The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Displaying articles for: November 2013

Thanksgiving ‘13

unlimited data.pngIt’s good every once in a while to think about being thankful for what we have and the possibilities of what we can do. In the United States, that is the foundation for our Thanksgiving holiday.


There is a technological feast before us that can make a significant difference in the enterprise over the next couple of years. Just take a few moments to savor the possibilities…


For those in the technology space (who like to learn new things) we can be thankful for the abundance of possibilities opening up, to apply technology in new and different ways for business. Those interested in security have a great deal of opportunity to be grateful for as well.


For dessert in December, I’ll be posting my trends and predictions for 2014.



Next generation manufacturing

animated_cloud_factory_22924.gifIndustry 4.0 is a project of the German government to promote the automation of traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal is to implement intelligent factories (Smart Factory) that are adaptable, efficient and deliver a high quality product. They are also integrated up and down the supply chain. The approach is based on cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.


I saw a blog post from earlier in the year titled: The Future of Manufacturing: Industry 4.0, that seemed to be a good example of a large scale approach to the issues of automation, an industry and the government issues associated with it. Many are concerned that when automation takes place that the only jobs left for the masses will involve fast-food. The other point of view is the advent of mass custom manufacturing.


The United States, an initiative known as the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition that is also working on the future of manufacturing.

Stanene – a new material for high performance computing?

graphene.jpgLike many, I am taking most of this week off as vacation. But I did come across one surprising article that I had to comment on. I’ve mentioned before the future and impact of graphene. Now, the two-dimensional trend is taking a look at Tin (Stanene).


This material could “increase the speed and lower the power needs of future generations of computer chips, if our prediction is confirmed by experiments that are underway in several laboratories around the world,” said team leader Shoucheng Zhang, a physics professor at Stanford and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES), a joint institute with SLAC.


What is interesting is the possibility of 100% electrical efficiency at temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius.


Starting to feel like I am reading about Flatland.

Common skills in IT and getting your point across

direction.jpgThere are many changes taking place in technology some of them are foundational and make us rethink our efforts from scratch, some are more incremental and be changes to capabilities we have only recently been using – like cloud.


A variety of skills are needed to address this degree of change, but some seem to be universal:

  • 3rd party management is now core to the IT organization,
  • The effective definition of Proof of Concepts (PoC) is also an expectation.
  • Communications

There are changes in so many areas in IT, that the ability to fire many bullets rather than a single cannonball at the problem is critical. Understanding the impact on your business rather than business in general is important.


Equally important is the ability to explain to others the importance of a particular technology or effort.


Last night I went to the University of North Texas to help review a number of student’s senior projects. They had to present what was essentially the culmination of their efforts that semester. Here are a couple of feedback items that were common to all the presentations:

1)      They all used too many slides – don’t be a slave to PowerPoint

2)      Make sure you state your conclusion or what you’d like the audience to take out of the material up front and then justify that perspective and state it again at the end. There were a couple of presentations that even after they were complete I had to ask – so what?

3)      Know your audience – some questions can be differed some cannot. Tailor the presentation to the audience’s needs, not the presenter’s. If you fail to communicate – everyone loses.


It is of no value to have the greatest ideas in the world and not get the buy-in of those you’ll need to make it happen.


I do wonder when/how we can apply some of the abundance of technology around us to addressing some of these common needs.

Start thinking about HTTP 2.0 early

http.pngOne of the changes on the horizon that I’ve not paid too much attention to but will impact the services space is: HTTP 2.0. Most organizations today are using HTTP 1.1 and since that dates back to 1999, it is getting rather long in the tooth.


Some of the areas trying to be addressed in this update are performance and security.  There are efforts underway today (like SPDY) to improve the existing HTTP, and these are only recently being supported by some of the mainstream browsers. The foundation they defined is being used though to move forward.


If the standards effort progresses as defined, HTTP 2.0 will be faster, safer, and be more efficient than HTTP 1.1. Most of these changes will actually take place behind the scenes, so for the user they will upgrade their browser and have HTTP 2.0 capabilities and have to wait for the servers to provide the improved functionality.

