Agreat paradigm shift is coming, the result of emerging mobile and wireless technology. With high-speed wireless access, we'll carry the power of a room of computers in the palm of our hand. Two-way portable videoconferencing, geo-positioning, and micro and mobile payments will fundamentally change how we do business and conduct our daily lives.
Among the technologies to watch:
Bluetooth (www.bluetooth.com) devices (such as PCs and PDAs) are intended to eliminate the need for wired connections between electronic products and accessories. The technology has a limited broadcast range of about 30 feet and is fairly fast. Meeting planners will be able to easily set up a small local area network for a room full of PDAs or notebook computers, as well as to exchange files, business cards, calendar appointments, etc., with groups of Bluetooth users.
Wi-Fi, or “wireless fidelity” (www.wirelessethernet.org), is a wireless communication standard that is very fast and has a range of 100 to 300 feet. Airports, hotels, convention centers, and even Starbucks coffee shops are beginning to provide Wi-Fi access. Meeting planners are starting to “Wi-Fi enable” their events at relatively low costs (a wireless network is much easier to set up than a wired one). For example, individuals can make their notebook computer Wi-Fi capable for less than $70 by sliding in a wireless network interface card. In the next two years, most notebook computers, handheld computers, and even cell phones will be shipped Wi-Fi enabled. Applications for meetings could include the ability to easily set up a local area network for PDAs or notebook computers; audience polling and response systems that will allow attendees to anonymously vote or give feedback to seminar leaders; real-time conference messaging (and instant message systems); and dynamic, customizable program agendas and appointment scheduling. Typical, and more personal, applications could include wireless cell-phone headphones, wireless PC/PDA synchronizers, and Internet links from cell phone to notebook computer.
3-G, or third-generation cell-phone technology, is spreading around the world. With connection speeds 10 to 100 times faster than today's cell phones (at minimum, twice as fast at the best modem phone connection today), this will be another way of gaining mobile high-speed Internet access. What the Web did for the Internet, 3-G will do for the cell phone, adding color, pictures, sound, and multimedia.
Corbin Ball, CMP, is a speaker, consultant, and writer focusing on events and meeting technology. Contact him through his Web site, www.corbinball.com.