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

Displaying articles for: August 2014

The great wall of Social Awareness

Earlier this month, NASCAR debuted the NASCAR Social Wall Powered by HP at the Iowa Speedway. The event marked the first time the 6.5-by-28-foot social media visualization wall extending the previous social dashboarding efforts to the track itself. There was also this article about the NASCAR Social Wall Powered by HP.

 

To see how they build it, look at the following video:

 

It makes me wonder about other events we'll start seeing this same kind of capability. If you've ever seen the giant screen at the Texas Motor Speedway, you could use a small corner for this kind of information all time time.

Tags: Social| Trends
Labels: Social| Trends

Another Internet of Things Example of Something We Didn’t Know We Needed…

coffee.gifIEEE Spectrum had a post earlier this month about the Vessyl, a drinking cup with enough sensing to recognize the contents (at the molecular level). Sure it is expensive right now, but in technology it has only one way its price can go – down.

 

It is an example of the ideas discussed previously about what you can do when your IoT environment knows both the context of what is happening and your desires. For some people, it may seem like a bad thing to be told they are drinking too much caffeine or sugar, for others (with high blood pressure or diabetes) it can be an important part of sticking to their plan.

 

We are in a world of an ever increasing number of choices that can help us do what we want. The possibilities opening up around us, if we want to look for them. Cups are just the start...

Labels: Context| Future| IEEE| IoT| Sensing

A tool for innovative change – peer coaching

cooperation2.pngI was reading a post titled: Peer Coaching as a Tool for Culture Change, in the context of the post on innovative change I made last week and technical leadership in general. In the article it states:

“Given the complex nature of global organizations today, as well as their growing reliance on full-hearted engagement of human talent, culture is increasingly recognized as the nub of challenges resistant to logistical fixes.”

 

Although the article states that “peer coaching was most widely used by educators”, it has been part of my career almost since its inception. The constant reinforcement of goals, initiatives and personal responsibility are essential to getting a group to all row in the same direction. As organizations increase their span of control between the formal leaders and the individuals, spreading change reinforcement across the technical leadership is important – coaching both down and up the organization.

 

The technical changes underway (based on an abundance of IT capabilities) are facilitating a quite different world than just a few years ago, so a range of techniques will be needed for the culture to embrace them. Sure some of the same issues exist and the same solutions will work, but there are new options and an ever changing diverse set of perspectives and techniques will be required. Tapping into that diversity is one of the side benefits of this kind of peer coaching, since the bi-directional sharing of ideas is at its core.

 

What tools do you think are underutilized to enable change? Who have you talked to about this gap?

Digital Business, recycling buzzwords

digitization.jpgI don’t know about you but the recent flourish of discussion related to Digital Business makes me feel like I am back in the ‘90s. McKinsey is tracking What’s trending in #digital. Saugatuck is posting on digital business and the key challenges.

 

It really makes me wish for a new set of verbiage… maybe cognitive computing can get us beyond just 1’s and 0’s, since the world is really analog.

If it is innovative, you probably will need to spell it out

innovation.pngAs I mentioned previously, I’ve been in a number of conversations about innovation lately. One thing that surprises me is that so often, in these innovation discussions, teams fail to take into account the behavioral issues and the need to formally communicate what will be different, how it will be measured and why (this is a place where gamification can help).

 

After spending time ‘heads down’ working on an innovative effort, we somehow assume that everyone else will have the same contextual understanding. If the idea or solution is really innovative, I’d bet the rest of the world does not have that same view. Taking the step back to view it from others perspective can be quite difficult. You’ll need to spell out how others will benefit, what will be expected of their behavior and what the relationship is of the innovation in the bigger plan.

 

I was in a discussion of strategic organizational planning for a service organization and they had the same issues. It is not just about having an organizational scope and mission statement.

Blindsided by strategy?

strategic questions.pngI’ve mentioned before the relationship of abundance, scarcity and their role in strategy. As I was catching up on my reading this weekend, I came across the post: Where Are the Sinkholes in Your Strategy? Which touched on many of the same points I was thinking about but with better examples.

 

One great point brought out in the post was:

“Strategy is a lot like IQ for many people: to challenge their strategy is to question their intelligence.”

 

In this dynamic world, we need to bring in diverse viewpoints on a regular basis, because our assumptions of what we’re good at and what can differentiate us can be easily overcome by events. That doesn’t mean we can’t have strategy. We just need to validate its foundations more often.

The need for an innovative look at innovation efforts

innovation unlock.pngI’ve been in a number of discussion lately looking at innovation activities. In today’s dynamic business environment, the status quo is riskier than changing – sometimes it may not matter which direction you move, as long as you’re not standing still.

 

I am a big advocate for gamification, but most of these efforts are based on a bottoms-up approach that tries to leverage the ‘intelligence of the crowd’. Some interesting things definitely do come out of these efforts, but rarely are they directed on what is really needed. If 5% can be implemented, you’re doing great with these approaches.

