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

Internet likely to move beyond the clouds

riding comet.pngA few years back I posted about project Loon, an effort to provide Internet access to areas difficult to reach. Now there is an increased interest in using low earth orbit satellites to address to provide Internet access to the same remote market.

 

Satellite Internet access has been around for quite a long time. Signal Latency was always the Achilles’ heel. For a geo stationary orbit the roundtrip time is about ¼ of a second. That will pretty much prevent any chatty applications from being user friendly. A LEO satellite network should be able to get the latency down to a tenth that delay.

 

If these orbiting devices are more than just routers, but provide computing capability and storage as well, some real interesting possibilities could fall to earth. Although I doubt the initial implmentations will do much of this, a SkyNet approach is almost inevitable, though hopefully focused more on ubiuitous and abundant computing than defence.

Data and decision latency expectations shifting

Analytics time.pngOne of the issues I’ve talked about many times over the year is the need to shift our understanding and expectation of latency and action. I came across this post: Analytics Time Lags Result in Lost Opportunities. It also discusses the fact that the data gathering and analytics that were great a short while ago are now viewed as insufficient, stating that “72% of analytics and business leaders surveyed were dissatisfied with the time it takes to get data-driven results”.

 

Unfortunately, it didn’t really do more than imply that solutions exist. Fact is most solutions deployed today are based on hindsight. There is little doubt that the vast amounts of data available are going to require an exceptional command of information, far beyond just hindsight. It will require a refocusing of skills and perspective that are based on generating value from the abundance of computing and data available. This will require new techniques for computing as well as data gathering and integration. The work going on in HP labs related to The Machine will help address these needs, when this platform is released.

 

We have data coming in from sensors and mobile devices creating an ever increasing amount of Dark Data where value can be generated. We can also build context from the other data about what happened when, who or what was involved or happened at the same time. This derived data or metadata can sometimes be more valuable than the raw data itself, since people don’t really make decisions off the data but the context the data describes. Organizations are recognizing that all this data will provide a depth of understanding about what happened in the past, present and future that we’ve not really taken advantage of before.

 

We can develop a greater depth of understanding about what is happening right now that can enable us to automate decisions or concentrate that rare resource – employee attention - on those areas that really need it. There are relatively new technologies that most teams have not even looked at like software defined networks… that can operate on data on the fly instead of just data at rest. This will eventually enable a more active, organizational approach to tackling opportunities.

 

Finally, over the years we’ve learned that getting to zero response time is very difficult. It may actually be easier to move to a negative response time, where you predict what is likely to happen and adjust to be ready to address it or even shift the outcome. Tools to address all these various perspectives of data and enabling right-time decisions are available to improve your ability to optimize time-to-action are available today.

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.

 

 

The shifting world of business continuity

disaster2.pngI was in an exchange this week with an individual talking about business continuity. The view that business continuity needs to focus on:

An organizations business continuity approach need to be reassessed in a world of high levels of automation, contracting for services and reduced latency. The very definition of foundational terms like ‘work location’, ‘services’ and ‘support’ are changing. Diversity of perspective is likely to be a critical component of any kind of timely, situation response.

 

“The management of business continuity falls largely within the sphere of risk management, with some cross-over into related fields such as governance, information security and compliance. Risk is a core consideration since business continuity is primarily concerned with those business functions, operations, supplies, systems, relationships etc. that are critically important to achieve the organization's operational objectives. Business Impact Analysis is the generally accepted risk management term for the process of determining the relative importance or criticality of those elements, and in turn drives the priorities, planning, preparations and other business continuity management activities.”

 

In today’s environment, business impact analysis is becoming ever more technical and the interconnection between environmental factors more complex. We have seen situations recently with program trading that an entire financial institution has been placed at risk when their automated trading responds in an unforeseen fashion or their governance breaks down. We’ll be seeing similar techniques applied throughout organizational processes.

 

The response to almost any situation can be enabled by techniques like VOIP and other approaches that allow additional levels of abstraction. Simulations can be used to understand the implications of various scenarios as part of business continuity planning.

 

As I mentioned back in March:

Having an effective, robust approach to business continuity is part of management, security and many other roles within an organization.  It is important to remember that there is a cost for being unable to respond to an incident.

Context, automation and the future of services

looking for direction.jpgThere recently was a story about a computer program that passed the Turing Test. When you get into the details of what was actually done, I am not sure it really qualifies. The fact that people are talking about the event though is enough to show that we’re pretty far down the road toward breaking down the perceived barriers between machines and human interaction.

 

These advanced levels of interaction capability are enabled by a new wave of AI applications that can capture context at scale and in near real-time. These solutions when they move out of the labs should be able to consume massive amounts of information and generate contextual understanding at a level that even the most intuitive individual would find difficult to match.

 

You might ask what does this mean for the future of services. Or where will it be of use to my organization? It should be applicable at just about any point where a conversation occurs with customer or between:

  • employee and employee
  • organization and organization
  • government and citizen

We may be able to automate interaction that isn’t face-to-face and even then it may need to be person to person with the likelihood we can overcome the uncanny valley.

 

These new context-aware, AI enabled interactions can provide a multi-level view on engagements and ‘experience’, allowing organizations to filter through the noise and latency (for example waiting for certain skills -- Spanish language) and shift the focus to an enriching experience, relationships, and achieving goals. I can easily see a future talking with an AI agent at the drive-up window, as a low-hanging opportunity.

 

The recent book The Second Machine Age, examines how society, the economy, and business will transform as digital technologies and smarter machines increasingly take over human occupations.

 

It makes you look for direction about who will robots put out of work? This interactive graphic from Quartz takes a stab at answering that question—exploring which U.S. jobs are most likely to become automated, and how many workers could be affected.

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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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