Twitter and the Swine Flu

Despite Earth day last Wednesday and the Obama announcement of leasing federal water to generate electricity, I wanted to focus this week on the impact of technology on the Swine Flu and the emerging controversy around Twitter.  According to CNN, Twitter has become a hotbed of unnecessary hype and misinformation about the outbreak – propagating fear among people as opposed to seeking actual solutions.  Evgeny Morozov, a fellow at Foreign Policy, argues in an that dialogues about the swine flu on Twitter are creating hysteria and misinformation, rather than helping people stay informed. The government and other authorities are largely absent from the chatter, he argues, and a message of 140 characters doesn’t allow for much substance.  So what do you think? 

Companies like Starbucks Whole Foods and Dell use twitter to see what they customers are thinking when they use a product, allowing them to adapt their marketing.   Doctors also use Twitter to share information about procedures.  Twitter’s CEO argues that “Twitter lets people know what is going on about things they care about instantly”, but how objective can this be when we deal with emotional issues such as a pandemic outbreak.  So watch your source of information e.g., CDC is using Twitter to update population.  Healthmap identifies regions of outbreaks, the WHO has a news center for disease outbreaks.


Smart Bridges for a Smarter Planet

Bridges are critical elements of our transportation infrastructure.  Bridge failure, as we saw with the collapse of the I-35 bridge outside of Minneapolis, can be catastrophic.  Today, the developed nations of the world are having to deal with many bridges that are aging.  How can we monitor those bridges to better predict when they might fail?  In the United States there are a reported 600,000 bridges.

Looking for structural problems in bridges mostly still requires a visual inspection, The traditional practice of bridge inspection and bridge management has many limitations.  The most significant limitation is that the data collected is based solely upon visual inspection, augmented with limited mechanical methods such as hammer sounding or prying.   Visual inspection is highly variable, subjective and inherently unable to detect invisible deterioration, damage or distress.

In the future, we will have continuous electronic monitoring of bridges using a network of sensors at critical points.  Sensors can deliver volumes of data about how a bridge handles heavy traffic, harsh winters, high winds or other conditions.  Sensors can also alert us to serious problems long before they might be apparent to a human inspector during a visual inspection.

Picture Graphic from Businessweek.  See original image here

The bridge that crashed in Minneapolis in 2007 was replaced by a new smarter bridge, design and built in about a year.   It is a very modern bridge and is probably the smartest bridge in the USA and perhaps the world.   It is filled with sensors that are meant to monitor all the details necessary to prevent any collapse.   The new bridge holds more than 300 sensors that measure the effects of corrosion and temperature changes.   The sensor system will track weather, stresses and it will monitor traffic.  There’s also an automatic de-icing system which should really come in handy.  In addition to helping transportation officials monitor the health of the bridge, researchers at the University of Minnesota are analyzing the data to help design bridges better able to handle all the stresses.

For more information on Smart Bridges, see the following articles

Shifts in Cleantech Financing

This blog brings significant updates to my previous two blogs on Cleantech showing (1) that after a strong 2008, 1Q09 Cleantech investments have dropped and (2) the important role of Cleantech in the stimulus plans.

  1. The Cleantech Group released 1Q09 VC investments in Cleantech which show a 45% drop compared to the previous quarter and a 48% drop compared to 1Q08.  The average round size dropped from  $20M in 3Q08 to $12.3M in 1Q09.  The report underlines that “Cleantech financing is moving into a new phase characterized by diversified funding sources as global recession and liquidity issues impact venture investors.  Venture funds continue to invest significant sums, albeit at a slower pace and scale”.  Utilities and corporations are increasingly playing a leadership role in developing the sector. 
  2. Meanwhile governments globally are allocating historic amounts of capital to clean technology through stimulus packages.  I should have added to my blog last week that the report “Towards a Green recovery” estimates that $400M  of  $2.6T spent in economic stimulus by G20 are earmarked for clean tech such as renewable energy, improved grids and cleaner cars. In the US, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill places Cleantech as a key driver of economic stabilization and job growth.  The measures (Over 10% of the total spending) target doubling renewable energy generating capacity (wind, solar, and geothermal).  Provisions also target efficiency, expanded electricity grids including advances metering, energy management SW and usage monitoring sensors.

