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

Powerful automation tool for Android

android.pngThere are a number of tools to automate mundane tasks in android like:

  • turning on WiFi when I get home
  • turning off WiFi when I am in the car
  • putting the phone in silent mode when I am in a meeting

I recently came across On{x} from Microsoft that helps you ‘automate your life’. It looks like it’s been in beta since June, but I didn’t come across it until October.

 

The tool allows you to program various actions based on triggers in JavaScript. There is also a repository for sample recipes that you can look at and extend. Just what a technologist needs on those cold winter nights.

Labels: automation| Mobile

Enterprise Automation: a cure for matrix management woes?

 

automated decisions.pngMatrix management came about to increase communications, flexibility and collaboration between the various parts of an organization. In the process, some people view that it has increased the latency in decision making and the ability of organizations to respond quickly to situations.

In a recent HBR article, Tom Peters wrote about moving Beyond the matrix organization. In the article, he talked about the issues matrix organization structures are trying to address and the various unintended consequences.

 

We have new tools today that can address communications, flexibility and collaboration (among other characteristics) that didn’t exist when the concept of matrix management was formed. The article states:

 

“Under the time-honored principle of management by exception, the organization runs itself until divergence from plan triggers off a warning signal. However, in today’s complex organizations, equipped with overly elaborate planning and control systems, warning signals are constantly being triggered. Giving the attention of top management to each (the implicit consequence of matrix structure) means dissipating the company’s sense of direction.”

 

These seems to be exactly the kind of issue that cognitive computing techniques and automation could be applied, sifting through these triggers and handling the ones that are understood and focusing our creativity on those that actually could benefit – we have the compute power. The alerts coming from these systems would not be distractions, but opportunities. We’re seeing exactly these techniques enabling cloud computing, enabling leveraging of large arrays of resources. Now it just needs to be expanded into the rest of the enterprise.

 

 

Automating programming in a self-aware enterprise

 

AI.pngThere was an interesting article in NewScientist about a new approach to providing computing capabilities, computers with human-like learning that will program themselves. They talk about new approaches for computers to program themselves.

 

Earlier this year when ‘the machine’ was announced at HP Discover, this scenario was one of the first things that came to mind, since memristors can be used to provide neuron-like behavior. When you have universal memory whole new possibilities open up. When I saw the NewScientist article, it did make me think about a number of applications in the enterprise, since these techniques will be as far beyond today’s cognitive computing as today’s approach is from the mainframe.

 

Always bet on the machine is in a post from 2008, that was contemplating the future of development. What I probably meant was: those who learn to work with the machine will still have a career.

 

I’ve mentioned before that much of today’s management function is ripe for automation. With approaches like this, an enterprise autopilot is conceivable that can optimize a businesses’ response to normal business situations. Questions probably has more to do with ‘when’ than ‘if’.

 

Experience optimization and a new wave of value

 

Waiting-for-the-Great-Leap-Forward.jpgI’ve mentioned before the waves of computing that have taken place over the last 50 years. When I think of it from an impact/value perspective (rather than one based on technology) the waves look a bit different. The first wave was the automation within the enterprise, addressing billing, inventory and even design automation. The second wave was automation and facilitation of personal activities. These included things like personal budgeting, on-line shopping…

 

The next wave is likely to be as different from the previous ones as the second one (focused on personal value) was from the first enterprise wave. This new wave is about automation and optimization of environments.

 

Technologies like IoT will shift both what and how we value. I was talking with another technologists the other day about the impact of automation at the macro level. A simple example is: What if a smart city were self-optimizing? Talking with the autonomous cars (which optimize at the micro level) while optimizing the environment of the city itself. Would that shift what people value and therefore what should be optimized? We can all recognize that all those individuals that make up the city are driven by different motivations --Will this new age of value be able to take these variations into account? I think that is part of what will make this new approach so compelling. We’ll have the abundance of computing capability to tackle it.

 

From a service futures perspective, the shift will likely be profound, since a new ability to derive behavior and goals will shift how value is assessed. Those organizations that can provide a better experience will outshine those that optimize based on someone/something else’s needs. It may not be so much what I own but what I can optimize – it will not be about mine, but about me (and what I’d like to accomplish). Start thinking about your organizations services from this perspective and it will likely change what you expect from your organizations IT.

 

Automation prioritization

 

Since I have been putting out some posts on automation, I’ve been getting some feedback from coworkers. One was a post titled: 8 Questions to Ask before You Automate. It holds some useful perspectives to evalutate if automation is even applicable to a situation.

 

Back in the early 90s, I led a project called Knowledge-based Tool Design focused on improving the productivity of tooling designers for automotive manufacturing. We used the capabilities of CAD tools to try and automate as much as we could, related to the creation of the machines that facilitate car assembly. This was a high value effort, since late stage engineering changes in the car parts themselves have implications on the tooling and can delay the startup of manufacturing. Anything we could do to address the reengineering of tooling had a direct effect on time-to-market.

 

We would load the car component models that need to be clamped and welded into the CAD system and try to create automated techniques to define and design the tooling needed. After firing rays all over the place to determine entry routes for robotic arms holding the clamping and welding tools, it became clear that people can look at parts and tooling and determine routes for entry very easily compared to doing this programmatically. Creating these designs well definitely involved creativity and intuition.

 

What people could not do reliably was define the underlying Bill-of-Materials need to create that robotic assembly, physically. So yes, I learned back then that it is very useful to understand what people and/or computers are good at, when defining the right approach to address repeatable, higher-value, computationally capable tasks with automation first.

 

Whether it is designing tools, answering calls or writing software – even though the automation capabilities are radically improving, this assessment is still required. I usually think of it as a 3 dimensional matrix and the further away from the origin, the more likely the automation effort will be effective.

 

 automation axis.png

Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do something, especially when there is a constraint on the effort available to tackle a set of tasks. We need to prioritize.

 

 

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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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