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The Next Internet Transmission Media?Harry Dent, in his book "The Roaring 2,000's," states that the Internet will soon be connected through the electrical power grid and dial-up will become obsolete — we are already seeing that change slowly taking place with the advent of cable modems. But he goes further by saying that connections through the power grid will help turn ordinary appliances into more sophisticated tools (and thus help companies provide higher quality customer service).

If your washer or dryer breaks down, it will be able to send a signal through the power grid in order to have a repair technician sent over immediately — before you even know about it. Your alarm clock will be able to check traffic conditions in your area, calculate the drive-time with the best possible itinerary, and then wake you up at such a time that will help you to avoid being late for work. The Internet is here to stay and it will continue to grow and expand. While it is still in its infancy, the fact remains that the Web will continue to dramatically transform the societal landscape.

Can I Print You Some Money?Jeffrey Harrow, a Senior Consulting Engineer with the Technology & Corporate Development organization of Compaq Computer Corporation and author of "The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing", informs us the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) may soon be on its way out. The ATM changed the way many people bank; the weekly trip to the teller changed to a convenient pause at one of a vast network of boxes that "printed" cash-on-demand. But why travel to one of these boxes? Why not use the evolving telecommunications infrastructure to authorize your computer to print the cash you need no matter where you are?

It seems unlikely that most governments will allow our increasingly good inkjet printers to reproduce bills, on the other hand, who'd have thought that another quasi-government institution, the U.S. Postal Service, would allow just that in the form of print-your-own electronic stamps. Well, it may not be happening in quite the way you would have imagined, but smart card technology and mobile phones are coming together to let you "print" your own cash.

The New U.S. Mint?In the United Kingdom, Barclaycard and Cellnet are participating in a test where specially modified Motorola StarTAC phones can "write cash" into a smart card on-demand (assuming your bank account can handle the debit.) The smart card can then be used for miscellaneous purchases. Then, when the card runs dry, you just "phone home" to recharge it. As the use of cell phones continues to increase; as semiconductor technology continues to make smart cards more secure and capable; and if people find that they prefer to swipe a card instead of fishing for change to take a bus or buy a newspaper, could Future Shock put those venerable armored behemoth ATM machines on the endangered species list? At least your cell phone won't mistakenly refuse to return your card!

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