Social and economical impact of Web 2.0 will be enormous

Dr. Walter Hehl IBM
Web 2.0 is developing such economical and social impact that nobody can afford  to ignore this ‘movement’ – regardless  of the all the hype. It is enabling new business models, in particular for small or even very small enterprises, predicts Dr. Walter Hehl and IBM’s Global Outlook 2006. Another trend: Event-driven systems will detect patterns in order to take the appropriate actions.

Walter Hehl, you are the futurist at IBM Industry Solutions Lab Zurich. Will the role of information and communication technology for managing innovation in companies change in the next 3-5 years? If so: What do companies have to do in order to be or stay cutting edge in innovations?

What we will see in the next years is a further penetration of the world with Information Technology (IT). “World” can be literally taken  as the real world but also the business and cultural world.  Companies have to leverage IT for their internal and external collaboration and their innovation culture – far beyond e-mail. They have to create flexible infrastructures for their processes, and also a very good understanding of the technology portfolio and roadmaps of their core business. We call this the “impact of future technology”.

According to the Global Outlook 2006 in IT, which you will present at the conference, eventdriven systems will be spreading over many applications. What do you mean with “eventdriven system”? And what will be the upcoming significance of it?

“Event-driven” relates to situations in many areas of life and business that require some action, at least observation, often predictions. One very simple example from mobile health: A person is jogging and wears a pulse meter. If the pulse exceeds some personal upper limit, a warning might be issued. If it is a critical situation, a SMS message could be sent to the doctor. In more complex applications as the credit card system, the technical management of 100,000 passenger cars or all diabetes patients in a country, the size of the application and the number of “events” will be much larger; by a factor of millions or even of billions. Also in these cases, the system has to detect “patterns” (good or bad ones), and has to take the appropriate actions. This results in a kind of vegetative world system on the basis of IT. Of course, this could be the perfect ‘big brother’ technology  - but the same technology can also deliver uncompromising privacy. For a sustainable world, this technology is undoubtedly even mandatory.

Everybody is talking about Web 2.0. What do you mean with Web 2.0? Does it require new business models?

Web 2.0 merges several trends in IT basically related to “networking” in its technical sense but mainly in its social sense, as well as on new and easy-to-use information technology. Based on the naturalness and democracy of the Internet, ‘light’ technology perfectly matches the business and cultural spirit of the people. Web 2.0 is developing such economical and social impact that nobody can afford  to ignore this ‘movement’ – regardless  of the all the hype. It is enabling new business models, in particular for small or even very small enterprises!

You will be keynote speaker at the European Futurists Conference. What will we learn from you?

The essence of my talk is to ensure that we are not at all at the end of IT development, and that we are in a singular situation in the history of society and technology. I would like to compare this  a little bit to the Belle Epoque  at the end of the 19th century. At this time period, electricity and electromechanics spread out. Now we experience the change in a new dimension on the information and intellectual level. The dramatic pace of  integrated IT development  is the natural cause for the  wave on ‘innovation’ and makes ‘innovation’ to the buzzword of the business world.

Walter Hehl holds a Diploma in Physics and a PhD in Natural Sciences, both from the University of Stuttgart in Germany. He is currently the content manager of the ‘Industry Solutions Lab Zürich’. This Industry Solutions Lab is the European executive briefing center of the Research Division of IBM and a global meeting place of executives and politicians with IBM researchers and consultants.

His keynote at the 2nd European Futurists Conference, Nov. 24, 2006:
Global Outlook: Status and Trends in IT as Viewed by IBM