Keynote panel looks into the future of the information society

November 7, 2002

Brussels, 06 Nov 2002

When considering the future of information technology, few would imagine a world without computers, yet this was the vision of one of the panel members at a discussion on the future of the information society.

The group of experts from business and academia met at the IST 2002 conference in Copenhagen to discuss the nature of technological progression, and the issues that will affect it.

Dr Emile Aarts, the Vice President and Scientific Programme Director at Philips Research, began his presentation by stating that existing technology allows electronics to be integrated into any object. As a result, he said, we must 'get rid of computers and allow the world around us to become our interface with technology.'

To realise this vision, researchers at Philips are exploring the notion of 'ambient intelligence', where technology is embedded into everyday processes and objects, can anticipate personal preferences, and adapt to different individuals and situations. This concept is being developed in the 'Homelab', where mail can be read on the dining table display screen, where video phone calls are conducted using the windows, and where the robotic vacuum will retire to the kitchen when you are trying to read in the living room.

More than one panellist highlighted the importance of user driven innovation in technology. Roberto Vacca, Director of Research at ISIS, said that what is needed is 'not the development of technology to fulfil user needs, but the development of user's skills so that they create a demand for the products which don't yet exist.'

Mr Vacca went on to warn of the dangers of failing to address the digital divide, saying that the lack of access to technology and training is not restricted to minority groups, but affects whole countries. Such inequalities must be addressed by providing users and operators of technology with the skills required to ensure that all sections of society are included.

Other delegates had more concrete ideas about the issues that will determine innovations in the future. Magnus Madfors, Director of External Research at Ericsson, believes that new services and products must, above all, be simple, citing mobile phone text messaging as an example of how effective a simple idea can be.

Finn Helmer, Managing Director at Intel, believes that demand for new technology will ultimately be stimulated by the widespread availability of true broadband Internet connections. At speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second, optical fibre connections allow users to rapidly download a full range of multimedia, and Mr Helmer feels that this will be a key driver for innovation.

An issue upon which most delegates were agreed was the importance of continued research. Mr Madfors said that now was the time to begin research into the next generation of products, and welcomed the timing of funding initiatives under the Sixth Framework Programme in that regard.

For further information on the event, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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