Could this be a sign of the times as China increasingly goes the e-commerce way?
Could this be a sign of the times as China increasingly goes the e-commerce way?
Ever after the global economic crisis of a decade ago, the world's largest banks have continued operating much like they always have because of the belief that they were "too big to fail." Governments for the most part seemed to go along with this reasoning. Then came the rise of the financial technology start-ups.
One can compellingly argue, that FinTechs grew so fast and offered such innovative and groundbreaking products and solutions simply because of the vacuum that existed from 'banking-as-usual'. If there is one thing the world's consumer's desire, it is a new and more convenient way by which they can use digital devices to pay for goods and services. My favorite example of this completely new paradigm involves telecommunications companies, which realized that they controlled an infrastructure that could not only be used for telephone calls but for financial transactions as well.
In the history of human endeavors, the entrepreneur or inventor who thinks big is usually the one who makes a major breakthrough and lasting mark on mankind. More recently we've seen the development of vast Cloud superstructures by a host of top technology firms as evidence that it pays to think big.
In the world of healthcare, however, the future might rest with those who think small. What I mean is that there is increasingly rapid progress in the field of genomics, where scientists are learning that medicine can be more proactive than reactive. That is to say, by manipulating the building blocks of the human body, doctors can "edit out" diseases rather than what has traditionally been done: fight the afflicted area of the body with drugs after the disease has altered the genome in some way.
In the 1980s, a huge transit strike in New York City forced many executives to walk to work instead of taking the subway or bus. To make the commute manageable, many younger executives wore tennis or running shoes and brought their leather oxfords with them to the office in backpacks. The era and look of the "Yuppie" - the young, upwardly-mobile professional - had begun.
The Nike brand became a household name. People began placing more emphasis on personal wellness and exercise, and chains of fitness centers started to spring up all over the country to take advantage of these trends.
Every now and then an entrepreneur describes the current state of technology in a way that captures the marketplace in one impactful comment. That's what happened when a professor of genetics told the MIT Technology Review that an organization must be willing to spend money to get good data. "It takes a lot of labor and capital to get ... information in a form that is useful."
Against this norm came a company called 23andMe which offered a genetic analysis for just $199. Consumers grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The company has seen a phenomenal rise since, because anyone can order a kit by mail, provide a saliva sample, mail it back, and in a relatively short time receive an impressive genetic analysis. By that I mean a review of 650,000 genetic markers. The review allows scientists to detect common versions of each of the 20,000 genes a human being possesses.
Who hasn't borrowed from a friend or family in times of need? The concept of P2P or peer to peer lending is probably as old as money itself. But why is it attracting so much attention now?
Technology is fundamentally disrupting the long established business models of yesterday. Today, the largest cab company does not own a single cab (Uber), the largest hotel company does not own a single hotel room (Airbnb)...so it is conceivable that tomorrow, the largest lender may not own a dollar of deposits with them. It is all about connecting the demand with the supply at a large scale and technology is exactly the thing that is fueling this aggregation at a rapid pace. P2P lending marketplaces, which connect individual borrowers and lenders bypassing traditional financial institutions, are spearheading this disruption in the lending world. Globally, the P2P lending market is gaining traction and is expected to cross US$ 1 trillion by 2025. Leaders, such as Prosper and Lending Club, have originated loans worth US$ 9 billion so far.
I read with sadness a report about the first documented highway death of a 'driver' in a self-driving car. The investigation into the recent fatal crash is still in its early stages. But we know a few facts: First, 94 percent of all traffic accidents involve some kind of human error. Second, there is no turning back from automation and self-driving technology. Said one expert about the recent crash: "The path to mobility is paved with tragedy."
The incident got me to wondering: My car has a top speed of 137 miles per hour (220 kmph). While driving on the highway I often cross the 75 miles-per-hour mark (120 kmph). I often wonder if I should speed up and push the vehicle closer to its full-scale capabilities (and get to my destination much faster). Most of the time I choose not to do so, and there are many reasons for my decision to stay within the official speed limits. For one, I cannot be sure that someone driving erratically will be in a parallel lane up ahead. I also cannot accurately predict the condition of the road in front of me. There also could be an abrupt mechanical flaw in my own vehicle because of general wear and tear (or a manufacturing glitch). While I drive my vehicle within the stated security limits, there are always times I need to accelerate. When I do, I proceed with a more calculated risk.