For companies though capabilities like server push, enabling HTTP servers to send multiple responses (in parallel) for a single client request -- significant improvements are possible.



“An average page requires dozens of additional assets, such as JavaScript, CSS, and images, and references to all of these assets are embedded in the very HTML that the server is producing!”


So for HTTP interfaces, instead of waiting for the client to discover references to needed resources, the server could sent all of them immediately as soon as you know they’ll be needed. Server push can eliminate entire roundtrips of unnecessary network latency. With user interface responsiveness being an important satisfaction criteria for users this could be a differentiator for a service, especially if it is turned to the network bandwidth available.


For businesses, there is a bit of work to do, since porting environments between HTTP servers requires a great deal of testing, even if you have not yet architected a solution to newer functionality. Microsoft and others have put out new server software so organizations can get their feet wet now, while the standards are still solidifying.

Even more on technical leadership

leadership.pngLast month I wrote a brief post titled Revisiting technical leadership. I actually got quite a bit of interaction around it so it made me think that people want more of this kind of material.


Here is a presentation titled The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader that may be of interest. Twenty one is a bit far past anyone’s hrair limit, but is still useful. Technical leaders can have broad influence far beyond just what they do, since they are an example for others.

Labels: Context| Leadership

Pushing peoples music buttons

Producer Clams Casino will turn your comments into beats live on his HP Split x2 Ultrabook, to show the world how next generation music is made!  Join us on Monday and Tuesday, 18 – 19 November, to participate in this unprecedented experience.



Leave a comment and help him write music history.

More tactile user interface possibilities

On there isa post titled: MIT Invents A Shapeshifting Display You Can Reach Through And Touch. This is a thought provoking view of whole other approaches to deliver a user interfaces. The graphics in the post were very effective. Here is a version of what was placed on YouTube:




I actually thought about a similar approach for the blind over a decade ago, but on a smaller scale so it could be attached to the body. With enough use, the brain should be able to be trained to see using other parts of their body and haptic feedback. You may not have to use little pins in order to get the same effect, so the maintenance issues could be reduced as well.


This video is another interesting example of these techniques – once again on a large scale.

A new dimension of sensing for smartphones?


molecule2.pngIEEE Spectrum had an interesting article about Tricorder-like Mobile Phones Enabled by Nanotechnology. It the article it describes how spectrometer-like capabilities could be built into it. For some people, it could change the whole view of the value of the smartphone.


Similar to phones having special modes for sports or low light photography, they could have modes for sensing the ripeness of fruit based on the gases given off (Ethylene). They may even be useful in detecting illnesses, like diabetes. There is even an Xprize in this space. HP labs did some work on this kind of sensing as well.


Now if you only had the battery life to make it through the day.


ISSIP and focusing on skills for the future of services

T-shaped.jpgAbout a year ago I posted about the birth of an organization focused exclusively on service innovation ISSIP. This group has continued to create new content related to services. This past week a number of us from ISSIP were at a meeting in Arizona where we were discussing the traits of service professionals in the future at the Compete through Service Symposium.


Before this conference, Lou Freund and Jim Spohrer (from the Education SIG) led an effort to assist workshop attendees in understanding an individual’s depth and breadth (t-shaped) of capabilities as documented in their résumé. I found their approach interesting and grounded in a way that allowed people to think about current capabilities and how they was presented to others. Does the résumé really convey what you think are important?


The next step is likely to be able to identify gaps and define a plan and metrics for further improvement.


Since membership to ISSIP is free at this point and the information from the workshop should be available on the organizations GoogleDrive.

Will all business people need to be data scientists?

data scientist.jpgI heard a co-worker say the other day that at the rate we’re going, all business people will need to be data scientists. They were making a bit of an overstatement, but it is true that the manipulation of data to generate value is becoming more important. In talking with a number of CIOs it was interesting to note that there was quite a bit of effort and concern in this space.


A while back I saw a post on why data without a soul is meaningless – No Star Trek Next Generation fans, I am not talking about that Data. That post had some thought provoking views on the role of data.


