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

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.

90 the new 60 - and what can technology do about it?

I've heard this phrase a few times over the past months as a way of putting how long people are going to be living in context. Now that I am 50, 60 doesn't seem so far away so it's a good thing we're moving the signposts and shifting our perspectives. When I was growing up, 60 was old, now it seems like it's when some people get their second wind and seeing their children get awards that they received (like Kirk Douglas).

When we think about the implications of the demographic shift there is the perspective of a "grey revolution", as this powerful demographic begins to exert it's purchasing power in areas like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, education, robotics, advertisement and really across the board.

"By the year 2020, close to 50% of Europe's adult population will be aged 50 or over".

Although there is talk about "fixed income" and inflation forcing people to limiting spending, one thing that's true is they will have more discretionary time available -- even though it may not seem that way based on how busy my wife's parents seem to be.

For IT organizations this is a rich area for analytics to enable businesses to define new approaches and markets. These techniques can help organizations become more proactive and help shape their future. Even with the world changing, there will be constants like the desire for convenience, simplicity with low cost and high quality.

IT organizations can also look internally at the changing HR needs with the company, ensuring that all that knowledge from the people who helped create the industry does not walk out the door at the end of a career. That's where collaboration and knowledge capture techniques become important. Many people assume that the replacement workers will be more productive, without a significant knowledge network and foundation may not be the case. Now that more people are working in a wider variety of locations, the collaboration and access to a corporate knowledge store will need to take place from mobile devices as well as the traditional desktop. After all , it does no good to have the best repository of information in the world if you can't get at it when you need it.

This is an area ripe for IT innovation.

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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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