 

That is where top down approaches to innovation come into play. They try to focus the innovation flow around a specific concern or issue. I used the term flow, because it’s happening, whether we tap into it or not – innovation is just part of being human. Top down in combination with a bottoms-up approach are more effective. Yet – they’re not effective enough.

 

I have figured out a few things (that are probably obvious to most):

  • Innovation needs a strategic focus. At the same time, the chance of getting it right the first time is slim, so an approach needs to be both strategic and agile (at the same time).
  • Innovation needs to be part of the mindset of the people involved. For many organizations, innovation doesn't feature anywhere in their plans and that’s a shame. This can be true for entrepreneurial organizations as well as large corporations. I mentioned strategic importance of innovation, yet culture eats strategy for lunch.
  • If you want to grow, you need to find a way of embedding innovation in your strategic priorities – and that means investment. It also needs to be focused on what you do and how you do it. This is one of the most frustration parts of working in the IT space. We think that being innovative in IT is something that should be recognized by the rest of the business. In many ways, they pay us (particularly service organizations) so they don’t need to see it at all – let alone view it as innovative.
  • Innovation efforts need to be measurable. Just because ideas are new, doesn’t mean there won’t be a ruler to measure progress. There will be one, why not plan on it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the first laws of technical leadership is “don’t discourage them”. The same can be true about the approach to innovation. At the same time, innovation efforts need to be focused on outcomes -- we actually need to do something and not just think about it.

 

I have come to the conclusion that we need a more innovative approach to innovation, since the whole concept is full of conflicts. One of the first things that is probably always true though is the need to develop a common understanding and definition of innovation, since it can mean so much to so many .

Serious gaming that takes nerve…

neuron.pngEarlier this month I saw an article in Popular Science: Gamers Reveal Inner Workings of the Eye. Since I have an interest in gamification, I dug in a bit more. It turns out there was a story in May on NPR morning edition Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye that covered the same concept.

 

Eyewire is an example of a serious game that tackles a real problem using gaming techniques. It is not your typical business gamification implementation but an example non-the-less. To play the game, he players have to pick out specific cells in pictures of tissue the retina and color them in.

 

“Each player gets a high resolution picture of a different section of the retina to color. The trick to scoring point in the game is to only color the parts of the image that are nerve cells. This is something that's surprisingly difficult and humans are actually better at it than computers.”

 

Over 130,000 people from 145 countries have played the game so it must be both challenging and rewarding.

 

When we look at the abundance of IT capability and the wealth of information being generated by the Internet of Things, we are likely to see whole new levels of gamification techniques come into play, as we try to dig deeper for patterns and understanding or gather and inject insight right at the time decisions are being made.

Think like a Programmer

Think Like A Programmer 100.jpgEvery once in a while I try to share a book that I’ve been reading that may be of interest.

 

Think like a Programmer raised my interests as soon as I saw the title.

 

The author’s goal was to share strategies that help with problem solving, but from a programmer’s perspective. It starts with some classic and simple problems and builds from there. Each chapter has exercises that help the reader apply the techniques. The code examples in the book are C++, but none of the techniques used were specific to C++ (at least that I could see), but that does mean that some level of programming skill will be required.

 

Most programmers will benefit from this book by either thinking about problems in creative ways or just through the entertainment of the problem solving exercises. The author goes beyond basic programming problems though and delves into object oriented techniques, recursion and code reuse. It definitely not what I’d call a text book, but it is not beach reading either. I’d recommend it for developers who like to contemplate possibilities.

 

Note: this review is based on the ebook version provided via O'Reilly Reader Review Program.

Tags: programming
Labels: Programming

A little bit of the Internet of Things

invention.pngThe Internet of Things doesn’t have to be only about new things, it can also be about adding automation capabilities to existing devices. Makers have been playing with this for a while, but littleBits electronics is the first set of components I’ve seen that addresses both the consumer and education markets in such a broad fashion.

 

It reminded me of those 101 electronic projects kits that were around when I was growing up. I’ve never touched this product, but it does show how wide the exposure is likely to be, in a relatively short time. It will be interesting to see what kinds of innovative solutions people will generate with a modular approach like this that hides some of the more difficult ‘plumbing’ issues.

A perspective of the WWW at 25

25.pngI didn’t have much time for a post today, but I saw this post last week titled: What Will Digital Life Be Like in 2025? that was worth mentioning.

 

It was Irving’s perspective on a few Pew Research Center  assessments about the 25th anniversary of the WWW. There was also a perspective on the future implications focused on how the IoT will drift into the background.

 

Overall a positive perspective on the future.

 

When I think about other anniversaries this year

Another look at the potential of memristors…

memristor.jpgThis week, I was listening to the Security Now podcast, and Steve Gibson (@sggrc - the host) went off on a discussion on the potential of memristor or RRam technology (episode 466 – search for memristor in the notes).

 

HP’s current focus on taking advantage of this potential is something I blogged about in ‘The machine’ video.

 

It was interesting to hear his perspective about the capabilities (this post is a few years old but gets the point across from my perspective).

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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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