My, how our dictionary has changed. Podcast, Skype, Wikipedia, Googlebot and WiMax were all regularly used terms during 2005. VoIP, WiFi, Blog, iPod, and SEO are in every day vocabularies. By the way, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization just in case you’re uninformed like the vast majority of the populace, and I believe Podcast was Webster’s Word of The Year for 2005.

That was then, and now it’s today. What was important and functional yesterday may not be the case tomorrow. There has been exponential change in relation to the calendar, in the field of communications technology advancement. What I mean by that is that the changes that have taken place over the past year or two have been far greater than the changes over the past decade, which in turn have been far greater than the changes over the past 20 years.

The common thread among the terms above is that they either relate to wireless or internet technologies, or both. The technology advances, and public acceptance of those new technologies in the year 2005, have been astounding. It would follow logic that the same will continue to happen in 2006.

So let’s examine the recent past a little more closely to see how our behavior has been affected. John Campbell, a Telecom Consultant with Schooley Mitchell in Halifax wrote an article for The Nova Scotia Business Journal that described the experience of a Marketing VP. She was booking a trip through her travel agent and made a specific request for ‘hot spots’. As little as three years ago that probably would have meant the best beaches, bars, and restaurants. However, she was requesting the hotels where she could access the Internet through her laptop using wireless technology.

Whether it’s toll booth passes, debit transactions at the gas station, or courier package delivery, the wireless world is upon us.

Consistent with evolutionary theory, teenagers have sprouted a new appendage. It’s a wireless device referred to as a cell phone. Except that cell phone isn’t for conversations in emergencies. It’s for text messages, playing MP3s, and downloading videos – and of course, you simply can’t be without one if you’re under 25.

In other developments, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has gained wide acceptance evidenced by the wide myriad of vendors that have entered that marketplace to carve out a piece of the market share pie. The variant flavors and options available in the world of VoIP seem to be increasing everyday, to the point where it’s very difficult for the average business person to determine whether they should or shouldn’t, and if they do, which option do they choose.

Campbell mentions Advanced Call Routing, Unified Messaging, and long distance toll bypass as some advantages of VoIP. The Follow-Me feature makes it transparent to the caller in terms of whether the call is connecting to a conference room in Orlando, a hotel room in Vancouver, or a cottage on the Great Lakes.

Increased Internet functionality, including Intranet, Extranet, Enterprisenet, and more, are all variations of Internet business applications that have become widespread in the recent past to serve the needs of global economies. More and more ‘hosted applications’ are being developed, which means that you can work on the same General Ledger or Contact Management Database in Salt Lake City and Singapore at the same time. In fact, in a book titled ‘The World is Flat – A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century’, Thomas L. Friedman talks about the widespread changes to world economies based on technological advancements.

Friedman’s message centers around the fact that web-enabled and wireless technologies are ‘flattening’ the world so that basic business services such as call centers, back room accounting, and HR department management can be provided from India or China, just as easily as Pittsburgh. Restaurant reservations, income tax returns, and flower deliveries will actually be completed through Shanghai or Bangladesh, as opposed to Boston or Toronto.

His message is not one of dire straits, although it does carry a warning that we need to be prepared, and educated to adapt to the inevitable changes that a ‘flat’ world will bring. Instead, the message is one of changing opportunities, and better efficiencies, if the reality is accepted, and the reaction is proper.

So, where are we going? Well, those teenagers will be watching TV on their cell phones next year on a regular basis. Actually, my prediction is that the term cell phone will disappear over the next few years because of the vast number of functions that will be available through a wireless device that will be portable. Telephone calls will be just a minor part of the mix.

At a recent presentation I attended that was hosted by the Gartner Group, the predictions included the ability to take temperature and heart rate with the wireless device that will soon be on the shelves, and therefore attached to your belt. Diabetics will be able to monitor blood sugar. You will be able to read bar codes, and check out right in the store, including the monetary transaction. Your earpiece will talk to you to tell you to turn left so you don’t get lost as you drive through the city. I don’t think the device will make your lunch or tie your shoes just yet, but perhaps I need to open my mind.

At a recent Conference for Schooley Mitchell Telecom Consultants, Mikko Salminen of Nokia in Finland made a presentation describing the migration of businesses to wireless devices as opposed to the desk phones everyone has been using since telephone invention. The statistics from around the world are astounding, but that’s the subject of another article. Suffice it to say that businesses will benefit from the ability of their people to communicate with customers, vendors, and coworkers without having proximity to their desk.

Yes, it’s a brave new world. In order to prosper, we must heed the message that no man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience. In other words, embracing new technologies, and accepting ‘flatness’ will lead to opportunity. Opportunity, like oxygen must continually be exchanged. Once oxygen is taken into your lungs it turns to carbon dioxide. So as oxygen is the fuel of the body but has a limited life, opportunity is the fuel of success and future achievement. However, opportunity must be used before it turns to the metaphorical carbon dioxide.

So the message is to accept that these changes are upon us. The world will continue to develop more and more Internet applications to make the rudimentary parts of life easier to manage. Wireless applications will continue to develop and will astound us in terms of what can be achieved. And the world will be ‘flatter’. If that’s a problem it’s also an opportunity.

Maybe it’s an even bigger opportunity than an economic one for those wise enough to take advantage of the fluid and changing environment. One of Friedman’s tenets is that as the world supply chains become more intermingled and interdependent based on these technology advances, then the likelihood to war with each other will become less. If companies are dependent on companies in other countries to provide accounting functions, HR management, and day-to-day services, then it will be an encourager to work it out, instead of shoot it out. Now that’s a nice thought.