There Is More to the Future Than Meets the Eye
Opinion: Fascination with image technology distracts developers from maximizing information value.One of the most misunderstood quotations of all time is the one that asserts, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Originated in 1927 by an advertising salesman, the statement was attributed as an Asian proverb to give it more of an aura of ancient wisdom. The key point, though, is that the "worth" he intended to claim was the power to inspire action rather than the power to deliver information. I dont mean to minimize the importance of persuasion as a function of enterprise IT systems. When you come right down to it, there are really only four reasons for making IT investments at all: to decide what to do, to document what you did, to persuade someone else to do something, or to create content interesting enough that someone will pay to have access to it. Everything else is mere variation in how we apply emerging technologies toward combinations of these goals. Too often, though, it seems as if application developersor perhaps, in most cases, their clientsare valuing images over other forms of data by that faux-proverbial ratio of a-thousand-to-one. Its often the case that a few well-chosen words can have much more information value than an ambiguous imageand that the cost in bandwidth, the footprint on storage, and the difficulty of searching through a collection of image data are much, much more than a thousand times greater than the cost of using words or numbers.
Hardware and bandwidth breakthroughs certainly invite the introduction of imagery into environments where it was previously impractical to deliver itfor example, in remote medical diagnosis, where the image quality of cellular telephones cameras is now meeting critical and objective standards for serving physicians needs. There are definitely applications in which it is appropriate to explore additional use of imagery, and it is useful to have new Web services standards available for discovering, securing, and delivering such complex data in the most efficient ways.