The credit squeeze has challenged sectors such as wind and solar, stalling new and expansion projects.   The industry is still looking for clarity on how a new Treasury grant program will work.  Financing of projects slated to go forward is still taking extra time to get done.  The stimulus has generated more activity if not yet money for the renewable s sector.


Primer on Unified Communications

What do we expect in 2009 for UC? A merged market between UC and collaboration, even more trial activity, business executives getting more involved with UC selections and deployments, IT managers continuing to demand interoperability based on standards, and UC managed service adoption. All these elements support growth to a $2.8 billion market by the end of 2009 — even amid economic uncertainty.Forrester , Jan 2009

Many organizations are starting to see the potential value of Unified Communications both to their staff and to their business processes.  Investing in UC can lead to reduced operational expenses.  I’m expecting that 2009 will bring increased focus on integrating the matrix of different communication types within an organization in order to provide a seamless communication system across multiple networks, applications and devices.

Enterprises will increasingly realize that they have multiple products and vendors performing the same communications functions, and that this redundancy creates additional expense (both for licenses, operations), makes it more difficult for users to learn, and increases the complexity of integration.  Vendors should realize the potential for convergence of these markets and work to accelerate the trend.

According to Gartner, during the next five years, the number of different communications vendors companies may be reduced by at least 50%.  Gartner says this change is driven by increases in the capability of application servers and the general shift of communication applications to common off-the-shelf servers and operating systems.  As this occurs, formerly distinct markets, each with distinct vendors, converge, resulting in massive consolidation in the communications industry.

Internally, most large enterprises have separate organizations managing the discrete communications tasks are generally separate today.  For example, the telephony department is separate from the storage networking team, which is separate from the data network team, which operates independently of the e-mail team, and the list goes on.  While the technologies, products and even vendors converge, users must work hard to converge their management teams and, more importantly, their business processes.


  • Value of traditional desk phone and desktop PC is diminishing
  • Economic uncertainty as companies look to cut cost, e.g., in travel
  • Cost reductions programs
  • Integrate communication functions directly with business applications.
  • Trend towards convergence of digital content, IP as a common communication protocol, and machine-to-machine communications.


  • Some technologies (e.g. presence) are not fully understood.  Products are still at an early stage and lack functionality.
  • Best practices are not well-defined: e.g., interaction with other technologies such as SaaS and cloud computing, conflicting standards.
  • Lack of coordination with legacy communication infrastructures
  • Many enterprises have struggled to internally support voice over IP (VoIP). The additional technical challenges of UC will only compound the support problem.
  • Soft ROI difficult in challenging economy


Enterprises will look to integrate the matrix of different installed communication types in order to provide a seamless communication system across multiple networks, applications and devices.   Integrating communications and collaboration in a rich, multimedia experience — one that can include unified telephony, voice, video, instant messaging, Web conferencing, e-mail, voice mail, and business processes and applications — enables a whole new way for people, teams and communities to find experts and make faster, better decisions.


  • Continue researching this important trend and understand its impact on each client’s business processes.
  • Build careful, detailed plans for when each category of communications function is replaced or converged, coupling this step with the prior completion of appropriate administration team convergence.

For More Information:

IBM Cloud Computing White Papers

IBM Cloud White Papers In 2008 I was focused on researching and analyzing the Cloud Computing marketplace, which back then was just emerging.  It was a year of hype with vendors scrambling to define it and rename their offerings with the Cloud name somewhere in the offering.   The cloud topic was featured in many posts here during the 2008 calendar year.  I no longer am focused on cloud, I still try to keep abreast of what is going on. 

The fact is that cloud computing is no longer just hype.  It is recognized as a key transformational trend in IT today.  The adoption of private, public or hybrid cloud environments can help significantly help organizations reduce IT management complexity and skill requirements; share resources among multiple applications; accelerate time to market; and support both existing and emerging, data-intensive workloads.

Here are some cloud computing white papers from IBM, who has been an leader in the push towards enterprise-based cloud computing.

