A Primer on Millennials: List of 25 Research Reports

There is a lot of interest in the marketing and HR community about understanding the Millennial generation, including who they are, what their interests and expectations are,  and what their preferences are relating to work and shopping.

There is no real definition on what the age range is of a Millennial.  Wikipedia mentions that that some are using birth years from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s.  Some refer to Millennials as Generation Y, some are even mentioning a new Generation Z as part of this category.   Regardless, there is no question that Millennials now represent the future workforce and purchasing power of the developed economies of the world.  Marketing professionals want to learn more about how this new generation consume marketing messages and what their purchasing preferences are.  HR professionals want to learn more about how to attract and retain this this new generation of workers.

Studies seem to agree on certain generalizations and characteristics of this new generation.

 

  • Heavily reliant on social media and technology … and communicate with people differently because of it
  • Raised differently than their parents were, primarily because the environment has changed dramatically
  • Live in a completely different world of media than their parents (real-time access to information, fewer filters on information)
  • Relatively unattached to organized politics and religion
  • Many entering the job market are burdened by debt
  • Inherently distrustful of people
  • They are in no rush to marry
  • Optimistic about the future
  • This is a racially diverse generation
  • Able to multi-task better than their parents
  • Naturally Group-oriented and collaborative
  • Values peer opinions (typically gathered via social networks)
  • Generally confident about their abilities to succeed
  • Values lifestyle above work
  • Impatient.  Expects things to happen now
  • Open-minded.  Receptive to new ideas and ways of living
  • Self-expressive (online as well as offline)
  • Desires constant feedback
  • Competitive.  Will compete to winFor those of you digging deeper into understanding Millennials, I have done some research for you.   Below is a list of 25 research reports and resources that you can download.  Most of the reports include findings of surveys that were conducted over the past year or two.  The reports are presented below in alphabetical order by the organization that published the study report.
    1. Accenture: Who are the Millennial shoppers? And what do they really want?   Accenture research to understand the needs of the Millennial consumer.  Surveys were conducted of both retailers and consumers, then 50 face to face interviews were conducted.
    2. Barkley:  American Millenials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation  A 90 page report from Barkley based on research conducted as part of a joint partnership with Service Management Group, The Boston Consulting Group and Barkley.  With 5,493 survey respondents and more than 4 million data points, this was a detailed study with many insights.
    3. Bentley University:   The PreparedU Project: An In-depth Look at Millennial Preparedness for Today’s Workforce   Survey commissioned on the subject of preparedness of Millennials for joining the workforce.   More than 3,100 people were surveyed from nine different groups who all have a stake in this issue, including leaders in higher education and business, corporate recruiters, current high school
      and college students and their parents, recent college graduates, and the public at large
    4. Boston Consulting Group:  Millennial Passions:  Food, Fashion, and Friends A 6 page summary of the results and findings from the Barclay study (see above)
    5. Deloitte:  The Deloitte Millennial Survey:  Big Demands and High Expectations  Survey of more than 7800 Millennials was conducted October 11- November 11, 2013 about career and workplace expectations.
    6. Hartman Group:   Outlook on the Millennial Consumer Syndicated Study for 2014  Comprehensive new research to understand the lifestyles, life stages, preferences, and behaviors of America’s largest and most influential demographic group.
    7. IdeaPaint:  2013 Millennial Workplace Trends Survey: Corporate America Begins to Solve the Millennial Paradox   Survey of 600 employed Millennials was commissioned by IdeaPaint.  The goal of the survey was to see if modern workplaces were tapping into the potential of their young talent by engaging in more collaborative ideation techniques or if they were leveraging more traditional business models.
    8. International Journal of Emerging Research in Management &Technology:  Future Workforce “The Millennial”    The generation X has built a perception on what they have see about the generation Y and the generation Y comes with a different perception about them.  This study attempts to evaluate and asses their perceptions built by the generation x on generation y and also to determine what the generation y thinks about them and their expectation on the managers in the organization
    9. Journal of College & Character:   Off Our Lawns and Out of Our Basements: How We (Mis)Understand the Millennial Generation   In this article, the author explores the existing research on the characteristics of Millennials within historical, social, and economic contexts. While many researchers have made claims about Millennials, they fail to consider how parenting styles, economic factors, historical events, and shifts in educational priorities may have created the unique traits of this generation.Millennial Impact:  2013 Report  and the report portal page at http://www.themillennialimpact.com/2013research
    10. Long Range Systems, LLC:      The Millennial Mindset:  How a Generation is Reshaping Hospitality   White paper discusses Millennials and their potential impact on the hospitality industry
    11. Millennial Inc.  What your company will look like when millennial’s call the shots  Results of a six-month study taking place in both the United States and the United Kingdom with the objective to understand what your company would look like if Millennials were already in charge.
    12. MODIS:  Millennial IT Professionals:  Millennials in IT show aggressive approach to career path in contrast to other generations   Modis polled 501 employed IT Professionals about their career ambitions and
      perceptions as well as their perspective on the IT industry
    13. Network for Good:   Engaging Millennial Employees:   Recruit and Retain Top Talent with Cause  This eGuide provides the evidence and advice to help your company better engage all employees, especially younger ones, through cause programs that foster both business and social impact returns.
    14. NPD:  Millennials’ Surprises This brief examines how Millennials consume a variety of products across some of the industries The NPD group tracks: foodservice, entertainment, home, and the automotive aftermarket.
    15. NPD:  Winning the Fight for the Millennial Shopper  Report discusses shopping behaviors of Millennials by retailer, channel, and category.
    16. Pew Research Center:   Millennials in Adulthood    Report discusses perspectives and expectations of Millennials as they enter adulthood.  Findings are based on a new Pew Research Center survey conducted
      Feb. 14-23, 2014 among 1,821 adults nationwide, including 617 Millennial adults, and analysis of other Pew Research Center surveys conducted between 1990 and 2014.
    17. Pew Research Center:   The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change   Old report from 2010, still provides some good insights.
    18. Pew Research Center:  On Pay Gap, Millennial Women Near Parity – For Now.  Despite Gains, Many See Roadblocks Ahead    Findings are based on a new Pew Research Center survey of 2,002 adults, including 810 Millennials (adults ages 18 to 32),  conducted Oct. 7-27, 2013. The survey finds that, in spite of the dramatic gains women have made in educational attainment and labor force participation in recent decades, young women view this as a man’s world—just as middle-aged and older women do.
    19. Princeton One:   Attracting Gen Y Employees   Highlights five items for employers to take into consideration when recruiting Millennials   Retaining Gen Y Employees  Five ways to retain top Millennial employees.
    20. PWC:   Millennials at Work – Understanding Your Future Workforce  Presentation at the 2013 Financial Management Institute PD Week
    21. PWC:   Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace  A survey of over 4,000 millennials designed to capture their perspective on what they value most in a career.
    22. Rainmaker Thinking:  Meet Generation Z: The second generation within the giant “Millennial” cohort    White paper discusses the Milllennial sub segment called Generation Z and the five key trends shaping this sub segment.
    23. Raytheon:  Preparing Millennials to Lead in Cyberspace   A Raytheon-commissioned study of attitudes, behaviors and career aspirations among young American adults online.
    24. Urban Land Institute: GenerationY: Shopping and Entertainment in the Digital Age   40 page report published in 2013.   Results of an online survey of Americans aged 18-35 (1,251 respondents) with an objective to understand Gen Y’s shopping habits and dining/entertainment preferences.
    25. Verizon:   Millennials & Entertainment – Final Report March 2014   results of a two-phased research project including a quantitative survey of 1,000 consumers and qualitative interviews of 8 consumers.  Focus of study was to understand how this generation connects with media, content, and entertainment.
  • Are there other reports I missed?  Let me know via Twitter (@HorizonWatching) or contact me on Linkedin (whchamb)

 

A Primer on 3-D Printing: An Emerging Technology You Should Know About

A few days ago, the first 3-d printed airplane flew for the first time.  See the LA Times article “World’s first 3-D printed airplane takes to the skies”.

Although 3D printing has been around for a number of decades, the quality has increased dramatically in recent years and the prices are just beginning to drop, making it much more affordable for small and medium businesses.  And if you really want to explore 3D printing, they are even getting cheap enough for consumers to own.

The reality is 3D printing is a very cost-effective way to have an in-house rapid prototyping capability.  For a relatively modest investment, design engineers can use a 3D printer to catch design flaws earlier in the process lowering costs and shortening design cycles.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing involves having the computer sending the coordinates for a 3D object to an output device (a 3D Printer) that employs the same ink-jet printer principle that is used to print on paper.  However, in this case the ‘printer’ deposits successive layers of material to build up a full-scale 3D model.   The material used can be powder, plastics, resins or even metals.