Ah, the benefits of hindsight. Let me begin this blog by giving you three examples of companies that reacted differently to technology disruption and, in some cases, paid the price for it.
Imagine if you could have gone back in time to warn the executives of Eastman Kodak Co. that they might be better off leaving the photography business altogether, earlier than they did. They wouldn't have taken you seriously - even after numerous strategies failed to save the company's traditional line of business. The Eastman Kodak brand was synonymous with photography. The truth is that when a business is built on a legacy technology that is categorically different from the market's new standard, even perfect foresight (in this case, the demise of film or CDs) would not have solved the core problem that digital replacement is fundamentally less profitable.
The Top 10 Emerging Technologies 2016 list, compiled by the World Economic Forum's Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, was released right before last week's WEF summit in Tianjin, China. One of the most promising emerging technologies is the perovskite solar cell. According to WEF experts, this new photovoltaic material offers three improvements over the classic silicon solar cell: it is easier to make, it can be used just about anywhere, and it generates power more efficiently than older solar cells. In some ways, the perovskite solar cell is a metaphor for the Asian economies. These nations and their people are helping to spearhead the Fourth Industrial Revolution (this year's summit is called 'Annual Meeting of the New Champions'), but are also keenly aware that this time around, the revolution must take place with climate in mind.
Therefore, I was honored to be part of one of the most interesting panel discussions of the summit - 'Policy, Incentives, and Finance for Climate-Smart Growth.' Stemming from the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris last year, where global leaders signed an agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees celcius compared to pre-industrial levels, our discussion focused on incentivizing climate investment, carbon pricing and the energy revolution.
As every major technology company rolls out a new 'chat bot' or virtual assistant (Siri, Echo, and Alexa immediately come to mind), it's becoming clear to consumers that comparing them is akin to comparing apples with oranges. There are those devices or apps that you can talk at, and they respond with basic answers because they've been programmed with reams of data and can access even more. So if you're looking for a new restaurant in your neighborhood, just about any such product on the market will suffice.
But there's a relatively new term being used today that's separating the Artificial Intelligence-enabled apples from the oranges: 'conversational interface.' That's when you begin talking to your device instead of at it. Rather than simply drawing on its vast data banks, it can actually learn from your questions and conversations and teach itself to become a better digital assistant. After all, we've had Internet search engines for two decades now. Simply making them blurt out answers to your search is not that radical. Understanding who you are and what you're wanting to, however, is changing the marketplace for everything related to A.I.
This month the Oculus Rift headset went on sale at 48 Best Buy stores across America. The price - approximately US$ 600 - suggest that virtual reality headsets have a market that is well beyond teenagers using the technology for video games. Healthcare delivery, too, is at the cusp of being transformed by this technology. I believe that amazing synergies await doctors and their patients when making important diagnoses remotely with the help of virtual reality.Dr. Abraham Nussbaum, the Chief Education Officer at Denver Health, in his new book The Finest Traditions of My Calling, is critical of the modern-day practices of his colleagues. "The patient," writes Dr. Nussbaum, "becomes a case report, a billing code, a quality metric", and doctors spend "checkup(s) gazing into a computer screen". Is there any wonder, then, that doctors, who feel burned out by seeing patient after patient in their examination rooms, will welcome the new paradigm that virtual reality will create when it comes to healthcare?
Vishal Sikka, both as CEO of Infosys and as technology advisor and partner to our clients, frequently reminds us that the biggest opportunity that lies before every business today is to launch a human revolution, where we are all able to achieve much higher productivity, to bring much more innovation, and create a future limited only by our aspirations. And that can be made possible by technology - especially automation and AI.
So, one might surmise that a business that is digitized is best equipped to realize this opportunity.
