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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 10:40 GMT
Why the future will be easier to use
Pills and tablets, BBC
Drug makers could be big users of Grid technologies
Computing power will get easier to harness as it permeates every corner of our lives, say experts.

In its annual technology forecast, research firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) predicts that much of the complexity of computing will start to be hidden over the next few years.

Processors will start to crop up in more and more ordinary household objects and use of data services will broaden.

The report also predicts that Grid computing initiatives, which tie together lots of low-powered machines into supercomputers, will prove popular with businesses.

Ease of use

The hefty report from PWC believes that a key trend over the next 24 months will be the gradual extension of what made the net so popular - putting a friendly face on a complex underlying system - to other parts of the computer world.

PWC analyst Kevin Findlay said many of the novel technologies of the last few years, such as wireless networking known as WiFi, would become commodities and expected as standard rather than added later for a premium.

Some computer makers are already building machines that have WiFi net connections on board. Some manufacturers of set-top boxes for interactive TV services are shrinking their gadget to a single chip that can easily be built in to a television set or video recorder.

Brick wall, BBC
Storing data will soon be like building a wall
Other initiatives, such as the printable low-power, short-range radio ID tags produced by companies such as Alien Technology, will extend basic computer power to formerly dumb household devices.

Alongside these hardware developments will go efforts to hide the difficulties of tying these devices together and managing huge numbers of networked computers, phones or gadgets.

Mr Findlay said work by academic groups on Grid computing ideas would help this happen.

"Users do not want to see that complexity," he said.

Power on tap

Grid computing attempts to connect up the islands of processing power and data in the world's universities and to standardise ways of interrogating data and calling on huge amounts of computer power.

One recent initiative linked up more than a thousand machines in Canada to create a supercomputer for a day to tackle a problem that would have take years to complete if done on a single machine.

Soon pharmaceutical companies or any other business that has a need for supercomputer power from time to time could be renting that power or creating it for themselves with their own idle desktop machines, said Mr Findlay.

He said companies also liked the idea of renting data storage as they needed it, rather than buying it themselves and having it sit idle.

IBM's "brick" initiative which creates data storage farms out of cheap blocks of hard discs and the broader push for "blade" servers that make adding computer power easy to add were evidence of this move to commoditisation, said Mr Findlay.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Scotland
02 May 02 | Science/Nature
01 Oct 02 | Technology
09 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
05 Nov 02 | Technology
06 Aug 02 | Technology
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