In the case of powder, the printer is actually delivering ultra-thin layers of powder onto a surface, one on top of another, until it produces a 3D model.  With each successive run of the ‘printer head’, the powder that is deposited is then given a spray of a binding liquid that' helps to harden the powder and help form a solid object.

The end-result of this process might be a model which designers can use to verify a product’s design qualities before full-scale manufacturing begins, or it might be an end-use specialty product ranging from a component in a complex aircraft engine to a consumer medical  or dental implant.

The big benefits of 3D printing is it’s low cost and speed.  The printers can generally produce models in as little as one-tenth the time it takes other types of machines.  3-D Printer-produced models are throwaway models that allow you to see things you would not be able to see as well on a computer with a CAD system.  The beauty of this approach is people can hold the proposed design, study it, and get a good feel for its shape.

Video Introduction to 3D-Printing

The video below (about 4 minutes) provides an introduction to 3-D printing.

 

 

Implications for Traditional Manufacturing

It is doubtful that this new generation of 3D printers can replace traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding, machined or milled parts and manufacturing line assembly.  However I do believe that small and medium specialty manufactures should consider implementing 3D printing processes for individual steps or subsystems in a traditional line manufacturing process.  It is very possible that these new low cost printers would help reduce overall manufacturing costs.

Implications for Consumers

Many people in the 3-d printing industry fully believe every household will have a device that’s capable of printing any solid object, and even basic mechanical objects.  Imagine pressing the “bowl” or “cup” button on the 3D printer in the kitchen, followed by the “fork” or “spoon” button. It would even work for larger objects like cutting boards and colanders and laundry baskets — and it would be easy enough to provide fairly extensive customization, too: a stripy cup, with colors of your choosing, a narrower fork, a bowl that is perfectly tapered to support and grip an unwieldy watermelon, and so on.

Implications for Healthcare

Experts also see a bright future for 3D printing in the medical industry.  3D printing technology is currently being studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering applications where organs and body parts are built using inkjet techniques. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium and slowly built up to form three dimensional structures.  Future applications include Organ printing, bio-printing, computer-aided tissue engineering.  

Vendors

For those of you wanting to learn more about products and services out on the market, here are a few vendor sites to visit

  • Desktop Factory  Makes a very small and affordable printers that truly fit on top of a desk.
  • 3D Systems   Provides mid-range solutions that employ a technology that film transfers photopolymer to build 3-D objects
  • Z Corp  Is widely thought of as providing top of the line printers for an office environment
  • MakerBot, an entry level machine, has sold more than 4,000 so far.
  • Ultimaker, a new entrant into personal 3-d printing

For More Information

Foresight Method – A Primer on Scenario Planning

Primer on Scenario Planning Introduction To Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is a Foresight technique that can help provide a view into the future in a world of great uncertainty.   Scenarios are carefully crafted stories about the future embodying a wide variety of ideas and integrating them in a way that is communicable and useful.  Using scenario planning techniques, teams can imagine plausible futures with the objective to explore potential surprises and unexpected developments.  It can help manage strategic risks and opportunities. 

Scenario planning has its roots in military strategy studies, but it was transformed into a business tool in the late 1960's and early 1970's, by Pierre Wack of Royal Dutch/Shell.  By applying scenario planning techniques, Shell was better prepared to deal with the oil shock that occurred in late 1973.  As a result, Shell greatly improved its competitive position in the industry during the oil crisis and the oil glut that followed.

Why Should Companies Do Scenario Planning?

Scenario planning is a technique analysts and strategists can use to deal with major, uncertain shifts in a company’s environment.  Scenario planning is particularly useful in emerging markets or when existing markets are gong through rapid changes and disruption.  It is during these times that information is limited and it is hard to predict with certainty what might happen in the future.  In these cases, traditional forecasting techniques often fail to predict significant changes going on in the external environment.  Consequently, important opportunities and serious threats may be overlooked and the very survival of the firm may be at stake.  

Other benefits of scenario planning include:

  • It forces people out of their typical view of the market and therefore can expose blind spots that might have been overlooked in the current long range strategic plans

  • As the future unfolds, we are better able to recognize a scenario in its early stages as it happens, rather than being caught off guard.

It is important to understand that the objective of scenario planning is not to fully predict the future.  Instead, it attempts to help describe what is possible.  The objective of scenario planning is to describe a group of distinct futures, all of which are plausible.  Once those potential futures are developed, the challenge then is how to deal with each of them.

The Basics Of Scenario Planning

Scenario planning usually takes place in a workshop setting.  The workshop can range from a half a day to a number of days, depending on the complexity of the market being studied.  It is best to have a diverse team assembled, including  analysts, strategists, subject matter experts, and industry leaders.  The idea is to bring together a group that has a wide range of viewpoints in order to fully explore alternative scenarios that are outside the current accepted forecasts. 

Any scenario planning workshop should encourage unstructured thinking, therefore, the process itself should not necessarily be too structured.  With that in mind, the following outlines the sequence of actions that may constitute the process of scenario planning.

  1. Form Team.  Identify people who will contribute a wide range of perspectives.
  2. Conduct pre-workshop interviews as appropriate.  Ideally, the process should include pre-workshop interviews with managers who later will formulate and implement strategies based on the scenario analysis.  Without their input the scenarios may leave out important details and not lead to action if they do not address issues important to those who will implement the strategy.
  3. Begin workshop.  Introduce Scenario Planning Exercise.  Define goals/objectives.  Specify the scope/time frame.
  4. Develop a clear understanding of the present situation.  This will serve as a common departure point for each of the scenarios.
  5. Document current trends any future events/elements that are virtually certain to occur.
  6. Understand external environment.  Identify the critical uncertainties in the political, economic, social, and technological factors.
  7. Identify the more important driving forces.  Take into account the potential variation and impact of each driver.  After listing all driving forces, rank the driving forces in order of significance.
  8. For the most important drivers, consider a few possible values for each.  Range between extremes while avoiding highly improbable values.
  9. Understand potential interaction between the driving forces.  One way to do this is to develop a matrix of scenarios using the two most important variables and their possible values.  Each cell in the matrix then represents a single scenario.  Assign names to each scenario and sketch out rough pictures/descriptions of different futures based on these scenarios.  One of these scenarios most likely will reflect the mainstream views of the future, while others will shed light on what else is possible.  At the end of this step, there is not any detail associated with these rough scenarios.  They are simply high level descriptions of a combination of important environmental variables.
  10. Develop Detailed Stories.  During this step further work is needed to develop detailed impact scenarios that explain in more detail how each scenario might affect the corporation.  Specifics can be generated by writing a story to develop each scenario starting from the present.  The story should be internally consistent for the selected scenario so that it describes that particular future as realistically as possible.   Experts in specific fields can be called upon to develop more detail around each story.  The goal of the detailed stories is to transform the analysis from a simple matrix of the obvious range of environmental factors into decision scenarios useful for strategic planning.
  11. Quantify the impact of each scenario on the firm, and formulate appropriate strategies.
  12. At this point, if the team is comfortable doing so, it can be useful to assign a probability to each scenario.
  13. Establish signposts for each scenario.  During this step, the team should identify a set of early warning signals or signposts for each scenario.  These are event that could happen that would indicate to the team that the particular scenario is beginning to unfold.
  14. Finally, the team should establish a process that regularly monitors, evaluates and reviews the scenarios.

What comes out of the scenario planning process is a number of plausible scenarios that can be used to as input into strategic planning discussions.  The point is not to select one scenario as the preferred future and hope for it to become true.  Nor is the point to fund the most probable future and adapt to it.  Rather, the point is to make strategic decisions that will be sound for all plausible futures. 

It should be noted that strategists/executives may not take scenarios seriously if those scenarios deviate too much from their preconceived view of the world.  Many will prefer to rely on forecasts and their judgment, even if they realize that they may miss important changes in the firm's environment.  To broaden their thinking,  it is useful to create "phantom" scenarios that show the adverse results if the firm were to base its decisions on the mainstream view while the reality turned out to be one of the other scenarios.  For each scenario, I always like to ask the question:  What is the worse impact that we can imagine will happen if we do nothing and this scenario comes true?

Summary

 

Scenario planning works by understanding the nature and impact of the most uncertain and important driving forces affecting the company's future.  It is a group process which encourages knowledge exchange and development of mutual deeper understanding of central issues important to the future of the business. 

The goal is to craft a number of diverging stories by extrapolating uncertain and heavily influencing driving forces.  The stories together with the work getting there has the dual purpose of increasing the knowledge of the business environment and widen both the receiver's and participant's perception of possible future events. 