It was about zeroing the distance between what clients desire and the experience that our technology is poised to deliver. Between the promise of our expertise and expectations of clients. Between imagination, possibilities and ways and means to materialize them. Between us, across different walks of life, and the new digital reality.
"It'll never happen. Not in a thousand years."
That was the general response in the United States when Henry Ford began marketing his Model T to the masses. The reason there were naysayers: To accommodate a horseless carriage, the country would have to build a massive network of paved roadways and have refueling stations in almost every town. Think about it: Every town in America with a place where a driver could refill the tank of his automobile with gasoline?
Peter walks into his cubicle at 8am. He logs on and quickly completes a 30-minute training module on risk assessment. At 8.30am, he catches up on his social media feeds and reads the news online. Soon, Peter's day at work begins.
Peter quintessentially represents the millennial generation, which, according to a study, will constitute nearly half (46%) of the U.S. workforce by 2020. He enjoys collaborating through social platforms. A continuous learner, he prefers the self-directed approach and short bursts of learning. He's also socially conscious (according to a 2015 research report, millennials are more engaged in corporate social responsibility efforts and are likely to work for a socially-conscious brand).
Lee Iacocca's legendary turnaround of the Chrysler Corporation in the late 1970s and early 1980s is regarded as one of the greatest management stories of all time. Of the many quick and decisive actions Iacocca took at the then near-bankrupt company was to bring technology to Chrysler automobiles that would make consumers wake up and take notice - and make competitors squirm. One such gadget was the Electronic Voice Alert System (EVA). Mind you, most consumers of that era didn't know what a personal computer was - Macintosh was not yet released! Yet, a consumer was sold on a Chrysler that would tell her if she left her keys in the ignition or warned her that it was time for an oil change.
Many years have passed since then. But, the progress surprisingly has been slow. That was perhaps because applications and systems did not demand that kind of interaction. Technology was still evolving . In today's era with Cloud first, Mobile first, sensors everywhere - speech and gestures are in (with a bang)! We have an interesting confluence of technologies and applications. Hands-free operations and the need to access information at the point of action has led to an amazing array of speech integration.
The lyrics to that old song are true: 'Money makes the world go round'. But did you ever wonder how in the era of digital devices and (potential) payments how money gets around the world? If you want a sense of just how important instant money transfers are to the economic health of the planet, head down to any remittance storefront in a Gulf country like the U.A.E. or Qatar. In those countries, where millions of people from North America, Western Europe, and South Asia, go to find jobs, an important part of the process is sending some of that hard earned cash back home. There, money transfer agents skim a healthy commission off the top of the transaction to ensure that people thousands of miles away will receive the cash in a matter of minutes.
The remittance business in countries that host a significant percentage of foreign workers has been a staple for decades. Even with the global economy stalled and with oil prices plummeting, economists at the World Bank estimate that next year the global remittance business will grow by a respectable 4 percent. But disruption can come along and affect even the most simple of businesses - which is exactly what's happening to the remittance industry.
Data That's Driven by Creativity: Look for a paradigm shift in data analytics this year. Whereas enterprises are just getting comfortable with the array of suites and solutions that allow them to parse enormous data sets into actionable information, they'll begin to question to what extent, if any, does becoming captive to all that data do away with a company's culture of innovation and creativity. The answer will be that Big Data will increasingly be used to encourage the creative side of the company instead of stifle it. This will be made possible by boundaryless information platforms, as Infosys refers to as creativity-driven data usage. This will enable real-time analytics to run along with business focused analytics apps and visualization to get more insight about customers and operations, equipping the right people in organizations with right information at the right time.
Crowd Capitalism: Look for a sea change in how Wall Street works during 2016 because crowd-funding has arrived. Don't confuse it with feel-good Grameen Bank-style solicitations for enough pennies to lift people out of poverty. Technology (and ensuing regulations) is becoming such that people can buy directly into IPOs and promising startups. No middleman taking a commission. Democracy is coming to Wall Street this year.
