In the 1960s, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated show, "The Jetsons," depicting family life in a futuristic utopia. Those of us of a certain demographic can probably still hum the catchy theme song, "Meet George Jetson …."

Jump to 2009, and the world is full of some Jetson-like technology we all take for granted such as the Internet and cell phones. We’re still waiting for flying cars.

Now, Amdocs, a well-known provider of back-office systems for the cable industry, has made some predictions about what broadband may look like in the not-too-distant future. At the TM Forum’s Management World conference in Nice, France, in early May, Amdocs introduced a concept it’s calling "Tera-play."

(For more on the Management World conference agenda, click here, and for conference-related discussion of silos, click here.)

Daniela Perlmutter, director of market strategy and research, Amdocs, said rather than talking about a triple-play or a quad-play, the industry may soon be talking about a trillion devices all connected to a network.

"You really need the broadband infrastructure," said Perlmutter. "We’ve got broadband in the home, but the mobile networks are not really broadband yet. More service providers are investing in LTE and mobile WiMAX."

Beyond the talking refrigerator

Ten years ago, forward thinkers in the cable industry speculated about a refrigerator of the future that would sense when supplies of milk were running low and "tell" its owners. This concept never caught on – maybe because the talking car with its "the door is ajar" became such an object of derision.

But Perlmutter said customer demand will drive Tera-play as people become overwhelmed with all their electronic devices. They are looking for ways to synchronize their devices and organize their content in one central place. Amdocs predicts the broadband network itself will store and organize the content similar to how ISPs offer a service to store digital photo libraries. But the network of the future will be much more intelligent.

As an example, Perlmutter described an imaginary scenario where someone is driving to a meeting in a geo-located automobile. A network application detects a traffic jam that will cause the person to be late for their meeting. The app connects with the person’s Blackberry, finds the meeting scheduled on the e-calendar and sends a message to the person at the meeting.

"Every day, new devices are being connected to the network – cars, book-readers, appliances, security systems, medical devices – and all consuming bandwidth," said Mike Couture, head of global marketing for Amdocs, in a prepared statement. "In terms of network connectivity and service complexity, the Tera-play defies imagination."

“We’re talking about a connected lifestyle," said Perlmutter. "It’s a trillion devices, experiences, applications. This is a long way from the fridge and the milk."

Asked if this all seems a bit far-fetched, Perlmutter said, "I believe it’s going to be phased," adding that it was only a few years ago that people were carrying around those huge satellite phones. "I don’t think we realize how much we’ve progressed."

– Linda Hardesty

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