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Will you be cutting-edge connected?

By Charlie Bess, HP Labs Fellow


We live in a world of abundance: information, computing power, networking, and digital storage—robust computing factories otherwise known as the cloud. We also have an abundance of creativity and apps.


Yet within these fields of abundance are chokepoints of scarcity. It’s this scarcity that can stifle your competitiveness or—glass half-full—provide you with the opportunity to race ahead of your competition.


Too much data, or not enough context?

One element of scarcity is visibility through analytics. We have the capability to gather massive volumes of information, yet we often lack the ability to process and make effective use of it. After all, people don’t make decisions based on data; they make decisions based on the context in which the data appears. To exploit this abundance, we must redefine the twin tasks of managing and exploiting information with large-scale, real time business intelligence.  Clear Globe.JPG


Example: we can analyze conversations within the organization by developing technology that acts as a participant in the exchange. These conversation managers contextualize information in messaging flows and alert participants to relevant information from others. This can curb duplicative efforts and wasted resources while heightening responsiveness.


The brain’s maximum capacity

Another area of scarcity is the human attention span, or the limits of the human mind to absorb and process additional information. The maximum amount of information a person can handle before becoming overwhelmed is known as the “hrair” limit. Usually  measured at seven plus or minus two streams of information, it’s unique.  When a person exceeds their hrair limit, not only are they incapable of absorbing new information, they no longer have the capacity to process the information they were perfectly capable of handling before the limit was breached.


Exploiting scarcity is one of the primary objectives at HP Labs. How are we doing this?

  • By developing technologies that can analyze and detect relevant data flowing from social networks and delivering that targeted information to those who need it in a format they can consume.
  • By taming power requirements with data centers that can harness prevailing winds and computing devices that generate energy from a variety of physical means.
  • By creating a planetary nervous system with millions of nano-sensors embedded in the earth to generate accurate seismic information.
  • Or by developing sensors that can detect and analyze temperature, vibration, chemical reactions and light exposure to minimize spoilage and waste of products.



Yet perhaps the most profound of these innovations is the “memristor,” an HP Labs innovation that was announced in 2008. A new electronic element, somewhat like a variable resistor with sophisticated memory properties, memristors pave the way for tiny, powerful computers that can simulate biological networks.


These devices have the capability to store and retrieve a vast array of intermediate values beyond the binary 1s and 0s conventional chips utilize. This allows memristors to function like nerve synapses, making them ideal for artificial intelligence applications ranging from machine vision to understanding speech. The breakthrough represents a fundamental shift in computing circuitry; one so profound it will shake organizational structures and processes for decades to come.


Trust your hunches

HP’s Services Lab is researching the foundation of how business decisions can and should be made. Many business decisions are idiosyncratic and unrepeatable. They are based on hunches, or a spontaneous scribble on the back of an envelope. New technologies emerging from this research area promises to change the whole decision-making process by applying scientific and mathematical rigor. By delivering powerful, real-time business intelligence, we can efficiently harness abundance, and overcome the challenges of scarcity.


For more on these innovations, watch my Innovation INSIGHT webcast, HP Labs' Big Bets for the Future . And join me in continuing the innovation conversation in the Innovation INSIGHT LinkedIn Discussion group and The Next Big Thing blog.

| ‎09-03-2011 12:25 PM

Roy, I agree with you completely that understanding how people in various roles make decisions should be part of the strategic approach to cloud computing. I am talking about activities up the value chain of cloud (IaaS -> PaaS -> SaaS -> BPaaS (BPO)), not the infrastructure deployment automation that is taking up so much of the cloud mental model of today.


In this world of abundance (data, networking, computing, applications...) we do need to start thinking differently. When something is available in abundance you need to think less about how much you use and more about what kind of value can be generated. This shift can be difficult to make, and I think we'd probably all agree that most of the software and systems that have been written to date have been based upon an assumption of scarcity.


One thing we need to keep in mind is that automation can let us do stupid things just as fast as great things. Governance and rules need to be defined to facilitate "the right things".




Forgive me but I cannot read your entire article as I only get to see the first few lines. Maybe you could repost it as a comment so it's shown in full?

Your question seems to be more about how humans think than what technical devices can reveal. In fact, if we look at inductive reasoning we could show easily how humans make common decision errors.

I may be barking up the wrong tree as I cannot see your full article but it seems to me we all need to step back and consider how humans engage in the act of decision making and whether things like the Internet are clearing the way to new forms of organizational awareness, and requisite organizational decision making processes that have never before been possible? This is the exciting consequence of Cloud I see coming over the horizon; low cost edge devices connecting through browsers to a DC means developing Nations can take part in information flows that allow ideas to move faster and wider than ever before.

For an example of such potency, look at the uprisings in the Middle East and the role mobile phones and the Internet have played in making 'outsiders' aware and to bring political and other pressures to bear in pursuit of social justice. Twenty years ago we would probably never have been aware of any such uprisings. So we can see examples of how technology is changing the political landscape at the national levels.

Maybe something similar is happening at the organizational level, or could happen there. The point of saying this is to get us to step back from a focus on technology-as-device and to consider technology-as-intelligence and whether we are not living in an era that is comparable to the Industrial Revolution? If organizations are not looking at how new technologies can change their ways-of-being then they may miss the opportunity to adapt and survive in an ecological sense.

Please do share the full article and if my enthusiasm turns out to be misguided folly, then forgive me. I just thought the question was interesting and wanted to play my part; now back to delivery and the real world of HP (;-)

Best wishes


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