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DACS General Meeting May 9, 2012

Program Review : John Patrick – State of the Internet

By Andy Woodruff

John Patrick at podium
John Patrick treated us once again with his annual talk about the state of the Internet.
John is president of Attitude LLC, and he serves on several boards of directors. He is a long-time expert about the Internet, as he was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in 1994, past chairman of the Global Internet Project, and former vice president of Internet technology at IBM.
In past meetings, he told us that the Internet was “in its infancy”. Tonight he said the Internet has grown to adolescence. And there is a lot more growing that will happen in coming years.
“Disintermediation” is a word John used to describe the effect of market forces on the Internet. According to dictionaries, the word means essentially the doing away with middlemen in markets. John used the word broadly to describe changes to the “models of the past that no longer work”. For instance, “publishers are feeling the heat”, as users turn increasingly to the Internet rather than to printed books. Television “has yet to be victimized by the Internet” but will eventually become obsolete in its current form. It was interesting to recognize the changes that the Internet has already wrought and to try to fathom the coming changes.
Cloud storage has recently become widely available, and John pointed out that we now seldom use memory sticks. The cloud has changed this. Now we use DropBox or similar services.
Some companies have recognized appropriate ways to sell with the Internet, and some have not. John pointed out that Amazon has amassed 25% of all “e-retailing” in the United States, and he said this came about because Amazon correctly learned how to satisfy its customers on the Internet. Other less successful e-retailers “have not awakened to how the Internet should work”. For instance, their websites do not always work well; they try to protect the old ways of doing things; and some even try to refer prospective customers to sales channels such as authorized dealers, rather than simply making the sale on the website.
John sees a big future in medical applications on the Internet. He said “e-prescribing” is still in its infancy, and there is a “personal healthcare revolution ahead”. John is, in fact, moving his own career efforts in the direction of Internet health care efforts. There are many areas of effort within medical applications on the Internet. “Healthcare information exchanges” are Internet-based systems that enable physicians to get patient information from other physicians. Clinical devices can measure data and make this data available on the Internet to the patient and his/her physicians. Home health monitoring will make it possible for a patient to leave a hospital earlier and still be under a physician’s care. “E-dispensing” will make it possible for machines to fill prescriptions that have been prepared by a pharmacist directly to dispensing carts in a nursing home.
The “Watson” computer that appeared on the television show Jeopardy could be a real medical tool. A primary care physician, when searching for the cause of a patient’s symptoms, could call a future “Watson”-like computer and ask for advice.
We will see more and more microprocessor-controlled devices in our homes, and frequently these devices will connect to the Internet. We already see the camera in an iPhone transmit its images directly to the cloud, and there are currently innovative bedside monitoring devices that connect to the Internet. Soon, “everything in your home will be connected”.
John commended government for “successfully resisting the urge to regulate the Internet”, although there are threats to net neutrality. He also sees the Internet as a tool for citizens to utilize government-produced data through websites such as data.gov. He noted that libraries are changing but not being put out of business by the Internet. For example, the local town of Ridgefield, Connecticut is currently expanding its library, and the expansion is in space and meeting rooms rather than in printed books.
Internet speed is the biggest Internet issue in this country. The United States has unfortunately fallen behind other countries in Internet speed, due in part to corporate lobbying. John writes in his blog: “France is offering 100 megabit access for $90 per month and WiFi throughout the country. Thanks to the telco lobby, many states have banned the offering of WiFi by municipal entities.” Further, John told us that “you don’t always get the speed you are paying for, in the United States”. The relatively slow Internet is a disappointment, because we could be more productive if it were faster … and the slow speed may cause our country to fall behind in other ways too.
John recognized the need for privacy, such as patient privacy and privacy on Facebook. He said that “privacy policy is at its infancy” stage. “Facebook has obfuscated the default selections such that people don’t understand the privacy settings.” These things will change in the future, as we are currently at the early stages of social networking. Now it is not possible to retract a posted photo; but it may be possible in the future.”
John writes about these topics in his blog at https://www.johnpatrick.com/.