22 May 2002
Beware, sensor geeks! Big hitters picking pockets, expo told
San Jose, Calif. - Paul Saffo, director of the Institute of the Future, senses something familiar going on in the sensors industry. He warned sensor technologists gathered at Sensors 2002 Spring they need to pull their heads out of their science manuals and take a look at what's happening.
The big players are about to hijack the sensors revolution, and pioneers, like those in attendance here, are going to miss the gravy train, he cautioned.
"You’ve been laboring in obscurity for years on stuff you can’t explain to your mothers - and now, suddenly, the rest of the world is coming to realize that what you have been doing is valuable and sensors are important."
"We’re getting all sorts of weird boosts from places like the Office of Homeland Security, though I’m not seeing any sudden influx of money . . . the Beltway Bandits are taking care of that. But at least you get the idea that the government and Congress think that sensors matter.
"The parallel I’m seeing from earlier revolutions is this: There is something worse than being ignored, and that is being loved to death. People from outside the industry come in and say, ‘Oh yeah, sensors are hot, sensors are the big thing, and we’re going to take it over and make some money out of it.’ And they’ll do it in the most unexpected ways, and the bottom line is that the pioneers get killed.
"Bill Gates did not invent DOS. Tim Patterson designed DOS after stealing it from Digital Research in Monterey, which stole it from some graduate students somewhere. Anyway, Bill Gates figured out the big potential for it and Tim Patterson got all of $200,000 out of the deal.
"Many of you in this room are in danger of having this happen to you," the futurist said.
Saffo said the "access revolution", that accompanied the Internet, and the information revolution are over, but all those technologies are here to stay. All the data that is running off - and will run off - the ubiquitous sensors, run on our networks, run inside our systems, and touches our personal lives isn’t data or even information at all. It’s input to media, and media itself.
Sensors nerds are in the media business - not mass media this time, but rather personal interactive media. They need to pay attention to what’s happening in the world around them, he advised.
Delivery of the Web and the Internet everywhere is going to give a huge boost to the sensor revolution. The sensor industry needs to keep in mind the higher value-add potential to sensors it produces, and entrepreneurial opportunities that can exist. At the very least, sensor industry workers should invest in the companies that are going to make the serious money off their labors, he said.
"So heads up and get with it," says Saffo. "Seize the mountaintop before Bill Gates does!" Nicholas Sheble
Return to Previous Page