At the Compete through Service Symposium last week, at the panel I was part of, someone asked about the importance of data vs. environment the data came from in the decision making process. They were pointing to the fact that people don’t make decisions based upon data in isolation, they make decisions based on the context the data describes.


Will CIOs need to have special skills or enable their teams in certain ways to make that context universally more positive? In talking with a number of CIOs in Dallas this week, it seemed that they all view there are a few ways that the CIO role needs to shift based upon these changes:


  1. CIOs need to have core skills in that context alignment. Stop talking about technology and focus more on business value improvement

  2. 3rd party management is key, since rarely are organizations going it alone any more

  3. Experiment – there is no one right answer so try to use the data available in new and different ways


They may not all need to become data scientists, but the CIO has a significant role to play in sorting out how and what the business will need to take advantage of the abundance of data available.

Tags: CIO| Context
Labels: CIO| Context

The advent of the action based economy


plugging in economy.pngI’ve mentioned before the blurring of the edge of the enterprise. This was once the domain of large organizations like the Walmarts and DoDs of the world, but now is reaching down into farms, hospitals and smaller manufacturing organizations. With more sensors and greater mobility comes and ever more granular understanding of what is going on in the environment and all businesses are starting to catch on to the value.


I recently received a survey from my utility provider asking me about the level of automation and sensing I felt comfortable with in my home. Essentially, they were trying to determine how I perceived the rewards for participating in their efficiency efforts. For them it lowers their need for expensive infrastructure build outs, for me it could lower my monthly bills. The options available ranged from controlling the temperature of my home for small periods (essentially letting them have greater granular control of consumption) to installing solar panels on my home (addressing more granular supply side control).


This more connected, Internet of things (IoT) view of opportunities for a business can take on a number of opportunity dimensions:

  • Business: addressing business specific goals and initiatives

  • Market: opening up new markets and relationships

  • System: additional architectural flexibility using Machine to Machine (M2M) techniques to more efficiently use the resources of the organization

  • Security: there are actually opportunities for greater security with these techniques than the manual processes of today

If my utility company views these new capabilities as critical to their success, I bet almost every business has opportunities that are being overlooked. This more connected world is about taking action not just supplying greater insight into what is going on. Some people talk about this being a data economy – I’d rather think about it being an action-based economy. Those who can make better decisions faster will win. More data is just a side-effect of that process.


I am going to be speaking at a CIO conference in Dallas on Friday and one of the things I will stress is that these things are coming. They will change the role of the CIO, but if the focus remains on driving business outcomes, our organizations will be ready to take advantage of them.


Largest commercial research supercomputer opened in Houston

data and oil.jpgBP opened a computing center last month that is home to the largest supercomputer for commercial research in the world. The three-story, 110,000-square foot facility on BP’s west Houston campus houses over 5,400 HP ProLiant SL230s servers (totaling over 100k cores). The computing center implements advanced cooling methods that use 30 percent less energy than BP’s previous computing center.



Computer modeling and simulation have played a significant role in the current oil boom, helping geophysicists find and analyze underground reserves faster, giving them clear pictures of underground areas than they have ever had before. This reduces the risk associated with oil exploration.


Similar techniques will expand into other industries that have massive amounts of data where proven patterns mean the difference between profitability and a dry hole.

Labels: energy| Simulation

AT&T preparing for further wireless investment

telecom.pngYou may not have heard much about it, but a deal was agreed upon last month that will enable Crown Castle International to lease about 9,100 of AT&T's towers for an average term of 28 years. The agreement, under which Crown Castle will also buy about 600 AT&T towers outright, will bring AT&T about US$4.85 billion in cash up front, enabling AT&T to invest is further upgrades.


If you think about how the mobile market works, there is about 10 years between generations of mobile technology. Many regions are finishing up the rollout of 4G and people are starting to talk about 5G capabilities. By 2040 we’ll probably be on 7G technology – whatever that means. Just the 5G capabilities being demonstrated are impressive.


As these technologies are rolled out it takes the whole abundance of networking capability to a whole new level. Since we'll likely see these capabilities before the end of the decade it is something to plan around.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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