What do we want in our IT heaven?

"Can you really see the future?" runs one of the advertising slogans for the world's biggest IT show, CeBIT.

"Can you really see the future?" runs one of the advertising slogans for the world's biggest IT show, CeBIT.

In fact, as our reporter Arif Mohamed found out, despite the slogan, the annual Hannover show features little in the way of blue-sky challenges but does reflect the immediate concerns of IT directors.

Compliance software and voice over IP are the order of the day, along with a fair sprinkling of open source products for those who tire of Microsoft's mighty grip on the market.

But Mohamed's round-up of innovative products clearly illustrates that although the big bucks may lining up on the likes of Sarbanes-Oxley, there are plenty of smaller suppliers which are using IT in inventive ways that can make real changes to people's everyday lives.

For example, DeadMan's Handle, which can delete all commercially-sensitive files from your laptop in the event of a theft, or the intelligent cane for blind people from Sound Foresight.

The public sees plenty in the press about high-profile IT project failures, with the resultant despondency about what the government is doing with our money, but they are less aware of the ways that IT helps them in daily life.

Looking further along the curve, Danny Bradbury finds out how IT may change daily life in the decades to come. The world of "all you can eat" telecoms for everybody or "smart yoghurt" may sound like some futuristic dream of Tesco's managing director, but is in fact the logical outcome of today's trend to ever-smaller miniaturisation, burgeoning cheap communications and the apparent willingness of the public - especially the young - to give up the right to individual privacy.

For a technologist, the grand challenges of IT are undoubtedly exciting, but the world of ubiquitous computing and monitoring - even if your intelligent T-shirt may allow you to stave off a coronary for another year - may be one that finally is not be worth the electronic candle.

Human beings are strangely subject to believing that new technological advances - the internet, the mobile phone or an MP3 player that stores 30,000 tracks - will somehow increase the store of human happiness.

Experience proves this to always be fallacious, but a cane which helps a blind person get around more easily or software which can help get the bureaucrats off your back can provide a welcome break from everyday problems.

And that's why shows such as CeBIT will continue to draw the crowds.

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