Here's a fact: Today, people live longer than before, thanks to medical advancements. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that earth's population will grow to 9.6 billion people by the year 2050. Therefore, food production must increase by 70% to meet the needs of this increasing populace. But, most farms are not equipped to meet this growing demand.
So, what ails them? For starters, there's a limited supply of fresh water for irrigation, diminishing arable land, slow productivity, and skyrocketing energy costs. Moreover, farmers are in constant short supply of farm laborers due to urbanization. Variability in the climate change, and the economic losses attributed to it, just add on to the already ailing industry.
Many Westerners hold the belief that chess is the most complex game in the world. They don't know much about 'Go', an ancient Chinese board game. To even play it (not to speak of winning), an individual needs an incredibly complex brain that until now most scientists believed only human beings could possess.
But the world of Artificial Intelligence just got a tremendous boost a week ago when scientists at the Google DeepMind laboratory in London announced that it has created a computer armed with the most advanced Artificial Intelligence that beat the human European Go champion 5 games to 0. The results have just been published in the article 'Mastering the Game of Go with Deep Neural Networks and Tree Search' that appeared in the January 27, 2016 issue of Nature, the international weekly journal of science.
When something becomes part of daily parlance of the general population, you know that it has arrived. For the moment, the phrase is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). Per se, robotics and A.I. have been around for a long time. Today, they are becoming more advanced and that's why they are occupying prime news spots. In one of our first posts of the New Year, we take a look at four industries that are being transformed by A.I. and A.I.-enabled technologies.
RETAIL: As A.I. becomes increasingly smarter, the prolonged holiday shopping season is going to become more profitable for retailers who utilize its capability to help them make quick decisions and changes to how they cater to their digital consumer base. In the world's largest retail market, North America, extraordinarily hot weather across much of the continent accomplished two unexpected phenomena this year: 1.) customers failed to buy cold-weather clothing in expected numbers and 2.) the blast of warm air encouraged more customers to turn off their computers, go outside, and shop in stores instead of online. Those retailers that have not kept up with the latest A.I. systems were caught off guard this season - highlighting why A.I. has become more important than ever.
Investors know what most of the world (including Amazon's legions of loyal customers) do not: That the stock of the Seattle-based company trades at an almost incredible price-to-earnings ratio (it has one of the highest p/e ratios of all companies trading on the U.S. exchanges). This means that investors are placing an amazing amount of confidence in Amazon's potential to become profitable. They have put a premium on the company's innovative track record and have a collective hunch that its big technology bets will someday pay off big.
But financiers will be the first to tell you that past accomplishments are by no means any guarantee of a company's future successes. For the second year in a row, Amazon aired advertisements (in the form of an Amazon Prime video) touting the web retailer's plans to deliver goods by unmanned drone aircrafts. This year the ads were even more polished and they featured one of the presenters from the hit British TV show Top Gear.
Recently, we saw the announcement about the birth of OpenAI, a non-profit organization to develop and advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, and share these in the greater good. We are a part of this very exciting endeavor, and I've been asked tons of questions in the last 24 hours about this, so I thought I'll write some thoughts down.
A few weeks ago, Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the one who gave the field its first definition -- that AI is "the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men" -- made a few sobering statements about the state-of-the-art in AI. Indeed I felt sad listening to this giant lament the lack of fundamental progress in the field, and highlight some of the underlying causes. And this despite all the buzz and hype AI work has picked up lately. Marvin is one of the truly great human beings and scientists, whose teachings and advice helped influence my life and led me to focus on AI in my grad studies and beyond. So more than anything else, I see OpenAI as an opportunity to "do something about it".
It's 2018. Dr. Riley, a neurologist, receives a call from a clinic located about 300 miles away. The clinic has only a handful of general physicians. Until a year ago, whenever a specialist consultant was required, the clinic referred patients to hospitals in other cities - a journey not many could make. However, now, the clinic has state-of-the-art equipment allowing it to connect with specialists in neighbouring towns and cities, and access speciality healthcare expertise- especially for critical needs - remotely.
