Friday Gadget: The Snuza Halo

The Snuza Halo (www.snuza.com) is among the latest gadgets that use sensors to monitor a baby’s crib for signs of trouble.  The Halo, designed in South Africa, is unusual: rather than clipping the device to a crib or mattress, you attach it to the baby’s diaper.  The Halo senses the slightest movements.  If it does not detect movement for 15 seconds – a sign the baby might not be breathing – the device vibrates the baby’s abdomen.  If after a few seconds the vibration doesn’t appear to restart movement, the Halo sounds an alarm.  Source: Clip-on sensor monitors infants for trouble – The Boston Globe

8 Emerging CleanTech Investment Areas

A new report is claiming that, with an aggressive infrastructure investment, eight emerging technologies could meet 60 % of new energy demand by 2020.  It is also claiming that we could abate more CO2 than is necessary for climate stabilization in just 10 years.  

The report, titled  "The Gigaton Throwdown", was developed with the support of many, many people who are tied to the cleantech industry.  The effort was led, in part, by Sunil Paul, who is a founder of Silicon Valley’s Spring Ventures.

The report estimates that if annual global private investment in cleantech tripled between now and 2020, clean energy investments would be in line with fossil-fuel investments.   It is a lofty goal, but the authors say that if we are able to shift investment into ready cleantech solutions, the results would be world changing:  climate mitigation, energy security and 5 million new jobs planetwide.

The report highlights the eight emerging clean technology solution areas that are ready for investment and could yield the stated goals.

  1. Biofuels
  2. Building Efficiency
  3. Concentrating Solar Power
  4. Construction Materials
  5. Geothermal
  6. Nuclear
  7. Solar Photovoltaics
  8. Wind

According to the report each of the eight solutions listed above could feasibly deliver one giagaton of global energy, and each could avoid one gigaton of emissions from being discharged into the atmosphere by 2020, thus the idea for the name of the report.

Apparently the authors considered plug-in electric vehicles , but the projected adoption of this technology is predicted to be too slow to have an impact by 2020.

For more information:

Looking to 2050: Ten Challenges For The Human Race

Peter Schwartz is recognized internationally as a futurist and strategist.  He honed his skills at Royal Dutch/Shell Group in London, where he led a widely respected scenario planning effort.   He has written a number of interesting books about the future, including The Art of the Long View. 

This past May he gave the commencement address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  During the address, he outlined ten longer term challenges for the human race as we look forward to the next 40-50 years.  He encouraged the graduates to come up with innovative solutions to these challenges. 

The top challenges Schwartz outlined are:

  1. Creating long-term solutions to meet our energy demands sustainably.
  2. Launching a bio-industrial revolution with sustainable manufacturing.
  3. Understanding and enhancing the human brain to avert age-related impairments.
  4. Improving agriculture to reduce costs and increase its energy and water efficiency.
  5. Building sustainable cities through better urban planning and "smart architecture”.
  6. Stimulating job growth and economic development.
  7. Fusing the technological with the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of human culture.
  8. Advancing technological instruments to drive scientific discovery forward.
  9. Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution.
  10. Discovering new ways to lower the costs and environmental impact of space flight and development.  

The list above is an interesting list.  I am not sure that these are the top ten most important challenges, but each of the above ten are certainly important. 

Some comments…

  • Energy tops his list and it is hard to argue that it should not be there.  I can’t see the demand for energy going down anytime soon and we need to figure out how to transition to clean energy. 
  • Improving agriculture processes in developing nations will have have a significant impact on the economy and quality of life.
  • Building smarter and sustainable cities is a very large challenge as the number of megacities grow and grow.
  • Number 9 on his list, “Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution” sounds both scary and beneficial at the same time.
  • Regarding number 10, with announced plans to go back to the moon and to Mars, we will need innovative ways to travel through space and live at the destinations we travel to.

It is worth pointing out that many on the list kind of fall under the push for a smarter planet.

If you want to read a transcript of Peter Schwartz’s commencement address, check out http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2585

Can you think of any other challenges Schwartz’s list?  The only one that comes to my mind right now is the never ending desire to live in a world free from war and conflict, but I don’t suppose for one minute that that will be solved in the next 40-50 years.

