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

Opportunities in Open Data

derived data.pngA long while back, I mentioned a kickoff presentation to the Open Data effort in Toronto. This meeting was focused on opening up the underutilized existing data, enabling the generation of new value for those living in Toronto.


Many organizations today need to inventory their data and (probably more importantly) the derived data. As part of this cataloging effort, they can look at the possibilities to leverage the data with publically and commercially available data opening up new levels of context understanding and possibility for the organization.


It is interesting when you talk to organizations about their data. They rarely understand the range of what is valuable, internal and proprietary -- let alone what could be merged with information from the government or other sources to make better decisions.


Many governments like the United States, Canada, Mexico and Singapore are opening up the floodgates of public data. For companies who understand that their data is being valued by their partners and customers, it can be a differentiator for those relationships. Naturally competitors are interested in the data as well, so a balance needs to be reached.


There are many companies across the globe that aggregate data from numerous sources and provide insight to help with decision making. Examples of some unusual types of searches anyone can do are: Coffee vs. Tea or what’s interesting about this day or what countries have the highest download speed.


Now these tools that once required high powered, custom solutions are more common – through the abundance of IT capabilities. It is shifting the foundations of what is thought of as possible.

Examples of where open data integration are making a difference:

Or the example I posted on a while back about the shifts that will come to the healthcare space when we have more genomic information and greater understanding of the effectiveness of treatment based on genetic makeup, not just the statistical average.


Information sources that contain demographic data, financial transactions, health-care benchmarks, and real-time location data are becoming prevalent. A myriad of new context-based possibilities exist for organizations to exploit both to understand their business better, differentiate themselves in the mind of the customer and generate economic value.

Abundance and scarcity – Hardness

I was driving diamond.pngyesterday and I heard a story on the radio that reminded me of a presentation I did early in the last decade. I was talking about what would happen if we could configure products based on specific characteristics required. One of those characteristics was hardness and the example was the ability to place a thin diamond coating where needed.


It appears that a UTD professor Orlando Auciello has made significant progress in growing diamond layers. In this case he is trying to grow diamond layers on medical devices.


“Unlike titanium or steel, diamond doesn’t break down from wear and tear. It’s smooth and safe for use inside the human body.”


The first ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) coated medical product they plan to produce is a dental implant with a lifespan of ten times that of the metal-based ones used today.


Before I’ve posted on looking at the changes taking place and the abundance of capabilities they provide and how those changes should enable us to look at what’s scarce differently - this is a great example. Even a small change in a characteristic can make something that is mundane, innovative.

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.

Use of genomic information and the implications of its storage

DNA Storage.pngIn looking at the technology of 2020, one of the examples I use is based on the precipitous decline in storage costs and the improved understanding of how to compress DNA information. It should be possible to store the genomic information of every person on earth in about $140M worth of storage by 2017 and by 2020 it would be only $25M. It may be even lower if disruptive technologies can be identified. 


One of the real problems is getting this information though. There was an article in Fast Company about 23andMe that gives some perspective on what this could be used for a more personalized approach to healthcare, as well as how the information could be gathered.


Many other industries need to plan on these effects as well. I just thought the Fast Company article made it more personal. 

IT’s role as an innovator – don’t surprise the business – but you can soften them up

IT Tenderizer.jpgRecently I was reading an article in Business Computing World UK titled: Driving Innovation: Starting With the IT Department. The article echoes many of the perspectives I’ve been writing about: there are new waves of technology that IT organizations need to use to educate and enable the business.


“Those able to truly embrace these advancements have been able to create entirely new markets, overtaking large and well established competitors. Amazon, Salesforce and Twitter are just some of the powerful players that have risen to prominence after their innovative use of digital strategy.”


“Most businesses are aware that the key to this is obtaining data. But it is how data is used that makes the difference between success and failure. Data alone is meaningless”. It needs to be used to describe the context of the situation or the decision that needs to be made. I’ve mentioned before example of where derived behavior data can be used to help treat disease.


The article ends by stating:

“The answer is not throwing the most recent or most cost-effective solution at a problem, but identifying the most intelligent way forward. It’s not possible for one department or individual to ‘do’ innovation, so while the IT department should be the first port of call for identifying these innovations, it must be the responsibility of the organisation as a whole.”


IT organizations need to educate the business, as much as perform the role of innovator. The businesses need to be tenderized about the possibilities, long before they will accept them as part of a business critical, goal-oriented approach. If we spring the technology on them and say “surprise, we have a solution”, it usually doesn’t work out as well as we planned.


It gets back to the basics of understanding the business strategies, the various options of technology application and their ability to generate value. Inform the leadership, so they can select among options and feel they can own the approach and the results. 

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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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