Business IT is now all about the consumer. The CIO faces a series of demands from employees keen to use high-end consumer hardware and software in the business.
Such demands present significant challenges, such as technology integration, fears over openness and potential security risks. When it comes to the continued development of these challenges for leading executives, there is good news and bad news.
The bad news is that consumers – particularly those entering the business – are only likely to become more demanding. With converged technology in their pockets and detailed personas online, blue chip firms will find it difficult to lay down the law for tech-savvy users.
However, the good news is that the next wave of consumer technology is also likely to produce significant benefits to the business. Take Project Natal, Micorosoft’s controller-free entertainment system for the Xbox 360 console that should be released by the end of the year. Motion-controlled technology has been in-vogue for gamers since the launch of Nintendo’s Wii in late 2006. The system, which allows the user to control in-game characters wirelessly, has been a a huge commercial and technical success.
Natal is likely to take such developments to the next level, giving Xbox 360 users the opporuntity to play without a game controller – and to interact through natural gestures, such as speaking, waving and pushing. Maybe that sounds a bit too far-fetched, a bit too much like a scene from The Matrix? Think again – early demonstrations show how the technology could be used in an interactive gaming environment.
But that’s really just the beginning. With Microsoft pulling the strings behind the technology, Natal is likely to be provide a giant step towards augemnted business reality – where in-depth information can be added and layered on top of a real physical environment. The future of the desktop, for example, will be interactive. Employees will be able to use gestures to bring up video conferencing conversations and touch items on the desktop to bring up knowledge and data.
Employees in the field, on the other hand, will be able to scan engineering parts using their mobile devices. Information send back to the head office will allow workers to call in specific parts and rectify faults. The implications for specific occupations are almost bewlidering. Surgeons will be able to use Natal-like interactions to gain background information on ill patients; teachers will be able to scan artefacts and provide in-depth historical knowledge to students.
The end result is more information that can be used to help serve customers better. And that is surely the most important benefit of next-generation consumerisation.