About the Program

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Tremendous databases, wireless communications and the miniaturization of electronics provide opportunities to make major changes in the way people work and live. The Transformation Age explores the office, the marketplace, media, finances and our digital lives as they take new forms and remove the barriers of time, distance, wealth, education and even age.


THE OFFICE

The way an office looks and operates has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, and information technology - for better or for worse - has made a lot of those changes possible. Offices contain people who oversee or design products and services, market them and handle finances. I.T. continues to reduce the role of people in some of these functions while simultaneously reducing the importance of location. Anina Trepte is a high tech globe-trotting fashion model who practically runs her 360 Fashion company and web site with her cell phones.

Can an entire company exist without offices? Seattle consulting company Point B has nowhere to call home but is succeeding in spite of it. Then see how Hewlett Packard is providing high definition face time for clients and a Seattle consulting firm that uses coffee shops for offices. Google is building an information technology empire with data farms around the country. Bob visits the Mountain View campus and speaks with some the Googlers about their foray into online business applications.

THE MARKETPLACE

Scott Systems in Mississippi provides web-enabled office services to truck stops and convenience marts to help them compete. Now the inventory aboard those trucks can be tracked with RFID - Radio Frequency Identification - with just a point and a click. Bob visits the RFID Journal Live Convention in Orlando, Florida to see how everyone is wirelessly tracking anything that moves.

But how will everyone buy all those goods being tracked? Bob explores the virtual world of "Second Life." Is this the retailing of the future? The founders at Linden Labs in San Francisco and virtual world creators at the Electric Sheep Company believe so.

More is delivered digitally and online everyday. The film giant Kodak has been hurt by the digital revolution, even though Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the very first digital camera. This unique individual once predicted the digital photography revolution. Did Kodak miss the ultimate Kodak moment?

MEDIA & MONEY

Craigslist posts ads for free. Their original intent was not to cripple the newspaper industry by stealing classifieds ads, but to give people more choices. CEO Jim Buckmaster comments on the goals and the simplicity of their site. Can the newspaper evolve to survive? The answers to the electronic newspaper may be inside E-Ink in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Mark Gorton is an entrepreneurial wunderkind and founder of The Lime Group in New York City. This company has quickly risen to become a prominent US equity market center by volume using algorithms to make millions of trades a day. While trading shares, Gorton also created the software Limewire, one of the most commonly used programs for trading music and movies.

LIFE

Americans spend nearly two trillion dollars a year on healthcare - that's 15 percent of the gross domestic product. And billions of those dollars are spent on hospital stays - it's a huge business that's growing rapidly with our aging population - and the amount of paperwork is impossible to imagine. What if paperwork was no longer part of the process? Medicine itself has long thrived on the leaps made in technology, but converting the entire medical profession from shelves of patient folders to digital data is daunting. The Mayo Clinic was the birthplace of the paper-based medical record, and now it has completed a fully electronic system for accessing patient information.

Do you have trouble remembering that person you met last week? Jim Gemmell of Microsoft Research is taking this information technology revolution to the extreme. Working with Gordon Bell, their experiment known as "MyLifeBits" abandons paper and material records entirely. Instead, they digitally chronicle every moment of a persons life with a Sensecam, collecting every image, email and web site visited and turning it into a personal, searchable, digital archive. The possible applications of this project are endless - from finding out how people learn to time management to collecting medical data.

© 2008 University of Maryland
Robert H. Smith School of Business