2009 Venture Capital Investment Survey by Deloitte and NVCA

Deloitte and the NVCA  released their annual Venture Capital global survey findings last month.  The report found that (not surprising) VC firms have been cutting back in their funding of startups.   While it has been a difficult recession, the industry is making some adjustments.

Some summary findings

  • Portfolio Pruning.  51%  are decreasing the number of companies in which they plan to invest and just 13 percent are increasing this activity.
  • Cleantech:  The clean tech sector is poised to become the leading investment category.  Overall 60% of respondents say that cleantech investments are on the rise.  Among U.S., UK and Israeli investors, about half expect to increase their investments in cleantech, while about seven out of 10 AP respondents and European respondents expect their cleantech investments to increase.
  • Globalization:  Globalization of the venture capital industry will intensify in coming years, posing significant competitive questions for the United States, and opportunities for emerging markets such as China.
  • Regional Investments:  Investment levels are more likely to increase in countries outside the United States.  Governments of all countries have a crucial role to play in fostering competitiveness and innovation.  Specific findings include that 52% of the survey respondents are currently investing outside their home countries.  19% of respondents expressed that investment levels will rise in Israel,  50% believe that investment will increase in Asia (excluding India); 43% in India; 36% in South America; 25% in Europe and the UK; and 17% in North America.
  • Government:   66% of venture capitalists would like a tax break from their respective governments. 40% believe that government support for entrepreneurial activity is important; 31% would like governments to encourage more active public markets; and 29 percent believe improved access to private capital sources will help better support innovation.
  • Investment Timing:   According to 51% of the VCs, now is a good time to invest. Only 6 percent believe that it is not a good time to make investments.

The 2009 Global Venture Capital Survey was conducted in the first quarter of 2009 and measured the opinions of more than 700 venture capitalists worldwide.  To view the full survey results visit: 2009 Global Trends in Venture Capital

McKinsey’s View on Web2.0 and Beyond

McKinsey Quarterly had an interesting article this month that talked about how companies should prepare now for when web 2.0 transitions all the way to web 3.0.  The article, Managing beyond Web2.0 pointed out that individuals are increasingly in a position of control on the Internet.  They are demanding the type of information they want on websites and how that information is delivered.   The net is that businesses need to adapt to disruption that the shift to digital media and social networks is causing in order to stay relevant and manage their brand. 

McKinsey believes that the shift to the digital media will force marketers to evolve in order to survive.  The article discusses a model McKinsey is promoting called LEAD (listen, experiment, apply, develop) as a way to create a road map to help companies survive this constant change in the online environment.

Here is a quick summary of the LEAD model

  • Listen.   Have a formal process to monitor and analyze what its customers are saying about the corporate brand and operations online and then use this information as an early-warning system.
  • Experiment. Don’t just monitor social media — engage customers in conversations by using the novel tools of Web 2.0.   As an example, try engaging customers through collaborative efforts in order to conceive new offerings and ad campaigns.
  • Apply.  Next take the experiments and apply them.  To make it easier to reach out to customers, optimize your Web site so that it connects fluidly with online communities and social-media sites.
  • Develop.  Integrate the social media marketing into the company’s marketing mix.  For example, rather than simply buying ads on MySpace or LinkedIn, make interactive Web 2.0 elements part of all marketing programs.

McKinsey says the key is to understand your customer’s online behaviors in order to take advantage of Web 2.0 and what’s beyond Web 2.0.

I like the LEAD model in concept, especially because it stresses Listening as the first step.  I see too many experimental efforts being launched that have not been designed to take into account listening.  The other point I feel gets lost is that there needs to be more of a focus on engaging external stakeholders in conversations.  So while there needs to be a focus on listening, there should also be an equal focus on responding to what is being heard.  The worst thing you can do is to listen and hear what is being said, but not respond. You need to engage in active conversations.

You can check out McKinsey’s article out at Managing beyond Web2.0 .

Gartner’s Latest List of Disruptive Technologies

Every Wednesday, Gartner does a free webinar on a variety of topics.  Earlier this month, they had a presentation titled "Technology Trends You Can't Afford to Ignore."   I attended the webinar and took some notes.

