The Stephen M. Ross School of Business will host the seventh annual FuturTech conference tomorrow and Friday to showcase developments in business and technology.

Jeff Kao, director of marketing for the conference, said that in the future, the role of technology in business and people’s lives “will become increasingly pervasive. It will always be with us.”

FuturTech co-chair Neil Harrison described the conference as a group of leaders in technology and business coming together to “discuss the intersection between business and technology and to stimulate conversation on emerging technologies.”  

Harrison said he is expecting around 500 to 600 graduate and undergraduate students to attend.

On Friday afternoon, representatives from technology-sector companies, including Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Sprint, will be demonstrating some of their most recent products.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to ask the representatives questions and forge contacts with the companies.

Keynote speakers include Linda M. Dillman, executive vice president and chief information officer of Wal-Mart and Howard Handler, chief marketing officer of Virgin Mobile U.S.A.

To coincide with the conference, the Business school will present Dillman with the Women in Leadership Award for her achievements, such as making Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 most powerful women in 2004.

Past recipients of the award include University President Mary Sue Coleman and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Randy Medina, director of Web marketing for the conference, said he is looking forward to Dillman’s speech because he considers Wal-Mart to be on the forefront of information service technology.

Kao said information service technology is the management of behind-the-scenes technology — from the desktops that employees use to tracking consumer product preference.

Medina added that he is interested to hear what Dillman has in mind for the future of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

Handler, a Business School alum, is known as a marketer for brands targeting Generation Y — those born between 1974 and 1994.

The brands Handler has promoted include the National Football League, MTV and Saturday Night Live.

He is also known for the launch of Beavis and Butthead.

Harrison said Handler is an expert on the “challenges and differences in marketing to Generation Y.”

The conference will feature a number of informative panels about nanotechnology, radio frequency identification, hydrogen-fueled technology, personalized medicine and sports technology.

Kao is particularly interested in the nanotechnology panel because of the University and southeast Michigan’s deep involvement with the industry.

The conference was brought together through the collaborative efforts of the Business school, the College of Engineering and the School of Information.

Many other groups from the University helped organize the event, including the High-Tech Club, the Operations Management Club, the Women in Business Initiative and Net Impact.

Company sponsors include Sprint, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Citigroup, Infosys and Unisys, Ecolab, Diamond Cluster, and the Ross School of Business.

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