Editorial: Time to Cut the Cords

On December 21, 2000, at age 82, Al Gross passed away in his home in Sun City, Arizona. Who was Al Gross? Well, if you’re sitting in traffic tonight, you can thank Al Gross for the ability to phone home from your car to let that loved one know you are, although delayed, quite safe. Or, if you’re getting "beeped" on one of the over 300 million pagers out there, Al Gross made that possible – I’ll let you decide if that’s good or bad.

An electronics pioneer considered by most to be the father of wireless technology, Gross’ miniaturized devices are the foundation for today’s mobile communications phenomena. In fact, Gross’ first invention, a portable, hand-held two-way radio, the "walkie-talkie," was conceived in 1938 when he was still in high school. Of course, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, took a covert interest and recruited Gross, who then went on to develop an air-to-ground radio used in World War II. In recognition of his many achievements, MIT honored Gross with its Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for invention and innovation.

These past few years seem to find us at the crossroads of invention. Those who toiled, created and inspired entire industries are passing from this earth, and we owe it to these visionaries to carry on their work and to further the impact that these people once only dreamed was possible.

In the understatement of the decade, Gross was quoted at MIT’s Dimension Invention Program as saying, "The significance of my inventions today is the same as it was when I first developed them – mobility. The ability to communicate wherever you happen to be is extremely powerful and enables tremendous freedom. It’s what will continue to fuel the worldwide popularity and insatiable demand for wireless devices."

Although wireless technology itself is hardly as bleeding edge as we like to think, today’s organizations and agencies are taking its use to a whole new velocity. And I’m not talking about getting rain updates on your pager from weather.com or "keeping that meeting," while you’re really on the back nine. I’m talking about real productivity, from how companies conduct business with each other to, more importantly, how a company’s own employees produce and perform as unique individuals, fully linked and supported by the omnipresent E-Center.

VPN solutions provide better connections today, in fact as good as the in-office connections office workers have become accustomed to, in order to disperse the E-Center globally. But, as you demand a Palm Pilot to tear off into the sunset, be prepared for a few more stalls, such as the expected increased cost. Don’t let that slow you down, though, for despite some bumps, the mobile enterprise as a whole has gotten it in gear and is ready to ride. And, what better example is there, than the Toronto PD’s eCops (see page 24).

eCops is not only putting the bad guys at a high-tech disadvantage, it is leveraging existing standards, like DB2 with Secureway Wireless Gateway, to provide a communications infrastructure for any disparate or mobile environment, even outside of law enforcement. In fact, IDC Analyst Stephen Drake says that firms are starting to "understand and respect" the remote worker as the most "important workers in the enterprise." So, wireless workers, unite in your dis-unity, stand up and get ready to be counted and appreciated.

With an eye on the past and an ear to the future, we at Enterprise Systems celebrate Al Gross’ bold breakthroughs that allow communication without boundaries, and we look forward to a mobile tomorrow based on one teenager’s imagination.