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

Who defines business opportunities of mobile?

mobile worker2.pngThis morning I was in a discussion with some people from academia and industry that was primarily focused on communications trends. We quickly dove into the issues of security, networking education, mobility and sensing. Everyone agreed about the impact these areas are having at a high level, but when you dug down just a little bit, the business implications thinking stopped.

 

These technologies are going to shift how we think about some of the foundational aspects of business and employment today. Concepts are going to shift by asking: “What is a mobile worker?” In this age of BYOD and Mobile Device Management (MDM), nearly everyone is a mobile worker. Mobile is no longer special, it is a foundational tool for the masses, not a convenience for the elite. If anything, when the field services workers at the face of the customer are enabled by the technology, they can fundamentally shift how the client sees an organization. For many business the client is the field service worker.

 

Mobile interfaces can be more effective (since they are present at the time information is needed) and can actually be more secure (with all the sensing capabilities of modern devices they have much greater contextual understanding of who you really are than old PC or green screen interfaces ever could).

 

Organizations that want to generate new business value need to start identifying the business processes that are under-addressed with in the current IT portfolio (can a more mobile interface help?). They need to assess how the roles in those processes could be support – what is scarce in the decision making process – and provide the content (or even context) needed to make that process more effective. Techniques can be applied to shift adoption.

 

One thing that also needs to be considered is how will the change be tracked. With all the information mobile devices are capable of gathering, it sets the stage for a much deeper understanding of what is really happening, allowing more agile organizations to make course corrections on their deployments along the way.

 

Employees and customers are typically excited to use these techniques, if they can perceive its value. If they can embrace the experience. It is up to us to recognize the opportunity and make it happen. 

Is the Internet-of-Things really on the brink of enabling a major shift in business value?

fields.JPGI was talking with some folks the other day about the implications of technology shifts and what it means to business. Some shifts like Cloud and Big Data advance how we do many of the things we’ve been doing for years. Others like the Internet-of-Things (IoT) enable whole new approaches. I think the impact is being under estimated – probably because they are not as technically sexy.

 

One of my favorite examples of IoT is the SmartSpud. This sensor pack allows a potato producer to look at the process from the potato’s point of view, reducing bruising and other issues that cause waste -- very quickly. We’ve just not been able to get this perspective in the past. I grew up on a farm so the whole issue of organic processes and their optimization is always of interest.

 

I believe almost every industry as opportunities to use IoT in new ways. This report from the Economist states that this is “an idea whose time has finally come.” They took a survey and only 40% of the respondents saw the impact limited to certain markets or industries. 38% believe that the IoT will have a major impact in most markets and industries. Yet, 96% of all respondents expect their business to be using the IoT in some respect within 3 years. When I think about this, it is an issue where people are just coming to grips with what can be done to maximize the value of what is scarce to the organization.

 

There are some things that are holding the pressure to deploy IoT back. The need for some common infrastructure and services that enable secure, fairly reliable transport and analysis of information. All the parts exist, they just need to be bundled so they can be consumed effectively. It is crying out for an innovator’s dilemma approach that is just good enough for what is needed now to get things rolling. The people who want to use these capabilities don’t want to have to understand it deeply or create it from scratch – they just want to buy it and use it. Until we reach that stage, we’ll only have great examples (in isolation) and not real impact.

Update on skin-based sensing

skin sensor.jpgBack in 2011, I created a post about Sensors in Tattoos – taking wearables to a whole other level of monitoring.

 

Today I saw an update from the University of Illinois about a prototype for an Ultrathin “Diagnostic Skin” that allows for continuous patient monitoring.  This device sticks to the surface of the skin and can survive most normal stretching and pinching motions.

 

“The technology offers the potential for a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities with little patient discomfort. For example, sensors can be incorporated that detect different metabolites of interest. Similarly, the heaters can be used to deliver heat therapy to specific body regions; actuators can be added that deliver an electrical stimulus or even a specific drug.”

 

The current investigation is tracking skin temperature, which can be used to track the onset of an illness…

 

Although not attached directly on the skin, this technology from Rice University attempts to detect malaria by sensing low levels of the malaria infection.

