coming decade and they will fundamentally change the way we think about enterprise computing forever.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld, a US IDG publication. Send letters for publication in Computerworld NZ to Computerworld Letters.

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