I'd encourage you to try out scenario planning as a way to imagine the potential futures. 

Additional Reading/Resources

A Primer on the Consumer Market for Household Robots

Slide2 This primer on Personal Robots is meant to be a quick introduction of the trend towards personal robotics – a trend that will have a significant impact on our lives in this and future centuries.  I’ve previously authored primers on other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Little by little we are all starting to share more of our space with robots as prices drop and new innovative technology makes its way into new robotic products that are designed to make our lives easier, more fun, and safer.  Yes, adoption of personal robots is beginning to ramp up.  My house now has two Roombas (one upstairs, one downstairs).  While I still like to use a traditional vacuum as I know the carpets get cleaner, my wife and kids love the Roombas as they can turn it on, leave the room, and let it do its job while they do other things.  Both my parents and my in-laws also have Roombas and they absolutely love them.

Market Environment 

The concept of a machine that performs tasks normally done by humans has captured the imagination of people throughout the ages.  The term robot describes a machine that performs programmed tasks normally performed by humans, while robotics refers to the design, construction, and use of robots.  A robot does not need to be in human form, nor does it need to be controlled remotely. 

The toy market is where allot of the action is at these days.  Robotic technology is increasingly being embedded into all sorts of toys from dinosaurs to plush toys.  Entertainment robots have expanded in capability and fallen in price as well.  There are robotic toys for entertainment, such as the Pleo, the Prime-8 Gorilla, and the Lego Mindstorms line of toys robotic companions.  

However, there is a significant personal robot market waiting to be developed beyond just toys and entertainment…a wider range of task robots are already on the market like Paro the harbor seal, that comfort the elderly.   Household robots that perform chores, provide entertainment and monitor home security have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years.  Personal Robots are being used for tasks like vacuuming.  There are also robotic lawn mowers, duct cleaners, surveillance systems, and alarm clocks. 

I found the following video that provides an overview of some of the latest consumer robot enhancements.  While I found the video a little dry and the focus is more on entertainment robots, it does gives you a feel for what is new in 2010.

Market Opportunity

As evidence that there is a market for consumer and household robots beyond just toys, the iRobot Corp published a press release in January 2010 that indicated it has sold more than 5 million Roombas (home robot vacuums) worldwide since 2002.  As I mentioned above, I have two of those Roombas in my house alone.

Projections about the overall market opportunity for personal robots range dramatically.  According to a 2009 report by ABI Research, by the year 2015 personal robot sales in the U.S. will exceed $5B.  The report, Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015  found that the personal robotics market will quadruple from 2009-2015, when worldwide shipments will be valued at $5.26 billion.  ABI defines personal robots as those robots that perform tasks for consumers that usually have something to do with security, a simple household chore, entertainment, or education.  ABI’s report singles out North America as the largest market for personal robots right now, followed by Japan (where the culture embraces robots) and the rest of AP. 

Market Drivers / Inhibitors

The growth in the market for personal and household robots will be driven by a number of factors.

  • Toys/Entertainment:  The toy/entertainment mass market, with its lower price point, will continue to grow and is the place where many companies experimenting in robotic technology will have success in the short term.
  • The 4 D's:  Consumers will be interested in buying robots that can help them do any task that has one of the ‘4D’ components – Dirty, Dangerous, Dull, and/or Difficult. 
  • Better technology:  Improvements in hardware, software, and design allow for enhanced robot applications.
  • Reduced prices:  Personal robots prices will continue to drop as 1) component prices drop and 2) demand for robots increases
  • Skills shortages:  As skill shortages happen, robots can assist and even boost productivity.

Inhibitors to rapid growth include cost justification, the current economic environment, limited performance, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt factors related to the use of robots. 

Technology

Major developments in microelectronics, (sensors/actuators), analytics software, and computer technology have led to significant advances in robotics.  The underlying technology in a robot contains some of all of the following components.

  • A physical device capable of interacting with its environment.  This would include sensors on or around the device that are able to sense the environment and give useful feedback to the device.
  • Systems that process sensory input in the context of the device's current situation and instruct the device to perform actions in response to the situation.  This would include operating systems and application software. 
  • Services for robots are similar to other emerging application areas (consulting, implementation, and maintenance), but the services are customized for specific application areas (security, cleaning, healthcare, etc.).

Advances in military and commercial robots continue to trickle down to the consumer personal robot market.  As the
market for innovative components grows (e.g., laser rangefinders in the
military and automotive industry), we’ll see continued advancement of robotic applications
in the consumer market.

Anticipated Developments

The main personal robot market segments that have thrived in recent years are toy/entertainment robots and vacuum cleaner robots.  I expect these segments to continue to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years.  Overtime, I expect to see more robots designed for the elderly and dependents to make their way to the market.  And I also expect to see more home security robots coming to the market.

The excitement surrounding the consumer robot market is in what lies ahead in terms of innovations.  We should expect innovations that enable increased precision, better controls, lower costs, and improved technology.  Not only will new robots have more computing power, but they will have improved knowledge based systems, speech recognition, wireless capabilities and improved power (fuel cells).  All these enhancements will greatly enhance robot use.

Other anticipated developments include:

  • Telepresence applications making their way to personal robots, allowing remote users to interact with the robot’s environment.
  • Future personal robots will be able to interact with their owners, express basic emotions, and help make decisions.
  • Advanced software in the area of analytics and artificial intelligence will result in improved robot decision making capabilities
  • Advancements in machine to machine communications will lead to robot networks, multi-robot systems, and remote/distributed robotics.
  • Long term, as nanotechnology enhancements come to market, we will see a new breed of Mini, Micro, and Nanobots

There should be no doubt in our minds that the future looks bright for personal robots.  They will have a significant impact on the lifestyles of our future generations.  Personal robots will improve our productivity by taking care of everyday chores.  They will improve our safety.  They will help us make better decisions. 

Eventually personal robots will become our constant companions.  Along the way, future generations will have to resolve a whole set of new issues relating to personal robots, including security/privacy issues, robot rights, robot/human ethics, and social/cultural issues.

Companies to Watch

There are hundreds of companies that manufacture robots and robot components.  Many of these companies are focused on the commercial or military robotic industry.  Some large consumer-oriented electronic companies like Honda, and Electrolux are attempting to address the consumer robot market.  However, most robot companies are small businesses and start ups.   Here’s a list of various companies focused on the consumer market.

Cleaning Robots

Lawnmowers

  • Belgium Robotic Systems – Robotic Lawnmower
  • Husqvarna – Sells a line of robotic lawnmowers
  • Precise Path –  Has introduced the RG3 Robotic Greens Mower for golf courses.  Long term plans includes a fleet of robotic vehicles designed to tackle for every aspect of golf course conditioning and maintenance.
  • Zucchetti – sells a robotic lawnmower called the Robotica

Companionship / Entertainment

  • Bossa Nova Robotics – Is focusing on innovative robotic toys, like the Prime-8 gorilla and the Penbo Penguin
  • GeckoSystems – Based in Atlanta, GA, it sells the CareBot™ line of Mobile Service Robots for the elderly care market
  • Hitachi’s EMIEW2 – Is a prototype mobile service robot with that can conduct basic services.
  • Mistubishi’s Wakamaru – A robot designed to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. 
  • NEC’s PaPero – is a prototype entertainment/companionship robot designed to interact with humans.
  • AIST’s Paro – This robot looks like a seal and has been designed to provide animal therapy to patients and the elderly.
  • robosoft – Based in France, the company has introduced its Kompaï robot for home elderly use.
  • Toyota – Has a research arm focused on developing future robot systems titled Toyota Partner Robots designed to interact with humans and perform basic services.
  • Yujin Robotics’ iRobi –  iRobi is an entertainment/companionship robot that will interact with humans and perform basic task.

