Gait recognition… this made me laugh and reflect

I came across this article the other day titled: Chinese authorities use gait analysis to identify citizens on CCTVThe topic made me nostalgic, since I’d been part of some brainstorming on a very similar topic over a decade ago with some of the EDS (soon to be HP) Fellows.

We were imagining the possible uses of vibration analysis and signal processing. One of the areas discussed was gait recognition. Other ideas were monitoring patient health or even environment control, those turned into patent applications while I was at HP labs.

Seeing the article made me reflect on the great team I was part of at EDS and then HP, as well as the various truly innovative ideas we came up with and discussed with customers.

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Is automation forcing divergent paths of quality vs. cost?

robots-too-humanI saw an interesting post: When Robot Writers Take Over, Will Freelancers Be Obsolete? The article was focused on freelance writing, but it did make me wonder about the whole concept of freelancing, in general.

The relatively fixed and easy to automate positions in many fields are ripe for automation. Those that require creativity or unique insight should be safe for a long time to come. In fact, automation could make the freelancers life less mundane and more interesting. It reminded me of a situation earlier in my career…

Back in the early 90s, I worked in the AI space for Electronic Data Systems (EDS). We focused primarily on solving problems for GM and the US government. Somewhere around here I have a coffee cup with the moto of the group: “Make it Work, Make it Real”. Unfortunately, the folks working in the group had felt it really meant that if we could make it work, it wasn’t really AI — since someone would always say that it was just regular old programming, no matter what innovative technique or esoteric language we used.

One of the projects I led was called Knowledge-based Tool Design. We were trying to automate tooling design for clamping and welding car parts using CAD techniques, a project far ahead of its time. Programmatically determining the right type of clamp and the correct way to swing it into place was too difficult spatially, for the time. We just didn’t have the compute power and the algorithms determine orientation and approach. A good human tool designer could see the solution intuitively.

We did figure out that people are not good at pulling together the bill-of-materials to ensure that the clamp and all the hydraulic and mounting components… were defined. We shifted our attention to defining that type of detail using computers — reducing the errors and rework later in the process.

Similarly, in other industries, there are so many annoying and resource intensive, low hanging fruit to be picked that the return on investment for tackling truly intuitive problems just isn’t there. That can all change though as better algorithms and computing capabilities develop.

There are a couple of ways this could go:

  • The intuitive functions will likely become more of a freelance function, since companies will not need (or be willing to pay) for those expert roles all the time and the work will be interesting.
  • The focus shifts to less high-quality designs that can be automated.

In any case, employment as we know it will be changing.

Six thoughts on mobility trends for 2018

mobility walkLet’s face it, some aspects of mobility are getting long in the tooth. The demand for more capabilities is insatiable. Here are a few areas where I think 2018 will see some exciting capabilities develop. Many of these are not new, but their interactions and intersection should provide some interesting results and thoughts to include during your planning.

1. Further blurring and integration of IoT and mobile

We’re likely to see more situations where mobile recognizes the IoT devices around them to enhance contextual understanding for the user. We’ve seen some use of NFC and Bluetooth to share information, but approaches to embrace the environment and act upon the information available is still in its infancy. This year should provide some significant use cases and maturity.

2. Cloud Integration

By now most businesses have done much more than just stick their toe in the cloud Everything as a Service (XaaS) pool. As the number of potential devices in the mobility and IoT space expand, the flexibility and time to action that cloud solutions facilitate needs to be understood and put into practice. It is also time to take all the data coming in from these and transform that flow into true contextual understanding and action, also requiring a dynamic computing environment.

3. Augmented reality

With augmented reality predicted to expend to a market somewhere between $120 and $221 billion in revenues by 2021, we’re likely to see quite a bit of innovation in this space. The wide range of potential demonstrates the lack of a real understanding. 2018 should be a year where AR gets real.

4. Security

All discussions of mobility need to include security. Heck, the first month of 2018 has should have nailed the importance of security into the minds of anyone in the IT space. There were more patches (and patches of patches) on a greater range of systems than many would have believed possible just a short time ago. Recently, every mobile store (Apple, Android…) was found to have nefarious software that had to be exercised. Mobile developers need to be ever more vigilant, not just about the code they write but the libraries they use.

5. Predictive Analytics

Context is king and the use of analytics to increase the understanding of the situation and possible responses is going to continue to expand. As capabilities advance, only our imagination will hold this area back from increasing where and when mobile devices become useful. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the security issues that are based on using predictive analytics.

