Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio February 2002 Current Issue
February 2002 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

Expect these cutting-edge devices to make news in the coming year

The past year has seen Bluetooth accepted as the de facto standard for wireless communication, only to be followed by critics declaring that Bluetooth missed the boat. Standards for data formats are being touted loudly, but most systems still don’t “talk” to each other without reformatting the data. So what’s in store for the near future?

Two major developments will be the continuing acceptance of the Microsoft.Net (nicknamed .net, or “dot-net”) initiative and the expanding use of XML to help diverse applications share data.

.net. Many companies have already embraced the .net technologies, and some competitors have announced similar offerings. Basically, .net consists of a new user interface for the Windows operating system and other Microsoft products that facilitates interaction with Web-based services. That means Microsoft is moving from a shrink-wrap product to a subscription product.

Instead of purchasing the Office programs, you will subscribe to Office.Net and always have access to documents, spreadsheets, etc., wherever you are; you will always be using the latest version of the software. The drawback? It will cost you a fee, either per use or per month, to use .net products. The success of this initiative will depend on whether Microsoft and others can convince software developers to adopt the concept.

XML. Extensible Markup Language, sometimes called a “metalanguage,” describes or links other languages.

For XML to succeed, industries need to evolve a standard dictionary or set of terms describing data elements and data types that will allow data to be shared easily between diverse systems. Your back-office applications would be able to share information with Web-based applications without requiring data conversion.

Initiatives are under way to define these standard dictionaries, one of which is the APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange), coordinated by the Convention Industry Council, which is striving to develop standards for several areas in the meetings industry. For more on this effort go to

On a recent airport stopover, I was able to respond to e-mail, search college football scores and shop for gifts on a Palm Pilot with wireless Internet access. Wireless continues to become ubiquitous; the following are two of the formats coming your way soon.

Wi-Fi (802.11b). Dubbed the “next big thing,” Wi-Fi is an open-standard technology that enables wireless connectivity at speeds of up to 11 Mbps about 100 times faster than other wireless solutions and seven times faster than a typical T1 connection. Unlike Bluetooth, which searches for frequencies, Wi-Fi runs at a standard wavelength and has been embraced by Microsoft and Intel. High-speed networks based on the Wi-Fi 802.11b standard are being installed in businesses, on campuses and in public places, such as airports and coffee shops.

Bluetooth. Reports of Bluetooth’s demise are premature. A big plus is that it is “lightweight” it doesn’t require much energy or bandwidth to work. Bluetooth uses short-range radio signals to communicate and can work in “noisy” environments where other wireless devices are competing for bandwidth.

Bluetooth hops frequencies somewhat aggressively, and there are concerns it could conflict with other wireless devices utilizing Wi-Fi. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens once these technologies become more commonplace.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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