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

Product personalization -- an example of mass customization possibilities

Although Coke’s “Share a Coke” effort has run into some interesting issues in the marketplace, it is clear that personalization of products is something that drives sales in the consumer space.


The technology that enabled personalization of labeling comes from HP’s Indigo technology. To make the campaign a reality, HP had to create a special ink that would perfectly print Coke’s famous red label. Then the task of producing the 800 million personalized labels that spanned 30 languages and five different alphabets in the timeframe required raised its head.


Many businesses are trying to find a way to relate more closely with their customers and this printing technology provided the flexibility required.

Preparing to surf the tech waves of the future…

Internet.pngYesterday, I met with a number of technologists and educators from North Texas (Interlink) to discuss the changes that educators need to prepare for in their high school and college curricula. It was a lively discussion and reminded me of the issues IT organizations have in determining where to encourage their people to develop themselves and prepare the organization for the future...


How has the workplace shifted in the past 15 years?

office.GIFI was talking yesterday to a professional futurist about the workplace of the future. We started off with the question “How do you think the workplace has evolved/changed over the last 10-15 years?”


I thought there has been an interesting merger of entertainment and work over the years with more gamification (Entertainment as work) and work taking place everywhere (work as entertainment). The days of sitting on a plane or train and resting are over – working is almost always an option.


We are well on our way to move from discrete devices to personal ecosystems that support our sensory, communications and entertainment needs. For example: 15 years ago, we would use MapQuest to print out a map before driving somewhere we’ve never been before. It was soon replaced by low cost discrete devices like a TomTom or Garmin. Today, I can do all that on my Android phone. It is less than a commodity, directions are a side effect of other tools I use.


My phone now knows when I am in the car and I can make it change its behavior for that environment, with little or no thought on my part. It can use the cars speakers… This shift to an integrated environment view rather than a product specific view is fundamental and well underway and will expand out to hotel rooms, conference rooms… rather than just my home office or car.


Another big shift that I’ve seen is the use of a whole communications arsenal instead of just email. 15 years ago, email was considered cool and new to some people – I think I had my first email account in the early 80s. Now it is recognized in its rightful role as a conduit of workflow and information… The synchronous phone call is almost an imposition not the mainstay of collaboration of a few years ago. Now hybrid tools (Lync as an example) is unifying communications, bridging between the asynchronous IM (r u there?) and buffering, yet supporting the interruption required for synchronous voice and video. With consumerization, we have those same capabilities in our personal lives now too (and they may even be better) and with a smart phone available all the time..


Personalization is common. We have come to expect that websites know we’ve been there before. With 3D printing, I can make what I want when I want it. Some of the cottage industry mentality has come back, allowing people to do what they want to do, at home.


What do you see as the biggest shift? I’ll try and put a post about some of the ways I see it shifting in the future soon, as well the effect on IT.

2013 predictions - a year of expectation

If 2011 was the year of transformation and 2012 was the year of disruption, I believe that 2013 will be a year of expectation – changing expectations in IT. A year when many of these trends I’ve posted about really hit home. I’ll use the links in this post to provide the background context for these predictions.


Security is shifting with more threats from more sources and the realization that everyone gets hacked. Organizations will have a higher expectations of security based on what everyone has experienced and learned.


The industry has been talking about mobile devices, sensors and using networks to pull data from the edge and so now they’ll look to do something with all this data.


The market has talked about having software defined networks to make communications as virtualized and flexible as the computing infrastructure, now this versatility will become an expectation.


As organizations inch their way out of this incessant economic downturn, they will need new techniques that give greater insight on performance and satisfaction. This means that IT organizations will need to expand their definition of “customer” to include suppliers, partners, consumers and anything/one that can make a difference. 2013 will be a year where the constraints of the past need to be broken and organizations will be expected to look beyond whatever hinders innovation and the generation of greater value.


We can expect to see bigger data and even bigger storage, with copious amounts of information coming from more sensors in more places. Organizations will no longer be satisfied with using only 3-5% of the data available. Beyond being more of it, the information collected will be of a wider variety (including video, sound…) so transforming the information from one format to another and back will be increasingly important. I think more importantly – there will be a greater understanding and expectations of the value of the metadata – who is sending what to whom, when and what is the driving intent. After all, people do not really make decisions based on the data, they make decisions based on the context the data describes. The expertise for those that understand both the information and how it can be applied to the business goals of the day will be in highest demand. The whole concept of ‘In Memory’ computing will be up for a shift in expectations for where and how it is used – although that one might need to wait for 2014.


