EL SEGUNDO, Calif., May 6, 2002 — Think tanks call it “digital disruption” —
the arrival of a technology so radically superior that it has the potential to render entire industries
obsolete. It’s happened more in our lifetime than in any other period, as the vacuum tube, LP record and
countless other technologies have been swept from homes and offices into museums.
And the pace is accelerating, according to a new report
from Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC) entitled On the Edge: Exploring
Next-Generation Digital Disruptions. Plummeting prices and scientific advances will soon
put increasingly powerful microchips into just about everything — our phones, our
clothes, our bodies and more. They will transform the way we are entertained, informed —
even healed — says the report’s author, Jim Skinner, Ph.D., of CSC.
“The companies who profit from and adapt successfully
to such change will be the ones who saw it coming,” says Skinner.
The report identifies six areas of technology fostering the
most significant change. The first is evolutionary computing advances. Computers continue
to get smaller, faster and cheaper. Today’s computers are 10 billion times more powerful
than the first machines, and some are barely visible to the naked eye. “Smart
Dust” refers to tiny devices, each about the size of a grain of sand, which contain
sensors, processors, radios and power supplies. Once developed and cheap enough to deploy
in large numbers, they can be scattered in the air to help monitor weather, determine the
presence of chemical agents and even help protect personal property.
Evolutionary advances are accompanied by several
revolutionary computing advances in miniaturization, speed and storage. Researchers in
molecular-scale electronics are seeking to create computer components — transistors,
memory and wires — from individual molecules. The core advantage is the potential to pack
vastly more circuitry onto a microchip and do it cheaply. A molecular electronic device is
60,000 times smaller than the tiniest transistor.
“Miniaturization is a key driver in these
disruptions,” says Bill Koff, vice president and director of CSC’s Leading Edge Forum
(LEF), which sponsored the study. “Scientists have created video cameras small enough
to swallow as a pill. The patient experiences no discomfort and the doctor obtains more
accurate information from which to form a diagnosis.” Biotechnology is the third
disruptive area. The use of high-performance computers has enabled researchers on the
Human Genome Project to identify the 30,000 genes that determine our physical traits and
many of our behaviors.
This information will dramatically change drug development
by eliminating much of the guesswork. Today, even with our increased knowledge of
medicine, it takes an average of 10 years and $200 million to bring a new drug to market.
Intelligent systems and robotics are another area of tremendous growth.
Scientists can now embed intelligence in everyday objects,
while robotics enable intelligent systems to reach out and touch the world. After the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, robots were used for search and rescue efforts at the World
Trade Center and to investigate anthrax letters. Last December, a robot opened a
suspicious letter carrying enough anthrax to kill more than 100,000 people.
Progress is also taking place in the area of human-computer interfaces.
Computers are becoming more intuitive — they’re able to
tap into our senses and become part of our environment. Haptics, the science of touch,
allows individuals to handle digital objects exactly as they would in the real world.
“Haptics is invaluable in the development of
prototypes as well as in the medical field,” says Skinner. “For example, a
doctor can practice medical procedures on virtual patients and actually feel resistance
with each incision.”
The sixth area is connections between people, objects and information.
MIT’s Project Oxygen is exploring how computers can help
anticipate our needs and reduce tasks. For example, an individual attending a business
meeting assumes the facility will have adequate lighting and, therefore, does not bring a
flashlight. Project Oxygen seeks to do the same for computing. A computer network tracks
your movement and allows you to connect to numerous appliances via verbal and non-verbal
commands. Instead of manually reconfiguring your computer to print to a new device, you
will merely say, “print to the nearest printer.” Oxygen uses cameras,
microphones, displays, sound output systems and radar systems to tap the human senses. The
report identifies six “drivers” behind these disruptions. In addition to
miniaturization described above, the others include the interconnectedness of people and
things; advances in biology; the acceleration of technology and business processes; the
digitization of many products and services; and consumerization.
“Within the next five years, these disruptive
technologies will cause fundamental changes in how corporations operate and people live
their lives,” says Koff. “To ride the wave rather than be crushed by it,
companies must re-examine their vision, competitive landscape and strategies. The true
leaders will weigh the trends individually and collectively and move quickly to adapt on
all fronts. Those who ‘wait and see’ will be left behind.”
On the Edge, available on the company’s Web site
(www.csc.com), sums up a year of research
and interviews by CSC’s Leading Edge Forum. The LEF, comprised of leading technologists,
provides a CSC point of view on the technology marketplace and serves as a focal point for
stimulating technology thought leadership, innovation and collaboration.
Computer Sciences Corporation, one of the world’s leading
consulting and information technology (IT) services firms, helps clients in industry and
government achieve strategic and operational results through the use of technology. The
company’s success is based on its culture of working collaboratively with clients to
develop innovative technology strategies and solutions that address specific business
challenges. Having guided clients through every major wave of change in information
technology since 1959, CSC combines the newest technologies with its capabilities in
consulting, systems design and integration, IT and business process outsourcing,
applications software, and Web and application hosting to meet the individual needs of
global corporations and organizations. With some 68,000 employees in locations worldwide,
CSC had revenues of $11.3 billion for the 12 months ended Dec. 28, 2001. It is
headquartered in El Segundo, Calif.
For more information, visit the company’s Web site at