Most of us watch for technology trends and forecasts about what kinds of advancements are around the corner. Showcasing the latest and greatest - and predicting what's to come - are big reasons why magazines like Wired and Popular Mechanics are so, well, popular.
But once the overhyped gadgetry and consumer electronics are stripped away, what core technologies are changing - or will change - the way government business gets done? Government Technology decided to find out by asking the people who build the technologies of today and tomorrow.
What follows are conversations with industry leaders who offer insight into technology trends important now and glimpses of what will be important in the future - and how these technology trends will change government.
The dream of the paperless office, at least on the public-sector side, is dead. Until every American has unfettered Web access, paper documents will always remain. So until some yet-undiscovered solution is found, numerous technology firms are rolling out products that can help paper over the paper problem.
One such firm, not surprisingly, is HP. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is currently promoting its Exstream line of document automation solutions. According to Scott Draeger, manager of product strategy at HP, the company sees a future where document management is done in the cloud.
That involves moving one of HP's strengths into the mobile workspace - printing. In mid-April, HP and Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, announced HP ePrint, an enterprise printing solution that allows BlackBerry users to print an array of documents directly from the smartphone, with or without wires.
"EPrint is what we call cloud printing. And cloud printing from the BlackBerry is going to change the way a number of people work," said Gary Rodgers, HP's worldwide market development consultant. "It's going to make things a lot easier for people."
With any new enterprise technology, the IT security guys tend to be wary. But Rodgers said security was an important component of ePrint's development.
"Of course everyone is concerned about security and the way our ePrint solution works. It takes advantage of an organization's existing BlackBerry environment, so their current environment is secure when they use ePrint," he said. "It doesn't alter that environment or open it up to any kind of security risk. So it adopts their existing security structure."
In addition to printing from a mobile phone, HP intends to capitalize on printing in another dimension. With the success of 3-D movies and the much-hyped arrival of 3-D TVs, it's only natural that 3-D is making its way to ... printers? Actually 3-D printing - which is really the process of creating plastic models from computer-aided drafting designs - was first developed in the 1990s by a Minnesota-based company called Stratasys. Back then, 3-D printers were as large as they were expensive. In late April, however, Stratasys and Hewlett-Packard announced the launch of a jointly created and more reasonably priced 3-D printer - the HP Designjet 3D - a 120-pound device with a price tag around $17,500. While created primarily for product prototyping, 3-D printing can be applied to fields like science and medicine that would benefit from having tangible models available. Some even speculate that 3-D printers might one day be able to churn out replacement human organs.
Sophisticated performance measures will help public officials deliver.
Back in the mid-1990s the New York City Police Department began using an organizational management and crime reduction tool it called CompStat. Now adopted by law enforcement agencies around the nation, CompStat pioneered the use of data analytics to measure and improve performance, as well as identify and prevent crime. The system was rudimentary, consisting largely of pins on