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

The converging Venn diagram of industry future trends

industry venn.jpgBack in math class, I remember we used to use Venn diagrams to show similarities and differences between sets of objects. I was in a meeting today where we were talking about business and technology trends and the impact on technology adoption… and those models started dancing through my head.


We had a great deal of examples of what was happening to shift value in finance, government, manufacturing and most other topics. We started to talk about agriculture and relatively few examples presented themselves. Right before we moved on to the next industry, I said something like: “There really isn’t that much difference between the shifts taking place in agriculture and process manufacturing.”


This got into a whole philosophical discussion about how agriculture deals with living things so it can’t be automated or be influenced to the extent of manufacturing. I tried not to bring up wine and beer production, but couldn’t help myself.


So just to get people out of their comfort zone I said, “Well if that’s the case, then agriculture is really more like Health care.” Which started a whole other vector of discussion.


In the end, we all reached a perspective that in many ways the abundance of technology and the pressures of business are actually allowing many of these industry differences to dissolve. It may also allow a new dimension of differences to come to the surface that were hidden before.


The possibilities of this polymorphic view, pulling advances in one area and applying them to others is an important part of any innovation exercise. We might need to shake up our preconceptions though about where innovations can be reapplied.

Robotics example for agriculture

robotic farmer.pngHaving spent a great deal of time in my youth sitting on a tractor cultivating corn, I was amused to see this article on CNET: Down on the farm, Lettuce Bot is quietly slaying weeds. It is a great example of looking at the use of technology issues differently.


If there is one thing that is laid out in a very organized fashion, it is crops (and lawns). Crops are equally spaced and homogeneous. Pattern recognition techniques should easily be able to identify anomalies and robotically killing the invaders (weeds) can be done in a wide variety of ways other than the use of traditional herbicides.


There are also analytical advantages, since many kinds of metrics can be gathered during this sort of field inspection that the farmer can use assess at a later date. The farmer can focus on the irregularities in the field rather than sitting out there driving around. Another interesting possibility is that if chemical tanks don’t need to be driven around, the process could be more energy efficient than traditional techniques – depending on how often the weeding/inspection needs to take place.


Many tasks can be reassessed for how to accomplish them using the abundance of computing capabilities available

Enabling plants to call for a drink

In a recent IEEE spectrum article a technique was described that allows plants to call the farmer to say they need water.

A company came up with the product that measures the moisture level of the plant and then water the plant accordingly.

It consists of  several  sensors wired to a control point that:

 "collects readings every few minutes, then sends packets of data over the cellular network to a secure, password-protected Web portal every few hours. The system can be programmed to activate an irrigation system or send an alert whenever the plant's water-deficit stress levels fall outside a preset range."

We're going to see more sensors and edge computing applications to more accurately and efficiently adjust to specific growing requirements and conditions.

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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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