Security 

  • Fujitsu’s enon – a prototype service robot designed to perform various tasks, including security, surveillance, guidance/assistance, and transporting items.
  • Rotundus – Sells the GroundBot security robot, a remote-controlled sphere with embedded camera that can move silently inside and outside a building
  • Spykee Spy Robot – A remote controlled security robot packed with features, including camera, microphone, VOIP phone, flashlight, sound effects, and mp3 reader.
  • WowWee Group Ltd – Hong Kong based company offers the Rovio Wi-Fi Enabled Robotic WebCam, a household security robot 

Components/Solutions/Research

  • Anybots Inc. – Telepresence solutions for robots
  • Barrett Technology, Inc. -  Core technology includes improving flexibility in robotic arms and hands
  • CoroWare, Inc -  Expertise in personal telepresence and mobile robotics
  • dRobotics – Online retail store providing a wide variety of robot components and solutions.
  • General Vision Inc – Develops and sells image recognition systems (e.g. the CogniMem neural network chip) that can be applied to robots
  • Gostai – Is focused on developing and applying artificial intelligence capabilities and software platforms to robots.
  • Hitec RCD – Distributor of component parts for robots
  • Honda’s Asimo – Honda has a long history of researching robots, with a focus on Asimo and related humanoid technology.
  • Karto Robotics – Is developing software that can provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms.
  • KumoTek LLC – Based near Dallas, Texas, KumoTek is a robotics design and manufacturing company focusing on consumer and service robots
  • MobileRobots Inc – Designs and manufactures autonomous mobile robotic systems, including the Motivity guidance and control technology.
  • OLogic Inc – A design company focusing on the design and packaging of internal components (sensor, processor, and mobility) and devices for robotics.
  • RoadNarrows Robotics – A Colorado company developing open-interface hardware and software robotic solutions.  Focuses on research and education markets.
  • Readybot – Based in Silicon Valley, this company is focusing on developing an easy-to-use, modular, off-the-shelf, robotic work platform.  One of their target markets is robots for the elderly. 
  • Speecys Corporation – Based in Tokyo, the stated main focus of Speecys is to develop a humanoid robot and the surrounding system that enable the robot to download content via the Internet so that it can provide entertainment and perform various tasks.
  • Surveyor Corporation – A California based developer of small robots, robot controllers, and other robot components for research and education.
  • White Box Robotics – Sells the 914 PC-BOT platform to researchers, academics, and developers. It is a mobile robot with an embedded PC complete with inputs for keyboard, monitor and mouse
  • Willow Garage – Is a team of experts in robot design, control, perception, and machine learning that develop hardware and open source software for personal robotic applications.

For More Information

Well, that’s it…a basic introduction into the emerging world of personal robots.  I think we can only attempt to imagine what the world of robots will be like in 100 years from now.  There is no doubt in my mind that the impact will be significant. 

I hope you enjoyed this primer into personal robots.  For primers into other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

A Primer on the Smart Grid and Intelligent Utility Network Trend

Smart Grid2 In a world where increased focus is on reducing CO2 emissions, governments and energy & utility companies are looking for ways to modernize and transform their utility infrastructure in order to improve energy efficiency and reliability. 

For developed economies, the traditional way power has been generated is based on a central generation model with one-way power and information flow from large, often distant generating stations, via transmission and distribution lines to end consumers.   Most of these generation systems contain an aging infrastructure with some equipment dating back 60 years.  This traditional infrastructure lacks sufficient technology and communications at the distribution and end-use level that would enable grid automation & monitoring capabilities.   The model has been a push model, meaning that there is little to no automated information coming back to the central sites from those that use the power.  So if the user suddenly has no power, the only way the utility company knows about it is if they get a call from the users.  Furthermore, the user has very little information available to help them understand how much power they are using, when they are using it, and what they are using it for.

The Smart Grid (also called Intelligent Utility Network) technology is an important emerging trend within the Energy and Utility Industry.  As consumers, we are increasingly aware that the way we consume and save energy can be improved.  Within the energy and utility industry, energy efficiency is also on the minds of the industry leaders.  And our governments are all interested in finding new sources of energy.   By embedding technology into the electrical distribution network, a Smart Grid can transform the way power is distributed and used.  Intelligence throughout the grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The following video from IEEE will provide some additional introduction into the concept of the Smart Grid.

Produced by IEEE and ScienCentral, Inc.

A Smart Grid can present many opportunities for consumers, businesses, and utilities to benefit from the efficient distribution of energy and availability of intelligent equipment and devices.  For governments, it offers significant opportunities to wisely manage a country’s fuel resources by potentially reducing the need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable energy sources into the grid’s operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling users of power to better manage their energy consumption.

The Smart Grid technology will enable energy customers to

  • manage electricity consumption to meet specific household/business goals such as cost, availability, and environmental impact
  • seek energy providers, information, and technologies that help them meet their goals
  • do business with utility companies who communicate a set of energy-related values consistent with their own
  • seek convenient and more personalized ways to interact with their utility to negotiate customized solutions to allow them to meet their needs
  • act on their own wants and needs where regulatory representation does not provide results satisfying these specific needs, primarily through execution of alternative solutions (e.g., self-generation)

So what exactly are the characteristics of a Smart Grid?  The US Department of Energy has characterized a smart grid as having the following attributes:

  • Self-healing from power disturbance events
  • Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
  • Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
  • Providing power quality for 21st century needs
  • Accommodating all generation and storage options
  • Enabling new products, services, and markets
  • Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

The consumer of power from a future Smart Grid will see many differences as a result of adding intelligence into the network.   Some examples are:

  • Smart electricity meters, water meters, and gas meters that collect real-time data on utility usage.
  • Distributed generation, such as solar panels and other micro generation.  These new generators could be located at the home, in the neighborhood, or in the local community.
  • Dedicated energy display units and smart thermostats that provide the user with feedback on energy usage in real-time.
  • Smart appliances with connectivity to the intelligent utility network via the in home meters and display units.
  • Plug-in vehicles as a both source and consumer of energy.  The vehicles, when plugged in would provide information on energy usage.
  • Linked connection to the in-home network and home PCs for further analysis of all the information collected.

The Smart Grid transformation is much more than installation of new technology in a piece-part fashion.  The call for the transformation to a Smart Grid impacts every part of the utility infrastructure including generation, distribution, and usage.  It will be a disruptive change, but a change that will provide huge rewards for the future.  For the utility industry itself, changes needs to happen in four key areas:

  1. Strategy.  We need a  fundamental rethink of business strategy and industry business models across the board.
  2. Collaboration.  Utility providers will need to develop a much closer collaboration with customers, regulators, financers, researchers, technology and service vendors, and other stakeholders than ever before.
  3. People.  The change will be very disruptive to utility companies.  They will need a renewed focus on staff, their roles, competencies, compensation, performance and structure.
  4. Process.  Utility providers will need to re-architect business processes and applications.

There is much work to be done to transform old utility infrastructures to a Smart Grid system.  The transformation will not happen overnight, but could happen over a series of decades.  When complete, countries that transform their utilities infrastructure to an Intelligent Utility Network will have a modern network of sensor-based interactive technologies that will give utilities and consumers unprecedented control over managing energy use, improving energy grid operations, and significantly reducing energy costs. 

There is a ton of information available on Smart Grids.  Here are a few example resources for you to explore….

For other “Primers” here on HorizonWatching, check out http://horizonwatching.typepad.com/horizonwatching/primer/

A Primer on 3D Printing

Although 3D printing has been around for a number of decades, the quality has increased dramatically in recent years and the prices are just beginning to drop, making it much more affordable for small and medium businesses.  And if you really want to explore 3D printing, they are even getting cheap enough for consumers to own.

The reality is 3D printing is a very cost-effective way to have an in-house rapid prototyping capability.  For a relatively modest investment, design engineers can use a 3D printer to catch design flaws earlier in the process lowering costs and shortening design cycles.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing involves having the computer sending the coordinates for a 3D object to an output device (a 3D Printer) that employs the same ink-jet printer principle that is used to print on paper.  However, in this case the ‘printer’ deposits successive layers of material to build up a full-scale 3D model.   The material used can be powder, plastics, resins or even metals. 

In the case of powder, the printer is actually delivering ultra-thin layers of powder onto a surface, one on top of another, until it produces a 3D model.  With each successive run of the ‘printer head’, the powder that is deposited is then given a spray of a binding liquid that' helps to harden the powder and help form a solid object. 

The end-result of this process might be a model which designers can use to verify a product’s design qualities before full-scale manufacturing begins, or it might be an end-use specialty product ranging from a component in a complex aircraft engine to a consumer medical  or dental implant.

The big benefits of 3D printing is it’s low cost and speed.  The printers can generally produce models in as little as one-tenth the time it takes other types of machines.  3-D Printer-produced models are throwaway models that allow you to see things you would not be able to see as well on a computer with a CAD system.  The beauty of this approach is people can hold the proposed design, study it, and get a good feel for its shape.

Video Introduction to 3D-Printing

The video below (just under 4 minutes) is a promotional video, but it really is one of the best videos I’ve seen that can help you understand what 3D printing is and how it could be used in an office environment.  The video is from the Z Corporation and it promotes the company’s ZPrinter 450.  While Z Corporation products are out of the price range for most individual users, they represent amazing technology that is commercially available to anyone.