When the call arrives, Dr. Riley returns to his office, which is equipped to enable him to conference remotely with patients and physicians, receive patient history at the click of a button, engage with the patient to understand his/her condition and offer diagnosis and treatment and even perform interventions like remote robotic surgery when needed. Dr. Riley discovers that his patient, Edward, is a 20 year-old with severe persistent headache, neck stiffness, balance problems, and blurred vision. He looks at his medical history from the EHR and recommends a battery of diagnostics tests and a CT scan. Results of the diagnostics is a brain CT scan that needs to be analyzed by a qualified radiologist. In the absence of a radiologist, the doctor turns to a computer vision tool - a technology based on cognitive skill - to analyze the scan using pattern analysis. The vision tool provides a report revealing a brain lesion. This timely availability of radiology analysis enables Dr. Riley to clinically co-relate the history, symptoms and conclude that the condition is severe and needs an immediate surgery. Losing no time, Dr. Riley directs a robot surgeon at the clinic where Edward is, to perform brain surgery and treat the lesion.
Boosting productivity. It's the mandate and mission of every organization. What I learned recently during a discussion is that besides monitoring workplace computers for employee output, enterprises might someday resort to an amazing array of information to gauge their workers - including genetic records. Some might call it Orwellian, but experts say that the day is near when a prospective candidate for a job might be asked for some DNA in the form of a swab of the inner cheek. Those who refuse to do so - well, what are they trying to hide?
One of the things that technology is supposed to do is to illuminate, and it has done so very well when it comes to measuring an employee's output. Because so many workers now operate connected machinery or sit in front of computers, organizations can record and measure their output against datasets of similar workers. One expert wrote that it will become harder for one employee to hide behind the excellent work of a group of co-workers.
Kong Qui, the Chinese philosopher once said, "If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people." 2,500 years later, educational institutions are still experimenting with models of learning that address the needs of students.
A vast majority of the world's population, including natives in developed countries, do not lead a productive life due to the lack of basic education and skills programs. More importantly, the educated have not been taught to think creatively. Traditional education systems have not encouraged student engagement in the learning process, thus far.
If there is a sequel to Oliver Twist, the chimney sweepers would be using remote-controlled vacuum cleaners and tapping away on iPads.
The fourth industrial revolution is a refreshing change from the mass migration of manual labor and harsh working conditions in factories. Consumers co-create user-centric products, automation and mobility ensure an employee-friendly workplace, and disruptive technologies drive innovation beyond products and processes.
The industry landscape is influenced by two dominant shifts: the Internet of Things recognizes every object as a source of information; and the Industry 4.0 framework changes every aspect of manufacturing - research and development, product engineering and distribution. Cyber physical engineering and production systems create futuristic cars in the U.S.A., revive the British pottery industry, enable mass production of prefabricated houses in Japan, and redefine watch making in Switzerland.
Despite the vast amount of digital content available today, I love my daily newspaper. Many readers, like me, continue to enjoy reading newspaper for its depth of coverage and unique experience. However, there is no ignoring the fact that newspaper circulation has dropped significantly over the last three decades.
Publishers are still trying to come to grips with a new generation of digitally-connected consumers, who use non-traditional channels such as mobile devices to access news from social media and apps. At the same time, newer entrants to the publishing market such as The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed are attracting more readers with free, shareable online content, that increases engagement and readership.
There are government contracts and then there are government contracts. The technology giant Raytheon recently announced that it won a five-year contract to help manage the computer security of 100 civilian agencies connected to the Department of Homeland Security. Experts said that such a contract, where Raytheon shares its proprietary cybercrime-fighting techniques and tools, could be worth upwards of US$ 1 billion. The official role for the company will be that of a 'prime contractor and systems integrator' for the Network Security Deployment division. Attached to that division is the National Cybersecurity Protection System.
We're hearing a lot about cyber security again, and it's not even the holiday shopping season. Why is that the case? For one, cybercrimes are no longer centered on jolly shoppers and their credit cards at Big Box retail chains and online retailers. Criminals are getting more sophisticated and learning to break into whatever computer system they can. Once in, experts say they can maneuver and sometimes patiently wait until they find the right digital gateway that brings them to a stash of information - otherwise known as a cyber-criminal's pot of gold.
