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

This week is National Engineer’s Week.

eweek.pngThis week is National Engineer’s Week.

 

Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek (February 22–28, 2015) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.

 

I mentioned the Raspberry Pi in space effort and will be judging a robotics competition later this week. What engineering related activities will be going on near you?

Diversity of perspective and the strategic value of doubt

Strategy.gifI was in a discussion the other day with some folks espousing the view that urban lifestyles are the answer to a large number of issues faced today. Always being a bit of curmudgeon, I pushed back saying that supply and demand may have something to say about this, since the closer we push people together the more fragile the ecosystem can be, in the area of food logistics, transportation, health care and many other areas. They stated that an urban environment is more creative, like it was a fact.

 

The concept of cities being an engine for innovation may actually be more of a 20th century phenomenon. We now live with virtual communities that are incorporating devices, individuals and even corporations as collaborating entities. We can collaborate more easily and have ad-hoc interactions – bandwidth is really the measurement of distance in many ways.

 

There are also economic factors - as people migrate away from the mid-west, areas of low cost with high connectivity are created. The exodus will likely stabilize or even shift, as the market reacts to the latent value possibilities that exist.

 

I was reading a recently released book Future Smart by James Canton about how we need to open up our world view to what future possibilities may hold and the need to reinvent ourselves. The book definitely has some good ideas and references, but there is an underlying ‘Silicon Valley centric’ view of “we’ve got it right” that distracts and discredits the range of future possibilities.  

 

There are many alternatives as I think about some of the intersections between industries and the possible implications. For example: Some people view the autonomous car as the death knell of the personal vehicles – why own it if it can just be there when you need it. At the same time, the intersection between home energy generation and the storage capabilities of the electric vehicle may make it an essential component of the green home of the future, stabilizing supply and demand for a families energy needs.

 

When organizations get into strategic planning discussions, it is definitely necessary to have a range of diverse perspectives. Everyone is entitled to their option and for this type of planning it is actually the conflicts that point to opportunities. If everyone is thinking the same way, some of you are redundant.

Why do you think the world will be that way? What if it isn’t? What opportunity may exist? As we look at the exponential expansion of capabilities and the underlying shifts in what’s scarce and abundant, trying to reach a consensus will help everyone plan for the future. That process may be what the author meant by being ‘future smart’.

Personal agents and services – we need to expect more

gossip.pngOne area I find exciting is the collaboration between humans and automation that is going to have a significant impact on the future of services. An area that is needed to support this collaboration is Personal agents and there has been substantial interest lately.

 

Bill Gates says he is working on a Personal Agent and you may have seen (included in Windows 10 beta) Cortana -- you know who Cortana is if you play Halo. This is pretty exciting, but I am sure there are some people who remember Clippy and wonder if this will just be a reincarnation. I don’t think so!

 

We have so much more context recognition capability now than we had back then (as well as the computing power to go with it). With all the data around us, there is a need to use agents to help us focus our attention on those areas that need our creativity.

 

I can’t wait to see where the industry takes this, since moving from a generic approach like Cortana to a business specific approach is inevitable. The reassessment and reinvestment in agents is definitely one of the technologies that will shift services in 2015 and later. Industry and even company specific agents will definitely fall out of this work, so we might as well plan to experiment and understand where it will do the most good.

HP Matter: Healthcare

Mobile Healthcare.pngEarlier this month HP released a Healthcare industry specific issue of its HP Matter e-magazine that is created in partnership with FastCompany.

 

This joint activity covers a wide range of design, culture, experience and trending issues. For example:

Just to name a few of the articles. This wide-ranging set of material is taking the previous industry specific material to a whole new level from a range of perspectives. Next month will be focused on the Telecom industry.

Data and decision latency expectations shifting

Analytics time.pngOne of the issues I’ve talked about many times over the year is the need to shift our understanding and expectation of latency and action. I came across this post: Analytics Time Lags Result in Lost Opportunities. It also discusses the fact that the data gathering and analytics that were great a short while ago are now viewed as insufficient, stating that “72% of analytics and business leaders surveyed were dissatisfied with the time it takes to get data-driven results”.

 

Unfortunately, it didn’t really do more than imply that solutions exist. Fact is most solutions deployed today are based on hindsight. There is little doubt that the vast amounts of data available are going to require an exceptional command of information, far beyond just hindsight. It will require a refocusing of skills and perspective that are based on generating value from the abundance of computing and data available. This will require new techniques for computing as well as data gathering and integration. The work going on in HP labs related to The Machine will help address these needs, when this platform is released.

 

We have data coming in from sensors and mobile devices creating an ever increasing amount of Dark Data where value can be generated. We can also build context from the other data about what happened when, who or what was involved or happened at the same time. This derived data or metadata can sometimes be more valuable than the raw data itself, since people don’t really make decisions off the data but the context the data describes. Organizations are recognizing that all this data will provide a depth of understanding about what happened in the past, present and future that we’ve not really taken advantage of before.

 

We can develop a greater depth of understanding about what is happening right now that can enable us to automate decisions or concentrate that rare resource – employee attention - on those areas that really need it. There are relatively new technologies that most teams have not even looked at like software defined networks… that can operate on data on the fly instead of just data at rest. This will eventually enable a more active, organizational approach to tackling opportunities.

 

Finally, over the years we’ve learned that getting to zero response time is very difficult. It may actually be easier to move to a negative response time, where you predict what is likely to happen and adjust to be ready to address it or even shift the outcome. Tools to address all these various perspectives of data and enabling right-time decisions are available to improve your ability to optimize time-to-action are available today.

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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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