 

The new diagnostic technology uses a low-powered laser creating tiny vapor “nanobubbles” inside malaria-infected cells. The bursting bubbles have a unique acoustic signature that allows for an extremely sensitive diagnosis. The test requires no dyes or diagnostic chemicals, and there is no need to draw blood.

 

“A preclinical study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that Rice’s technology detected even a single malaria-infected cell among a million normal cells with zero false-positive readings.”

 

Hopefully this research will go more than skin deep and be deployed.

Earth Insights - Big Data in the Wild

Earth Insights.jpgToday at HP Discover, HP announced an innovative collaboration with Conservation International (CI) — a leading non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting nature for people — to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of analysis of data collection in environmental science. 

 

The initiative, called HP Earth Insights, delivers near-real time analytics yielding new information that indicates a decline in a significant percentage of species monitored. The project serves as an early warning system for conservation efforts, enabling proactive responses to environmental threats. 

 

HP Earth Insights applies HP’s big data technology to the ecological research being conducted by Conservation International and its partners across 16 tropical forests around the world, as part of the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network Tropical forests, which are home to approximately 30 million species—half of all the plants and animals on earth—and generate 40 percent of the earth’s oxygen.

 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, tropical forests are vanishing at a rate of about 18,000 square miles (4.6 million hectares) per year. Data and analysis from HP Earth Insights will be shared with protected area managers to develop policies regarding hunting and other causes of species loss in these ecosystems.

 

For this project, HP is providing a customized solution that harnesses the power of its big data offerings to address the challenges faced by CI scientists:

  • The HP Vertica Analytics Platform—a next-generation software tool, designed to manage and analyze massive and fast-growing volumes of data with amazing speed and unprecedented accuracy, will be used to address the needs of CI scientists to collect, store and assess a variety of data.
  • The Wildlife Picture Index (WPI) Analytics System—a dashboard and analytics tool built by HP Enterprise Services—allows for the visualization of user-friendly, data-driven insights to be accessed anytime, anywhere, in near real-time.

 

Currently, HP Earth Insights manages 3 terabytes of critical biodiversity information, including more than 1.4 million photos and more than 3 million climate measurements that continues to grow every day. The project analyzes the ever-increasing inputs related to species, vegetation, precipitation, temperature, carbon stocks, humidity and more, gathered from over 1000 camera traps and many climate sensors in 16 countries to deliver findings about the environment that previously were unknown.

 

By delivering analytics nine times faster than previously available and generating useable trend information on species and the impacts of climate, people and land use, HP Earth Insights is helping to protect these important resources.

 

This new solution also serves to demonstrate HP’s end-to-end capabilities in action, from HP ElitePads that meet the mobility requirements of the scientists to capture data in the tropical forests, to HP ProLiant servers powering back-end data systems, to building out the existing cloud component to meet the project’s growing data needs.

 

This real life example shows how big data techniques can take on big problems and provide new value and greater understanding, far beyond the office.

Grading my predictions for 2013

grading predictions.pngAt the end of every year that I’ve been making annual predictions, I grade my predications made in the previous December

(200620072008200920102011, 2012). It's time to look at 2013. 2013 has been the start of a turnaround for HP. We’re not out of it all yet, but we’re definitely making progress. In a way, the same thing could be said about the economy and the industry as a whole.

 

I said that 2013 would be a year of expectation -- changing the very foundation of how IT is judged. HP’s efforts around the new style of IT attests to that and many of the trends I talked about in 2012 (and earlier) began to generate business value.

 

I’ll grade myself with the following scale again this year:

A: Big changes during the year that are having wide effect.

B: Notable progress through the year and isolated areas of significant impact.

C: Progress with some impact

D: Little progress or impact – but work still taking place

F: No progress or the concept abandoned in any commercial sense.

 

Grade

Prediction

Rational

A

Organizations will have a higher expectations of security based on what everyone has experienced and learned. The battle over Internet censorship and control will reach new heights in 2013.

Thanks to the Snowden issue, this one definitely came out big, although in a way none of us may have expected.

C

Software defined networks will make communications as virtualized and flexible as the computing infrastructure. This versatility will become an expectation.

