With 2012 just around the corner, the JofA gathered the three technology keynote speakers from the AICPA’s 2011 Practitioners Symposium/TECH+ Conference to talk about tech trends heading into the new year. The nearly 90-minute conversation covered a wide range of technical issues critical to all CPAs.
Participating in the call were:
- David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, aka Inspector Gadget, a principal with Arxis Technology.
- Randy Johnston, executive vice president of both Network Management Group Inc. and K2 Enterprises.
- Rick Richardson, CPA/CITP, founder and CEO of Richardson Media & Technologies.
Moderating the call were:
- J. Carlton Collins, technology and accounting systems consultant and author of the JofA’s monthly Technology Q&A column.
- Jeff Drew, senior editor covering technology for the JofA.
The JofA is presenting the online version of the conversation in 10 installments released over a nearly two-month span. Each part focuses on one major topic and features audio clips from the conversation. Part two focuses on the panelists’ favorite new technologies on, or about to hit, the market.
The complete schedule is available at the bottom of this article and at journalofaccountancy.com/tech.
Audio: Click here to listen to Rick Richardson discuss his favorite new technology.
Collins: What’s your favorite technology that’s new this year? Rick, why don’t you start us off?
Richardson: Near-field communications (NFC). It’s here in Japan in a big way because they have a unified telephone system, and all the carriers use the same protocol. Here in the U.S., we haven’t been able to do that yet, but what near-field will do is allow users to swipe their smartphone in front of an NFC terminal and pay for almost anything, from a Big Mac to, say, a new suit of clothes. It’s probably going to be at least a year or two before we see near-field communication terminals showing up everywhere, but in the interim, they’re going to start showing up. And as they do, the ability to begin not carrying even the credit card any longer is going to have a major impact on us.
Collins: Wow, that’s cool, Rick. Isn’t near-field communication like RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, but just has a shorter range—say, about 6 inches—so it’s safer?
Richardson: Generally speaking, you could say that. There are some other security issues in the NFC protocols that are a little different.
Audio: Click here to listen to Randy Johnston and David Cieslak discuss their favorite new technologies on, or about to hit, the market.
Collins: OK, all right. What’s your new favorite technology, Randy?
Johnston: Well, Carlton, I would suggest that the ultrabook is probably my favorite new technology. The idea here is much like the MacAir (MacBook Air) broke into this new space and now has been updated with the MacAir 2. You’ve got vendors—like Asus, with their UX21, and HP—that have comparable format computers that are about half the price point of the MacAir, pretty much with the same features and comparable fees. So these ultrathin, ultralight netbook, notebook replacements might be high on my list.
Probably the second favorite that has been around a little bit longer are some of the very lightweight mobile monitors for auditors. Field Monitor Pro is a good example of this. The big names like Sharp and Toshiba also have these monitors that are about the size and thickness of a typical laptop monitor, which allows you to get to the field with two monitors in very, very little space.
Collins: All right. Exciting, exciting stuff. How about you, Dave?
Cieslak: Well, and I’m going to—at the risk of being very obvious on this one, I’m going to just go ahead and say the Apple iPad 2, and recognizing that’s not brand-new technology. Then I would say that in terms of just catching on and how folks are adopting them and looking to deploy them, clearly there’s just so much buzz around the Apple iPad, the iPad 2. I just think that it’s very much hitting its stride right now, so (I’m) very excited to see not only the device doing well, but all the apps that are springing up around it. And it’s really creating a lot of excitement around technology that, honestly, just feels like it maybe has waned in most recent years. So I would say the iPad 2 and some of the accessories that go around that.
And then also, to complement that, just some of the high-speed data connectivity options for that. So specifically something like the MiFi, which is a 4G device allowing us to do really broadband-speed-type communications with any one of our portable devices—laptops, tablets and so forth.
Collins: Hey, I like both those devices you mentioned, Dave, but you know, the iPad 2 has a fatal flaw, and that is that my wife and kids keep going into my computer bag and pulling it out, and I can never find it when I need it. It’s a problem. The MiFi device that you mentioned, Dave, do you see smartphones replacing the need for a MiFi device, or do you think that smartphones will always need an external MiFi device to provide that type of connection for other users?
Cieslak: Great question, Carlton. I think the concern, or at least the challenge so far, if we are looking potentially for the cellphone to be that MiFi or act in that kind of MiFi capacity or act as a hotspot with that—so, say you get a cellphone that’s got a 4G data plan that goes with it, and you want to turn that into a hotspot to support some of the other devices you’re working with, it tends to burn through the battery pretty darn quickly. In fact, so quickly that it really starts cutting into the usefulness of the phone as a phone. And not only that, many of the phones, the way they’re designed, when it’s acting as a hotspot, you’re actually unable to use it as a phone. So it kind of on two fronts tends to quickly limit the usefulness of the phone, if you’re really going to look to the phone’s 4G capability as your Wi-Fi hotspot.