The Hidden Hardware of The Virtual World

Virtual representations of almost any aspect of our lives can be found if you look hard enough. Some are right in front of you. Second Life? World of Warcraft? Virtual worlds. Some day all of our daily business will conducted by our agents, or avatars as most people refer to their non-corporeal selves.

A far away day dream? I don’t think so. Many companies encourage video conferencing instead of travel. Your on screen image is dangerously close to being replaced completely by an avatar of your self meeting with other avatars in virtual meeting rooms. Trust me, as soon as the technology reaches the cost/benefit critical point, you will be there.

In the security business I use access control software (WinPak) that uses virtual representations within the graphical user interface of the actual hardware devices installed. Why? Because a system can become so complex that it would be almost impossible to administer it without some sort of GUI between you and it. By using virtual representations of the system components, the system becomes ‘user friendly’. These days, customers take it for granted that this will in fact be the case.

One of the newest emerging technologies is the virtual CCTV system. In fact, we are already installing it. The technology just gets better and better. No more VCRs or DVRs, now cameras are actually ‘data gathering devices’ and our job is to manage the information database that these devices grow by the second. Video Management Systems (VMS) are data management software platforms that get this job done. And guess what? Virtual representations of system components are rampant! Why? Because when you you have 16 remote CCTV systems and 256- 512┬ácameras, you need that GUI to make the system understandable and user friendly. Heck, you need the GUI just to make sure the system network structure is intact and humming along.

As much as I enjoy playing with the virtual, my true calling is the specifying and configuring of the systems that make it APPEAR virtual. If the system is intuitive, user friendly and has a shallow learning curve, you have done the right thing. There is no need for users to know about all those servers, switches, routers, VPN concentrators, service providers and armies of highly paid and trained technicians that are hiding just beyond their peripheral vision. Just as long as the symbols are green, and when they turn red, we make them go back to green.

See you in Second Life.

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