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On April 5th, the Danbury Area Computer Society held it’s monthly meeting and it was my honor to give a talk about The Future of the Internet. (This was the nineteenth year in a row that I have done this). The meeting was open to the public and took place in the auditorium at Danbury Hospital. Rob Limbaugh wrote a review of the evening that appears below.

DACS General Meeting
April 5, 2011
Meeting Review:
John Patrick ‘Future of the Internet’

By Rob Limbaugh

JOHN PATRICK WAS BACK for his 19th year which coincides with the launch of ThinkPad.

In this time, the Internet has grown to adolescence. Expectations rise every day due to the new things that can be done. It’s still all about the power of the click, but we’re only 10% of the way there because so many sites are still ”lame”. For example, you search for a part for your old refrigerator. You finally locate the part, click to buy, but when you enter the zip code, you find it’s not available and you are redirected to a dealer that may or may not have a website or even be in business.

The internet is squeezing out the ‘old’ with new ways to connect people to things or information. It took Steve Jobs to figure out how to make money in the digital music industry. Digital book publishing has not learned from those lessons. Printed material has become a failing business model because people in that business don’t like to spend money. Hollywood chose a defensive approach to digital movie media and is now being picked away by digital media distribution companies that have embraced new delivery methods.

Retail sales last year were $4 trillion. Of that, 3.9% were e-commerce ($165 billion). 21% of that was solely Amazon. A merger of healthcare and the Internet is underway. The healthcare industry is about 30 years behind manufacturing in adopting digital methodology. The latest strides are led by the realization that healthcare is about patient data. Eventually healthcare IT will be bigger than all of IT as we know it today.

Here’s an example of how things are changing. The illegible prescriptions we are all used to are a thing of the past. A digital e-prescription is sent directly from your doctor to the pharmacy, where it will be ready for pickup when you arrive. Along the way it is compared with your other prescriptions and assessed for possible reactions or concerns. If any are found, the system alerts both your doctor and pharmacist.

The ”Patient Centered Medical Home” is an up-and-coming term based on the philosophy that medical practitioners work with you. Efforts in healthcare reform and  Health Information Exchanges are building blocks that are thrusting these changes forward. Monitoring sensor devices are becoming smaller and smaller and wireless which ushers in the ability to have a home monitoring system that can send an alert if your blood pressure or other critical statistics are out of range. Tools like the iPad are helping to bridge the communication gap between doctor and patient. There are now specialized apps that enable the doctor and patient to view anatomical illustrations  to help the doctor explain a diagnosis and treatment.

John reports that the US Government has generally been a progressive factor for the Internet. So far Congress and the FCC have resisted the temptation to regulate the Internet. A good example of government innovative is the e-file system to electronically file your income tax return. The Obama administration is the first time there has been a Chief Information Officer in the White House. For another innovation, take a look at data.gov to see how much data has been released to the public. There are even tools to search the Meta data to help find the data you need.

Today our schools and libraries are in a renaissance. Libraries are expanding to add programs, and  computers rather than just books. Libraries have become a new resource center for people out of work. Lifelong learning and homeschooling are being used via the Internet. Adults and seniors can take courses online. Unfortunately, not everything is rosy. Digital speeds in the U.S., particularly in homes, is lagging behind much of the world because we do not have enough competition. John defines Net Neutrality as providing equal access to all Internet resources no matter who is providing the connection . Exclusivity contracts between content sources and the carriers threaten Net Neutrality by restricting access to content or services based upon the Internet service provider being used. An example would be if you could access content from Disney only through a Comcast connection. This is a bad idea, and John calls it the ‘Balkanization of the Internet’. TV is changing. Instead of watching shows when they are broadcast on some particular channel, you can watch them when you want to watch them.

The connected home and appliances promise a future where the repairman shows up to replace a worn part of your refrigerator because the refrigerator sent an alert to the manufacturer reporting the problem. John showed examples of how thermostats for our furnace and air conditioning have become smarter. The more sophisticated units can automatically adjust heating and cooling based on the season and your work schedule. Soon you will be able to control your heating and cooling while you are away from home so your house will be just right when you arrive home. The cloud is becoming the always-connected solution to portable storage and access to applications. The “new” tablet form factor does not replace other computers (yet) but does provide a means to do many things that do not require the full power of a computer. It’s an ‘intelligent window’ to web content. Phones and tablets with cameras are bridging distances between people with video chat.

Data security, privacy, and integrity constantly present new challenges as threats change. Overall security is good,  but the bar always has to be raised. Privacy is a larger issue because young people “over share” on social sites which are now used by employers to determine the character of a potential employee. Young people often do not understand the differences between ‘personal’, ‘private’, and ‘public’.

In closing, John’s advice for businesses is to ‘think outside in’ and be sure to ‘think big, act bold, start simple, iterate fast’.
Everyone can keep up with John via his website and blog at www.johnpatrick.com. Also take a look at his newest endeavor, the Health Discussions Forum at www.healthdiscussions.net.

Note Jan. 11, 2013: The healthdiscussions.net forum is no longer operational.