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

Displaying articles for: September 2010

Solar Collection with Artificial Leaves, Raking in the Energy

North Carolina State University researchers have shown that water-gel-based solar devices – “artificial leaves” – can act like solar cells to produce electricity. These bendable devices have the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cell. It seems like once every six months there is an announcement about new energy gathering foliage.

This NCS approach is a bit different, since this device makes use of a hydrogel. Since hydrogen is environmentally benign there should be less environmental impact from its production.

“The light-sensitive molecules get "excited" by the sun's rays to produce electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow”, says NC State's Dr. Orlin Velev, Invista Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry describing this new generation of solar cells.

The researchers created a photovoltaic device with two photosensitive dyes embedded in the hydrogel. Replacing the expensive platinum typically used for the electrode in photovoltaic devices with a less expensive copper coated with a carbon material (carbon nanotubes, carbon black or graphite).

"The devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology, However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired 'soft' devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies."

I just wonder all the possibilities this could bring - what are your thoughts?

Tags: energy| Trends
Labels: energy| Trends

SOA, EA and Cloud - Are they now synonymous?

cloud-computing.jpgJoe McKendrick had a blog post a while back that asked Do SOA and Enterprise Architecture now mean the same thing? I’ve said in the past that cloud is also very dependent on good EA (at least above to IaaS layer).


I personally view that EA is about the alignment of enterprise business goals with technological initiatives from an end-to-end perspective.  SOA is about the assembly of functionality from services is definitely impacts the Enterprise Architecture as it’s defined but is a subset. Going forward I firmly believe that it will take on a great portion of the EA as more of the items that used to be in the EA are hidden in services coming from SaaS vendors.


Getting the most out of the cloud is definitely one of the roles that EA will need to take on. All these different buzzwords do address the issue that businesses expect differentiated value from their IT systems and at the same time lower costs and higher quality. These techniques will all need to come together to make that happen going forward.

New medical applications as mobility advances

608iE2B615176533DE72As the capabilities of mobile devices increase, they can be applied to completely unrelated applications as compared to their original intent. A good example is this eye check via smart phone, or the electronic stethoscope shown at the end of this article. It is easy to forget that if you can do one thing better than in the past, it may enable many applications that were waiting for that limit to be overcome.

It’s the intersection of technological advancement with business application where the real value is generated.

Shake, Rattle & Roll

I was recently watching an interesting TED video presented by Fabian Hemmert about “The shape-shifting future of the mobile phone” in which he advances a couple of idea about using device weight and movement to create a richer interaction and in so making digital content more intuitive for users. I believe that in the future technology will increasingly deliver devices that are adapted to humans and how our senses work, rather than the other way round.

In fact, I have often discussed the relative merits of Microsoft Windows, the Macintosh OS X and Linux operating systems; it’s an issue that IT people are very passionate about. Often, I believe they are passionate for the wrong reasons. Technically minded people prefer Linux because it is very easy to tinker with the Operating System (OS) and the OS itself is very efficient from a resource point of  view. However, my position has always been that most people want to use the device itself rather than play around with the OS.  As such, I believe that Windows and OSX are more successful because they are very easy to use. The fact that the use a lot of compute power and storage to achieve this apparent ease of use doesn’t matter to users of the device at all.  

This is illustrated by the success of the Wiimote and clearly the key virtue of the Apple iPhone and Android phones is their multi-touch interface. These all deliver a very intuitive user interface that people find very easy to use.

Why has this change come about? Essentially when IT was expensive humans had to adapt to machines, now IT is cheap we can use it to provide a richer and easier user experience. So not so much the unfriendly technological future of the Terminator movie series, instead the future will be human-friendly. Do you agree?

Outsourced causes thoughts about technology and culture

603i0C09A7843E209AE0Fair warning...this post is a bit longer than most for me. 


I was reading Aubrey Daniel’s blog the other day where he was discussing the new sitcom Outsourced and the challenge of managing people in different cultures/globally. I called him up and we talked about the intersection of technology, culture, behavior and globalization.

Free Printer or Free Tablet?!

I’ve been in numerous discussions recently about the consumerization of IT and the adoption of devices. There are concerns about people dragging personal devices into the workplace and controlling their use. I was fascinated to see the announcement from right here in HP of a tablet device running Android with a printer thrown in (Photosmart eStation), or is it the other way around. Either way, I wasn't expecting devices dragging devices into the workplace.


