FuturTech Conference Explores Ways to "Bridge the Gap" Between Business, Technology and People
Keynote speakers and panelists promote technical innovation and integration.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In today's world, information technology has pervaded every aspect of life at work and home. For many, it is difficult to imagine life without PCs and the Internet. The eighth annual FuturTech conference, "Bridging the Gap: The Always Connected World," provided a forum for students to interact with corporate and academic representatives and learn about the relationship between business and technology.
This year's conference, held on Jan. 26 and 27 at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, featured three keynote speakers from major technology corporations and a series of expert panelists. Corporate sponsors included Thomson, Cisco Systems, Amazon.com and DaimlerChrysler.
J. Bruce Harreld, IBM's senior vice president of strategy and marketing, delivered the opening address. In a presentation titled "IT: The Great Disappearing Act," Harreld used both personal and professional examples to illustrate how technology has impacted lives for the better and simultaneously created more complications. He emphasized how today's technology needs to grow more seamless so individuals no longer have to serve as "systems administrators in the home."
Citing economic history and IBM's recovery from a "near-death experience" in the 1990s, Harreld explained how to interpret technological successes and failures in business so these lessons can be applied to the future. From the Industrial Revolution to the recent dot.com collapse, there has been a repeating development cycle that begins with invention and moves towards deployment, he said. When a new technology is invented, the anticipation of financial success leads to exploitation and creates a frenzy that is typically followed by a crash, then maturity.
How do companies like IBM find success amidst this economic cycle? According to Harreld, information technology is still in the deployment stage. The next goal is to provide dynamically adaptable or "on demand" services. Companies need to work toward "more, better, tighter, faster and cheaper integration," he said.
Though the post-crash market is characterized by lower growth, it is more stable and can lead to a period of "sustained growth and real value creation," said Harreld, who also predicts that biotechnology will begin the next major invention and development cycle.
Sanjay Pol, MBA '94 and vice president of messaging security at Cisco Systems, delivered the second keynote address. Cisco Systems is the leading provider of networking solutions and services for the Internet. However, Pol said that due to rapid innovations in technology, even the most successful information technology company must constantly evaluate and adapt their services to keep pace with the market.
Pol's presentation concluded with a welcome to the "world class team" of Ross graduates who were recently hired by Cisco Systems.
Michael Wilens, MBA '80 and chief technical and operations officer at Thomson Corporation, was the final keynote speaker. His speech focused on "Technology Adoption in High Risk Professions" and cited the initial resistance and eventual acceptance of redesigned flight instrumentation in the airline industry.
Rounding out the FuturTech conference was a series of panel discussions moderated by U-M professors. Topics included the Israeli biotech revolution and research opportunities outside the United States, the value of online communities, which examined interpersonal relationships formed in online networks and the future of the internet and mobile broadband, a discussion of the current and future implementation of telecommunications technology.
FuturTech is a student-organized collaboration between the Ross School of Business, the College of Engineering and School of Information.
Written by Adrienne Losh
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