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

HP announces a blending of the physical and the virtual

 

sprout.pngHopefully, anyone who is interested in 3D printing saw the two announcements by HP yesterday. They focused on having a Blended Reality that will change how we interact with technology and the world around us.

 

The first announcement should clear up the long rumored entry by HP into 3D printing. This multi-jet fusion approach of ‘page-wide’ printing is significantly faster than traditional 3D extrusion based printing. It is also much more finely grained and accurate. I handled some of these prototype parts a while back and I found it very exciting, when compared to any of the 3D printing efforts I’ve done myself. The potential ability to manipulate color, finish and flexibility within the same part was something I found unique. HP has a very strong materials science foundation ever since HPs commercial definition of ink jet printing in the early 80s and this approach really takes advantage of that experience.

 

The other shoe that dropped was Sprout. This link has numerous movies about how others have used this technology in their work. I’ve seen somewhat similar techniques applied in research projects for a number of years now, but not a commercial solution that you can ‘just buy’ that integrates touch, 2 and 3D scanning and multiple displays in such a seamless and functional way. Although I have talked with people about this effort about a year ago, it is great to see it become a reality – and I’m anxious to get my hands into its platform. There are some interesting perspectives that if you do work that involves your hands it may be the computer for you and the view that it is a solution looking for a problem – I can see easily see its use.

 

One of the things I find most exciting about these products that they enable a different kind of creative environment that functions as a springboard for greater creativity. These sort of environmental enabling view will be an ever increasing part of new business value generation in the future.

 

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.

Where did the IoT come from?

I was talking with some folks about the Internet of Things the other day and they showed me some analysis that made it look like it was relatively recent.

 

where did the IoT come from.jpg

 

My view is that its foundations go back a long way. I worked on (SCADA) Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems back in the 80s, which were gathering data off the factory floor, analyzing it and performing predictive analytics, even way back then.


In the 70s, passive RFID came into being and one of the first places it was used was tracking cows for the department of agriculture to ensure they were given the right dosage of medicine and hormones – since cows could talk for themselves.

 

In the late 70s and early 80s barcodes become widely used to identify objects, allowing greater tracking of manufacturing lines as well as consumers in stores.

 

In the 90s, higher speed and greater range allowed for toll tags to be placed on cars, allowing for greater ease of identification but still very little use of sensors to collect additional information.

 

At the turn of the century, the military and Walmart required the use of RFID to track products and that caused significant increase in their adoption. About the same time, low powered sensing capabilities were developed since RFID only provided identification and the scanner provided location, people began to look at other information that could be collected like temperature, humidity as well as ways to gather information remotely like smart metering in the utilities space (although even that started much earlier).

 

Most technology adoption follows an S curve for investment and value generation. We’re just now entering the steep part of the S curve where the real business models and excitement is generated. It is not really all that new it is just that the capabilities have caught up with demand and that is making us think about everything differently (and proactively).

‘The machine’ video

A few weeks back (during HP Discover) I did a small post about ‘the machine’. I just came across the YouTube video that shows a bit more background as well:

 

The spot definitely came from marketing, but is still thought provoking. Not so much from a technical perspective, but from a “What can I do when this comes out?” point of view.

 

The video briefly mentions distributed micro-cell towers to improve communications. What if each of those is really a node on a distributed mesh network? Would that allow you to think about data, processing and even location in ways that enable new value generation?

 

The same possibilities are true for other distributed objects that can benefit from each other’s experience - IoT participants like: planes, oil rigs, shipping containers.

Questions about SDN and its effect on business

networking.jpgSDN is one of those technologies that appears to be poorly understood even by those who promote its value. The discussion mainly focuses on its ability to:

  • deliver new services faster through automation
  • lower operating expenses

Although valid, these are very IT centric and miss some of the foundational business value questions like:

  • What are the possibilities if I designed the network differently? 
  • What if I threw out the design assumptions and principles that I use today and really look at what my organization needs?  Notice I didn’t say what my network needs
  • Why not start with the premise that the network can do a few functions: connect, disconnect and transport to enable my business needs?
  • What could SDN mean for my applications or the devices those applications run on??

SDN is a starting point for new value generation.  It looks to enable a better way, but only if we ask the right questions. The answers may have a wider effect on the organization than we planned on.

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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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