The webinar provided attendees with Gartner’s latest list of disruptive technologies.  According to Gartner, a disruptive technology is one which drives major change in business processes or revenue streams, consumer behavior or spending, or IT industry dynamics.  It’s important that companies have processes in place to identify the disruptive technologies that will impact their business and develop plans to address these disruptions. 

Gartner regularly publishes disruptive technology lists.  Back in October 2007, I posted Gartner:  Five Disruptive Trends, which was a summary of their current list at that time, which included the following five trends:

  1. Web2.0
  2. Software as a Service
  3. Global-class computing
  4. The Consumerization of IT
  5. Open-Source Software

You can read my October 2007 post Gartner:  Five Disruptive Trends for more on that Gartner list.

So I was interested attending the webinar and seeing what was on Gartner’s list this time.  Here is a summary of Gartner’s July 2009 list of the top 10 technologies that will drive significant disruption over the next five years.

  1. Virtualization.   Virtualization helps reduce the number of servers used, decreasing power consumption.
  2. Data Deluge.  According to Gartner, the amount of data produced around the world will grow by 650% over the next few years, and 80% of it will be unstructured.
  3. Energy & Green IT.   We need to come up with regulations for technology and power consumption. 
  4. Consumerization & Social Software.  Consumerization, Social media, social computing, and social networking will change the way we work.   See my April 16, 2009 post on The Consumerization of IT  or my March 12, 2009 post Social Computing as a Disruptive Force for more on this trend.
  5. Unified Communications.    Unifying communications will allow users to route communications to their preferred device and change that device preference whenever they need to.  
  6. Mobile  Mobile devices 10 years ago were just phones.  Today, they are little computers. Tomorrow, it may be the primary device employees use to get their work done.  
  7. Complex Resource Tracking  This is all about the need to manage our networks more efficiently
  8. System Density.   We are going to need more and more servers.  That's going to increase power and cooling requirements, even as the price of the hardware continues to drop.
  9. Mashups and Enterprise Portals.  Employees will increasingly need and demand new ways to see information. 
  10. Cloud Computing. Cloud-computing can certainly save you a lot of time and money, but it will cost a lot of time to make the switch to the cloud happen.  I spent a bunch of time researching cloud computing.  For more information, see this post, which also contains links to other cloud computing posts I have done.

A quick comparison of the 2007 list with the list today, we see that Consumerization of IT/Social Software made both lists.  And we also see that Saas/Cloud Computing made both lists.   Both these trends are important disruptive trends, for sure.

For more information, or to download the replay and a pdf of the presentation, go to this Gartner website: Webinar Wednesday Series: Technology Trends You Can't Afford to Ignore

Emerging Trends in Crowd Sourcing

You may have heard of the Netflix competition to improve the level of its predictions.  The DVD-rental company offered $1 million as well as continued ownership of intellectual property to anyone who could boost the accuracy of its predictions by 10%.  These winner-take-all races seem to fit in well with another 21st-century trend—crowdsourcing, or seeking help from others (often for no compensation) via the Internet. Indeed, many of the teams in the Netflix competition, including BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos, depended on such far-flung collaboration as teams came from different countries.

According to Wikipedia, “Crowdsourcing refers to the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call. The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.

A recent Business Week article argues that crowdsourcing will expand and that its impact on traditional businesses marketing, design and advertising needs to be clearly understood.  Some analysts, meanwhile, have predicted this practice of opening up a task to the public instead of keeping it in-house or using a contractor will be the demise of those businesses because of the downward pressure on prices. If LG crowdsources a new cell phone design on CrowdSpring for $20,000, as it did recently, what happens to the old model of paying a design firm millions of dollars for the same project?

The author expects communities and marketplaces to evolve further, supplying a more efficient and creative way for companies to engage with and harness the crowd for help. The increasing complexity of problems has also caused a rise in mass collaboration. Customers, of course, are increasingly demanding participation. They expect the ability to co-create and lead innovation, and their volubility has forced companies to devise creative solutions to be competitive in a new bottom-up age.  Challenges include managing submissions in line with business objectives and compensating people fairly for their ideas and how it will affect businesses such as design, marketing and advertising.

