4 hot markets, or just hype?

Editor Nick Wakeman explores four areas that are repeatedly being mentioned by companies as potential markets. Can they live up to expectations?

I’ve had several interesting meetings with different companies over the last couple months.

Nothing that has developed into a full-blown story, but certain themes have popped up more than once that I thought were worth sharing.

1. Cybersecurity
I’ve had experts from both Accenture and QinetiQ compare the current state of cybersecurity to automobile safety in the 1960s when government mandates for safer cars were first making an appearance.
The safety features were often bolted on after the design of the car was completed, which explains how many cars from that era, including the 1970 Chevy Impala my brothers and I drove to school, had massive bumpers. The result was some ugly cars.
The cybersecurity lesson is that if you want software that works the way it was intended and is secure, security needs to be part of the design and development phase.
Another parallel is that for decades, cars were designed so that the car survived the crash, which meant that the force of the impact was felt by the occupants, who even in 25-mile-per-hour crashes were suffering serious injuries or worse.
Today’s cars are designed with the idea that the car is expendable, the occupants are not. Hence the crumple zones that collapse on impact rather than resisting it.
It was a different way of thinking about how you design a car.
The lesson: You need to design your system knowing that it will be attacked and it will crash. You have to design for the survivability of the mission of the system, whether that means protecting data or figuring out a way for transactions to continue.
Your system might crash, but your mission survives.

2. Soft Power or Smart Power
I’m hearing those two terms being used interchangeably. The idea is to stabilize countries before they fall into chaos and become the next hot bed for terrorism.
This means building the infrastructure – roads, schools, hospitals and other government services – that a stable country relies on to function.
I’ve heard executives from companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton, ManTech, CACI, and Lockheed Martin talk about this emerging market opportunity. The Defense and State departments are increasing their spending on this type of work.
What remains to be seen is where do we start? The United States can’t go into every country in need, so many in industry are carefully watching the Obama administration to see where the priorities will be.

3. Climate Change
More companies are moving beyond green information technology into a more holistic view of green. This means not just figuring out ways to make your data center run cooler, but managing resources more efficiently. How does $4 a gallon gas – you know it is going to come back again – impact an agency’s mission?
Just think about how important smarter energy management is for the military, which needs to move people and equipment at a moment’s notice.

4. Digital Signage
Yes, I’m talking about those fancy scoreboards and flashing displays at sports arenas. But if you talk to Harris or Cisco Systems or even a small company such as the Whitlock Group of Richmond, Va., digital signage has great potential in the government market.
Think about being able to broadcast important messages, such as a fire, terrorist attack or other incident, instantly to TV screens in your building. The messages could be customized to the specific location of the screen, such as giving directions how the best way to exit the building.
Video is the future of communications, so the smarter you can manage those systems the more effective your operation becomes. That’s the sales pitch anyway.

So those are four markets that been rattling around in my head.

Tell me what am I missing?