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IST Future Forum 2008 Part I

20 Apr

On Friday April 18th, 2008 the College of Information Sciences and Technology held its annual Future Forum. This event brings together the IST community- students, faculty and staff and businesses of all sizes. It is a full day of exciting showcases, and fantastic panel sessions. Additionally, demonstrations of emerging technologies and a keynote speech are also offered. Over 75 companies and representatives of the College of IST will be present to exhibit the latest in high tech products, services and research projects.  This post is the first of two related to the IST Future Forum.

Keynote Address by Larry Kittelberger

Larry Kittelberger is the Senior Vice President of technology and operations at Honeywell International.  He served as the Keynote Speaker for this years Future Forum.  He had a great deal of things to say and covered a lot of ground.  First, he introduced Honeywell as a Corporation.  It turns out they do an incredible amount of things and have sectors in Specialty Materials, Aerospace, Transportation Systems, and Automative and Control Solutions.  They have 122,000 employees in 100 countries.  Honeywell is such a global company that they were knocked off the Dow Jones Industrial because they were no longer able to be an indicator of just the U.S. economy.

After his introduction of himself and Honeywell, Mr. Kittelberger stressed a few details about the IT industry.  He had a great phrase: IT has gone from the backroom to the boardroom.  This basically highlights the fact that IT leadership has gone from being regarded as a second tier priority to a position in the corporate boardroom.  The CIO (chief information officer) and CISO (chief information security officer) are becoming more prevalent in companies.  These positions are filled by people that can understand the technology and interface with the other executives in terms of strategy and finance.  He highlighted that business runs on IT, and IT runs on people.  Even with this fact there is still a big disconnect between IT and finance/business.  This is particularly interesting because it signals a huge change in IT and everyday business and corporations.  Additionally, he spoke briefly about cyber war and the fact that it likely won’t slow down anytime soon.

His next point was concerning Open Source Software and Systems.  He noted that it is this technology that will drive the IT industry and business in general into the future.  His point was that proprietary systems are not a viable solution because if the technology doesn’t work for you or your business strategy then you have no wiggle room to bail out.  If you use Open Source Software and Systems you have not only room to grow, but wiggle room in case what you produce doesn’t work.

First Panel Session- Security and Risk Management: Corporate, Federal and State

The first panel session had speakers from KPMG, Lockheed Martin, IBM and Morgan Franklin.  Basically, each speaker gave thier perspective on a particular security problem.  They stressed that a company faces two kinds of threats: both external and internal.  Businesses struggle with finding the right balance between protecting thier companies from the inside and protecting from outside threats.  The statement, “a company’s security is only as strong as thier weakest employee,” kept coming up.  Overall, it was an interesting presentation including a few good questions from listeners.  Nothing too much to report on, but the SRA 111 class seemed to cover the basics of what these industry professionals were talking about.  That fact is slightly relieving-at least I know the class wasn’t a waste of time.

Technology Demonstration- CISCO NERV

I had a chance to check out the CISCO NERV project.  The NERV (or Network Emergency Response Vehicle) is designed to keep emergency responders connected during a crisis.  This vehicle packs the latest in communications technologies to provide these emergency responders with the tools they need to suceed.  All of Cisco’s innovations in telecommunications and network technology are included in this truck.  At upwards of one million dollars per unit, these trucks do not come cheap.  As for the tech that is packed into this truck, it is loaded to the gills.  A video conference center with meeting table is located in the far back of the van.  Right behind the cab sits the TV feeds, the outboard cameras (including periscope camera), and the radio equipment.  An operator of the truck showed us a demonstration of the extent of the communications capabilities.  He was able to place a call from the truck up through a satellite connection, back to the receiving station in Huston, Texas and then dispatched through the cell networks back to his cell phone in his pocket.  There was a noticeable delay of about a second between sending and receiving audio.  Perhaps the most interesting feature of the radio equipment is that it is able to link the different emergency services’ radio frequencies together.  This is useful when they have to work together in extreme emergency situations.  Instead of a firefighting team having to go up the chain of command and over to the police and down their chain of command to tell police officers where to evacuate during a forest fire, the police can directly listen to the firefighters.  This saves time, and more importantly, lives.  There are two of these such vehicles, one located on each of the coasts.  They have been deployed to help with Hurricane Katrina Relief and the Forest Fires of California.  There is also a smaller, mobile unit based on a Chevrolet Suburban platform.  The prototypes and predecessors of these trucks (I believe there were nine) were deployed to tsunami-stricken countries in south Asia.  This project is incredibly interesting because this one truck can greatly raise the impact of emergency services during a crisis situation.  Cisco volunteers their truck (along with Cisco employees donating their time) to operate these trucks during a disaster.  A team based in North Carolina provides logistical support for the deployed trucks.  Integrated systems like the NERV truck are great for IT innovation.  Not only are they great for innovation, they prove to be indispensable in a critical situation.

P.S. I have to fix the pictures.  If you know how to make them look decent, let me know.

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