In 1969 Arthur C. Clarke introduced us to his computer named HAL.  He had us believing all we needed to do was talk to HAL.  HAL would listen, understand and do what we wanted.  Until HAL, that is, developed an evil soul and did nasty things to humans.  The evil soul is pure fiction but HAL is not.

2010 is the year we get to meet the real HAL.  He may still be a child but he is growing up fast thanks to four trends in computing that have coalesced and are now ready to explode.  These trends are The Cloud, The Pipe, The UI and The API. A depiction is below.

The Cloud is elastic computing power.  It is more than renting a server from a service provider.  It means automatic, on-demand scalability onto as many servers as are needed to accomplish a task or take care of a sudden flood of customer needs.  The Cloud gives any size organization the appearance and performance of Google-sized computing.

The Pipe is everywhere, all the time, high speed internet connections. Typical wired internet speeds today are over 6MB per second and wireless connections are quickly catching up with that – 3G and soon 4G deployments are common.  The biggest trend in mobile devices is smart phones.  These are devices that do more than route phone calls, but also manage email, calendars, music, applications and the entire internet.  But of course the processing power to do these things is not all on the device.  Instead it’s up in the cloud.

The UI or User Interface is smart. Speech to text and semantic technologies combine to allow for the appearance of intelligence.  Computers or mobile phones spoken to in natural language understand and then locate, calculate, connect, tally, and display the answer to queries rather than simply list resources for you.  Try Nuance, Vlingo or Google Mobile for speech to text accuracy.  Try us at Expert System for semantic processing accuracy.

The API or Application Programming Interface means really useful applications. API’s package the first three trends so that creative types can make applications for specific tasks, domains or verticals quickly and make lots of them.  Look how many IPhone / ITouch applications have been built in the last 2 years alone.  Many have been built by individuals and not large corporations.

These four trends create a virtuous cycle.  They combine to bring a sudden higher platform of computing.  One that engages the imagination, has enormous productivity, improves processes and creates new value out of existing information resources.

No you can’t really see or touch HAL.  But be assured he is there, working in the background, growing, learning and getting smarter every day.  He is ready to serve you.  Just ask.

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