It is doubtful that this new generation of 3D printers can replace traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding, machined or milled parts and manufacturing line assembly.  However I do believe that small and medium specialty manufactures should consider implementing 3D printing processes for individual steps or subsystems in a traditional line manufacturing process.  It is very possible that these new low cost printers would help reduce overall manufacturing costs.

For More Information

Wikipedia has a nice article on 3D printing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing).  And the site Fab@Home has lots of good information.  For those of you wanting to learn more about products and services out on the market, here are a few vendor sites to visit

  • Desktop Factory  Makes a very small and affordable printers that truly fit on top of a desk.
  • 3D Systems   Provides mid-range solutions that employ a technology that film transfers photopolymer to build 3-D objects
  • Z Corp  Is widely thought of as providing top of the line printers for an office environment

A Primer on Futurists

As organizations increasingly try to grapple with the seemingly endless scorching rate of technological innovation and change, more are engaging the services of self-described futurists for advice on how to adapt.

What Is A Futurist?

Basically, futurists are those who look to and provide analysis and insights on potential futures.  They help others anticipate and prepare for potential changes and disruptions in order to make better decisions today.   Think of futurists as in the same league as historians.  Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past.   Historians are  concerned with origins, roots, stories/points of view of where we have been in the past and how we got to where we are today.   Futurists are interested in emerging trends, technologies, goals, purposes.  In short, futurists are interested in where we might be going in the future and how we can get there.   It’s interesting to note that in many cases good futurists have a little bit of a historian inside of them (e.g. studying the past can help predict potential futures.)

 

What Do Futurists Do?

Futurists research and explore the full range of potential / plausible futures.  A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities.  They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.
The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen.  The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised.  Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic.  Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.

Futurists take an inter-disciplinary approach and employ a wide range of methods, from trend analysis to scenario planning, to simulations, to strategic planning and visioning.  Since the future does not exist, we must study ideas about the future. Futurists use data from the past and present, and our concepts and methods to understand how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures. We also borrow liberally from other fields, such as creativity, complexity science, organization development, systems analysis, and philosophy.

What Type Of BackGround Do Futurists Have?

Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds. What they have in common is big picture thinking, strong pattern recognition, and innate curiosity.
Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life, be it liberal arts, psychology, engineering, the sciences. A growing number are coming from the dozen or so futures degree programs worldwide.
Other characteristics typical of futurists include openness to new experiences, comfort with ambiguity, thinking systematically, seeing options and alternatives, questioning and challenging assumptions, a global outlook, a long-term time horizon, optimistic, and having a sense of purpose.

How Can I Train To Become A Futurist?

The formal study of the future goes by a number of names, including “Strategic Foresight”, “Futures Studies”, and “Prospective Studies”. 

Formal futurist higher education options are somewhat limited.  There are about a dozen degree programs worldwide.   Within the United States there are two main academic programs created that focus on training futurists 1) the University of Houston (M.S.) and  2) University of Hawaii (M.A. and Ph.D.).  Both programs have been around for over 30 years.

Futurists without the formal education learn on the job through professional development.  Many professionals become futurists by acquainting themselves with futures concepts, tools and methods, familiarizing themselves with the literature, and participating in futures conferences and organizations.

What Professional Networks Are There?

Here are some places to go to find more information….

  • World Future Society  20-25,000 members who subscribe to The Futurist magazine and attend annual meetings; mostly centered in the U.S.  www.wfs.org
  • World Futures Studies Federation   Several hundred members spread across the globe with a rotating secretariat, includes many academics  www.wfsf.org
  • Millennium Project  Volunteer group around the globe that produces the annual State of the Future report and other futures studies, as well as the Futures Research Methodology.  www.millennium-project.org 
  • Association of Professional Futurists  200+ professional futurists and students in futures degree programs.  http://www.profuturists.org/
  • The World Future Council.  http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.  The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

Being a futurist sure sounds like fun….and there might just be a future for futurists.  🙂

A Primer on Smarter Water

The HorizonWatch Community (this is the internal community at IBM I lead) recently had a conference call on the topic of Water Management trends and issues.  We reviewed the results of the recent IBM Global Innovation Outlook Study on Water and we also reviewed what IBM is doing to provide innovative solutions to our water management issues.   We had two speakers for that call Amy Hermes, from IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook team and Mike Sullivan, from IBM’s Big Green Innovations team.  

This post represents some notes I took from that call along with some additional research I conducted.  For those of you interested in learning about Water Management issues, I hope this is a good introduction and resource for you.

Most of us reading this post take our access to water for granted.  However, I would imagine that we all realize that water is critical to sustaining life on our planet.  Water makes up 60 to 70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.  If the Earth’s water supply vanished, there would be no plants, no animals, and no people. 

While the Earth’s water is not vanishing, many scientists believe that our global water supply is in crisis.  We may or may not be at the crisis stage, but we definitely need to take action to solve our water management issues.

Some Quick Facts About WaterWater Wasted

  • Water covers 75% of the earth's surface.  Nearly 98% of the earth's water is in the oceans.  Fresh water makes up less than 3% of water on earth, over two thirds of this is tied up in polar ice caps and glaciers.  Fresh water lakes and rivers make up only 0.009% of water on Earth and ground water makes up 0.28%.
  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt, 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk, and 39,000 gallons to make a car.
  • Global agriculture wastes an estimated 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year. 
  • Municipalities lose as much as 50% of their water supply through leaky infrastructure.  
  • More than one trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks.
  • 1 in 5 of the word’s population still lacks access to clean, safe drinking water. 
  • The United Nations predicts that nearly half the world’s population will experience critical water shortages by the year 2080.
  • There are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the United States alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs. 
  • In the last 100 years global water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth.

For those of us living in developed nations, our water infrastructure is many decades old.  In fact, in some places it is centuries old.  As our demand for water is increasing, we need to modernize the existing infrastructure.  One way to do that is to apply information technology.

Today’s water management systems are operating without enough data and insights.   The planet needs new water management systems, based on smart technology that can collect and analyze real-time data.  These new systems will provide water authorities with the insights they need to supply more water to more people with lower energy-use and cost. 

How Can Technology Help?

What is needed are water management systems that can provide real time collection and analysis of all sources of data.  This includes integrating disparate sensor technologies that produce disparate data formats along with other data from an array of partners.  Information technology solutions are needed that can take data that’s coming in fast and turn it into intelligence that augments the ability to improve decision making about water distribution.  These solutions need to connect the folks in the central control room with those working in the field building bridges, dams, dykes to the sensor experts and sophisticated modelers.

  • Technology can monitor, measure and analyze entire water ecosystems, from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes.
  • The latest water meters, combined with appropriate Water Management solutions can provide a single, reliable, up-to-the minute and actionable view of water use for a government, a business, or a home.   These ‘smart’ water meters can provide real-time insight into water use, raising awareness, locating inefficiencies and decreasing demand.
  • Advanced sensors can help us collect all sorts of new data on water usage.  For example, sensors on levees can monitor changing flood conditions and respond accordingly.  Sensor based systems can provide the agriculture industry with detailed information on air quality, soil moisture content and temperature to calculate optimal irrigation schedules.
  • Advanced computing, analytics, and simulations can help us all move beyond “real time” to prediction, supporting better-informed policy and management decisions.
  • Technology can also be applied to our oceans to gather data on water temperature, currents, wave strength, salinity and marine life, and applying algorithms that can forecast everything from wave patterns over 24 hours to the right time to harvest mussels.

IBM Water Management Solution Areas

IBM is taking a leadership role among technology vendors in researching, piloting and developing a whole suite of water management solutions.  Here is a sample of what  IBM is doing…

  • Natural Water Resources – Provides sensor data integration, analysis and visualization to enable the measurement, modeling and management of water levels, usage and quality in natural water resources.
  • Water Utilities – Enables water providers to make rapid decisions regarding business processes and operational efficiency to maximize their return on investments as well as foresee and quickly respond to contamination issues and emergencies.
  • Water Infrastructure – Provides sensing systems for managing water infrastructure, such as levee oversight management and flood control.
  • Water Metering – Improves management of water supply and demand by integrating data between the dozens of stakeholders involved. Provides all stakeholders with consistent, real-time information to help them work together to make critical decisions about water supply in a geographic region.
  • Green Sigma for Water™ – is a business consulting service that identifies where water is being used, measures and monitors usage, and creates process improvements to reduce water use. IBM pilots have achieved reductions in water usage of 30%.
  • SmartBay Sensor System – Monitors wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels.  Provide real-time information to stakeholders in the Irish maritime economy, runs on a cloud computing platform, and is able to predict water conditions critical to those stakeholders.

