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

What a change a year can make in technology adoption…

cruise.jpgI was on a cruise last week with my wife and a number of our neighbors. About a year ago I took a similar cruise.


One of the biggest changes I noticed is the number of people who used their cells throughout the entire trip, when compared to just a year ago. Either the cost of telecom charges on the ship have gone down dramatically or the perceived value of constant contact has increased.

Of course, there is the possibility that these folks will be in for a surprise when they get next month's bill.

Where did the IoT come from?

I was talking with some folks about the Internet of Things the other day and they showed me some analysis that made it look like it was relatively recent.


where did the IoT come from.jpg


My view is that its foundations go back a long way. I worked on (SCADA) Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems back in the 80s, which were gathering data off the factory floor, analyzing it and performing predictive analytics, even way back then.

In the 70s, passive RFID came into being and one of the first places it was used was tracking cows for the department of agriculture to ensure they were given the right dosage of medicine and hormones – since cows could talk for themselves.


In the late 70s and early 80s barcodes become widely used to identify objects, allowing greater tracking of manufacturing lines as well as consumers in stores.


In the 90s, higher speed and greater range allowed for toll tags to be placed on cars, allowing for greater ease of identification but still very little use of sensors to collect additional information.


At the turn of the century, the military and Walmart required the use of RFID to track products and that caused significant increase in their adoption. About the same time, low powered sensing capabilities were developed since RFID only provided identification and the scanner provided location, people began to look at other information that could be collected like temperature, humidity as well as ways to gather information remotely like smart metering in the utilities space (although even that started much earlier).


Most technology adoption follows an S curve for investment and value generation. We’re just now entering the steep part of the S curve where the real business models and excitement is generated. It is not really all that new it is just that the capabilities have caught up with demand and that is making us think about everything differently (and proactively).

How much does our view of the future define our creativity?

Cloud optimist.pngA few weeks ago I did a blog post on the technology in the world in 2045. I got a range of email from those who view the world in a positive light and those who are negative about the world of the future (and the human race in general). I found this very negative view for a technologist a bit odd, but that is probably just me.


One approach I have started to take when looking at technology adoption and the needs of others is to try and address both supply and demand. There is so much abundance around us that can create even greater abundance by enabling the use of what is in short supply effectively. It takes innovators to understand the conflict and capitalize upon it. There are those that can only see the shortages and feel like victims. My perspective is more positive about our options and see it as an opportunity for us to persevere using our native creativity.


It will not be the same as today. The technologies that we deal with every day have a significant role in making everything around us better. There are many possibilities, but it is up to us to look for those answers if we want the future we desire.


The best way to predict the future is to invent it. -- Alan Kay

The converging Venn diagram of industry future trends

industry venn.jpgBack in math class, I remember we used to use Venn diagrams to show similarities and differences between sets of objects. I was in a meeting today where we were talking about business and technology trends and the impact on technology adoption… and those models started dancing through my head.


We had a great deal of examples of what was happening to shift value in finance, government, manufacturing and most other topics. We started to talk about agriculture and relatively few examples presented themselves. Right before we moved on to the next industry, I said something like: “There really isn’t that much difference between the shifts taking place in agriculture and process manufacturing.”


This got into a whole philosophical discussion about how agriculture deals with living things so it can’t be automated or be influenced to the extent of manufacturing. I tried not to bring up wine and beer production, but couldn’t help myself.


So just to get people out of their comfort zone I said, “Well if that’s the case, then agriculture is really more like Health care.” Which started a whole other vector of discussion.


In the end, we all reached a perspective that in many ways the abundance of technology and the pressures of business are actually allowing many of these industry differences to dissolve. It may also allow a new dimension of differences to come to the surface that were hidden before.


The possibilities of this polymorphic view, pulling advances in one area and applying them to others is an important part of any innovation exercise. We might need to shake up our preconceptions though about where innovations can be reapplied.

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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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