  • Dispelling The Vapor Around Cloud Computing     IBM conducted a survey in June and July of 2009 of 1,090 IT and line-of-business decision makers around the world.  The objective was to better understand the current rate of adoption, as well as drivers, barriers, and considerations that are influencing the adoption of cloud computing.  This white paper shares the survey findings and provides IBM’s point of view regarding key steps and considerations for cloud adoption.  A nice feature of this white paper are two sections near the end.  One section covers key success factors in implementing cloud and the other covers a list of steps required to the adoption of cloud computing
  • Security and Cloud Computing.  Although the benefits of implementing the different cloud computing models are clear, so is the need to develop proper security for cloud implementations.  Many organizations are embracing both public and private cloud computing models by integrating the two models into ‘hybrid clouds’.  These hybrid cloud implementations are designed to balance both business and technology requirements, helping to optimize security
    and privacy with a minimum investment in fixed IT costs.  This white paper provides an overview of key security issues related to the different cloud
    computing models, discusses the IBM Cloud Security Framework, and concludes with IBM’s thoughts on how to implement a secure cloud architecture and environment.   For those wanting more detail, there is an IBM Redbook available by the title of Cloud Security Guidance:  IBM's Recommendation for the Implementation of Cloud Security
  • Capturing the Potential of the Cloud   This paper comes from IBM’s Global Services team and discusses how cloud computing models are helping enterprises,
    governments and industries meet current challenges by focusing in on what the paper calls ‘Cloud Value Drivers’.  The paper says that organizations should take a holistic approach to developing a cloud strategy due to the broad impact cloud can have on an organization’s business models, operating principles, processes, technology and organization design.   Understanding the key cloud value drivers can help business and IT leaders jointly develop a framework for building successful business and IT strategies.
  • Business Strategy for Cloud Providers  -  This white paper is targeted towards companies that are hoping to provide cloud computing services as part of their offering strategy.    The paper answers questions such as
    • What are the key attributes of a winning cloud • provider business strategy and model?
    • How can partnering across the ecosystem accelerate my success?
    • What are the implications if I do not act now?
  • Benefits of Cloud Computing (634kb)   This paper examines the challenges facing IT leaders today and then discusses the benefits to enterprises that implement cloud computing technology.  The paper drives home the point that cloud computing is not just about data center technology.  It’s more about streamlining business processes in order to make organizations and people more competitive, more responsive to change and more oriented to service delivery.
  • Staying Aloft In Tough Times:  Why Smart, Innovative Businesses Are Turning To Cloud Computing   This 20 page white paper provides an overview of cloud computing by defining the attributes of a cloud computing implementation, describing the benefits that are available, and providing some examples of how clouds are impacting enterprise operations.
  • Business Continuity And Recovery Services From IBM:  Strengthen Your Business   This paper examines how cloud computing technology can be used to manage availability of data, applications, and overall resiliency.  The paper also provides a description of IBM cloud-related Business Continuity and Resiliency Services.

For more on IBM and cloud computing, go to it’s main cloud computing website:

The Consumerization of IT as a Disruptive Force

Back in the late 70’s when hobbyists really starting building and playing with computers at home, they did not realize that they were starting a trend that is having a huge impact on IT today.  When the IBM PC was announced in 1981, the trend received a huge adoption kick.  The Consumerization of IT was born.

The consumerization of IT remains one of the most significant forces affecting enterprise IT at this time.  Although many enterprises have started to understand the challenges posed by their employees' expectations of access to and use of consumer technology and applications inside the workplace, they have yet to reconcile these with the issues of control, security, governance and change management that they introduce.

Today, more and more enterprise workers are opting to buy their own laptops rather than accept the ones corporate IT are handing out.  These employees also want to tie into corporate networks via non-traditional devices like the Blackberry, the I-phone, and the I-touch.

Falling prices and broadening distribution have made IT an accessible and affordable commodity for consumers.  An increasingly pervasive communications infrastructure is encouraging new acquisition and delivery models and increasing the importance of Web-provided content.  The combination of affordable communications; low-cost, easy-to-use devices; and content (information, entertainment and applications) destabilizes the balance among enterprises,
producers, consumers and government.  This force challenges the basic assumptions of technology scarcity and uniqueness long held by enterprise IT.  Affordable access to technology and content increases the power of individuals and how they interact with the enterprise as customers or employees. 