Ten Innovative Vendors in the Water Management Industry

The Artemis Project recently announced winners of its first annual Top 50 Water Companies Competition.  The list provides us insights into who the advanced water and water-related technology companies are as this industry is on the verge of becoming one of the great high-growth industries of the 21st Century.

The companies on the list were selected by a panel of experts based on an integrated matrix of four criteria:  technology, intellectual property and know-how, team and market potential.  Here’s the top ten on the Artemis list along with a description of what each company is doing.

1.  AbTech Industries, Inc. (Arizona, USA)  To combat nonpoint source water pollution, AbTech developed the Smart Sponge®, a patented technology that effectively removes pollutants from stormwater.

2.  Oasys Water, Inc. (Massachusetts, USA)  Oasys (Osmotic Application Systems) is a Cambridge MA based company developing a suite of proprietary water treatment products to address the growing global water crisis.  The Company’s Engineered Osmosis (EOTM) technology is a novel treatment platform that can produce clean, potable water at significantly lower cost than current desalination methods.

3.  Seldon Technologies, Inc. (Vermont, USA)  Seldon has developed a new nanostructured material which includes carbon nanotubes: “nanomesh™” that can be produced in large scale and used for purification applications.  This new fused nanomesh material forms the basis for safe, tested and proven products in three major fluid filtration applications: ground water, fuel and air purification.

4.  Emefcy (Caesarea, Israel)  Emefcy’s MEGAWATTER™ platform is a bio-electro-chemical process for electricity and hydrogen production using wastewater as a fuel. This technology addresses an enormous market of industrial wastewater treatment plants in which anaerobic treatment is not applicable, thus expensive-to-operate aerobic treatment is applied.

5.  NanoH2O (California, USA)  NanoH2O has applied nanotechnology to create advanced membrane materials for desalination and water reuse.  With freshwater scarcity an increasingly worldwide issue, desalination is a vital treatment method to provide freshwater for industrial users and a growing world population from fresh, brackish and seawater sources.  Despite recent advances, desalination remains an expensive source of freshwater because it is energy intensive.  NanoH2O’s next generation energy-efficient and fouling resistant membranes dramatically improve the baseline economics of desalination and water reuse.

6.  SolarBee, Inc. (North Dakota, USA)  SolarBee, Inc. manufactures and installs solar-powered, long-distance water circulators.  The floating, up-flow circulators can move up to 10,000 gallons per minute from depths of more than 100 feet with a solar-powered pump.  SolarBee’s circulators help solve water-quality problems worldwide in freshwater lakes, wastewater lagoons, storm-water ponds, estuaries, potable and recycled water storage tanks and other reservoirs.

7.  AquaPure (Upper Galilee, Israel)  Aquapure’s mission is to play a pivotal role in the groundwater and municipal treatment industry by offering an ozone-hydrogen peroxide-UV In Situ Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) water treatment solution, allowing for effective purification of water contaminants.  Aquapure’s technology has provides advanced purification over other existing technologies for a variety wide refractory pollutants characterized by high solubility in water and high toxicity

8.  HydroPoint (California, USA)  HydroPoint is focused on reducing water wasted when used for landscape irrigation.  Proven in 23 independent studies, including the EPA, the WeatherTRAK solution saves water, reduces energy demand and protects water quality while it minimizes liability and expense exposure.  Drawing on information delivered wirelessly from 40,000 weather stations, the WeatherTRAK ET Everywhere service automatically schedules irrigation based on individual landscape needs and local weather conditions.  The result is higher property values, lower water bills and a healthier environment.

9.  MIOX Corporation (New Mexico, USA)  MIOX is focused on applying technology to help solve the need for affordable, safe, and healthy water.  Its patented technology can purify water without dangerous chemicals and enables significant cost and energy savings versus traditional treatment methods.  MIOX technology uses a process referred to as on-site generation (OSG) – the use of salt, water and electricity to produce a powerful chlorine-based disinfectant, “mixed oxidants”, on demand.

10.  ScFi (Cork, Ireland)  ScFi provides a solution to disposing of wet waste (sewage sludge, putrescible waste and other organic materials) safely, quickly and efficiently while minimizing cost.  ScFi’s technology, AquaCritox®, destructs wet waste without the generation of any hazardous waste or emissions and in addition can be a source of renewable energy.

The 10 companies on the list above look like they are positioned well to participate in this growth.

Recommended Next Steps

More work is needed as we transform the water infrastructure to digital technology:

  • Continue to Build Awareness for Water Issues.  Many in leadership positions are not aware of the critical need for water management information technology solutions.
  • Continue Market Testing & Solutions Platform Development.  Technology vendors need to continue to build assets and test solution platforms.  Stronger linkages are needed across the growing ecosystem.
  • Continue to Build Thought Leadership Deliverables.  Tech vendors need to develop content highlighting case studies, references, demonstrations, and white papers.

For More Information

There is a bunch of more reading material available.  Here some links…

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.

Drivers

  • 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.

Inhibitors

  • 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

Observations:

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.

Recommendations:

  • 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:

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:

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 – http://www.tandberg.com/totaltelepresence/
  3. Teliris – http://www.teliris.com/
  4. Polycom Incorporated:  http://www.polycom.com/usa/en/products/telepresence_video/telepresence_solutions/index.html
  5. Digital Video Enterprises:  http://www.dvetelepresence.com/

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?

A Primer On Cloud Computing

If you want learn a little about what Cloud Computing is all about and hear what others are saying about this emerging topic, you have come to the right spot.   This will be a LONG post, but as this is a very active area I am researching and discussing with many colleagues.  Not only can I refer colleagues to this post, but I am hoping you find value in it as well. 

Cloud Computing represents an emerging area many of us are trying to get our heads around.  It has been getting increased focus within the media as you will see with all the links I am providing you below.  

A simple way to explain Cloud computing is that it is an emerging approach to shared infrastructure in which large pools of systems are linked together to provide IT, and other, services.  The day cloud computing takes hold will get us closer to day where computing is viewed as a utility.

Some people are trying to define this in the same breathe as other terms, including network computing, grid computing, utility computing, software as a service, and data center as a service.  For the most part, I'm avoiding the these 'definition wars' here.  

The need for such "cloud computing" environments is fueled by dramatic growth in connected devices, real-time data streams, and the adoption of service oriented architectures and Web 2.0 applications, such as enterprise mashups, open collaboration environments, social networking sites and mobile commerce.  In addition, Internet use and content has grown dramatically, fueled by global reach, mobile device access, and user-generated Web content, including large audio and video files.  As this content grows, there is an eager global population of users wanting to search and view all this content.

Looking towards the future, we are entering an environment where users want to access all the content via their mobile devices.  More and more of the world population is looking to the mobile Web to fulfill basic economic needs.  To meet this challenge, Web developers are having to adopt new methods to address significant applications such as search, social networking, collaborative innovation, virtual worlds and mobile commerce. 

At the same time, there are fundamental and disruptive changes happening in computer architecture and network architecture.  New architectures and infrastructures will be needed to handle the explosion of data that will be flowing through networks.   This presents new challenges and opportunities to the study and application of computer science.  

With the above as a backdrop, the information below is selected information/links I have collected on the topic of Cloud Computing topic.  It is a long list, but not exhaustive…there is much more out there.   We are just beginning to understand how this will all play out.  Hang on for the ride!!

Some Cloud Computing Definitions

From Wikipedia:  "Cloud computing is a popular phrase that is shorthand for applications that were developed to be rich Internet applications that run on the Internet (or "cloud").  In the cloud computing paradigm, software that is traditionally installed on personal computers is shifted or extended to be accessible via the Internet.  These "cloud applications" or "cloud apps" utilize massive data centers and powerful servers that host web applications and web services.  They can be accessed by anyone with a suitable Internet connection and a standard web browser."  Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing    Also see the Wikipedia  Utility Computing Definition at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_computing

From SearchSOA.com Definitions  "Cloud computing is a computing paradigm in which tasks are assigned to a combination of connections, software and services accessed over a network.  This network of servers and connections is collectively known as "the cloud."  Computing at the scale of the cloud allows users to access supercomputer-level power.  Using a thin client or other access point, like an iPhone, BlackBerry or laptop, users can reach into the cloud for resources as they need them."  See full definition here.

