Customer care is the key to the future for companies, and if security and privacy issues are not successfully resolved, customers will begin charging for the information that they hand out freely now. At least that's the view of futurologist James Canton, president of the Institute for Global Futures in San Francisco.

Speaking at a CIO (chief information officer) forum on board a cruise ship off the coast of New York, Canton warned that a revolt may be in store among customers whose information may be compromised via security breaches.

"How about customers charging you for the personalised data ... that we collect [now] for free?" Canton asked. Customers might 'band together' and collectively charge for the use of their information. "It'll be called," he said, and people will expect discounts and other compensation for information about themselves.

This scenario is likely "if we don't get there first", Canton said, referring to meeting the challenge of security and privacy breaches.

Going forward, Canton said some of the other major challenges facing IT executives are: developing on-demand supply chains; CRM (the dreaded customer relationship management, for which read making you hang on in hold queues, forcing you to speak to computers and deal with touchtone menus, and so on); and embracing nanotechnology, which includes new IT building blocks that range from photons and Qubits to chips that may have one billion transistors.

The IT chief's role in all of this is "to challenge the assumptions about the future of the business", Canton said.

One initiative he suggested during a question and answer period with the more than 200 CIO-level executives present is to develop "an internal think tank", that should be composed of product development managers and representatives from customer-facing groups. There should also be "monthly focus groups with leading customers", he said. "Who [else] is going to lead you to the future?