Tech Forecast Grade Above Average

January 23, 2004
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — For the third year in a row, Keith Brophy has taken a look backward — and a look forward — at his predictions about trends in technology.

Brophy, the CEO of Sagestone, recently spoke at the technology networking event at the Small Business & Technology Development Center to rate his predictions from 2002 and 2003 and to outline what he foresees for the years to come.

Over time, Brophy said he sees a few constants in his predictions, including his belief in — and the proof in the marketplace that — good technology makes a difference.

Brophy said he foresaw that technology was going to take a turn from seeing businesses buy what was "cool" to paying attention to what would really turn their business around and make it more profitable and more productive.

"This is a point I made and I will continue to reiterate," he said, "because this is something that applies to so many areas. It is technology that makes a difference and something that helps us so much that we couldn't imagine a life without it," he added.

"Those are really the technologies we are going to be watching as we watch these predictions."

Brophy said the advancements of technology has been so speedy that people often find it difficult to ascertain what is perception and what is reality.

His predictions from 2002 included:

  • An industry upswing: Brophy said the technology industry didn't really see the upswing he predicted, so he gave this prediction a C. He said, however, that the technology industry did begin to get back on track at the end of the year, and for the coming year he sees it returning even more, causing him to raise the grade to a B.

  • The Segway Human Transporter, a scooter-like device invented by Dean Kamen, came into the market last year and Brophy predicted it would be the new wave in mobility and gave it an A. But the year turned out poorly for Kamen, he said, following the publication of an exposé, the president's fall while on a Segway and a recall of the product. Thus, Brophy lowered his grade to a C-minus.

  • He predicted in 2002 that Microsoft's .NET Framework would change the development landscape and it did just that. Brophy gave both his 2002 and 2003 predictions an A, noting that .NET went from being what he termed the new way of development to being the accepted way. He said he expects that trend to continue.

  • Brophy has predicted for some time that sensors would infiltrate everything from pens to shoes and said they have done that and more. He noted that society now interacts with millions of sensors every day, and while he gave the prediction an A, he said the grade should go even higher the next year to an A-plus. Brophy feels that sensors will impact the market much more than many other up-and-coming technologies.

  • In 2002, Brophy predicted that computer security would be the focus of major development. In retrospect, he said, 2003 brought attention to security, but not at the level he believes that it merits serious business concern. He said he thought there would have been more security developments, and gave his prediction a B.

Brophy's predictions for 2003 ran the gamut from safe to risky. His predictions included:

  • Portals and the idea of bringing all information together was something that Brophy saw taking shape in 2003. He graded the progress of portals over the year with an A.

  • Brophy thought a surge in business intelligence development was a given in 2003. He said, however, that the industrial component didn't grow as well as it could have and so he gave his prediction a B.

  • Shifts in how business people use technology was something Brophy felt would occur in 2002 and then develop even further in 2003. Events, he said, proved him right; he gave this one an A. Among usage shifts in the market, he said, were people moving from using laptops, cell phones and PDA's to using one device that could send and receive e-mails, documents and spread sheets while calling someone in the next city or the next continent, and meanwhile keeping detailed schedules of all daily tasks.

  • Mobility and people's access to information was something Brophy saw taking off. He said he predicted that people would be able to be mobile in their work from the office to the job site to the coffee shop. He graded that prediction with an A. He also said that while the devices granting such mobility are in place, the connectivity is still getting there.

  • Brophy predicted that the creation of corporate Chief Change Officers — officers responsible for keeping firms level with technology's wildfire changes — would catch on in the marketplace. He said he believes the idea makes perfect sense, particularly in West Michigan, but he doesn't see it happening yet. He graded the prediction C-plus.

  • Brophy said he was sad to have to give himself an A-plus for 2003's prediction that the gap between technology haves and have-nots would widen. Although the gap is widening, he added, he reports more help now is available for the have-nots.

And as for 2004, Brophy named 10 items he said he thought were hot in 2003 and would become hotter still in 2004:

  • The morph of PDAs into smart phones: During 2003, Brophy said phones, PDAs and laptop computers morphed, and he sees them morphing into a more powerful smart phone with which one can accomplish more work.

  • New information management tools: Because businesses are buried in so many e-mails, voice mails and messages, Brophy predicts the advent of a new way to manage this information that will help businesses be more productive.

  • Storage: A new hot topic is the USB chip information storage device, small enough to be dangled from a key chain and which can access information by simply plugging it in.

  • Harnessing global development: Brophy said with so many tech trends being developed, harnessing the good ones and making them work in business is going to be a challenge in 2004.

  • SPOT watches: A wristwatch that will receive information such as weather, instant messages, stock numbers and a daily schedule has begun to roll out. Brophy said he sees this technology possibly finding its way into several different devices.

  • Cyborg: While people have for years been improving their body parts for cosmetic reasons, it is now possible to trade body parts in for bigger and better ones, such as a bionic arm.

  • Video game adulthood: This is an example of how technology is rolling out in an inexpensive manner and becoming readily available to everyone. Brophy added that it has been said that the true measure of technology is if a child can figure out how to maneuver it.

  • Portable video players: Brophy thinks this piece of technology is going to take off. For only $300, the device can record 40 hours of videos and music that one can use on long trips to fight boredom.

  • Digital photo receivers: Presented in a picture-frame format, this device uploads pictures from a sender and switches the photos on a scheduled basis.

  • Revolutionized health care: Together, Sagestone and Robertson's Research Institute are looking to change the face of health care.

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