 

What Academics Are Saying…

Schools in the IBM/Google joint initiative:  The University of Washington is the first to join the initiative.  A small number of universities will also pilot the program, including Carnegie-Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Maryland.  In the future, the program will be expanded to include additional researchers, educators and scientists

Benn Konsynski – Chaired professor of business administration for information systems and operations management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.  According to Konsynski, "cloud computing offers exciting benefits for users but it may also challenge the historic direction of the business models of companies like Microsoft, whose products are, for the most part, still tethered to desktops and laptops."  Quote came from this link   For more see Konsynski's profile 

Robert Grossman, Director of the National Center for Data Mining at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Managing Partner of Open Data Group.  "Data clouds have emerged as the preferred platform for distributed computing when working with large amounts of data," said Grossman.  "Sector is the first of a second generation of data clouds that are based on new network protocols designed to work with the very large data sets that are common in e-science and that are beginning to become more common in e-business."  Quote found at this link.  See more information on Sector here

Alexander Szalay, Professor of Astrophysics and Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins University. "We have extensively used the Sector Data Cloud and the Teraflow Network to distribute multi-terabyte astronomical datasets to the whole world.  We are also working to implement large-scale streaming queries across large astronomical archives to support the users of the National Virtual Observatory". Quote found at this link

Phil Windley is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University.  "The problem is that even well funded universities have a tough time putting students into compute environments that give them experience writing applications that use and manage multiple machines over a network.  That brings up the second problem: there aren’t many good texts in this area.  In fact, there aren’t any that I know of that are written as college texts.  Mos
t are “how to” books that emphasize specific technologies over general principles.  Students need to understand principles even as they experiment with the technologies of today.  That way they’ll easily adjust to the technologies of tomorrow.  The final problem is that there aren’t a lot of professors who understand these technologies.  Many understand the ideas, but have never done it.  We need summer training that can help faculty get up to speed.  Maybe IBM, Google, or Amazon would like to help with that?"
  Quote came from his blog at this link.  See his full profile.

Jimmy Lin, an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies at Univ. of Maryland and the coordinator of the IBM/Google project:  Quote:  "cloud computing [is] the technology [that] links computers together to process information simultaneously.  It allows huge amounts of data to be processed in a fraction of the time it would normally take using a single computer, which processes data one item at a time,  The clouds work by "munching and crunching" through data".  Quote found at this link.

Ian Foster, Director, Computation Institute, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science, Argonne National Laboratory & University of Chicago.  "In building this distributed “cloud” or “grid” (“groud”?), we will need to support on-demand provisioning and configuration of integrated “virtual systems” providing the precise capabilities needed by an end-user.  We will need to define protocols that allow users and service providers to discover and hand off demands to other providers, to monitor and manage their reservations, and arrange payment.  We will need tools for managing both the underlying resources and the resulting distributed computations.  We will need the centralized scale of today’s cloud utilities, and the distribution and interoperability of today’s grid facilities."   Quote comes from his blog post at this link.   For his profile, see this link

Randal E. Bryant, Dean of the computer science school at Carnegie Mellon University.  "Most of the innovation in cloud computing has been led by corporations, but industry executives and computer scientists say a shortage of skills and talent could limit future growth.  We in academia and the government labs have not kept up with the times,' said Bryant,'Universities really need to get on board."   Quote from NY Times article at this link

Peter Lee, Professor and Head of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.  "[cloud computing is] part of an emerging shift towards research that involves large amounts of computing power, but additionally depends on the analysis of massive amounts of data to enable scientific discovery.  Fields such as astrophysics, high-energy particle physics, biology, oceanography, geoscience, and environmental science are already building instruments that are capable of creating petabytes of data per day.  And in computer science, we are beginning to see practical approaches to machine learning, language translation, and image processing that improve almost linearly with the amount of computing power and data available."  Quote comes from Peter's blog post: Big Cycles, Big Data: The Next Generation of Computing.  ALSO, see his blog post:  A “Computing Futures” Blog?  See his profile here

Ed Lazowska,  UW computer science professor and lead academic in the Google/IBM class development.  "In 2006, when I helped Christophe Bisciglia, a former UW student now a senior engineer at Google, to develop the program, our goal was to understand the challenges that universities face in teaching important new concepts such as large scale computing and develop methods to address this issue,  A year later, we've seen how our students have mastered many of the techniques that are critical for large scale-internet computing, benefiting our department and students."   Quote comes from Google press release.   Ed Lazowska holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.  emai:  lazowska at cs.washington.edu

Dennis Gannon,  Computer scientist at Indiana University in Bloomington. "The potential synergy between my manycore desktop/laptop/phone and the cloud go far beyond the current generation of Grid middleware.  We anticipate having dozens of agents running on our personal devices interacting with the cloud and monitoring the computations and data feeds on topics of interest to us.  The explosion of networked sensor data and video feeds together with advanced data mining and image recognition tools all running continuously on a manycore client can drive rule-based systems that know how to alert us when something of interest happens."   This quote from his draft article:  "The Grid, Cloud Computing and our Manycore Future".    See his profile here   email: gannon at cs.indiana.edu.

Rich Wolski  Computer Science Department, University of California, Santa Barbara   Research interests include, but are not limited to, Computational Grid computing for performance, parallel and distributed systems.  See profile here   email  rich@cs.ucsb.edu

What the Press Is Saying…

NY Times Article "Google and I.B.M. Join in ‘Cloud Computing’ Research"  -  Published: October 8, 2007.  "Even the nation’s elite universities do not provide the technical training needed for the kind of powerful and highly complex computing Google is famous for, say computer scientists.  So Google and I.B.M. are announcing today a major research initiative to address that shortcoming.  The two companies are investing to build large data centers that students can tap into over the Internet to program and research remotely, which is called “cloud computing.” "  Read more at this link

Wall Street Journal:  IBM, Google, Universities Combine 'Cloud' Forces – October 8, 2007.  "International Business Machines Corp. and Google Inc. said they are starting a program on college campuses to promote computer-programming techniques for clusters of processors known as "clouds."  In a joint telephone interview, IBM Chief Executive Samuel Palmisano and Google CEO Eric Schmidt said each company will spend between $20 million and $25 million for hardware, software and services that can be used by computer-science professors and students.  So-called cloud computing — which lately has attracted the attention of many tech giants, including Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. — allows computers in remote data centers to run parallel, increasing their processing power."  Read more at this link 

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:  Google, IBM expand program to teach 'Internet-scale' computing – October 8, 2007.  "Google and IBM, expanding an effort that began at the University of Washington, will launch an initiative to help computer science students and researchers learn a form of programming increasingly significant in the Internet age.  The companies are dedicating a data center of several hundred computers for universities to use to teach "Internet-scale" programming — the development of software applications that can harness thousands of processors to deal with massive amounts of data."  Read more at this link.

BusinessWeek:   Computing Heads for the Clouds.  "IBM, Yahoo!, and Google are all putting the power of cloud computing to work.  Here's a short primer on how the new technology works.  Researchers seeking smarter ways to tackle the most complicated computing tasks think they've found the answer in a cloud—though not the kind that wafts across the sky as masses of condensed water droplets and frozen crystals.  Instead, they're turning to something called cloud computing, which aims to deliver supercomputing power over the Internet."  Read the article at this link.

BusinessWeek:  Google and the Wisdom of Clouds.  "What will research clouds look like? Tony Hey, vice-president for external research at Microsoft, says they'll function as huge virtual laboratories, with a new generation of librarians—some of them human—"curating" troves of data, opening them to researchers with the right credentials.  Authorized users, he says, will build new tools, haul in data, and share it with far-flung colleagues.  In these new labs, he predicts, "you may win the Nobel prize by analyzing data assembled by someone else.  " Mark Dean, head of IBM's research operation in Almaden, Calif., says that the mixture of business and science will lead, in a few short years, to networks of clouds that will tax our imagination.  "Compared to this," he says, "the Web is tiny.  We'll be laughing at how small the Web is." And yet, if this "tiny" Web was big enough to spawn Google and its empire, there's no telling what opportunities could open up in the giant clouds."  Read the article at this link

BusinessWeek  Had a good graphic accompanying an article on Cloud Computing.  Go to the following link http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_52/b4064048930874.htm

eWeek:  "The idea of this "platform as a service" is to provide a comprehensive cloud computing architecture that will allow enterprise developers as well as developers for ISVs and SIs (systems integrators) to create applications without the need for software and hardware client/server architecture.   The cloud-based platform encompasses a set of features intended to help developers create business applications, including the ability to create database applications on demand, a workflow engine for managing collaboration between users, and a Web services API for programmatic access along with mashups and integration with other applications and data."  Article located at this link.

