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Fasten Your Seatbelts: The Next Computing Revolution is on its Way!

By Julie King |

It is time to get ready for the next computing revolution.

Significantly faster Internet access, processing power and reliable battery technology are going to shift where and how people use the Internet. The future holds faster bandwidth - expect to see wireless bandwidth reach speeds five times faster than we currently have in our homes - and many different devices that will enable us to access the Internet.

Around 2014 it's expected that more people will access the Internet with smartphones, tablets and Internet televisions than with desktop computers. With this plethora of new computing devices will come a change in how we use software and develop Internet content.

For businesses, this means that the way we use technology to run our companies and communicate with customers is about to see a major shift.

"This is the 180-degree change, this is a major transformation in how people are using their content," said Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer of Adobe Systems Incorporated, at the recent Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles."This, I think, is even a bigger shift than we even saw with the personal computing revolution."

More intuitive computing will also be critical to the coming technology shift, according to a recent presentation by an IBM-led team of researchers who mapped out a smarter, more intuitive version of the Internet.

Rather than having the customer initiate tasks, such as paying bills and reserving tables at a restaurant, the team demonstrated how technology could proactively manage common tasks, without being prompted by the user. One example of this would be to have software automatically reserve the needed number of tables at a restaurant when people respond to an RSVP on Facebook.

Just how might the new technology play out on the content side of things? Lynch illustrated this with a distinctly Canadian example.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre,  a University of Toronto teaching hospital, needed to provide staff with an efficient, rapid access to the 16 million to 18 million images the medical imaging department acquires each year.

The hospital had installed specialized Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) systems to manage its images, which was costly and meant that staff could only access images at certain locations within the facility. Having set a simple goal - any image, anytime, anywhere - the imaging department needed to look at other options.

Canadian Software Developer Provides Innovative Solution

This is when the next Canadian player, Client Outlook, based in Waterloo, Ontario, came on board.

Client Outlook had developed a software program, eUnity, which did not require the installation of the specialized PACS systems typically used by medical imaging departments.

"The most exciting part of what we are doing is that we're getting the software out of the way," said Steve Rankin, founder, president and CEO of Client Outlook. Sunnybrook received  a research grant from the Health Technology Exchange (HTX) to work with eUnity and the two organizations collaborated for over a year to bring the eUnity system into the hospital, going live in September 2010.

The hospital was very pleased with the results."It's really simple to use," said Dr. Alan Moody, radiologist-in-chief at Sunnybrook.

"You don't need to have a lot of training. Access to the web is really all you need,"

Yet deployment on desktop computers meant that access was still somewhat cumbersome. In order for doctors and clinicians to access "any image, anytime, anywhere," Client Outlook needed to make the software available on devices that were the most convenient.

That turned out to be the new Playbook by Research in Motion (RIM), the third Canadian player, which is also based in Waterloo, Ontario.

"Mobile devices have a form factor that fits well into the day-to-day workflow of clinicians on the move," said Rankin. "Not only does software have to be available regardless of their location, such as eUnity, but clinicians also need devices like RIM's Playbook that offer them the mobility they require."

"Again, what we are trying to do is we are providing a professional experience, something that we are all used to on our desktops and our laptops, in a small, very powerful tablet format," said Mike Lazaridis, President, Founder & Co-CEO Research in Motion, who also spoke at the conference, "and we've made sure that we've opened up those APIs for your [Adobe's] developers so they can start writing applications."

"Client Outlook leveraged the Adobe Air platform and developed the mobile eUnity application for RIM's Playbook," said Rankin.

The final result is that physicians can access medical images from both desktop and the mobile tablets, making measurements and performing specialized tasks in both environments with ease.

Even better, for applications that run in Playbook's multi-tasking environment, users can have multiple applications running simultaneously. Switching between programs is as easy as dragging your finger across the screen. The Playbook also has Flash built right into its browser with the full capabilities of the Internet, so you can run Flash natively on Playbook without having to go through a specialized app.

"We are not trying to dumb down the Internet for a small mobile device. What we're trying do is bring up the performance and capability of the mobile device to the Internet," said Lazaridis.

What's more, some developers will be able to get a free Playbook. "If you need any more encouragement to develop Air applications for Playbook, if you write a new Air application and its accepted to Blackberry App World, you will be eligible ... for a free Blackberry Playbook." said Lazaridis.

What does all this mean for businesses?

It is time to start thinking about computers, software and even operating systems in an entirely new way.

The world is changing. Successful organizations will be those that are able to shift to a new paradigm where it is not the device, but the flexibility and needs of the user, that drive innovation and content.

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