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

Will we need to update Moore’s law with the coming innovations...?

memory.jpgI was in an exchange with someone this week where we were talking about technology advances and some of the exponential ‘laws’ of IT. One of those is Moore’s law of transistor density. It is definitely useful, but maybe transistor density no longer has the meaning or breadth of relevance it used to?

 

For storage, it can take many transistors to store a one or a zero. But with Memristor or some of the other technologies that will someday compete with today’s memory circuits, they will not use transistors. Will we need to move to the density of 'holding either a zero or a one' instead?

 

Storage is just the start of the shift in computing circuits that are likely.

IoT and IT’s ability to foresee unintended consequences

Internet of things.pngI was recently talking with someone about an Internet of Things study that is coming out and it really made me wonder. HP has been doing work in the IoT for decades and gets relatively little credit for the efforts. In fact where I started work back in the 80s was writing statistical analysis tools for plant floor (SCADA) data collection – essentially the high value, big data space of its time, back when a 1 MIPS minicomputer was a high $$ investment.

 

The issues we deal with today are a far cry from that era, now we’re as likely to analysis data in the field about well head performance or robotics but many of the fundamentals remain the same. I’ve mentioned the issue of passive oversharing in the past, and addressing that issue needs to be at the foundation of today’s IoT efforts as well as value optimization issues.

 

I was in a discussion about vehicle to vehicle communications requirements a few months back and the whole issue of privacy looms much larger than the first thoughts of preventing accidents. I think everyone would agree that putting on the breaks by those vehicles affected is a good idea. Should the stop lights recognize bad behavior and visually send a signal to other drivers? There are a wide range of innovations possible with a network like this.

 

There are also negative possibilities to be considered:

  • Is passing along this driver performance to the police a good idea? What about insurance companies?
  • What about just that fact that your car knows it is speeding, is that something that others should know?
  • Or the information about where you’re driving to, now that your car is sharing this information with other cars and infrastructure (cell phones already do this by the way).
  • What if a driver can ‘socially engineer’ the limits of the system to maximize the performance for them. An example of this might be if you were to push the system so that yellow lights would stay yellow a bit longer because you’re accelerating into the intersection – is that OK?

Some unintended consciences are going to happen. We should be able to see many of them coming, if we think creatively. IT organizations will need to develop their implication assessment skills, for their social as well as business effects. The IT team should have better comprehension of the analysis and data sharing that has happened elsewhere and the implications, regardless of the business or industry and be able to advise accordingly. They need to reach out early and often.

The search for ubiquitous power and IoT

plugging in economy.pngI was pulling together a presentation for a bunch of technologists on the Internet of Things (IoT) that I am giving later today. There have been numerous discussions about the possibilities of ubiquitous computing, but one of the prerequisites is ubiquitous power – we’re getting closer but we’re not there yet.

 

One of the side effects of Moore’s law is that threshold voltages for transistor switching keeps going down. That means that the power requirements for devices go down as well. This week there were a couple of interesting examples of more flexible energy access in the press:

As we find more uses for computing, there will be just as an ambitious effort for finding ubiquitous energy sources. Advances like this may enable organizations to address their business from more diverse locations going forward.

What about 'the machine'?

0610_hp_05_630.jpgI came across this Businessweek article: HP May Have Invented a New Kind of Computer – the Machine. This is all too early to be covered by an event like HP Discover, but still very thought provoking. In fact, I was a bit surprised by the level of detail covered in the article.

 

I mentioned last week that we are entering the second half of the current phase of IT technology – the steep part of the S curve, where the real changes take place. An interesting thing to look out for at this stage are the signposts along the journey that will be pointing to the next phase. I wonder if this work by HP labs will be one of those markers -- or will it just be an enabler to generate maximum value within the current phase.

 

Well, I pulled off two presentations yesterday at HP Discover. If the two I am doing today are half as effective as the ones yesterday, I’ll be happy.

Start small but think big, when transforming

StartSmallThinkBig.jpgYesterday, I posted about how we’re half-way through the current stage of IT and mentioned how IT needs to change. Today, I saw an interesting post from McKinsey & Company that has some similar views: Reinventing IT to support digitization.

 

They have identified seven elements critical to IT performance improvement:

1)      Clear, central business leadership on digital

2)      Elite IT talent

3)      Sourcing arrangements to scale the workforce rapidly

4)      Agile development and rapid releases

5)      Rapid innovation architecture supported by stable services

6)      Scalable cloud-based infrastructure

7)      High-quality integrated data

 

I agree with all those points, although I’d have dropped off the ‘on digital’ from the first point. I think all too often we continue to unnecessarily isolate the information technology goals and efforts from the business.

 

The article went on to describe a two-speed approach to transformation. This is one area that is as much about risk control as providing new capabilities. Start small but think big – is probably the rule. We can’t change everything at once and when making this kind of change, you need to develop experience.

This was driven home to me the other day when I was talking with my son (who teaches on-line). He was looking for a way to contact his students in a flexible, yet automated fashion. I said “Oh, no problem. I’ll just write an app for your phone.” I’ve written apps for a number of different mobile platforms over the years, so I thought it would be easy. I laid out a storyboard of the various screens. I bounced requirements off him. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, to make it look professional.

 

I dug into coding the first prototype. It seemed everywhere I turned, the Android environment didn’t want to support me in my efforts. It just didn’t have the fundamentals in the OS that I needed (or maybe the way I wanted them). So, I started to break the application down into various components that I could understand, validate and execute. Eventually, I will stitch them all together into a final application, but my first goal now is to get something dumb and functional that he can play with – without all the bells and whistles that were in the early design. A page out of any Agile Development handbook.

 

The same approach is needed as an organization starts to tackle its larger business support role and reinvention of its application portfolio.

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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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