6. Changing business models

Peer to peer solutions continue to be the rage but with the capabilities listed above, whole new approaches to value generation are possible. There will always be early adopters who are willing to play with these and with the deeper understanding possibilities today new approaches to crossing the chasm will be demonstrated.

It should be an interesting year…

Unique is Where the Value is (a second look)

I was looking through my archives the other day as I was putting together some information for a presentation related to innovation. I came across a post I wrote almost a decade ago (2005) that included the following illustration:

Unique is where the value is

It is all too easy to allow our creative focus to concentrate on ‘normal’ – the areas we understand well, rather than delve into the fast unknown of unique thinking.

As I look at this model today one of the things that is missing is the collaborative nature that permeates live today. We actively need to mine there relationships for both value and ideas. The fact that others may not look at things ‘normally’ is something we need to take advantage. Other than that some of the concepts of cognitive computing and systems of action were there even back then.

Ethical issues on the horizon for digital assistants focused at children?

robots-too-humanThis week, I was part of an innovation panel at a large Dallas based IT manufacturer and during the discussion a new product for children was mentioned. Cognitoys is the company that makes a huggable dinosaur-like toy that is connected to IBM’s Watson APIs. I can’t help thinking about Barney whenever I see it.

I call these digital assistants, since they can understand and interact using natural language. Popular digital assistants for adults currently include Apple’s Siri, Google Now and soon Microsoft’s Cortana. This particular implementation is:

  • Speech enabled
  • Internet connected
  • Personalized
  • Educational

There was all the concern about ‘smart’ Barbie earlier this year. Barbie was just a warning shot to the possibilities, since the Barbie implementation wasn’t backed up by a supercomputer. I haven’t heard any concern yet about this toy.

The possibilities makes me wonder about the whole issue of “digital immigrants” vs. “digital natives” vs. these kids who will grow up interacting with and possibly being trained by digital nannies.

What level of configuration (or self-configuration) will be possible through the parent panel? Will parents enable the ‘toy’ to suggest that it is time for bed, take a bath, be more polite, learn a language, understand algebra or religion?? One parents grey area could will likely be another’s line in the sand.

There will be some ethical issues for the patents, the company providing the services… that will likely be worked out in the marketplace during this holiday season.

Measuring the value and impact of cloud probably hasn’t changed that much over the years but…

cloud question markI was in a discussion today with a number of technologists when someone asked “How should we measure the effectiveness of cloud?” One individual brought up a recent post they’d done titled: 8 Simple Metrics to Track Your Cloud SuccessIt was good but a bit too IT centric for me.

That made me look up a post I wrote on cloud adoption back in 2009. I was pleased that my post held up so well, since the area of cloud has changed significantly over the years. What do you think? At that time I was really interested in the concept of leading and lagging indicators and that you really needed to have both perspectives as part of your metrics strategy to really know how process was being made.

Looking at this metrics issue made me think “What has changed?” and “How should we think about (and measure) cloud capabilities differently?”

One area that I didn’t think about back then was security. Cloud has enabled some significant innovation on both the positive and the negative sides of security. We were fairly naive about security issues back then and most organizations have much greater mind-share applied to security and privacy issues today – I hope!

Our discussion did make me wonder about what will replace cloud in our future or will we just rename some foundational element of it – timesharing anyone?

One thing I hope everyone agrees to though is: it is not IT that declares success or defines the value, it remains the business.

A panel about unlocking innovation in business

innovation unlockYesterday, I had a call from Jeff Wacker (a retired Senior Fellow from HP) who had a conflict that prevents him from participating in an innovation panel discussion at a large, multi-national IT firm that has a significant presence in the Dallas area. Naturally, I agreed since pulling together material for a discussion like this is a rich opportunity to harvest blogging material (I’ll have to reference those posts in the comments to this one).

Innovation is an interesting issue for some organizations for a variety of reasons:

1) It is someone else’s problem — people allow themselves to say ‘I am not innovative’ when in reality innovation is part of the human condition. We just need recognize when it’s happening and then capitalize on it.

2) They don’t set themselves up for it to happen naturally — sometimes people think that innovation happens only serendipitously. There is no doubt that is true, but there are many things organizations can do to enable it to happen more often. I’ll likely have a whole post on this later.

3) Too often we let things stand in the way of innovation — My philosophy has always been that after two years in a position I am likely to be more part of the problem than part of the solution, so its time to give someone else a chance. Churn in relationships and personnel can be a good thing and helps address the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ issue.

Those are a few thoughts that sprang to mind as I sat through the initial discussion about this innovation panel. Now I just need to flesh them out with stories and arguments to make it relevant to an audience of people who probably are not going to be all that innovative — otherwise we wouldn’t have the session.