Ever hear of the DARPA Robotics Challenge? During the first weekend of June this year, a robotics team from South Korea won first place in this challenge. Their prize-winning robot completed eight fairly complicated tasks in under 45 minutes. The secret to the Korean team's success was that their robot could change its basic structure not unlike those Transformers toys from the 1980s. The team left the California-based competition $2 million richer because of their amazing robot.
That's a hefty monetary prize for designing a robot. Ever wonder why? The answer lies in the corporate world. Industries are aggressively looking for new ways to bring about a substantial and tangible impact to what is loosely known as back-office operations. More formally and specifically, these important tasks are known as process metrics, which include determining the cost per claim, cost per service contact, and fraud prevention rates. Companies are trying to save on such back-office costs, while also growing their overall business. Think for a moment about how current businesses are being disrupted by digital engagement companies like Uber and Airbnb. The days when a manager could simply 'throw more bodies at the task' to get it done are long over.
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has been on our minds and our innovation agendas since at least the 1950s, when a bunch of science fiction TV shows included friendly robots. But what the public really thought about A.I. was probably best captured in the late 1960s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the computer HAL becomes smart enough to take over the spaceship.
I never subscribed to the notion that A.I. would result in a sinister plot by computers to take over the world, or even the recent furore over 'safe A.I.' However, I do believe that it is important to focus on what the core task of A.I. has been - that is, trusted self-learning machines help humans liberate themselves from menial tasks so that they can concentrate on solving larger, complex problems.
I attended the recent Automotive Megatrends conference in Detroit (Dearborn, actually, across the street from Ford world headquarters). It was an exciting event, with 500 participants, an exhibit hall, and 45 speakers who showcased three prevailing trends in the automotive industry: powertrain innovation, vehicle light weighting, and connected vehicles. It was a powerful statement about US manufacturing, and I was proud that my firm (Infosys) was a major sponsor.
While powertrain and light weighting are vital to improved mileage and performance, I was keenly interested in the connected vehicles track. This marriage of Detroit and Silicon Valley has energized the entire industry, and on the surface, it seems to reinforce the renaissance of American manufacturing overall.
Have you ever heard the story of Lajello? We all have our 15 seconds of fame, and for a while, he was one of the most popular characters on the Internet. Why? Because he was a prominent and well respected member in a social media network for book lovers. Very high brow stuff. He was known to recommend books that he had read and for a time became the second-most "liked" person in that online group.
The problem was that Lajello was nothing more than an algorithm. Many book lovers had sustained long online conversations with Lajello and some even shared their innermost thoughts and emotions. Turns out they were speaking to a "bot." There's a startling new study that finds one in five of us accepts "bots" unknowingly into our online worlds. We befriend them, talk with them, and treat them like a member of the family.
A couple of weeks ago I came across an interesting technological rumor: that Apple is making plans to build a car. Yes, an iCar. It helps the general buzz that Apple has reportedly been very aggressive in its poaching and hiring of talent from Tesla, the maker of futuristic, battery-powered vehicles. Apple has also made no secret that it wishes to dominate the wearable computing sector, which, if defined widely enough, includes driveable platforms. Even more industry buzz to add fuel to the proverbial fire: Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kyle Vogt's company, Cruise Automation, is expected to begin selling technology that lets cars drive themselves - the first company to do so. All that talk of a Google car and we've been missing some fascinating activity in the space going on right under our noses!
When you mention robotics to the average consumer, it conjures up images of really cool figurines strutting around the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and greeting you with a smile. Or if the person is in the manufacturing sector, they no doubt think of the many robotic welding arms along an assembly line in, say, an automotive plant.
But what happens when you bring together a graduate student in aerospace engineering and another in neuroscience? You get robotics prototypes that could very well be profound game-changers for people who are missing limbs. Especially patients in the developing world, where such advanced prosthetics can be prohibitively expensive.
It's very curious that two different industry events that happened around the same time told us a lot about our future. I'm speaking of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that wrapped up in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, as well as the Detroit Auto Show, which also was held in January. Both are eagerly anticipated because vendors show off cool, new products as well as prototypes that might find their way into the market some day.