Add to this the explosion in growth of web2.0 enabled social media and online virtual communities, these changes will cause significant disruption in business today.  Corporate IT now has to consider how applications like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are impacting corporate business processes.

Consider the kids in school today…they are all digital natives.  They have been around computers their whole lives.  My 14 year old daughter has been playing computer games since she was 3 (Freddie Fish!).   And today, like all teenagers, she is embracing social media applications as a way to communicate and share content with friends.  When she eventually (hopefully!) makes it into the job market, she will expect to IT tools in the enterprise to reflect the types of tools (gaming, texting, social networking, 3D, video) she has grown up with.

Some things to think about….

  • How will the consumerization of IT impact business processes in the future?
  • How can IT managers and business leaders manage the impact of the consumerization of IT on their business and operating models?
  • How will the consumerization of IT affect social relationships and interactions among individuals, enterprises and governments?
  • What new opportunities will arise from the consumerization of IT?

For more reading on this topic, check out

Green Recovery?


A couple weeks ago, I discussed some trends in VC investments regarding Cleantech.  For the G20 summit early April, the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment published a very interesting document about the potential for a green recovery from the current recession.  (Towards a global Green Recovery) 

The report shows that “Public spending aimed at stimulating private investments that help reducing greenhouse gas emissions can perform very well against criteria for an effective stimulus while providing the additional benefits of lower energy costs and increased energy security.  By focusing on correcting well known market failures in energy use and R&D, it can avoid crowding out private sector activity.  In fact, green recovery programs have the potential to stimulate private investment in low carbon technologies, thereby developing new opportunities for employment, innovation, and wealth creation.”  The report also highlighted key measures that the G20 could take, including physical infrastructure upgrades, energy efficiency increases, and potential flagship project investments. 

So what happened?  The G20 communique included $1.1B in plan pledges – $750B for the IMF, $250B for trade and financing – as well as motions for stricter regulations on hedge funds and banks.  While many groups are arguing that a larger GDP share should go towards green initiatives, others are satisfied that those notions have become mainstream.  Personally, I think that the economic situation is such that priorities will focus on the fastest way to accelerate the recovery, possibly at the expense, at least initially, of green.

A Primer on Nanotechnology

This post will provide a quick & very high-level overview of the Nanotechnology topic, discuss some future application areas for Nanotechnology, and then provide you with some additional reading material.

Today when we think of manufacturing, we generally think of large plants churning out large products (like trucks, cars, and household appliances) or the parts and assemblies that go into these items.  Tomorrow’s generations will know of “manufacturing plants” that churn out very small things. 

Nanotechnology is the field of building microscopic mechanical and electronic devices for a wide range of applications and manipulating material on the atomic or molecular level.   A nanometer (one billionth of a meter) is about 10 thousand times narrower than a human hair and is so small it contains just 3-4 atoms.  If a baseball was blown to the size of the earth, the atoms would be about the size of grapes. 

The control over molecular level structure in material synthesis enables  to gain unprecedented control over the basic properties of materials such as conductivity, strength, opacity, ductility, reactivity.   Manipulation at the atomic scale enables scientists to create new materials that allow them, and inventors, to build new devices  that are smaller, weigh less, and have new and exciting properties.  Industry and entrepreneurs are looking to commercialize some emerging fields of nanotechnology fairly quickly and there are a number of companies surfacing that support the transfer of nanotechnology from universities and federal laboratories into the marketplace.

Nanotechnology is impacted by (and in turn, impacts) many different fields. including chemistry, physics, materials science, and biotechnology.  Scientists are excited because they are able to create innovative materials that have unique properties because their structures are determined on the nanometer scale.  Some of these materials have already found their ways into consumer products, such as sun screens and stain-resistant pants.  Others are being intensively researched for solutions to humanity's greatest problems — diseases, clean energy, clean water, etc. 

So just what types of applications will Nanotechnology be used for in future?  I did some searching and found that the Foresight Institute has identified six areas where current and near-term nanotechnology will provide innovative solutions to some of the most critical challenges facing the human race.  Here is a summary of those six areas:

1. Providing Renewable Clean Energy:  Nanotechnology will help to solve the dilemma of energy needs and limited planetary resources through more efficient generation, storage and distribution.  Read more from Foresight at Providing Renewable Clean Energy.

