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Database

Developments

The main areas of database development currently being undertaken are:

  •  developments in the user interface
  • developments in technology
  • improvements to security.

 Developments in the user interface

The user interface is the way the software appears to us when it is run and the ease with which we interact with the computer.  In a graphical user interface, pictures (in the form of icons, buttons and dialogue boxes) are used to represent the input and output operations of a program.

Special object oriented programming languages are also being developed to improve the user interface and database connectivity (Java, Anna and Delphi).

Java is an object oriented programming language which supports programming for the Internet in the form of platform independent Java “applets”.  These applets may include connections to other Javascript programs that open a connection to a database server.  Java database connectivity is an application programming interface (API) for Java for connecting to and using databases.  Additional Java tools and libraries exist to provide portable interfaces between different operating systems.

The current developments in Java are meant more for the commercial software development community rather than for application developers.

Developments in technology

Improved telecommunications, for example the use of satellite and cable, has led to a worldwide free flow of information across computing networks.  The implications are serious both politically and legally.  The use of the Internet is one example where improved communications technology has allowed people to teleconference at the other side of the world, gain access to virtual museums they would be unlikely to visit and to access information at the touch of a key. 

All this has been made possible through technology such as high speed modems, faster processing power, fibre optic and broad band connections to allow high speed data transfer of images, sound and text.  Controversy exists as to who ‘polices’ this vast flow of information - governments? or the carriers such as British Telecom?  Should public bulletin boards be censored.

Due to faster processors and larger memory capacities, multimedia database use has increased in recent years.  A multimedia database system is one which stores images and sound as well as other related information.  These systems would include shoe-print recognition and fingerprint recognition as well as voice patterns and identikit photo technology.

Internet connections

Everyone on the Internet has a unique connection which enables them to communicate.  The Internet allows the user an opportunity to access databases of information on thousands of topics, as well as create and publish multimedia pages of their own for other people to view.  Accessing pages in one site may lead the user to request information and therefore make a connection in another (linked) system.  This web of information extraction requires powerful communication tools to facilitate the transfer.

Improvements to security

The two major concerns arising from shared usage of data are security and integrity.

As these linked databases become more powerful, there are greater implications regarding security and privacy for the individual.  Databases are being developed that, among individual records, can anticipate connections or establish new ones at any time.  Three of the largest databases in the United Kingdom are the Police National

Computer (linked to DVLC); the DHSS Social Security computer and the National TV License Records Computer.  There have been projects in the past, to link the computer networks of the Home Office, the DHSS, the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.  The following are some of the concerns raised by the public:

  • loss of privacy caused by vast amount of personal information held in database
  • the possible use (or misuse?) of information stored by governments and police
  • the exchange of information between databases and the generation of junk mail
  • what actual personal details are stored and for what purpose?
  • who has access to view this information
  • who has access to amend this information?
  • can unauthorised access be prevented?
  • what mechanisms are present to prevent information which is supplied for one use, from being used for another?


 

 



 

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