I facilitated a discussion on SDN back in September and throughout our talk it was clear that progress has been made, but we’re still only scratching the surface.

A

IT organizations will expand their definition of “customer” and their analytics to include suppliers, partners, consumers and anything/one that can make a difference

Although Big Data was not new in 2013, it definitely started to penetrate even the most slow to adopt organization’s thinking. There is definitely progress being made, although I still wonder about the bias issue.

B

We can expect to see bigger data and even bigger storage, with copious amounts of information coming from more sensors in more places. Organizations will no longer be satisfied with using only 3-5% of the data available. Beyond there being more data, the information collected will be of a wider variety (including video, sound…) so transforming the information from one format to another and back will be increasingly important.

This is a case of definite progress being made but I am not sure organizations are yet using double digit percentages of the information available to them.

B

The whole concept of ‘In Memory’ computing will be up for a shift in expectations for where and how it is used.

SAP Hana (probably the most notable of the large commercial applications in this space) is now being looked at seriously for a wide range of database applications. It is not too widespread but HP and SAP are definitely making inroads.

D

Widespread acceptance of new and improved NFC capabilities for payment and identity. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become just the Internet. Individuals will be able to add IoT capabilities independent of the original manufacturer, if desired. Although enterprises may still be crawling their way to the IoT, consumers will embrace IoT in 2013.

Although the Internet of Things is real, it has not made the progress I expected it to make in 2013. The consumer space has not really moved all that much more quickly than the Enterprise space. Sure there are devices and applications, but are they really having the impact they should.

D

The availability of different disruptive display technologies in 2013 to shift our thinking about where and when a display is needed (or even possible).

Although there are some new interface approaches and techniques, displays have not really shifted significantly in 2013.

D

One of the other core shifts in expectation will be around simplicity and the use of automation to focus attention and automate more business processes. The concept of human augmentation of automation will be significantly less foreign at the end of 2013 than it is today.

This is another case where there has been some progress, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. Human augmented automation is about as foreign to strategic planning now as it was in 2012.

C

Enterprises will begin to address the issue that most of the apps in production can’t really unleash the power of the cloud. 2013 should see new tools and techniques to address this potential.

Application portfolio management is definitely part of a move to greater value in IT, but I’d say the adoption is only slightly more than 2012.

C

IT will begin to see ways to virtualize the mobile experience in new, secure and innovative ways.

Once again there has been progress, but it has primarily been incremental in nature. No radically new devices or approaches have come on the scene, although HP has services that understand virtualization in the mobile space, they are just not yet in demand.

B

The skills within the organization will be a constraint on value generation. Gamification, as an example, is a skill that will be recognized and move hand-in-hand with strategic change.

I do believe that gamification and its understanding by organizations shifted significantly in 2013, but that might just be because I kept talking with people about it.

C

Using the contextual information available from big data and the need for attention engineering, individuals and corporations will have greater expectation on how information is delivered to them.

Although to most businesses the expectations on information delivery is changing, I don’t think it has made significant change from the approach used in 2012.

B

There will also be a shift in how products are personalized as 3D printing moves out of limited use and becomes significantly more mainstream with some parts of the world having 3D printing capabilities as a local service. 

2013 was a good year for 3D printing. Most people have heard about it, even if they have not held something that has been through a 3D printing process. Commercial entities have begun to embrace the possibilities.

D

Implementation of IPV6 is going to be a focus in 2013.

Now there are those who are pushing back and saying they may never need to go to IPV6, the workaround are good enough.

D

Realization that automation is the new off-shore, specifically in development

I don’t believe this moved much in 2013. Very few organizations use significant automation techniques in the development space.

 

Based on these scores, my predictions for 2013 were not too conservative. My personal goal is to get close to a C+. If I get too high a grade, I am not trying to stretch my thinking (or yours for that matter) enough.

 

My view is the same as when I finished up my post in 2011:

 

“Having said all that, it is a great time to be in IT. Most of our concerns are currently driven by an overabundance of capabilities that most organizations have not tapped into effectively. Those who can have the vision will be in for quite a ride this year as they look to do more with more.”

 

I should have my predictions for 2014 out by the middle of December.

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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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