Hello and welcome to the future! A world where your Adidas microwave asks your Nintendo refrigerator what’s for dinner, orders some Fine Wine Online, and the Sharper Image robot sets the table.
Or maybe not. Forecasting 10 or 20 years down the line is a tricky business, but if you look hard enough, the signs of where we’re going are all around us. From my vantage point as a university professor, a technology writer, and an adviser to high-tech companies, I get the chance to see some of the trends and products that will shape our probable future.
I also have a secret weapon, and his name is Jordan. Jordan is 12, well almost 13. You may have heard the joke: “Why are companies hiring 13-year-olds? Because all the good 12-year-olds are taken.”
Well, Jordan lives and breathes technology and has a pretty sophisticated view of it. He even spoke, at the request of the Conference Board of Canada, to a group of e-commerce experts from major banks and other corporations. He scored 8.4 out of a possible 10. Jordan will take over this column from time to time, giving us his unique and long-range perspective on the world of the future.
So how do a man and a boy keep up with future trends? This month, it’s easy, because a unique conference called Smart2000 is being held in Calgary at the Telus Convention Centre from October 23-26. Smart2000 started as an idea to bring the New York City-based World Teleport Association to Calgary for its annual meeting. I had a bit to do with making that happen.
Then, under the guidance of Dr. Norm Wagner and his many friends and colleagues, it grew, and grew, and grew. Smart2000 (Web site: www.smart2000.org) now includes a day on Smart Learning, one about Smart Professions, plus a special day on Smart Communities and one with the intriguing title Smart Prosperity.
What makes all of these topics “Smart” is the intelligent use of technology to improve some aspect of our lives. So, for example, Genstar, Jayman Master Builder and SAIT will be showing off a Smart Home, with all of the electronic gadgets like voice-controlled appliances and detectors that analyse your living patterns and optimize your house accordingly.
There will be a class of schoolchildren on site, learning with the latest tools of technology. A world-class roster of speakers from Hon. Lorne Taylor to Diane Francis to IBM Canada president John Wetmore will give you their best shot at where we are heading as a smart society.
Of course, you don’t have to live in a smart house to have a smart community. In fact, the federal government has recognized one project in each province (along with one in the North, and one in an aboriginal community,) as harbingers of a future smart world for Canada. Each is receiving $5 million in matching funds to carry out an innovative demonstration project.
Calgary was the winner for Alberta, with a well-conceived idea to bring the advantages of technology to people who don’t usually have access to it. They’ll be putting kiosks in homeless shelters, and creating Web sites to help people access life-improving services.
Employers looking for casual labour will be able to contact available workers by e-mail, which is a lot more convenient than having the guys stand on the infamous “cash corner” waiting for trucks to drive by. Most of all, the Calgary Infoport Community Empowerment Project will help to level the playing field in society.
It’s a three-year project and just getting started, but I’ll keep you posted on how it develops. It could be a model for communities around the world that want to address the so-called “digital divide” between those who use technology and those who don’t.
The Smart2000 Conference will feature online voting booths so participants can rank the issues discussed each day, a Shaw Cybercafe, and tons of other techno-goodies. Full registration information is at www.smart2000.org, or you can call (403) 543-1179.
There are special rates for students and teachers. You should try to attend the conference, or at least a day of it, to get the full effect and to hang out in the smart home — that’s where Jordan and I will be!