2. Supplying Clean Water Globally:   Nanotechnology can help solve this problem through improved water purification and filtration.  Read more from Foresight at Supplying Clean Water Globally.

3. Improving Health and Longevity:  Nanotechnology will enhance the quality of life for human beings through medical diagnostics, drug delivery and customized therapy.  Read more from Foresight at Improving Health and Longevity.

4. Healing and Preserving the Environment:  As a set of fundamental technologies that cuts across all industries, nanotech can benefit the environment in a wide variety of ways.  Stronger, lighter-weight materials in transportation can reduce fuel use, nano-structured fibers reduce staining and therefore laundering, and low-cost nanosensors will make pollution monitoring affordable. In the longer term, manufacturing processes using productive nanosystems should be able to build our products with little if any waste.  Read more from Foresight at Healing and Preserving the Environment.

5. Making Information Technology Available To All:  Nanotechnology applications in electronics will increase access through reduced cost and higher performance of memory, networks, processors and components.   Read more from Foresight at Making Information Technology Available To All.

6. Enabling Space Development:  Current obstacles to developing space are cost, reliability, safety, and performance.  Nanotechnology will solve these through improved fuels, smart materials, uniforms and environments.  Read more from Foresight at Enabling Space Development.

The future does hold a bright promise for nanotechnology and its applications.  There are, of course, concerns about the potential evil applications of nanotechnology.  For an interesting view into some of these, I’d suggest you read  The Diamond Age Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

For more information:

Terrafugia’s Transition Car Plane

Early the morning of March 5, an automobile with foldable wings taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y.   The pilot stepped on the gas and the car took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway.   It was moment that reminds me of the original Wright Brothers fight.    The pilot duplicated the flight about a half dozen times over the next two days.   Terrafugia, the company that built the plane, will continue with more tests over the next few months, pushing the plane with longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.  Terrafugia has named the plane Transition 


The street-legal Transition is powered on land and in the air by a recently developed 100 hp Rotax engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline.  As a plane, its 20-gallon tank gives it a 450-mile range with a 115 mph cruising speed.  The pilot can switch from one mode to the other from the driver's seat, simultaneously folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels in about 30 seconds. 

So you can, in minutes, drive to the airport and put down the wings and take off.  When you land, you can, in minutes, fold up the wings and drive home.  You never have to get out of the car.


The full-sized version being tested now is a proof-of-concept vehicle, to be followed later this year by a production prototype.  The company is taking deposits now and hopes to start delivering its first Transitions — or "roadable planes," as the company calls them — in late 2011.

The Federal Administration has created a new class of plane (Light Sport Aircraft) and a new “sport pilot” license category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia's two-seater Transition.  The "sport pilot" license required to fly the Transition takes only about 20 hours of training time, about half that required to earn a regular pilot's license.  We’ve all fantasized about flying in our cars at one time or another, perhaps the Transition concept is the Wright brothers event of our generation.

For more information, pictures, and video, fly on over to

A Primer on Telepresence

With the economy the shape it is in right now, companies will be looking for an edge in cutting costs.  Watch for more companies to implement telepresence and video collaboration solutions in the effort to reduce corporate travel, improve global operations, and drive remote workforce productivity.

Video technologies and organizational capabilities have improved in the corporate environment.  As a result, companies are finally able to realize strong business benefits to support efforts in business uses as varied as reducing the corporate environmental footprint, promoting globalized workforce collaboration, accelerating complex product development initiatives, and aiding remote talent acquisition.

Telepresence Overview:  Telepresence – a kind of video conference providing the sensation that all participants are actually in the same room – is set for explosive growth.  TelePresence delivers real-time, face-to-face interactions between people and places in their work and personal lives using advanced visual, audio, and collaboration technologies.  These technologies transmit life-size, high-definition images and spatial discrete audio.  Telepresence delivers video that makes it easier than ever to discern facial expressions for those crucial business discussions and negotiations across the "virtual table." The telepresence illusion is so real that many execs forget the person they’re talking to is not really in the same room.  See a video of how this looks.