In Detroit - officially known as the North American International Auto Show - consumers were treated to a host of clean-energy cars that are incredibly fuel-efficient. Automakers are also touting how the materials used to make the interiors of their latest models are made out of recyclable, sustainable materials. These earth-friendly features are a hit with consumers - even those who come to the show to hear the roar of powerful internal combustion engines!
A few weeks ago, Alan Mulally retired after a stellar run as chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company. I would imagine many CEOs who step down from such a hectic job might have golf or other forms of recreation on their minds.
Not Mulally. One of the first things he did after retiring from Ford was to join the board of directors at Google. On the surface that might not seem like an earth shattering move. Some former CEOs like it best when they're still active with other companies as directors. But his particular choice of a board was what caught my eye. Google, you might know, is intent on creating and taking to market its own driveable computer platform.
One square inch. That's the size of the circuit board that powers a marvelous new device called Electric Imp.
Electric Imp - it's small and cheap (about US$30) and hooks into its own Cloud. The Imp connects to the Cloud via a wireless network router. A hobbyist or someone wanting to start a small business can use this product to connect whatever devices he wants to the Internet and control them accordingly. Is it any wonder that the Imp's creator used to work on the iPhone? He was trying to find a better way to formulate a Cloud-based system that would allow him to turn the lights on and off in his home when he invented this small Wi-Fi card.
What's fascinating about the story of the Electric Imp, is the democratization of technology.
It had to happen. Seeing as we live in a world in which billions of inhabitants are obsessed with taking "selfies" on their mobile telephones, eventually we'd be seeing the "dronie" come along as well.
Credit the easily accessible technology that makes taking a "dronie" (a digital photograph of oneself taken from an unmanned aerial drone) a reality. Drones were once the sole purview of defense ministries, weather agencies, and large corporations. But now there are a number of companies that manufacture aerial drones that are simple for anyone to use in conjunction with a smart phone.
Science fiction movies are filled with fascinating references to mankind's distrust of artificial intelligence. Remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey? The computer quietly observes human behavior until it reveals to the beleaguered crew that it is indeed in charge of the spaceship. The Matrix was another such tale. It took the protagonist a lot of cajoling to convince him that he lived in a computer-generated reality. That computer, like HAL, didn't want to cede control of the situation.
We're now at the point where we don't have to go to the movies to gauge our distrust of artificial intelligence. A case in point is the "captcha," the often difficult-to-decipher list of letters and numbers that is supposed to discourage spammers and automated entities from getting access to Web sites. A group of engineers invented the captcha more than a decade ago as a way to distinguish between humans and computers on the Web. But what might not come as a surprise is that an artificial intelligence company claims to have figured out a way for its computer to crack most captchas. The computers once again appear to be beating us at our own game!
The analysts at the research arm at megabank Citi are once again creating a buzz for their Top 10 list of the technologies that will disrupt our world.
For example, one of the innovations on their latest list is 4-D printing. Essentially this development will allow people first to use 3-D printers to print out materials that can then assemble themselves. The United States Army, a group that tends to be keen on the latest technologies, seeded a total of $855,000 to a handful of universities that are doing research on 4-D printing. If the military has expressed interest, I imagine private industry has plenty of potential uses for this technology as well.
A promising technology on the bank's new list is immunotherapy. The idea is that doctors can train a person's immune system both to recognize and (if needed) attack cancerous cells.
Some people love their cars. How many other objects can make a stereotypical middle-aged man justify spending a Saturday morning to hand wax his four-wheeled beauty? But for all that time spent doting over an automobile; the simple fact is a machine just can't love you back. At least not yet...
Even a rusty old bucket of bolts can take you from point A to B just as quickly as a brand new luxury sedan. Given this logic, why do human beings spend so much time and energy loving their cars when there is no rational reason to do so? Believe it or not, this example illustrates the promise of artificial intelligence as well as the burgeoning growth of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things: Talk about a broad topic! Just what do technologists mean when they refer to a "thing"? Whatever the subtleties involved in defining it, one aspect of the Internet of Things is that it will be a transformative force in our society.
