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The Intelligent Wireless Web
H. Peter Alesso and Craig F. Smith
Addison-Wesley

From POTS to PANS, or
How the Future of Wireless will Cook

Book Review, by Michael K. Kato

Alesso and Smith open with a reference to an American icon, that summarizes, in brief, the gist of what their book attempts to forecast -

"Wouldn't it be nice to just tap your "Combadge" and be able to speak to anyone, any time, anywhere - the way they do on Star Trek? Or to say "Computer," followed by a perplexing question, and receive an intelligent answer?"

The Intelligent Wireless Web

We may be some years away from this rather lofty goal, they say, but we are making concrete steps to achieve a close approximation of this futuristic idea. While this may be a very difficult concept to accept as a concrete vision of the development of the Internet and mobile devices in the next several years, Alesso and Smith's book may convert even some of the more pessimistic of observers.

The book is very detailed, looking not only at existing products and technologies in the five main technological areas of the intelligent web - User interface, Personal space, Networks, Protocols, and Web architecture - but also at the public and private research projects that affect each of these technology areas. Their systematic and academic approach to discussing each topic covered makes the book a very difficult read. Not only was I constantly going back to previously discussed material, but I frequently visited the Websites of subjects being discussed to better understand the technologies and topics I read about.

Up Link At its core, the book portrays an optimistic view of the evolution of the Internet and the spectrum of devices used to access the Internet. Although currently there are few, if any, really "intelligent" devices that "think" and can act on our behalf in negotiating information and transactions that we seek to utilize on the Web, the authors believe that many of the tools, technologies, and thinking that is necessary to build such an intelligent system are currently in advanced development. Starting with speech recognition, language understanding, language generation, and speech synthesis, the authors postulate that the standard future human-machine interface will move from keyboards and clicks to natural speech.

Networks, too, will gradually shift from wired to predominantly wireless devices. While wireless devices have already started to proliferate modern economies, the majority has very limited, but useful, functions - such as remote controls for TVs, VCRs, and air conditioners. A few, like cellular phones, particularly those in Japan, have many functions in addition to the standard voice calling services, but it would be difficult yet to consider these phones to be particularly "intelligent" devices.

Similarly, the advent of Personal Area Networks, or PANs, will push the need for mobile IP, IPv6, and other networking protocols. Web architecture, too, will need to support a more "intelligent" structure, with dynamic programming languages, adaptive software, learning algorithms, and Web Services leading the way.

Through a combination of small and incremental steps and ambitious and revolutionary technologies, the authors predict that their vision for the "Intelligent Wireless Web" will emerge:

"It is a network that provides any time, anywhere access through efficient user interfaces to applications that learn. Notwithstanding the difficulty of defining intelligence (in humans or machines), we recognized that terms such as artificial intelligence, intelligent agents, and the like refer to the performance of functions that mimic those associated with human intelligence. The full range of information services is the next logical step, along with the introduction of a variety of different portable user devices (for example, pagers, PDAs, Web-enabled cell phones, small portable computers) that have wireless connectivity. The results will be wireless technology as an extension of the present evolutionary trend in information technology. In addition, artificial intelligence and intelligent software applications will make their way into the Wireless Web. A performance index or measure may eventually be developed to evaluate the progress of Web intelligence."

This vision, while being very broad and futuristic, is built upon a very strong foundation, a detailed and critical analysis of the current state of the Internet, wireless devices, and software development practices. On the one hand, the authors propose a very convincing argument for the use of dynamic programming languages.

"The problems with existing software are that it takes too much time and money to develop and that it is too brittle when used in situations for which it is not explicitly designed. The Web needs a significantly higher degree of dynamism and mobility, as well as a robust network infrastructure and protocols. Self-organizing software, adaptive protocols, and object-oriented dynamic languages can provide the Web with the tools it needs to learn."

On the other, the authors push for a balanced approach to developing and marketing the Web and the devices needed to create an Intelligent Wireless Web.

"We must consider two "discordant" requirements: first, to optimize the network's long- term investment while, second, optimizing the time to market for each new product. One way to approach balancing technology could be by
1. Balancing innovations in software (for example, adaptive software, nomadic software) against innovations in hardware (for example, chip designs)
2. Balancing proprietary standards (motivating competition) against open standards (offering universal access)
3. Balancing local (centralized) Web innovations (for example, Web Services) against global (distributed) Web architectural evolution (for example, the Semantic Web)"

By looking closely at how software, devices, networks, protocols, and Web architecture are currently being developed, and carefully considering the ongoing research and the future developments, Alesso and Smith have written an unparalleled overview of the future of the World Wide Web and IT industry, and not just the Intelligent Wireless Web. Not only will it enlighten most people to the most advanced wireless and artificial intelligence R&D, but also provide many with a solid foundation for understanding commonly discussed concepts and technologies for the future of the Internet, such as Web Services, .Net, XML, the Semantic Web, RDF/Topic Maps, and logic layers.

Whether we eventually get to a future where Alesso and Smith's vision is reality is difficult to tell. But I am certain that most people already realize that the age of the wired Plain Old Telephone Service POTS) is over, and the time of multiple, integrated, interoperable, intelligent wireless devices that we maintain in our Personal Area Networks (PANs) is here, or, lat least, coming soon. As the authors say,

"The various technologies we have presented in this book may not be the actual path that evolves to produce the Intelligent Wireless Web. Hopefully, however, our vision of technology development and convergence may offer some perspective for the actual unfolding of the future of the Web. Needless to say, there are competing visions for the development of various Web technologies and the actual winners are yet to be determined."

To me, it is clear that the authors are asserting, like Dorothy, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." Certainly, we are no longer in Kansas, but whether we are in California, Cologne, Katmandu, or Kanto, the winners, it seems, will be us.

For more information about the book and its authors, check the following URL:
http://www.web-iq.com/
To purchase the book at Amazon.com, use the following URL:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201730634/104-9615400-3808764
To purchase the book at Barnes and Noble, use the following URL:
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=0201730634
For an online review of the book, check the following URLs:
http://www.mantex.co.uk/reviews/alesso.htm
http://www.wirelessreport.net/bookchapters/may02/theintelligentwirelessweb.html
http://www.xml.com/pub/p/519

To contact the reviewer of this book, send me mail at: mikekato@gol.com


© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

August , 2002

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN