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Microsoft Pushing "Digital Nervous System" Concept

Key to tomorrow's Business

By Jim Bray

CEO's and CIO's should shift their thinking toward building and implementing a "digital nervous system" if they want to remain efficient, competitive and, therefore, profitable.

That's according to Microsoft Canada Director David Wright, a member of the computer giant's strategic management team. Wright was in Calgary recently to push the digital nervous system concept, a concept his company and others have been encouraging the corporate world to adopt for a couple of years.

Like a human nervous system, the digital nervous system connects all the different "limbs and organs" of a corporate (or even, increasingly, a home) environment. It gathers, analyzes, tracks, controls, and transmits information between the various parts, making them interact into a seamless whole. And, in the same way a human nervous system also controls one's input and output to the world (through eyes, ears, mouth, etc.) a digital nervous system can connect a corporate whole to the world at large as well.

Computer networks were arguably the beginning of the digital nervous system - those clunky mainframe-based behemoths that are now becoming much smaller, more efficient, more affordable - and ubiquitous. Telephone networks are also converging with this digital nervous system, and the whole shebang is reaching out beyond the corporate office thanks to the Internet.

While this technological nervous system is made up of nuts and bolts (okay, circuits, wires and chips) it's more than technology. It's a mindset, a way of looking at the wired world in which we live that can be grasped by people who don't pretend to understand all the technology that goes into it. It's also a way for information technology people to show the "powers that be" what the big picture is and now all this technology really fits in.

It's a leap of vision for many corporate heads, however, who may have traditionally viewed their IT budget as an ongoing and unfortunate expense that often causes more trouble than it's worth. Wright says these people need to start looking at their technological tools as integral to their company's functioning. They need to understand that, in this fast-moving and ultra-competitive global arena, this technological integration is essential - not only for making their internal operations hum along, but to provide crucial interaction and commerce with their suppliers and customers as well.

A bonus of this digital universe is the move toward a truly paperless office, though Wright admits the concept will probably never be completely realized. Still, when "virtual" forms and letters become more universal and accepted, a "paper trail" may become the exception rather than the rule - something sure to please tree huggers (and crooks!) around the world.

The digital nervous system is already happening - and it makes sense. In reality, it's merely another way of looking at the ongoing evolution of information processing and transmitting technology. After all, thanks to the vast web of cyberspace, we already live in the so-called Global Village (though it's a darn big village!) and there's nothing - except the will and/or the finances - stopping companies and individuals from linking up to communicate and interact with each other whenever and wherever - and for whatever reason - they want.

Looked at that way, the digital nervous system may be the glue that holds the "brave new world of tomorrow" together.


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January 31, 2006