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

National Robotics Initiative -- something to watch

robots.pngRecently the NSF announced the National Robotics Initiative.


“The goal of the National Robotics Initiative is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people. Innovative robotics research and applications emphasizing the realization of such co-robots acting in direct support of and in a symbiotic relationship with human partners is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The purpose of this program is the development of this next generation of robotics, to advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and to encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas. It will address the entire life cycle from fundamental research and development to manufacturing and deployment. Methods for the establishment and infusion of robotics in educational curricula and research to gain a better understanding of the long term social, behavioral and economic implications of co-robots across all areas of human activity are important parts of this initiative. Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit and other organizations is strongly encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and technology development, deployment and use.”


They are looking for proposals for:

  1. Small projects: One or more investigators spanning 1 to 5 years.
  2. Large projects: Multi-disciplinary teams spanning 3 to 5 years.

The project covers nearly every industry and technical discipline and support across many parts of the US government.


This kind of government investment in strategic issues is something organizations need to keep their eye on.  The timing is interesting as well, since I have been talking about automation lately.

Labels: Government| Robotics

US government broadband survey starting

The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has a site enabling users to test their broadband performance and pass the information gathered on to the FCC. It should help you understand what speeds are actually being delivered, not just promised by the nation's telecoms. You just enter your address and allow the tests to run. It measures the download speed, upload speed, latency, and jitter using one of two tests. You can select to run the other test as well. The FCC is requiring the street address, as it "may use this data to analyze broadband quality and availability on a geographic basis". They promise not to release location data except in the aggregate. A free Java plug-in is necessary to run the test.

I was a bit surprised they don't ask for the service provider or any information about the configuration in the house, but some of that they may be able to derive.

Some people are skeptic.

The site says that it is part of a larger effort:

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law on February 17, 2009. The Broadband Initiatives funded in the Act are intended to accelerate broadband deployment across the United States. The Recovery Act authorizes the FCC to create a National Broadband Plan that shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal."

The performance reported at my house was about what I expected.

"The FCC isn't forgetting about those left out of the broadband revolution and is asking those who live in a broadband "Dead Zone" by filling out a report online, calling the FCC at -888-CALL-FCC, faxing the e-mail or even sending a letter through the Postal Service"

A UK based February 26 Future Internet meeting

HP Labs' Nick Wainwright has been appointed Chair of the UK Future Internet Strategy Group, which will consider next-generation technologies, applications and services. They are going to hold a meeting on February 26th in London - and it's free when you register.

There are many groups who are looking at ways to capitalize on the Internet or even look at mechanisms to steer organizational or governmental approaches based new capabilities. I mentioned a presentation I made to the mayor and city council of Toronto, where they had an initiative to make most of the city's information available on-line. It looks like the UK is doing a similar activity on a national scale. They are essentially trying to enter into the age of abundance for government data, trying to get value out of what already exists as well as new approaches.

Now the question for me is: "How are they going to address the attention issues for the constituants who use the data?" or are they going to provide the flexibility for the end user community to tailor notification to meet their needs. Naturally security and deriving individual's behavior will also be a concern.


Interesting articles on about innovation

On, there is an article titled "Accelerating Success Through Innovation." It discusses EDS’ position on innovation and spotlight how our government segment is delivering innovation. One of the items mentioned in the story is the emergency management system that EDS did for the City of Anaheim. It is the most impressive geographic information systems I’ve ever seen, pulling together the various service organizations and displaying their information in a relatively easy to use interface. In the past I've written about how people make decisions based upon context not data, and this system is focused overcoming the attention engineering problem.

There are also two innovation thought-leadership articles: "Three Innovation Don’ts" and "Why You Can’t Ignore Social Media." and a new paper "Navigating Difficult Times" and the most recent HP Labs Annual Report.

I normally don’t just reference articles on, but these are all dealing with subjects this blog has covered before.

'Robodoc' makes his rounds to drive innovation in healthcare

I was reading the morning paper today and came across an interesting article about a new technology that made its debut in Folsom, CA affectionately named "Robodoc".

"Robodoc" shouldn't be confused with the software product "ROBOdoc" that helps software development organizations automate software documentation in source code. It does however have closer ties to "RoboCop", a police officer of the future featured in a 1987 thriller. "Robodoc" is a robotic medical device that automates the delivery of potentially life-saving care to stroke patients. Treating stroke patients is time-sensitive, as studies have shown that some patients have a better chance of making a reasonable recovery if a clot-busting drug is administered within a three-hour window.

"Robodoc" allows a doctor located miles, or even continents away to examine a patient brought into an emergency room through a laptop equipped with a joystick. A video screen positioned on top of the robot's body displays an image of the doctor. Cameras mounted above the screen are the robot's eyes, giving the doctor a view of the patient.

This remote presence tool in the telemedicine arsenal allows hospitals access to scarce specialists wherever they are in the world to evaluate a patient in a matter of minutes and deliver care that could be life-saving. The implementation of this technology in Folsom was only made possible by a philanthropic donation by a local family.

As with all new technologies in healthcare, incentives encourage adoption. The potential to improve patient care and mortality rates is endless. What's good for the patient is also good for the doctor. Doctors could be anywhere in the world, including the sipping wine at the Tignanello vineyards in Tuscany, Italy. I can see some new federal regulations governing the use of  "Robodoc" in the near future! Seriously, why does it take the philanthropic generosity of private citizens to drive innovation in healthcare?  Shouldn't every hospital have one?

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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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