Digital World: The end of days – coming to a PC near you

"Computing power will be such that you’ll be able to have all the resources you need in one place."

If anyone is in a position to know where the Israeli hi-tech industry is going – indeed, where the entire computer and Internet world is going – it’s Alon Ben-Zur, CEO of Bynet, Israel’s largest integrator of computer technology and services. And, he says, we’re on the verge of the “third wave” of the computer revolution – a revolution that in just five years will completely change the way we work with and even think about computers.
“It’s like the biblical ‘end of days,’” Ben-Zur says. “Computing power will be such that you’ll be able to have all the resources you need in one place. Transportation will be streamlined, and things like power and food will be available for the same amount of money anywhere in the world.
“The result will be that there will be no need for countries to covet the possessions or resources of others, since there will be plenty for everyone, and there will be no need for anyone to invade the space of others. Thus, ‘Nation shall not lift sword against nation.’”
It sounds fantastic, the naive vision of a facile optimist. But as chairman of a company that works with Israel’s largest software, hardware, Internet, telecommunication and software companies, Ben-Zur knows first-hand of the marvelous inventions and developments on the drawing boards and in the workshops of hi-tech companies. Last week at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Ben-Zur and Bynet treated thousands of visitors to the annual Bynet Expo, which gathers dozens of Israel’s largest hi-tech companies under one roof to show off their wares and innovations.
For those who worked in the computer industry abroad and wistfully remember the computer shows of old – floor shows, T-shirts, key chains, “drop your business card in the box to win a laptop” contests, a free lunch – Bynet Expo is as close as you’re going to get in Israel!
But of course, the main attraction at the show was the technology, of which there was much to see – too much for the day allocated to it. While there were numerous lectures and discussions on innovations in many areas of the computer industry, the main attraction, as always at such shows, was the booths set up by the biggest hi-tech companies in Israel and many from abroad, including Cisco, IBM, Polycom, Audiocodes and Radware.
Among the many things coming to a computer store near you is a better, faster way to do videoconferencing – in 3-D! That’s courtesy of a new generation of video transmission perfected by Radvision (a member of the RAD group, along with Bynet), called scalable video coding (SVC), which helps correct video-transmission errors and enables superior forward-error correction (i.e., anticipating when there is going to be packet loss and preparing for it) and faster transmission, with fewer bottlenecks. The transmission, coupled with superior 3-D rendering software, enables users to have as realistic a video-communications experience as possible, even from halfway across the world. And of course, no glasses are necessary.
According to Radvision’s Moshe Machline, the system is good enough for the company, which was able to save nearly $1.5 million last year by enabling conferees to “meet” by video, instead of flying to meetings.
“Eye contact is very important at meetings,” he says. “You miss a lot of the nuances on the screen, and that is one major thing that has held up adoption of videoconferencing. But with 3-D videoconferencing, you can get a much better ‘read’ on everyone in the room, just as if you were actually there.”
The Radvision solution is sold by Bynet as part of a full videoconferencing solution.
Or take security, an area that – unfortunately, in this period when the “end of days” has not quite yet arrived – is still at the top of our agenda. Along with advances in video surveillance, Bynet partners have developed various technologies that enables the company to offer a unique solution for border patrols, police and other law-enforcement agents: a communication system capable of transmitting live, real-time video, data and voice communications via a single broadband connection, using a fast, secure and private network.
The key to the system is the high-speed wireless network, which allows fast transmission of high-resolution video and audio without any effort required on the part of the driver; the vehicle continues on its rounds or pursues a suspect, and the camera focuses, with an individual in the control center able to enhance the picture to see inside a vehicle even hundreds of meters away. Again, SVC and video correction and enhancement techniques are used, so observers get a full, uninterrupted view of the action. The network enables full transmission of the data with no bottlenecks.
And although the deployment of these technologies would seem to have little to do with the good and bountiful future Ben-Zur sees, he says the technologies that are being built today for prosaic and workday needs will be the technology that supplies the future change.
“We’re coming into a period where there are going to be unlimited digital resources,” Ben-Zur says. “The bottlenecks that have prevented us from doing what we want are being eliminated, just as the problems of storage and standards were eliminated in earlier periods. Once we get used to working with these resources, new uses for them will be developed – all of them making life easier.”
And the standardization and unlimited bandwidth that are coming won’t be used just for a faster Facebook connection; it will be used for things that really count, like delivering energy to far-flung parts of the world, cheaply and safely. When that happens, he says, you’ll be able to stay where you are, and you won’t need to conquer the resources of others to fuel your economy.
“When everything is available to everyone for a reasonable price and computers are doing most of the work – you have the building blocks for universal peace,” Ben-Zur says. It’s a vision even the most computer-phobic can embrace.