La Jolla, CA, September 8, 2011
At UCSD Internet Forum, 'Gee Whiz' Meets 'Realists'
Jacobs, Cerf Among Panelists Discussing Innovation, Capacity
Written by Pat Flynn, SignOn San Diego (Original Article)
Innovators working to expand uses of the Internet and their fellow scientists striving to ensure there will be sufficient capacity to support those uses came together Thursday at the University of California San Diego.
"The first group you heard from," said Andrew Chraplyvy, director of lightwave research at Bell Laboratories, as he introduced the day's second panel discussion, "are what we call the 'gee whiz crowd.' The second session is going to be with what I like to call the 'realists.' "
The symposium — attended by perhaps 150 professors, graduate students and others — was titled "How will the Internet survive?" It was put on by the Marconi Society, founded in 1975 by the daughter of radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi, to honor scientists who pursue advances in communications and information technology for the economic and cultural development of humanity.
Among the "gee-whiz crowd" was Irwin Jacobs, Qualcomm co-founder and one of two 2011 Marconi Society Fellowship and Prize winners.
Jacobs spoke of the "mobile Internet access explosion," noting that there are more than 5 billion mobile subscribers in the world.
"Clearly, mobile access is getting to be the preferred manner of connecting to the Internet," Jacobs said. He showed a graph projecting continuing growth in mobile subscriptions.
"The load on the Internet will continue to go up with that increasing slope," he said, noting that technology keeps making more things possible on mobile devices.
"On part of a chip, we now have the computing power that used to be on one or two racks of equipment," Jacobs said, leading to "a very powerful computer in your pocket."
Jacobs talked about other mobile applications such as a pet finder, cardiac monitoring and possibly, through links to sensor networks, the ability to monitor things such as pathogens in the air.
"For three decades, we've talked about technology in education without much significant impact," he said, adding that a Qualcomm pilot program in a North Carolina school is showing promise in "smartphone enhancement in student learning."
Jacobs then gave a demonstration of new technology, pointing a smartphone's camera at a Korean menu.
As the audience watched on a big-screen display, the characters were translated as "boiled belt fish," a photo of the dish was displayed and the price was converted to dollars.
"Just more and more load on the Internet," Jacobs concluded. "More and more capabilities there. More and more fun."
Vint Cerf, widely cited as one of the "fathers of the Internet," was the only person to appear on both the "gee whiz" and the realist panels.
He described a system that he has installed in his home that monitors temperature, humidity and other factors in every room. It can send alerts to his cellphone, such as the time "the wine cellar blasted through the 60-degree barrier."
He envisioned, among other things, an Internet-enabled refrigerator that will evaluate what's inside and print suggested recipes.
Albert Lin, also a research scientist at Calit2, made a presentation on his use of Internet-linked crowd sourcing and other technology to conduct his noninvasive search for Genghis Khan's tomb, a project that will be the subject of a National Geographic documentary to air this year.
Lin said his approach could be used for many other purposes, such as tracking contraband or wildfires around the world.
"All we need is data and a problem to solve," Lin said.
The highly technical presentations in the second panel involved the work being done to expand Internet infrastructure and capacity. Panelists also addressed concerns about Internet security and ever-increasing energy consumption.
Cerf, in a discussion of threats to the Internet, presciently suggested that a significant loss of power could be as disruptive as any other event. That was hours before the regionwide blackout.
"It was a really interesting interplay between the technology capabilities and the applications," Ramesh Rao, director of the UCSD branch of Calit2, who moderated one of the panels, said as the event was wrapping up. "You really need the creative people, the gee whiz group that keeps fueling the demand," he said. "Then you also need the community that can keep the technology up with the demand."
As for "How will the Internet Survive?"
"It will evolve," Rao said. "It will adapt — in ways that are perhaps expected and in ways perhaps unexpected."