We’ll also see these devices in the field used for more functions – like the wide spread acceptance of new and improved NFC capabilities for payment and identity. The Internet of Things (IoT) will become just the Internet. Individuals will be able to add IoT capabilities independent of the original manufacturer, if desired. Although enterprises may still be crawling their way to the IoT, consumers will embrace IoT in 2013.


I also fully expect a couple of different disruptive display technologies in 2013 to shift our thinking about where and when a display is needed (or even possible).


One of the other core shifts in expectation will be around simplicity. The current solutions are just too complex. We can’t skimp on security, connectivity and collaboration, yet the interface needs to be made simpler, not ever more visibly complex. Attention engineering techniques that I’ve been talking about for about a decade will become more prevalent, since they will address the scarcity of this scarce resource. This expectation will be fueled by the IoT, big data, computing and new display technologies. We’ll see this talked about more explicitly in 2013.


The expectation will be that there is more opportunity than ever in 2013. There will be new hardware capabilities announced that will store and compute more with less impact on the ecology around us. The inherent capabilities of the world around us will increase as well so that we’ll collaborate or even negotiate more with our devices as well as the people around us. The concept of human augmentation of automation will be significantly less foreign at the end of 2013 than it is today.


Last year, I made some predictions about the shift in organizations applications portfolio assessments and the adoption of enterprise stores, I was probably a year premature on that one, so 2013 will likely be the year when these long term issues come home to roost. Organizations need to prune their tree of applications, if they expect new capabilities and innovation to bloom. There is just not enough budget to innovate and also feed the drain from low value solutions, just because we’ve supported them for so long. Enterprises also still have the issue that most of the apps in production can’t really unleash the power of the cloud. 2013 should see new tools and techniques to address this potential.


That is where the issue of scarcity and abundance becomes so important in 2013. We need to maximize the use of what’s abundant to maximize the value of what’s scarce – do even more with more. Organizations need to start to look for, measure and actively address these resource consumption issues.


Some of the top trends of 2012 moving into 2013:

One area where I believe expectations will shift tremendously in 2013 is in a new understanding of personalization. Using the contextual information available from big data and the need for attention engineering, individuals and corporations will have greater expectation on how information is delivered to them. Although 2013 may be too soon, there will also be a shift in how products are personalized as 3D printing moves out of limited use and becomes significantly more mainstream with some parts of the world having 3D printing capabilities as a local service. 3D printing helps address the fact that the cost of transportation is going to have an increased impact on who, makes what where. This may be even further out, but the concept of personalized medicine, tuned to an individual’s genetic makeup will be in the news much more in 2013. All of these things are variations of a shift in understanding and expectation of what personalization will really mean.


Although nothing ever really goes away in IT, there will be some areas that IT organizations will see reduced demand. One will be the bare metal OS. It is almost gone on servers and I fully expect that in 2013 you’ll see it head for the exit on phones and other non-dedicated mobile devices. Virtualization just makes too much sense at so many levels. IPV4 is another technology whose time is waning. Sure it will be around for a very long time – forever! But the excuses to not implement IPV6 may have run their course and now is the time.


I’ve mentioned before that the CIO’s role is changing and there are some CIO activities that likely need to be dropped. For the personnel in the organization, there needs to be a realization that automation is the new off-shore – embrace it and internalize what it may mean to your career.


One last area I almost forgot was the battle over Internet censorship and control which we’ve just started to hear more about in the last few months will reach new heights in 2013. Both governments and activists will be flexing their muscles and putting a strain on the open Internet that so much of our work is based upon. Keep an eye on this issue, since we all have a great deal riding on it.


As I ended my post for 2012 -- those who can have the vision, will be in for quite a ride this year.


By the way we’re going to have a twitter chat on 2013 Technology resolutions - December 12, 2012 noon US central. Use tag #HPESchat. Share what you see in store for 2013.

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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.
The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation.