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Integrated Communications: Possibilities for the Not Too Distant Future

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Ernesto, a GSFA faculty member, was working from home, as he often did, sitting at his computer desk. He was speaking in a quiet voice and at a normal pace, watching his words appear as text on the screen. He was in a text-based chat session with his colleague Dinah, who was in her office at Penn.

The chat software recognized that the connection was good enough to support a voice call, and suggested this option to both parties. When they accepted, the chat session was replaced with a voice call almost without delay. Dinah picked up a telephone receiver on her desk, but Ernesto just continued to speak and listen through his headset, smiling as he thought about the easy transition. Not all of his colleagues appreciated the technology that made this sort of thing possible, but Ernesto surely did.

During the conversation, Ernesto selected a document with his mouse and allowed his computer to share it with Dinah's. They discussed some proposed changes, and then saved the updated document on Ernesto's computer, with a copy to Dinah's.

After they said goodbye and ended the session, Ernesto checked his University voice-mail box, again using the same headset. He was just finishing up and switching over to listening to some of his favorite music on his MP3 player through the headset, when his doorbell rang. "Can't get this one from here!" he thought, laughing to himself, and backed his wheelchair away from his desk with his good left hand, slowly moving towards his front door.

Never Down and Out

Elizabeth, a Wharton MBA student, was sitting in her off-campus apartment living room listening to music and writing a paper on her laptop when the power went off suddenly. Before she could locate the matches and candles in the kitchen, the lights came back on, so she walked back toward the living room and glanced into the back of the hallway closet where her home network equipment showed the flashing lights of a reboot. The closet held the only network wiring, connecting a file server and a wireless access point to the 1 Mb broadband router that connected her home network to the Internet.

Within three minutes, her personal file server was up and had established time synchronization with Penn's networked timeservers, and the rest of the networked appliances on which she relied began to restore their time and configuration from her file server. Less than a minute later, her personal video recorder was set once again to tape a show on the Discovery channel later that evening, and her networked digital music player which stored over 96 hours of high quality music and played it through her home stereo, picked up right where it left off when the power went out, playing Beethoven's seventh symphony, third movement.

Her PDA and MP3/MPEG player, which never noticed the power blink since they run on batteries, each checked in briefly with her laptop (which had reverted to battery in the power blink, but was now back on AC power). A few news articles traveled quickly over her home wireless network.

Elizabeth briefly thought once again about a home UPS, but decided, as she had before, that she was getting along well without spending the extra money. After all, recovery had taken less than five minutes, with no loss of data and no manual reconfiguration of the appliances or computers. Only her old microwave oven was flashing "12:00."

Taken from the PennNet-21 Stories section of the Third Edition of PennNet-21.

Last updated on 03/11/05

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