AIAA: Top Ten Emerging Aerospace Technologies

imageLast month, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) released a list of top emerging aerospace technologies.  The AIAA hopes to make this an annual list. 

Here is the list of ten

  1. 'Greener' aviation technologies – including emission reduction and noise reduction technologies as used in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s Continuous Low Emissions, Energy and Noise (CLEEN) program, and the European Environmentally Friendly Engine (EFE) program and Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative.   For more see this AIAA press release.
  2. Alternative fuels – including biofuels, as promoted by the FAA's Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), and the recent FAA grant to the X Prize Foundation to spur development of renewable aviation fuels and technologies.  For more see this AIAA press release.
  3. High speed flight technologies – such as supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics, sonic boom reduction technology, and thermal management aids.   For more reading, check out Supersonic travel may return
  4. Efficient propulsion technologies – including open rotors and geared turbofans, such as those used in the European DREAM (valiDation Radical Engine Architecture systems) program.
  5. Active flow technologies – such as plasma actuators.
  6. Advanced materials – such as nanotechnology and composites.
  7. Active structures – such as shape memory alloys, morphing, and flapping.
  8. Health management – such as monitoring, prognostics, and self-healing.
  9. Remote sensing technologies – including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites such as those used in NASA's Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) program.
  10. Advanced space propulsion technologies – including plasma-based propulsion such as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, and solar sail technologies.

You can access a pdf of the AIAA announcement here AIAA Names Top Ten Emerging Aerospace Technologies of 2009:  Download PDF

L’Aquila G8 Meeting and Climate Change

Earlier in the year, I blogged about Climate change, so the G8 meeting last week in Italy gives me an opportunity for some updates, but I should add that these remain rather disappointing. 

Last week, G8 leaders made an agreement that sounds great – by 2050, they’ll cut the number of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by half. It’s an improvement to Kyoto Protocol, at least, but it does not set short term objectives which limits its impact.  The statement on climate change approved by summit participants also includes a promise of an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by the world's richest countries, however, developing nations, including China and India, were quick to criticize the accord, insisting that the G8 cut their emissions by more.  The G8 declaration leaves it to individual nations to decide their emission baseline and the G8 countries also could not agree on a pledge to help fund poorer countries moves toward cleaner energy.

G8 leaders also agreed to restrict global temperature rises to no more than 2 degrees (Celsius) above pre-industrial levels – which had long been resisted by the US.  But the G8’s consensus is hardly airtight – it’s not yet legally binding, and no one has thought of a good way for rich and poor nations to share the burden.

The world leaders said they were determined to reach a comprehensive deal at a United Nations summit in Copenhagen this December, to reach agreement on a successor treaty to the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.  Despite promises from G8 leaders on climate change, concerns were raised that other countries invited to attend the summit would not commit to some of the provisions.

Friday Gadget: Anti-Paparazzi Clutch Bag

imageHey for you celebrities out there, I bet you just hate it when the paparazzi surround you and start taking pictures of you coming out of restaurants and clubs.  Fear no more.   The anti-paparazzi clutch is a wearable device designed to counter the attacks of flash photography from paparazzi.  It’s unique patent pending technology allows the celeb to block any number of incoming shots.   And in case you do like to be photographed the design allows you to control whether your flash is on or off by the way you hold the bag.  The innovation comes from NYU graduate student Adam Harvey.   Currently the gadget fits inside a ladies clutch, but Mr. Harvey hopes to shrink it down to the size of a pendant or a tie tack  For more information check out this article at pdngearguide.com

Study: Top CEOs still shunning Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

As social networking and social media marketing continue to increase as a disruptive trend, our top executives are being left behind.  So far, they are ignoring the trend.  Not sure what their excuse is, but I imagine it is that they just don’t get it.  It reminds me of the time email first came on the radar.

Sure, CEOs aged 30 and under understand the power of Web 2.0 and social computing…some of the younger ones are in fact digital natives.  But for some reason, middle aged and older CEOs have not yet figured out that the social computing train has left the station. 

