The untethered web

Future of IT: Advances could give new meaning to the term 'computing environment'

These days, we think of the Web as someplace we access with our computers, but 25 years from now, the Web may be everywhere, on screens all around us. And it will provide far more personalized information than it does now.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute computer and cognitive science professor James Hendler is working to help bring about this information ubiquity. At RPI, he is the chairman of the Tetherless World Senior Constellation, which is tackling the issues of how to make this happen.

Those in the federal research and development community know Hendler. He was a chief scientist of the Information Systems Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and a former member of the Air Force Science Advisory Board.

I RECENTLY MOVED to RPI to create a laboratory that is going to look at issues with next-generation Web systems.

With [devices like the] iPhone, I can be on the Internet anywhere anytime without needing to be sitting at my desk. I'm not tethered anymore.

As the Web moves to being something you can access anywhere anytime on any screen, how will this change things? How will we use that? It is an issue of the granularity of information.

If I'm trying to find an address, I don't want to see a file. I want to get the address. If I'm talking with someone who wants something from a PowerPoint presentation that is 25M, I have no way of just beaming him over a couple of slides, which is what he wants.

How do I find what I need in a way that is useful for me at that time? We have information about people. We have information about objects. We have all these things that we participate in online, and they are all in different places.

How do we turn that into one big information base that is at our fingertips when we need it? I expect we will have display screens and shared information spaces.

Say you are in the mall and want to look up something. Instead of walking over to an information kiosk, we can point our cell phones at a display and do some sort of integrated walk-through.

I will find out not only where the store is but also whether it has what I am looking for.

And if they sold the last pair of shoes that I want while I'm walking there, it'd be nice to get an alert.

It's a matter of coupling your information space with their information space. There's no reason why you and I should always find the same thing on the Web.

My new lab is working on integrating the social Web with the Semantic Web, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, so they equal Web 5.0.

In most Web 2.0 applications, almost all the linkages are coming from social communities.

On the Semantic Web, what we are seeing is much more organization in the knowledge space, which is what these taxonomies and ontologies are for.

Right now, so much of our lives depend on a central information source ' Google or some similar thing. When I'm looking for Web sites, that's one thing.

But information about who I know and how I know them, and things like that, I may not want published to Google.

How do I keep control of my personal information? How do we control the use of this information? If I'm allowed to see your photo, but Google doesn't have it, how do I find it? Really, almost all of our information systems except the Web are closed.

And even on the Web there are a lot of closed systems.

If you're in Facebook, you can't communicate with Facebook friends outside of Facebook in the same way. You can't get your Linked In contacts and your Facebook friends to start talking with one another, without going outside the system.

So another part of being tetherless is being boundary-less.

The Web has not only changed how we solve problems, but also how we interact with one another from how we did 15 years ago.

Fifteen years from now, it may be just as different. It may be much more tailored to what you're looking for.


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