Opportunity: According to recent research by ABI, the whole market, which includes telepresence equipment, network services and managed services, is forecast to grow from a 2007 level of not quite $126 million to nearly $2.5 billion in 2013.  Telepresence solutions can cost in the neighborhood of $300,000, but many telepresence operations are handled as managed services.  And less expensive “executive” systems designed for one or two people mean that telepresence technology is now migrating down to middle managers, expanding the market.

Driving Forces:

  • The high cost of travel (in money, wasted time, and carbon emissions).
  • Increased need for a remote workforce to participate in time-sensitive collaboration sessions.
  • Demands of worldwide outsourcing
  • Improved and lower cost technologies for video, audio and collaboration

Inhibitors: Videoconferencing has traditionally been a difficult technology to implement in the enterprise, with problems: latency, jitter, poor video equipment, insufficient concern over the videoconferencing environment, lack of business purpose, organizational commitment, and comfort with using this technology.

Segmentation: According to a report by IDC (Worldwide Telepresence 2008–2012 Forecast and Analysis), there are three primary markets for telepresence solutions:

  • CEO and senior executive travel reduction (whether corporate jet or commercial airline travel),
  • Teamwork, and
  • Room rentals for companies unable to afford their own rooms.

Vendor Landscape: According to ABI Research, (see their vendor matrix – registration required) the top five telepresence vendors to watch are:

  1. Cisco Systems – Cisco is positioned very well to participate in the future telepresence market and they are pushing their solutions at this website.
  2. Tandberg –
  3. Teliris –
  4. Polycom Incorporated:
  5. Digital Video Enterprises:

Future Vision: It is easy to imagine a future where we use video conferencing as easy as we use instant messaging today.  The adoption will move from simple employee to employee webcam video calls to social networking and collaborative solutions that connect not only employees to one another, but CEOs to CEOs.  Future business applications will be video conference enabled, allowing businesses to collaborate seamlessly with their vendors, partners, and customers.

Future Challenges: Looking forward to the future, the biggest obstacle facing the mass adoption of telepresence is interoperability.  Although telepresence vendors have begun to broach the issue of interoperability, the market is far from allowing complete federation across all systems to allow for room-to-room calling.  Vendors are pushing forward very slowly interoperability, saying that standards, modularity, and interoperability are at odds with the art and science behind creating telepresence experiences and the potential for continued innovation in this space.  So at least for awhile, interoperability will take a back seat to innovation.

Hungry For more information?

eWeek: 7 Things Needed for an Enterprise Social Network

Consumers have adopted social networking as a way to stay connected with friends and share ideas, music, pictures, and videos.  The trend is now hot in the enterprise market.  eWeek recently had an article that discussed seven critical elements to effective enterprise social networks.  Here is my summary of that article.

  1. User Friendly Look.  One of the reasons Facebook has been popular is it has a simple clean look, much like what Google has (although the recent revamp of Facebook looks a little more cluttered!!!).  eWeek says Lotus Connections and Socialtext are two vendors employing this user friendly look and feel.
  2. Business-Specific Applications.  Enterprises users don't only want to communicate, but they seek to collaborate (via tools like blogs and wikis) in order to solve business problems. 
  3. Multiple Communication Systems.   Enterprise users want a variety of ways to communicate and share information, including messaging, bookmarks, chat rooms, discussion forums, blogs, micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter).
  4. Security.  Enterprise users require and expect a level of security above consumer sites. 
  5. Scalability.  Everything points to a huge growth in users of enterprise social networks and that will translate into a huge growth in the number of transactions those networks will need to handle.
  6. Interact with Legacy Software.   Enterprise social networks will need to integrate with existing software within the business.
  7. Video and Multimedia.  Future enterprise users will come to expect the ability to share and view all types of media, including videos, podcasts, and photos.

This list covers some, but not all the elements needed for effective social network.  It focuses mainly on the social platform and misses the importance of the people and processes behind the social networks.  Without passionate people and community processes, a social network will limp along.  I don’t care how cool the social network technology platform is.

For the full article, see eWeeks "7 Things Needed For An Enterprise Social Network"