I have a unique perspective in that I have been around for a long time. Truth be told, I was around for the email revolution in the late 1980s and early 1990s'.   I was a young IT professional at the time email first came on the radar (anyone remember PROFS?) and I do remember that for the longest time there were people (typically older and higher up the executive chain) that just never checked their email.  I guess they either forgot their passwords or really did not even know how to check and respond to email.  It was hard for them to weave email into their daily activities.  They were tied to the phone and face to face method of communication (not to say those are bad communication methods) and ignored the new way of communicating via email.  They resisted change.

So when I saw an article discussing recent research results that confirm my observations that CEOs are absent from the social media, it does not surprise me.  The report in question (It’s Official:  Fortune 100 CEOs are Social Media Slackers) finds that CEOs at top companies in the U.S. are dramatically disconnected from the social networking phenomenon.  The report was recently published by UberCEO.com, an online news and discussion site that focuses on CEOs at major companies.  

The study found that only two CEOs from Fortune magazine's list of the Top 100 companies have Twitter accounts and only 19 have a Facebook page.   And none of the 100 CEOs were found to have a personal external blog.  

In fact, only 13 of the top top 100 CEOs are members of the LinkedIn social network for business professionals.  And of those 13, five were connected to just one other person on the site.  The study found that only three technology CEOs really stood out on LinkedIn

From my point of view, top CEOs in technology companies should be embracing web 2.0 and experimenting with social media and networking sites.  I believe they are missing an opportunity to positively influence how people view their companies as well as missing an opportunity to demonstrate leadership to their employees, customers, partners, and shareholders.  It’s called leading by example and in my mind technology CEOs can't afford to pretend that social media is not for them.  They need to find some way to weave social media activities into their daily routine….just like the rest of us.

TripleTree: Collaboration, Communities, & The Extended Enterprise

I’ve been interested this year in understanding how the disruptive social computing trend will impact business processes, workflows, and decision making processes.

Triple Tree, LCC recently released a report that caught my eye: Collaboration, Communities & the Extended Enterprise .  The report takes a look at the growth of collaboration tools and the emerging importance of these technologies on the future of enterprise application and infrastructure platforms.   For those of you selling the concept of embedding collaboration and communities into enterprise applications, I suggest you take some time to read the report.

For a quick view into the report, the major sections in the table of contents of the report are labeled

  • Growth Despite Fragmentation
  • Internal Collaboration
  • External Collaboration
  • Collaboration Platforms
  • Users Prefer Less Fragmented Approaches
  • The Powerful Differentiation of Communities
  • Other Impacts on the Extended Enterprise
  • Cloud Compuiting

The premise of the report is that social computing will have significant impact on business processes.  Tripletree says that as social features are applied to business computing solutions, it is increasingly important to understand the technical and organizational impact of collaboration platforms.  The report discusses how collaboration functions embedded into enterprise applications can improve user adoption and productivity while also enhancing business workflows.  Tripletree says that these embedded collaborative functions go beyond “just improving communications between knowledge workers and partners, and includes a growing appreciation for the importance of user-generated content, consumerism and transparency.”

In fact (and this is a very important point), TripleTree asserts that collaboration features will become the very core of every enterprise application suite and that business functionality will become a secondary part of the platform.  

The main takeaway of the report for application providers is that if you are not engineering  and embedding collaborative capabilities into solutions, you are telling the world you have decided to remain a legacy application vendor.

You can check out the report here  http://www.triple-tree.com/research/collaboration_q1_09.pdf

Tripletree also recently held a webcast on this topic. Slides and a mp3 replay are available.  Moderated by TripleTree, this webcast centered on a discussion and debate on the usefulness of collaboration and community-centric solutions, where user adoption is being influenced by consumerism, and how a Collaboration solution ROI can be measured through the lens of improved information management.  During the webcast, Tripletree introduced the topic and the report discussed above.  There were three panelists on the call, who each gave a short presentation on the topic of embedding collaboration capabilities into business processes.

  • Dan Carmel, CEO – SpringCM
  • Oren Michels, CEO – Mashery
  • Alex Van Deusen, Collaboration Specialist – Cisco WebEx

For more, check out the webcast Audio (MP3) and Slide Presentation (PDF)