Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.
Group Editorial Director
My favorite TV commercial lately is the one from Nike where the guy is jogging through a downtown area on what is obviously New Year`s Day of the year 2000. How can you tell? The stoplights don`t work; cars are smashing into each other; police are out in riot gear; a missile goes careening through the sky. And through all this chaos, the guy jogs along, oblivious, except to give a quick ritual greeting to another jogger whom he passes. The tagline is obvious: "Just do it."
That`s the way I`ve begun to feel about the dawning of the Third Millennium. Once all the hoopla is over, when the ball has dropped in Times Square on New Year`s Eve, and the phones still work, it will quickly be back to business as usual.
Even so, it never hurts to stop and take a quick look around, breathing deeply, just as the jogger finally does in the Nike commercial. What are we likely to see when we pause and take stock? I provide a comprehensive review of my thoughts in the supplement "Technology for the New Millennium"--which has been mailed with this issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance--as do my fellow editors at PennWell`s Communications & Optoelectronics Group of high-technology publications.
However, just in case the Y2K bug bites the sorting machine at our printer, let me briefly summarize those thoughts here. Here`s what I think we in the cabling industry have to look forward to in the first decade of the 21st century:
•Continued double-digit economic growth
•Increasing competitiveness among contractors
•Emergence of licensing, registration, and certification of installers
•Internationalization of cabling- industry standards
•Battling between fiber-optic and copper technologies for the marketplace
•Development of a residential cabling market
•Growth of the Internet as a key component of enterprise networking
•Convergence of all low-voltage wiring markets, including security/ surveillance, fire/life safety, and building/home automation, as well as voice, video, and data.
Does this list sound a little familiar? It should. We at the magazine have been hammering away at it for almost four years now. In fact, I first discussed this same list of cabling-industry trends at the inaugural Cabling Installation Expo show in Charlotte, NC, in October 1996.
One of the really nice things I`ve noticed about the cabling industry is that there`s some degree of continuity, or stability, or predictability, to it. I don`t mean that the cabling industry isn`t growing. It is, and it`s growing fast. It`s also very dynamic, as are most high-tech industries, and it`s changing rapidly.
Even so, it`s evolving predictably. The cabling industry revolves around a certain limited set of issues, or the solutions to a finite set of problems, if you want to look at it that way. I think this fact is very comforting for those of us in the industry: not just the journalists and analysts who cover it, but also for the manufacturers and distributors who provide products, the contractors and consultants who supply services, and the network and cable-plant managers who must decide what to put in next--and then pay for and use it.
The overall structure or framework within which the cabling industry operates is more than just a comfortable fact of life, however. It literally allows business to take place. It provides a skeleton supporting our day-to-day activities, just as our body`s framework supports the many metabolic and physiological processes taking place within it.
This idea struck me forcefully as I was thinking about what I would say in the "Technology for the New Millennium" supplement. The reason it came to me, I think, is that I am also the editor of another publication, OSP Engineering & Construction, for which predictions for the next millennium were also due. This publication covers public-network outside-plant (OSP) infrastructure; I realized that there`s not very much predictable about that OSP market right now.
For that reason alone, the OSP market is not an easy one to be in right now. Vendors and their customers alike are inclined to sit back and wait, to see what`s going to happen before committing major resources to new ventures.
I`m glad the same is not true of the premises and campus cabling industry. Although a much younger industry than the OSP market, paradoxically, ours seems like the more stable and mature marketplace right now. And that`s an important consideration as we move ahead into the Third Millennium and a new decade, when so much else around us seems uncertain.