THERE'S a lot of hype these days about the
impending convergence of voice, data, and broadcast
communications. There's also the emerging convergence of the
information technology and the communications industries.
The merging of these forces will shape the world, but
in ways as yet unclear. While convergence will determine the
new resource architecture that controls the new social order,
the new power structures behind the scenes defining and
directing these resources are not readily visible.
new information-communication technology-driven order can only
be as powerful as the need created and nurtured in people for
its end-products. Ultimately, the two critical needs which
must be satisfied in people are the desire for knowledge and
the desire for entertainment. These two needs, while they may
overlap frequently in terms of how they may be satisfied, are
nevertheless distinct. Thus, the new world order will be
dominated by two distinct types of organization: the
entertainment corporation ("Encorp") and the knowledge
corporation ("Knocorp"). Each will integrate all technologies
at its disposal, both information and communication
technologies. However, the Encorp will focus on entertainment
while the Knocorp will focus on providing knowledge.
There are a million ideas running up my head about the
Encorp., but we'll reserve these for another day, and focus on
The Knocorp will have as its mission the
provision of knowledge services to its clients, both
individual and corporate. Knowledge services are distinct from
and go beyond information and data services. Knowledge
services are concerned with by-products that facilitate good
and quick decision-making and timely action. A knowledge
service will as a standard provide knowledge premised on the
following parameters supplied by the user: subject; scope of
the request (date and time range, location range, etc.);
objective of the request; and perspective or context.
In turn, the knowledge service provides knowledge such
as: basic or elementary knowledge on the subject; limitations
of the knowledge; a context-based linkage to other related
ideas, events, and people; a discussion of varied or opposing
views on the subject; statistical information on the subject;
and a discussion of the current and potential value of the
subject with respect to the user's original objective.
The knowledge service presents this in multimedia form
at a minimum (maybe even in virtual reality format). It is
available anywhere, anytime. It is on-line, real-time, and
up-to-the- second. It is available both publicly (public
facilities) and privately. It is available through all mass
and private communication devices.
Given the breadth,
depth, and sophistication involved in knowledge services,
there is obviously a need for a workable architecture that
will adequately provide the services. In turn, this
architecture must be well-supported by working and emerging
Architecturally, knowledge services will
consist of the following components: knowledge collectors
(KCs); knowledge extractors (KEs); knowledge switches (KSs);
knowledge processors (KPs); and knowledgebases (KBs).
Knowledge collectors are elements capable of mobile worldwide
search for and collection of data, information, and knowledge
relevant to various classes of knowledge. Their primary
mission is to search for and collect such in and from all
available repositories. Knowledge extractors also collect
data, information, and knowledge but are non-mobile and simply
skim the pipelines of data and information highways to collect
and filter such knowledge. The knowledge extracted by
knowledge extractors is passed on in streams to knowledge
switches for transmission to knowledgebases. Knowledge
switches guide knowledge collectors to regions of cyberspace
where their target knowledge can be collected and guide them
back to knowledgebases on their return trip. Simultaneously,
knowledge switches transmit knowledge from knowledge
extractors to knowledgebases. Knowledgebases store knowledge
elements and also serve as drop-off points for knowledge
collected by knowledge collectors. Finally, knowledge
processors further enhance and create new knowledge through
"thinking" engines from knowledge elements in knowledgebases.
Any newly-created knowledge is also stored in knowledgebases.
The diagram on this page serves to illustrate the various
components and their primary functions.
technologies needed to support the different components of
knowledge services are varied. Knowledge collectors will be
implemented through intelligent software agents -- small,
objective-driven, adaptable, and mobile software elements or
objects. These will move, search, and collect across private
and public worldwide networks and from websites, data
services, and computing centers globally. Knowledge extractors
will be implemented through transparent and invisible software
or hardware portals where knowledge can be filtered and
extracted. Knowledge switches will be sophisticated
application-level switches evolved from ATM (automated teller
machine) switch software today. Knowledgebases will be
multimedia databases with built-in "thinking" engines
combining the capabilities of expert systems, constraint
propagation systems, neural network engines, etc.. Finally,
knowledge processors will be distributed client- server
applications capable of high-volume inferencing, referencing,
pattern-recognition, and possibly even quantum computing.
To support high-quality service requirements,
knowledge services will leverage on a number of technologies.
Presentation will be heavily-multimedia. As such, multimedia
software and hardware as well as ISDN (integrated services
digital network) access will be needed. High bandwidth
transmission and switching as in SDH (synchronous digital
heirarchy) and ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) will transmit
the high volumes of multimedia knowledge network traffic. To
effect the efficient flow of knowledge collection, extraction,
and transmission, intelligent networks will be needed. To make
the infrastructure cost-effective, access devices will have to
be varied and flexible (cell phone-type terminals mixed with
PCs, palmtops, laptops, and desktops) and must conform to
digital standards common to all types of traffic (e.g. voice
over IP, wireless ATM, etc.).
In the race to build the
first knowledge corporation offering knowledge services,
several social and business issues will have to be addressed.
Foremost is privacy of knowledge -- who is allowed, by whom,
and by what process the capability to collect and extract
information? Second is the value of knowledge -- how much is
knowledge economically valued and what are the rules? Third is
knowledge discrimination -- how to prevent it. Fourth is
knowledge control -- how to guarantee that knowledge services
are not monopolized to the disadvantage of the individual.
The main players well-positioned to evolve to Knocorps
are the telecom carriers (because of their large network
infastructure and headstart with agent technology), the
portals (because of their inherent switching of surfers), and
the broadcast organizations (because of their content
experience, reach, and trust from the masses). Who will win
the race eventually will be determined by the appreciation of
what knowledge and what structure of knowledge is both of
value to the new generation of cybernetic man and intrudes
into individual privacy to an acceptable extent.
The author is chief information officer of Jollibee
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