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Paul Saffo on Wireless technology

August 31, 2000
Posted at: 2:25 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster, is the Director of the Institute for the Future. As such, he does long-range forecasting on the future of wireless technology. It is his opinion that, in order to gain more widespread acceptability of wireless technology, better protocols, better access devices, and better software need to be developed.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Paul Saffo, and welcome.

Paul Saffo: Nice to join you all.

Chat Moderator: What, exactly, is included when we talk about wireless technology?

Paul Saffo: Well, basically anything without a wire uses radio waves to communicate. This is much larger than cell phones, pagers and personal digital assistant (PDA). In addition to devices that we will carry, it includes wireless devices that will do things for us remotely.

Question from Mortehl: What is the position of the Institute for the Future? Do they support wireless application protocol (WAP) or another protocol as the most appropriate standard?

...WAP is an interesting, but transitional, protocol. It will either not exist or be completely unrecognizable within five years.

— Paul Saffo

Paul Saffo: We're a not-for-profit research foundation that does long-range forecasting. As such, we don't endorse standards. However, my personal opinion is that WAP is an interesting, but transitional, protocol. It will either not exist or be completely unrecognizable within five years.

Question from What: What security concerns does wireless technology present over and above the usual security concerns in using a computer network?

Paul Saffo: That's a good question. In addition to the usual security concerns, the biggest worry is capture of the RF signal as it is being transmitted. The second concern is overriding an RF signal with a false, but more powerful, signal.

Chat Moderator: What needs to happen before wireless technology is more widely accepted as a way to get information and surf the Web?

Paul Saffo: Lots. We need better protocols, better access devices, and better software. But this will not necessarily hold up adoption. Consider Japan, where I-Mode phones are quickly becoming the platform of choice for Web access, despite their small screen size.

Question from Dogmo: What are the big cable providers doing to prepare for the wireless age?

Paul Saffo: I don't know if anyone knows everything they are doing but, of course, companies like AT&T, which is a major cellular provider as well as cable company, would obviously be considering multiple modes of access to consumers.

Chat Moderator: How will Bluetooth affect wireless technology?

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

Paul Saffo: Bluetooth is a fascinating standard for short distance device access. It will be used, not just for communications, but also telemetry. Communication today is synonymous with people talking to other people, or people accessing information. But the biggest surprises will come in telemetry -- machines talking to other machines on people's behalf.

Question from When: When do you think wireless connections will become common in households?

Paul Saffo: In parts of the world, it already is. For example, in Sweden it is quite routine for people to talk on their cell phones rather than going to the trouble of walking across the room to pickup the telephone attached to the wall. However, we're seeing numerous new applications of wirelessness in the home. For example, Apples Airport modem is already delivering wireless Internet access in homes to Apple users. Expect more of this.

Question from Arob: To what extent will cultural differences drive different development paths around the world?

Paul Saffo: Great question. Already, we are seeing huge differences in the way different cultures use cell phones.

In Sweden, it is considered impolite not to answer your cell phone whenever it rings which, of course, is exact opposite in the U.S.

And in Japan, people no longer agree to meet at a specific location when they want to get together. Instead, they call each other -- say, twenty minutes before they meet -- to tell each other where they are and stay on the phone talking to each other as they head in the same direction. They don't know exactly where they will meet until they are a few hundred yards away from each other.

The biggest explosion will be in telemetry. This is a world in which our devices will talk to other devices on our behalf. Automobiles talking to toll booths, washing machines talking to the Internet, skis talking to ski lifts. These are just a few possibilities.

— Paul Saffo

Question from Goodgodlover: What are your thoughts on broadband wireless?

Paul Saffo: Broad band wireless is extremely important and is a major part of the third generation cellular offerings that are just being auctioned off in Europe. It may be that commuters will watch their favorite soap operas on subway trains.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Paul Saffo: I just want re-emphasize the telemetry area. The biggest explosion will be in telemetry. This is a world in which our devices will talk to other devices on our behalf. Automobiles talking to toll booths, washing machines talking to the Internet, skis talking to ski lifts. These are just a few possibilities.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.

Paul Saffo: Thanks for the conversation.

Paul Saffo joined the chat via telephone from California. The above is an edited transcript of the chat, which took place on Thursday, August 31, 2000.



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RELATED SITES:
Paul Saffo's Biography
Paul Saffo CNNdotCOM - Technology
Institute for the Future

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