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Push Technology: History, Facts, and Resources

Gathered these Facts

What is Push Technology?

Intelligent push technology, known also simply as push technology, server push, or Webcasting, is a category of software that delivers internet-based content to users automatically, at prescribed intervals or based on user-identified criteria. This is in contrast to traditional “pull” technology where users conduct a web browser search in order to “pull” information they seek. They then wait for the server or publisher to locate that information and deliver it. In push technology, action is initiated by the server. In pull technology, users initiate the action.

Both push and pull protocols can operate periodically or a-periodically. Periodic delivery of information means that the process occurs at a fixed or pre-arranged schedule. A periodic delivery is driven by an “event.” Examples of events are requests for data in the case of pull and data updates in the case of push. Software that delivers news headlines to a desktop on a regular basis is a periodic push. Search by a user for news headlines of the day is a periodic pull.

Push technology applications became the rage during the 1990s when they were advanced by both Microsoft and Netscape, creating a stir of excitement and anticipation regarding their potential. Amongst the oldest and most rudimentary forms of direct-delivery push technology are email and list-servs. More recent applications of push technology include cell phones, instant messaging, pagers, online conferencing, social networking sites and web chats, where messaging services push files to users’ screens as soon as they are received. In addition, programs push data to users in the form of stock tickers, online sports results, peer-to-peer programs, and many more. In the wireless world, the original BlackBerry was the first instance of email push technology.

What are the Advantages of Push Technology?

The advantages of push technology are clear:
1. Targeted information is delivered conveniently straight to users’ screens according to their direction.

2. Automation “old-school” search-and-retrieve methods, push technology saves not only time and effort, but circumvents the frustrating experience of obtaining irrelevant search results.

3. In the financial industry, where time-sensitive information and updates can make the difference between earning and losing thousands of dollars, push technology is a gold mine, wherein nuggets of valuable information is gleaned from the murky rivers of useless data.

What is the Best Use for Push Technology?

Push technology can be a useful tool in many markets. Clients can subscribe to sites and specify exactly what information they want to receive. The unique and popular feature is that information that the receiver desires will reach him or her immediately. Information is ‘pushed’ to the receiver without the receiver having to request information repeatedly. Push technology is used in businesses and universities in the form of current intranet systems. The medical world also uses push technology to keep clinicians up to date with patient progress. Scientists and designers also use push technology to share research. Stock markets and betting results can also be tracked using push technology. The advertising world uses push technology to broaden its horizons.

Benefit of Allowing Software to Get Automatic Upgrades

One of the best uses of push technology is the ability of computer software providers to provide automatic upgrades and virus prevention without the user even knowing. With push technology, the gates remain open after initial information sending. The server can send and receive feedback from the receiver repeatedly. This means that customers will be able to have the latest computer software available without having to ‘queue’ for it.

Benefit of Having Filtering Systems

Filtering systems allow the server to only send out relevant information. Universities and businesses use push technology to let employees and students know the instant any policies, assignments or other information changes. Push technology also allows lecturers to send individualized information such as grades to relevant parties in a confidential and secure manner. In a recent study of the use of push technology in a university setting, 181 students used a push technology system to keep them up to date with classes. The system was found to have increased student performance especially with students on highly interactive courses. In an age where Web based universities, such as Jones International University and California Virtual University are being established with growing popularity, push technology is a vital tool for learning.

Benefit of Increasing Speeds of Downloading Images

Push technology also speeds up the process of downloading images on screen. It does this by sending large amounts of information to the receiver’s computer before the receiver has requested further information. For example, if a server offers a client a link to a video clip, the server can also send the information needed to view the clip. As soon as the link is clicked, the receiver has access to the clip. No uploading time is required. Push technology allows servers to send more colorful, image-packed messages than traditional pull technology is able to do. In advertising, this is a great benefit.

The medical world has benefited in a variety of ways from push technology. In a recent paper on pharmaceutical development, scientists praised developments in technology such as push technology. These technologies provide new ways to share research among scientists in relevant fields.

Benefit For Hospitals and Clinics

In hospitals and clinics, doctors are able to view patient files instantly. Because of the nature of push technology, it is possible to view graphs and charts on screens very clearly and rapidly. Also, information can be sent directly from monitors to clinicians. Heart monitors act as servers that page doctors when heart rates fall or rise. Push technology also allows rapid notification of lab results. Clinicians can request and receive information on drug availability in hospital stores. Systems can be put in place to alert doctors of less expensive pharmaceuticals available. Push technology systems can also be set up to send reminders and to check drug-drug interactions when doctors make drug requests. Push technology can effectively cut down on human error in medicine.

Benefit For Corporations

More sophisticated applications of intelligent push technology can be found in the corporate world and at the institutional level, where professionals are able to create and customize data profiles, in essence “ordering” to their computers up-to-date, relevant information at regular intervals. Alternatively, they can choose push applications that run all day in the background of their screen. Users can choose from several “channels” – or content deliverers – that provide data such as news updates, quotes of the day, financial newsflashes and stock quotes, weather forecasts, and much more.

In corporate intranet systems, companies use push technology to deliver the latest company news to its employees’ screens, from human resource announcements to industry-related select information. For example, push technology can broadcast competitor trends to marketing company employees. For companies whose employees use Web Browsing or “pulling” information on a regular basis, push technology offers great advantages as valuable time spent searching can now be spent putting information to use. As a result, accuracy, efficiency and productivity increase, deadlines are more easily met, and work and worker quality and value are enhanced.

Negatives of Push Technology

However, while there are many attributes to push technology, so too are there potential drawbacks. Without specificity in information requests or in user profiles, push technology can poorly predict user interests and deliver irrelevant information, as well as unwanted advertisements. Servers can be overrun with requests, and abuse of the technology can result in spamming. In addition, push technology requires a great deal of bandwidth space, which carries the potential to clog networks, slow down system flow, and wear down cell phone batteries. Individual PCs and company networks may not have bandwidths that can handle this additional stream of data traffic.

Resources about Push Technology

Powerpoint Presentation about Push Technology

Nancie Mack’s article titled “Push technology: ‘must-have’ or ‘ho-hum?”

Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Push Technology For Scalable Networked Services

PDF What is Push Technology?