Four luminary women illuminated an audience of more than 100 men and women at the Women in Technology International panel on Thursday, May 31, at the Waldorf Astoria. CNNfn Senior Markets Editor Jennifer Westhoven moderated an excellent panel: Robin Raskin, MD, Family PC Magazine editor-in-chief and Ziff Davis Publishing VP; Sharleen Smith, Oxygen Media director of Convergence Technologies; Sharon Nunes, IBM director of Emerging Technologies, and Katherine Spencer-Lee, RHI Consulting executive director. The group discussed "Trends in Technology-Where We Are/Where We're Going."
The conversation revolved around wireless, security and privacy. The morsels of intelligence doled out from these women was a feast for attendees. Sharon pointed out that "one sign of an emerging area is chaos," as an indication that wireless, as we well know, is definitely an emerging area. IBM's research on wireless technology with wearables like earrings and pants brings up all sorts of new considerations for health, biotech and even "body hacking." Robin acknowledged these advancements, but brought the issue home with comments that despite steps forward in technology, you still would need a Ph.D. to wire your home for wireless. She does believe that soon people will pay for someone to come to their home and set up all the various machines, gadgets, connections and other local area networks, personal area networks and wireless features. Not a bad business to get into, actually.
A few audience questions demanded discussion on the "dot-com demise," which each panelist answered succinctly. Kathleen commented that all the good ideas were sucked up in a vacuum, and are getting bought by the Yahoos, IBMs and Amazons. Robin said that the consumer "expectation was that everything was free." The industry itself is to blame on some level for teaching people that technology and access to goods and services is cheap. Just visit dealtime.com and bizrate.com for bargain hunting. Remember how shipping was free, gift-wrapping was free, you'd get free stuff just for ordering, returns were no charge - it was all one big birthday party. But these sites were built to sell (to another company), not built to last. It doesn't mean they didn't offer good services or products, as she knows from Letters to the Editor at Family PC. A lot of people have written in saying they miss sites like pets.com, etoys.com and garden.com. In answer to "why did pets.com fail?" she responded, "It takes a lot of dog food to pay for all those commercials and the huge marketing dollars they spent." She said she believes, however, that in the next phase customers will be "okay" with paying for services. And when this happens the cost of customer acquisition wont be as high.
Another trend in technology that Sharon addressed was the miniaturization of hardware. Miniaturization and optical technology developments are being used and advanced exponentially in biotech, healthcare and the military. Today, even servers can be the size of a match stick top, and soon we will be dealing with "smart dust." That brings a whole new meaning to dust bunnies and their capabilities! She also commented that she is interested in what computers will look like after the younger generations today get out of school. They'll be in whole new shapes, pointing out the inherent skills of women and their strength in intuitive design.
Kathleen addressed the issue of security, when brought up by an attendee. She cited that the White House Web site has been hacked over 200 times in the last year, and yet we think of our country as one of the most security-focused nations. "We need to be half a step ahead of hackers," said Sharon and voiced her concerns over things like Napster and Microsoft's common registries. As individuals we need to pay attention to the information you give out, until you are totally secure with the online experience.
On a lighter and more inspiring note, Robin told us about a new multi-platform interactive game by Electronic Arts called Majestic. The game involves you through your phone, your PDA, your computer and many other devices. It could be a phone call in the middle of the night that starts the adventure. Then clues are sent to you via your wireless device, a fax machine or printer. The company has even set up relationships with companies across the USA that will call you or that you have to call to get more clues. Taking technology out from the desktop and monitor, into our wearables or hand-held devices, increasing security and offering services we want and need through all the electronic mediums are just the beginnings of trends in technology. It was an enriching evening hearing all this from such intelligent women who have their fingers on the pulse and eye on the horizon of it all!