In 1999, the Massachusetts state fire marshal issued a cautionary advisory about a new security product: a surveillance camera designed to look like a smoke detector. "This action has created a great concern for us in the fire service," Stephen Coan said. "If this [security cameras as smoke detectors] becomes widely known, we feel that the lives of people will be placed in jeopardy. Out of fear of being watched and the loss of privacy, it is possible that people will begin to cover over smoke detectors, endangering their lives...." Marshal Coan was not alone in his concern: In 2004, New York officials forced local outlets to stop selling the device for many of the same reasons.
Stories by Fred Hapgood
Historically, marketers have been early adopters, picking up on cultural changes and leveraging new technologies long before other sectors do. (Ads appeared on the Internet almost as soon as it was privatized.) Alas, this open-mindedness has never done much good, at least in terms of measurable ROI. Still, the search to bring more science to your art continues. Here CMO looks at some emerging technologies and concepts that, although they may not change your world today, raise some intriguing possibilities for the future.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the phone company's central switching station serving the headquarters of New York City's Department of Sanitation (DSNY) was crushed by the collapse of the Towers. The very agency with line responsibility for the Herculean cleanup effort that would soon be required suddenly found itself unable to communicate with its offices and personnel. Even worse, DSNY headquarters soon learned it was on its own so far as restoring service was concerned; its telecom provider-- Verizon Communications Inc. --had its own wounds to look after. But the Sanitation Department's commissioner made his needs clear to MIS Director Steven Stam: He wanted his telephones back immediately, whether it was possible or not.
Fortunately Stam had a few functional assets, including a reasonably robust LAN and the knowledge that there was a fiber data line running through the building that did not terminate at the destroyed Verizon facility. Strictly speaking, the fiber didn't belong to his department (it was leased by the Department of Health), but these were unusual times ("I begged, I borrowed, I was accused of stealing," Stam remembers), and by Monday, Sept. 24, he had started to lash those together to support a voice-over-IP (VoIP) network--using the LAN to carry phone calls and support a gateway into the public switched telephone network (PSTN). By the following Monday he received the go-ahead for the rollout, and the new phones began to ring one week later. With technical help from Dimension Data Holdings PLC (a networking infrastructure services company in Reston, Va.), Stam had 285 VoIP phones running throughout the department's headquarters. Today, with 600 phones in three buildings on the new system, Stam is beginning to refocus on more traditional IS issues, such as tracking the reduction in costs. "Fifty percent of our phone calls are internal," he says. "The savings we get from putting those calls on the network are already substantial."