By now everyone knows that the Internet revolutionized worldwide communications. Never before has it been so easy to obtain mountains of information on just about anything! And, as revolutionary as the Internet has been to communications in general, wireless communication technologies are poised to be the next driver of monumental change within the business world. Wireless technologies sever the bonds that hold people to their desks and even those bonds that hold them in the confines of an office. The notion of being able to communicate quite well and carry on business, literally from anywhere, has some scary implications. Sacrosanct management practices and accepted techniques may have to change in the face of these advancements. Complicating the matter is the fact that the dizzying array of technologies and leapfrog advancements are coming so quickly that by the time you nod your acceptance of a product - let alone pay for it and turn it on - it's obsolete!

For those of us in my generation, we grew up with infrared remote controls for televisions. So, we've had some degree of wireless technologies around us from the beginning. However the last five or so years have seen rapid growth in technologies and acceptance of wireless everything! So, where's this all going? As part of the answer, consider the South Koreans, who are well ahead of the United States when it comes to broadband and wireless technologies. Today, they actually have slots in their GSM wireless cell phones that house a person's personal banking information. Cash is nearly not necessary anymore, because people pay for their purchases - everything from gas to vending machine products to groceries - using their phones! Where it will end up is anybody's guess! But, it's moving forward at a chilling rate.

Here are the definitions of some commonly used acronyms:

Wifi: an acronym for wireless network.

GPS: a satellite technology used mostly for location services.

GSM and TDMA: typically mobile telephone technologies.

Microwave: typically used for data transmissions in a Wide Area Network (WAN).

Bluetooth: used mostly in Personal Area Network (PAN) devices, such as wireless keyboards, mice, headsets, etc. Also, used to connect portable computing devices, such as laptops, PDAs and phones.

900mhz and 2.4ghz: frequencies used for some PAN devices, but primarily for wireless phones.

Infrared (IR): used often in remote controls, but also in PAN devices like barcode guns, wireless printing, sharing data, keyboards, game controllers, etc.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): a new technology that will be used in tagging products to reduce handling expense.

Sidebar: Best Practices

Each month, we'll provide proven Best Practices. Readers are encouraged to send along any successful IT management approaches they may be using. We will feature the best of them in upcoming columns.

7. Stay current with technological advancements.

Even though no one knows where wireless data transmission technologies will end up and to what extent they will impact future business operations, it's important to envision where things might end up for your business. If you are open to change and embrace its potential, you can easily envision how your business might be positively impacted by employing new technologies. It's also possible to jump into things that will have a short useful life. Every technology developed will be leapfrogged eventually - the challenge is to make every step you take as long-lasting as possible. It takes luck to avoid heading down any “bad paths,” but to a point, you can make your own luck with a little knowledge.

8. Enhance your security measures as you increase wireless use.

Although some significant advancements have been made lately, wireless technologies have traditionally been susceptible to security breaches, because intercepting wireless data signals has been relatively easy. While we recommended a formal data security program in the March column, it is likewise important to realize that as you become more involved with wireless communications and data transfer, you also become more vulnerable to security breaches. So, it's a good idea to review your security protocols and unauthorized use counter-measures periodically. That way, you can stay on the cutting edge, without being cut into!