RealTime IT News

Preaching the Integration Gospel

NEW YORK -- The emergence of breakthrough technologies that integrate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Wi-Fi, instant messaging and wireless transactions will speed up the growth of the Internet into a faster, more versatile and secure communications infrastructure.

That's the message from former IBM executive and Internet visionary John Patrick, who believes the next generation of the Internet will offer a super-speed network that is secure, always-on, everywhere, easy-to-use, intelligent and trusted.

Delivering a keynote address at Jupitermedia's inaugural Internet Planet Conference & Expo here, Patrick insisted that security and privacy on the Internet will be achieved at all levels once businesses figure out the true strength and power of the platform.

Patrick, who currently serves as president of Attitude, LLC, said the lack of integration to handle simple customer service queries was a major deterrent to the growth of the Internet. "After all these decades of the Internet, e-mail is still the killer app. And the reality is that e-mails still go unanswered. The absence of integration between things on the Web is the reason we've only tapped into 5 percent of the value of the Internet," Patrick said.

The former VP of Internet Technology at IBM praised auction giant eBay for nailing the concept of true Web integration.

"eBay is an easy way to talk about this concept of real integration. They formed a community around buyers and sellers and they've thought it through from the beginning to the end. They have figured out the business process at every stage of the auction process, and that's the reason they are so successful.

"That's what we need in every industry. We need true integration at all levels to take advantage of what the Internet already offers. But, more often we find a travel site that directs users to call a help desk from a regular telephone instead of using the Web to handle simple customer service queries.

"We have a major telephone company introducing a new pricing plan and they have an 'Order Online' button. But, when you click on that button, they give you a phone number to call. It's a generic problem I'm seeing in e-commerce and even at the online banks," Patrick added.

He said the Internet presented an enormous opportunity to simplify everyday lives and called on companies to make a "true commitment" to building a true integrated Internet.

Patrick dismissed doubters and naysayers who talk of another "Internet bubble," insisting that the dot-com bust of the late 1990s was more the result of bad business plans than a weakness in the Internet.

"Yes, there was a bubble that broke. But frankly, it really had nothing to do with the Internet. When pets.com failed, that had nothing to do with the Internet. That had more to do with people who thought they could make water run uphill."

Patrick, who was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and now serves as chairman of the Global Internet Project, sees a future with high-speed connections at the rate of 45 million bits/second, once the industry is deregulated and taken out of the hands of politicians and lobbyists.

"In terms of broadband speeds, the U.S. is number 10 in the world. But, I'm optimistic because of competition.

"The sleeper here is the power grid, offering broadband over power lines. You can get a power line modem in many parts of the U.S. Plug it into the wall, plug a LAN into it and you're connected. It's going to be more cost effective than cable or DSL, and this will be an enormously powerful opportunity."

He said the unanimous FCC vote in favor of researching the use of power lines to deliver broadband "will heat up competition" and lead to faster speeds and lower prices.

Once the speed barrier is broken, Patrick sees a future of wireless connectivity that will allow people to connect to items in their homes from a handheld device.

"It's really not rocket science. It's about using the Internet as the underlying communications mechanism for everything. You will be able to open and close your garage door from your cell phone because of the power of the Internet."

He identified VoIP as another technology that will help spur integration.

"We're already seeing it with Skype, where the kids are integrating instant messaging with voice. They're implementing VoIP in the context of IM and the quality they have achieved is amazing."

Patrick also singled out Wi-Fi as a significant standard that extends the "everywhere" concept.

"There are doubts about the right business model for Wi-Fi, but there's no doubt about the value. Wi-Fi is significant, and not just for Starbucks. It's about connectivity everywhere you have to wait ... connectivity at the doctor's office or at Jiffy Lube.

"If you have two devices and they both follow the 802.11 standard, they can talk to each other. That's not true about cell phones with the providers/operators who stand in the middle. 802.11 has no operators and that's the true power in it."