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’.

Personal agents and services – we need to expect more

gossip.pngOne area I find exciting is the collaboration between humans and automation that is going to have a significant impact on the future of services. An area that is needed to support this collaboration is Personal agents and there has been substantial interest lately.

 

Bill Gates says he is working on a Personal Agent and you may have seen (included in Windows 10 beta) Cortana -- you know who Cortana is if you play Halo. This is pretty exciting, but I am sure there are some people who remember Clippy and wonder if this will just be a reincarnation. I don’t think so!

 

We have so much more context recognition capability now than we had back then (as well as the computing power to go with it). With all the data around us, there is a need to use agents to help us focus our attention on those areas that need our creativity.

 

I can’t wait to see where the industry takes this, since moving from a generic approach like Cortana to a business specific approach is inevitable. The reassessment and reinvestment in agents is definitely one of the technologies that will shift services in 2015 and later. Industry and even company specific agents will definitely fall out of this work, so we might as well plan to experiment and understand where it will do the most good.

VR of yesteryear revived?

 

Google and Mattel Revive The View-Master With VR. Everyone I knew growing up at a view-master and I know I had some reels from a generation earlier.

 

You need to add the technology – via an Android phone, but still it is interesting in this age of information everywhere they will have consumable “experience reels” that you can add on. We’ll see how that business model works.

 

In any case, it does bring back nostalgic memories.

 

 

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.

Economic growth but flat energy consumption

1st law of thermo.pngThis seems to strain the first law of thermodynamics.

 

According to this article in IEEE spectrum, the US economy has grown 8% since 2007 but the annualized electricity demand has been flat.

 

“The third annual Sustainable Energy in America fact book from Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that electricity demand growth, which has slowed since 1990, has come to a grinding halt.”

For more information, visit the Factbook portal on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy website.

 

Although there is quite a bit of data about what made this happen, energy efficiency through computing had a role to play, through:

  • Smarter buildings
  • Smarter metering
  • And increased efficiency through automation

Most of these efforts have been done in relatively isolation, when we move into a more holistic approach to IoT it will likely fuel even greater efficiencies.

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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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