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That's IT!

IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD

"Information technology and networking have fundamentally changed the way business is done today," says Carl Redfield '68, senior vice president for manufacturing at Cisco Systems, the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet.
   A marketing consultant in Taiwan, an engineer in Houston, a financial expert in New York, a manufacturer in Stockholm, and a CEO in Cairo can now work together-with all their plans spread out in front of them-in a world that seems no bigger than grandma's hometown.
   "Networked IT has increased productivity and provided us with immense freedom," says Redfield.
   "I'm not indispensable. But I know I'd be reluctant to go fishing for fear the folks at work might really need to reach me right away," says Redfield. "Now I can be out on the boat and relax completely because I have my pager right there. (Of course I've learned to keep it in a zip-locked bag. Saltwater can be brutal on pagers!)"
Robert Allen Strawn
AnneMarie Ferraro '90
MicroStrategy's AnneMarie Ferraro '90
   Redfield will soon be able to fish in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and take cell phone calls from the Congo if he needs to, says Motorola Vice President Terry Heng, a Rensselaer Key Executive.
   "Motorola's 66 low-Earth orbiting satellites are going to provide communication for anybody anywhere in the world," says Heng.
   And Rensselaer alumnus James Crowe '72 is now building a 23,000-mile advanced fiber optic network using internet technology that will change the underlying economics of communications.
   Crowe, president and CEO of Level 3 Communications, says his high-capacity, packet-switched, $9 billion network could ultimately cut the cost of voice communications by 90 percent.
   "We're bringing the economics of the computer business to the phone business," Crowe says.
   But IT is more than communications.
   With IT, doctors perform delicate computer-guided brain surgery. Chemists design drugs that may conquer Alzheimer's or AIDS. Scientists explore the landscape of Mars and chart the human genome. School children search the world's greatest libraries. Composers create major symphonies. Artists craft delightful animations.
   "At Ford, with all the computational capabilities we have, we essentially design, assemble, and road test the car far before any prototypes or any vehicles are ever built," says Ford Plant Manager James Firlit '78. "It's the IT infrastructure and the IT advancements that make this possible."
   IT has indeed changed the way we work and live.

IT'S WHAT YOU KNOW

Folks sometimes say, "It's not what you know, it's who you know."
   But don't be fooled. It's what you know-and how fast you can know it. But don't confuse information with data.
   Information is the world's most valuable commodity. And sometimes it's more difficult to unearth than gold or diamonds.
   We are smothered with data-tons and tons of sales data, scientific data, government data, financial data, geographic data, demographic data, historic data.
   But those mountains of data must be mined for essential pieces of information.
   For that, software engineers are developing effective, customized programs that sift through the data and grab hold of the specific information that is needed for rapid, intelligent decision-making.
   What you don't know can hurt, says AnneMarie Ferraro '90, quality engineering manager for MicroStrategy.
   Victoria's Secret Stores didn't know that, for instance, customers in the Miami area buy a particular line and color of product 10 times more often than another style. Or that one size sells out in New York City faster than anywhere else.
   Because all stores were treated alike and got the same sizes, styles, and colors, sales were lost. Products that were in great demand in one store were on the markdown table in another.
   "The figures were there-in a 200-gigabyte data warehouse. But it took four people 28 hours to gather the data, interpret it, and use it," says Ferraro.
   With IT software from MicroStrategy, Victoria's Secret Stores now knows in minutes exactly what products sell, where they are selling, where out-of-stock items can be found, and how well the company is doing with an advertising campaign.
   "That IT solution has saved Victoria's Secret several million dollars a year in unnecessary out-of-stock and markdown expenses alone," Ferraro says.

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