The printer includes a Web browsing tablet with WiFi and a 7-inch diagonal screen. It is pre-loaded with applications including a music player, browser, Barnes & Noble’s eBookstore and Yahoo mail, search, weather and messenger.


When it’s not being used, the tablet sits in a dock on the printer and works as a control panel and digital photo frame.


The Android-powered tablet apparently doesn’t let you load applications. It may not meet everyone’s needs but it looked worth checking out – definitely at that price. The tablet has a freescale i.MX51 CPU that runs between 4-6 hours on a charge.


It looks like some of the other Enterprise Irregulars have looked at the eStation as well.

I think this is worth checking out even if this tablet/printer bundle is nothing more than a signpost on the road to the future.

Forces impacting the outsource and service industries

compass.pngGartner just released their top 10 forces to impact outsourcing and IT services industry. I was a bit worried they may have something here that I hadn’t covered before, but after looking at the list it appears that I’d done my part (even if some of the posts are a few years old):


  • Hyperdigitization – the concept that products are moving from atoms to bits. Everywhere today there are approaches to disassociate delivery with consumption. There are numerous examples to the point where we do not even recognize it is going on. The MP3 file or the ebook, the 3D CAD file from the manufacturing (via 3D printing) or even the people from the meeting.
  • The Cloud – I’ve said too much about Cloud already - it’s crested the peak of elevated expectations and how people are making it work.
  • Value Chain – The effect of this is that many IT organizations are becoming more service management organizations than providing services on their own. This shift in skill set has yet to be understood by many in such a way that they can reduce their management overhead over time.
  • HyperVerticalization – I had a bit of trouble with this one, but it seemed that Gartner was talking about Business Process Outsourcing -- the purchase of systems, services, process and personnel that specialize in a particular vertical segment. This has been going on for a very long time, but now it is being applied to more industries and segments.


I was happy to see that there was nothing here that I haven’t covered, but having them all in one list makes me start to think of implications and behaviors. That might have to wait for the end of the year predictions post though.

What do you think is missing??


Why are we so focused on saving energy in data centers?

After a searing Texas summer with more than two weeks of consecutive 100F degree days, it was refreshing to read Bill Kosik’s blog “Fall Into Data Center Savings” that provides a great overview of how weather affects the efficiency of various data center cooling strategies. The use of outside air for cooling is growing in popularity, and is the primary cooling mechanism for HP’s award winning Wynyard data center in the UK. Intel created a parallel environment that had one side of a blade data center used outside air economizer while the other side used direct expansion (DX) cooling, and saved 67% of the power costs over a 10 month period, and estimated annualized savings of 2.87M USD for a 10MW data center.


Why are we so focused on saving energy in data centers? The Western world has enjoyed reasonably priced power for our factories, offices, homes and vehicles, but there is a very rapidly growing demand from India and China that could change things very quickly. David Gerwitz, in a recent blog, noted that China demand for oil is growing at 8.68% annually, compared to a US growth of a meager 0.34%, and with growth of their middle class the demand could grow to 10.1 billion tons, or 78% of the world’s current capacity within 10 years. China’s demand growth rate in 2000 was 2.46%. The increasing demand will drive energy prices skyward as the capacity cannot grow as rapidly, so it is prudent to look at ways to increase operational and energy efficiency as a way to conserve energy and reduce costs.


We should not solely focus on energy, but should include all resources, include land and water usage. Corporate data centers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are typically large permanent structures that are capital intensive, time consuming to build, and difficult to expand. Shipping container-based data centers, like HP’s Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD), provide a means to rapidly grow capacity in a matter of weeks, compared with an 18-24 month build for a conventional data center. Recently, HP’s Critical Facilities Services team released the patent pending HP Flexible Data Center concept that fits in between POD and traditional data centers in speed of deployment, flexibility and cost by using industrial components deployed in modules that can expand as demand increases, conserving capital, land and energy.   

Podcast on technical trends and small businesses

A while back I wrote a chapter in The Next Wave of Technology that was edited by Phil Simon. Even further back I did a podcast episode for The Cranky Middle Manager on technology trends. Those two things came crashing together last week in a joint podcast by Phil and me on The Cranky Middle Manager.


Since it was a 3 way discussion on Skype, there were a few times where we talked over each other, but hopefully you’ll get the essence of what we’re talking about.

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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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