For the third consecutive year, information security - the processes and procedures designed to protect information technology systems from internal and external threats - has remained the country's No. 1 technology concern, according to the results of the 2005 Top Technologies Survey of the American Institute of CPAs.

The poll, now in its 16th year, attempts to define the 10 most important technology-critical issues for the upcoming year. This year's poll surveyed some 300 participants, 30 percent more than the number surveyed in the 2004 poll.

"Because our work and personal lives are now inextricably linked to information systems, security will always be top of mind," said Roman Kepczyk, CPA/CITP, chair of the AICPA's Information Technology Executive Committee.

Predictably, in second place for 2005 was document management - reflecting the snowballing trend toward a paperless (or less-paper) office. Electronic document management captures, indexes, stores retrieves and manages documents in such formats as Adobe's PDF.

Data integration - the ability to update one field and have it automatically synchronize between multiple databases - finished as the third most-cited technology issue. Data integration also involves the application-neutral exchange of information - such as the increased use of the Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, by companies worldwide - which provides for an exchange and aggregation of financial data using different applications to read, present and analyze data.

The remaining Top 10 technology issues for 2005 were:

4. Spam technology: The use of technology to reduce or eliminate the unwanted e-mail commonly known as spam.

5. Disaster recovery: The development, monitoring and updating of the process by which organizations plan for continuity of their business in the event of a loss of business information resources through theft, virus/malware infestation, weather damage, accidents or other malicious destruction. Disaster recovery includes business continuation, contingency planning, and disk recovery technologies and processes.

6. Collaboration and messaging applications: Applications that allow users to communicate electronically, including e-mail, voice mail, universal messaging, instant messaging, e-mailed voice messages and digital faxing. Examples include, among other things, a computer conference using the keyboard (a keyboard chat) over the Internet between two or more people.

7. Wireless technologies: The transfer of voice or data from one machine to another via the airwaves and without physical connectivity. Examples include cellular, satellite, infrared, Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G, 2-way paging, CDMA, Wireless/ WiMax and others.

8. Authentication technologies: New to the Top 10 list, this comprises the hardware, software, processes and procedures to protect a person's privacy and identity from internal and external threats, including digital identity, privacy and biometric authentication.

9. Storage technologies: Also new to the AICPA list this year, storage area networks include mass storage, CD-recordable, DVD, data compression, near-field recording, electronic document storage and network attached storage, or NAS, as well as small personal storage devices like USB drives.

10. Learning and training competency (end users): The methodology and curriculum by which personnel learn to understand and use technology. This includes measuring competency, learning plans to increase the knowledge of individuals, and hiring and retaining qualified personnel with career opportunities that retain the stars.

Each year the institute also compiles a "watch list" list of emerging technologies that are currently flying just below the radar screen but have the potential to impact businesses and individuals in the ensuing 24 to 36 months.

The top three emerging technologies for 2005 are:

1. Radio frequency identification: Silicon chips and an antenna that transmits data to a wireless receiver could one day be used to track everything from soda cans to cereal boxes. Unlike bar codes that need to be scanned manually and read, RFID tags do not require line-of-sight for reading. Within the field of a wireless reading device, it is possible to automatically read hundreds of tags a second.

2. Search: Companies like Google, Apple Computer and Microsoft are putting research and development resources into new ways of pinpointing digital files that do not require wading through directories of folders.

3. Fuel cells: Methanol-powered fuel cells represent an exciting alternative to aging battery technology that will help users complete the "everything wireless" puzzle.

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