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

Diversity of perspective and the strategic value of doubt

Strategy.gifI was in a discussion the other day with some folks espousing the view that urban lifestyles are the answer to a large number of issues faced today. Always being a bit of curmudgeon, I pushed back saying that supply and demand may have something to say about this, since the closer we push people together the more fragile the ecosystem can be, in the area of food logistics, transportation, health care and many other areas. They stated that an urban environment is more creative, like it was a fact.

 

The concept of cities being an engine for innovation may actually be more of a 20th century phenomenon. We now live with virtual communities that are incorporating devices, individuals and even corporations as collaborating entities. We can collaborate more easily and have ad-hoc interactions – bandwidth is really the measurement of distance in many ways.

 

There are also economic factors - as people migrate away from the mid-west, areas of low cost with high connectivity are created. The exodus will likely stabilize or even shift, as the market reacts to the latent value possibilities that exist.

 

I was reading a recently released book Future Smart by James Canton about how we need to open up our world view to what future possibilities may hold and the need to reinvent ourselves. The book definitely has some good ideas and references, but there is an underlying ‘Silicon Valley centric’ view of “we’ve got it right” that distracts and discredits the range of future possibilities.  

 

There are many alternatives as I think about some of the intersections between industries and the possible implications. For example: Some people view the autonomous car as the death knell of the personal vehicles – why own it if it can just be there when you need it. At the same time, the intersection between home energy generation and the storage capabilities of the electric vehicle may make it an essential component of the green home of the future, stabilizing supply and demand for a families energy needs.

 

When organizations get into strategic planning discussions, it is definitely necessary to have a range of diverse perspectives. Everyone is entitled to their option and for this type of planning it is actually the conflicts that point to opportunities. If everyone is thinking the same way, some of you are redundant.

Why do you think the world will be that way? What if it isn’t? What opportunity may exist? As we look at the exponential expansion of capabilities and the underlying shifts in what’s scarce and abundant, trying to reach a consensus will help everyone plan for the future. That process may be what the author meant by being ‘future smart’.

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.

How long until we’re all part of the Internet of Cars?

robots and cars.pngThe July issue of MIT Technology Review had an article stating The Internet of Cars Is Approaching a Crossroads.

 

“Officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, DC, will see the technology in action, in a demonstration organized by experts from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute and various communications equipment and car manufacturers.”

 

There are a number of efforts in this space including the Car2Car Communications Consortium looking for what to communicate and the best way to do so.

 

Recently the largest ever real-world vehicle-to-vehicle experiment—involving 2,800 vehicles has been under way in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It involves a wide variety of types of vehicles and drivers.

 

“The main purpose of the exercise is to record data to determine how effectively information is relayed between vehicles. But some participating drivers also receive dashboard alerts, offering a glimpse of how the technology may eventually work. These participants are shown a warning if, for example, another driver several cars ahead (and out of view) applies the brakes suddenly, or if their onboard computer notices another car approaching an intersection ahead at a speed that could cause a collision.”

 

This effort focuses on an area that I’ve mentioned before Attention Engineering and actionable information. There is definitely a need to present information into the driving process in a way that a non-technical user can interpret and change their behavior.

 

I see the potential for all kinds of interesting applications to assist drivers in addressing areas of concern and techniques beyond the current beeps and bells currently applied. Of course most of them need some way to customize them as well.

 

I purchased a car earlier this year and every time I pull the car out of the garage warnings go off with my car "thinking" that my storage shelf is somehow going to collide with the side of the car. These well understood situations can be identified, understood and avoided to minimize false alarms with the sensors that are in the cars today. Ensuring that the driver’s attention is only drawn to situations where it is needed may be as important as being able to identify the real situation. 

Augmented reality windshield

This Technology Review blog entry describes a "enhanced vision system" from General Motors that can highlighting landmarks, obstacles and road edges on the windshield in real-time. The video in the entry also talks about integrating with GPS systems, to clearly mark desired locations. By using a variety of sensors, various hazards and points of interest can also be shown.


One of the areas I mentioned to watch in 2010 is augmented reality.


"The merger between reality and computer displays is becoming more prevalent and transparent. There were a few good entries on this topic in 2009, and I expect it to increase radically in the mobile computing space. This is one significant way of overcoming information overload issues with the massive amount of data being collected."


"To turn the entire windshield into a transparent display, GM uses a special type of glass coated with red-emitting and blue-emitting phosphors--a clear synthetic material that glows when it is excited by ultraviolet light. "


Looks like this particular technology is a way off since the articles says it will not be part of a production car until 2018 at the earliest.


One of the other items described in the video was the use of eye-tracking to achieve an effective virtual interface. They are getting more information than just how to align the graphics, since eye-tracking adds a new dimension to the interaction with the computer, allowing it to fade into the environment - when done correctly.  The eye-tracking can see how effective the virtual display is at attracting attention and aid with attention management for the driver.

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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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