How we get there is another story. So what we need to start out with is sensors. For anything to be connected remotely to the Internet and to smash the old paradigm of a cable-dominated world, we have to have sensors that not only work well but can work with just about any device.
The exception to the rule that electronic devices get smaller as the technology proliferates is nowhere more apparent than in the world of television. What began in the mid-20th century as a tiny screen fueled by vacuum tubes is now a sophisticated device that merits a so-called "home theatre" in many households. Why go to the movies when you have a TV in your den that's the size of a commercial movie screen?
Advances in Web technology are finally making TV hardware fall more in line with the path that its other electronic entertainment counterparts have taken: streaming video to the relatively smaller, cheaper screen of a smartphone. (Even just a few weeks ago, Samsung announced plans to sell a "smart wristwatch.") This development builds upon an exciting innovation that already has been with us for a few years: OTT (or Over The Top) television. It's a fancy way of saying that you won't require a cable or satellite dish, much less an antenna, to enjoy live broadcasts.
I read with great interest about Elon Musk's proposal for a new bullet train. What makes it so intriguing is that it's not a new design or paradigm. Nor is it technically a new "mode" of transportation. But like many engineering marvels, instead of aiming for a 'paradigm shift', this again illustrates that some of the most enduring and ingenious inventions stand the test of time because they peeled away a layer of an existing technology or approached a problem from a somewhat new direction. Musk's idea for a pneumatic tube train is just that. This train sends specially designed floating "capsules" through continuous tube maintained at partial vacuum. The capsule will reach maximum speed of 1220km/h while maintaining good aerodynamic efficiency and passenger comfort. The "capsule" can travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier leading to reduced noise pollution. Amazing!
Vijay Kumar: Robots that fly ... and cooperate [Source:TEDtalksDirector http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY]
Certain financial services firms in the United States are now using aerial cameras to snap photographs of the license plates of debtors' automobiles. Civil rights advocates are arguing that doing so is an infringement of privacy. The debt collectors, on the other hand, claim there's nothing private about driving your car around in public.
However that issue plays out, one thing is certain: Companies are using technology in innovative ways to engage and track consumers. A computing platform that's going to get hotter in the coming years is drone technology, or so-called flyable computing. Like many pieces of technology in the consumer world, drones came out of the military sector. (Another great piece of military tech is the night vision screen installed on some luxury cars. Auto experts reckon night vision has saved the lives of thousands of motorists in areas that are heavily populated by deer.)
It's all about me.
No, I'm not being a narcissist but rather conveying the mindset of today's digital consumers. They're demanding individualized experiences with everything they do. Even when they're behind the wheel of a car.
This demand for personalized experiences is driving a lot of innovation. And the automobile industry, which recently went through some very tough times in the U.S, is beginning to capitalize on these new all-about-me trends. Detroit's Big Three are coming to look at themselves as developing computers that are drivable instead of building cars that happen to have onboard computers. This corporate evolution could have fascinating repercussions for the American Midwest and, more specifically, Detroit. Companies like General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are exploiting technologies in telematics, mobility, and even social media. For example, a telematics enabled system can remotely unlock a car's door after one has accidentally left the keys inside. They view the connected car as the next frontier for innovation and competitive differentiation. By investing heavily in smart tools and apps that will define connected cars coming to showrooms soon, these industrial giants might re-make the rustbelt into a tech-friendly region filled with innovation hubs.
Source: MotorNews: Connected Cars http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFPZacjQR64
" I am the eye in the sky - Looking at you - I can read your mind." From Eye in the Sky, by The Alan Parsons Project.
If there's a silver lining to the invasion of privacy, it is that it has inspired iconic works. But I'll bet that neither George Orwell - author of the dark classic "Nineteen Eighty Four" about state surveillance - nor Alan Parsons imagined that the invasion could go so far, or be so good. Or that a day would come when people would willingly allow an object to tell them who they are and what to do.