TechWorld:   Provides a discussion from a storage perspective.  "Cloud computing isn't defined by particular data centre architectures. Nevertheless cloud computing can be seen as a logical evolution of grid and utility computing ideas.  The massive petabyte-level scale of cloud storage would bring the cost/GB of storage to the fore and rule out traditional controller-based array building blocks on cost grounds.  A rough consensus view seems to be that clustered NAS systems will be a common cloud storage architecture; the Google-type clustered server+DAS infrastructure is unique to Google and its particularly search-focused needs.  A clustered NAS system is more generally applicable and needs to have a very large and global namespace for its files and an infrastructure for organising millions of files, file protection and access".   For more, read the article Storage in the cloud:  Doppler shift or marketing gloss?

There are many,many other articles including,  Reuters and San Jose Mercury News

What Analysts Are Saying

Forrester is actively researching cloud computing. 

  • James Staten, an IT operations and infrastructure analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said "Cloud computing looks very much like the instantiation of many vendors' visions of the data center of the future; it's an abstracted, fabric-based infrastructure that enables dynamic movement, growth, and protection of services that is billed like a utility. It also has all the earmarks of a disruptive innovation: It is enterprise technology packaged to best fit the needs of small businesses and start-ups–not the enterprise".  Quote is from their March 7, 2008 report Is Cloud Computing Ready For the Enterprise
  • Mervyn Adrian, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said, "This is the next generation of computer architecture, and IBM wants to get in front of it." He noted that many students use Google applications and said that "IBM wants to leverage that." – Quote came from the Wall Street Journal article at this link.   

IDC

  • Frank Gens, an analyst with market-research concern IDC in Framingham, Mass., said "the companies also are united by a rivalry with Microsoft, and they'd like to influence the future of online business before Microsoft extends its influence."  IBM and Google stressed that much of the infrastructure will be open-source programs that are freely available, rather than proprietary software programs such as those sold by Microsoft".   Quote comes from the Wall Street Journal Article at this link.  Frank Gens has also been quoted as saying "In some ways, the cloud is a natural next step from the grid-utility model.   What’s different is the Google programming model, and that really opens things up.  You don’t have to be a Stanford or Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. to program cloud applications" Quote found at this NY Times article.
  • IDC's recent report:  IDC Predictions 2008: The Post-Disruption Marketplace Takes Shape  included a reference to cloud computing.  "IBM (and Google) announced "cloud computing" offerings this fall: online access to Internet-scale computing and programming resources, particularly useful for supporting Web 2.0 applications.  Look for other players, including HP and Sun, to expand their offerings for flexible online access to computing resources.  Telecom operators will be an important channel for this especially to the SMB space.  And with their well-publicized massive investments in "mega" datacenters, look for Google and Microsoft to make their mark in this space as well"

Gartner  (October 2007)  "Watch for vendor rhetoric around cloud computing to expand during 2008 as more infrastructure and application platform vendors jump into the game.  Participating vendors, technology standards and a rich set of enterprise offerings are unlikely to stabilize before 2010".  Quote found at this link.

  • David W. Cearley and Tom Austin of Gartner  "Cloud computing, as the term is popularly used, refers to the delivery of a range of IT capabilities (such as infrastructure applications) as an externally sourced service".  Read more at this link.
  • Martin Reynolds, an analyst at Gartner.  "The big goal is how the technology industry can encourage the next generation of computer scientists to figure out how to build software that can run in these massively parallel environments."  ALSO "It's a fundamental shift in computer science.  What we are looking at here is an exercise to try and make parallel computing applicable to every day computer problems.  In the long run, about five to 10 years, these programs will start to show results."   Found this quote at this link.    Read more about Gartner's reaction on IBM Blue Cloud initiative at this link.

David Mitchell, an analyst at Ovum, There are few important elements that I see in this.  This is a move beyond grid or utility computing, blending in elements of Web 2.0 and social networking – aiming to unlock a greater amount of innovation, driven by the social elements that are key to unlocking innovation.  This moves utility computing further up the technology stack than before.”   He added, “The ability to rapidly provision new capacity is increased substantially, lots of different configurations can be deployed quickly – the integration of Tivoli products is one of the key enablers here.  The degree of technical flexibility is strong.  The other Tivoli element to the announcement is that there is fine grained tracking of usage, that can be used as the basis for different types of charging and pricing regimes.”  Found this quote in the San Jose Mercury News article

Zeus Kerravala, SVP of Enterprise Research at Yankee Group Research"As the data center continues to evolved, the network will as well.  The virtualized data centers of the future will be built on pools of resources that will be interconnected by the network.  In essence, the network will become the backplane of the virtual data center and play many roles.  The network will be application fluent and be the service orchestration engine that will govern what resources go to which applications.  The network is where many SOA services will reside and the network will automatically provision resources when and where they are needed."  Quote comes from The Future of the Data Center.

Gordon Haff,  Principal IT Advisor of Illuminata.  "It’s not just about the enterprise, just about the consumer, or just about delivering entire applications.  Software as a Service (SaaS), Hardware as a Service (HaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), and Web 2.0 are all part of the cloud.  Even hosting providers are a sort of specialized, narrow case.  We take such a broad view because all of these intersecting sub-categories do share at least one common characteristic: the Network is the abstraction layer.  The network may not always completely mask the computing infrastructure behind it, but it hides considerable detail and mostly allows access through “Web-y” protocols, languages, and standards like HTTP, RSS, XML, Javascript, and REST."  Quote found at this link.

  • Gordon Haff was also interviewed in a recent IT Business Edge Article.  He says  "Few people argue with the basic premise that cloud computing can be a great tool for enterprises.  However, many issues must be worked through before it is called on to handle core applications and sensitive data.  IT and other decision makers must be confident of clouds' security and reliability.  Today, however, there are non-mission-critical applications that businesses — especially SMBs — readily send into the clouds."   To read the full interview, see the article:  Cloud Computing: Not Ready for Corporate Prime Time?

Richard Jones, vice president and service director for the data center strategies service, the Burton Group was interviewed recently for an article in the IT Business Edge.  He said:  "Organizations have to move from traditional client/server and SOA-based applications [that are dependent on static allocation of resources].  What's happening here is virtualization — granted, everyone is pounding on that term — helping to break those barriers down from the technological perspective."  For more information, read the article Cloud Computing Changes Are Political as Well as Technical.

What Others Are Saying

IBM has unveiled plans for “Blue Cloud,” a series of cloud computing offerings that will allow corporate data centers to operate more like the Internet by enabling computing across a distributed, globally accessible fabric of resources, rather than on local machines or remote server farms. IBM is currently collaborating on cloud computing initiatives with select corporations, universities, Internet-based enterprises and government agencies, including the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology, which this week announced a cloud computing project with IBM.  See the press release for more information.   Also see the IBM Press Kit

Marc Andresson in his blog post:  "I think there will also be a generational shift here.  Level 3 platforms are "develop in the browser" — or, more properly, "develop in the cloud".  Just like Internet applications are "run in the browser" — or, more properly, "run in the cloud".  The cloud being large-scale Internet services run on behalf of users by large Internet companies and other entities.  I think that kids coming out of college over the next several years are going to wonder why anyone ever built apps for anything other than "the cloud" — the Internet — and, ultimately, why they did so with anything other than the kinds of Level 3 platforms that we as an industry are going to build over the next several years — just like they already wonder why anyone runs any software that you can't get to through a browser".   Read full post  The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet.   

William Vambenepe (an architect in the application and middleware management part of Oracle’s Enterprise Manager division) has a blog "IT management in a changing IT world".  On it he has a very interesting and relevant post titled IT management in a world of utility IT

National Center for Data Mining:   "Cloud computing is a critical piece of the infrastructure that allows companies such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft to provide their services.   A cloud provides computing resources or services over the Internet.  A storage cloud provides storage services; a data cloud provides data management services; and a computing cloud provides computational services.  Often these are layered to create a stack of cloud services that provide a computing platform for developing cloud-based applications."  Read more at The National Center for Data Mining (NCDM) website at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Princeton University Workshop  "Computing In the Cloud" was held Jan 14 -15, 2008.  "'Computing in the cloud' is one name for services that run in a Web browser and store information in a provider’s data center — ranging from adaptations of familiar tools such as email and personal finance to new offerings such as virtual worlds and social networks."  This workshop brought together experts from computer science, law, politics and industry to explore the social and policy implications of this trend.  The workshop featured many different speakers.  Check out the agenda at Computing In the Cloud.   The complete video from all sessions can be viewed/downloaded here.  

  • Princeton University Workshop Fourth Panel:  Computing in the Cloud: What's next?  "This panel explores the new services might develop, and how will today's services might evolve.  How well will cloud computing be likely to serve users, companies, investors, government, and the public over the longer run? Which social and policy problems will get worse due to cloud computing, and which will get better? "  Another source for the video for the fourth panel is at Jesse Robbins blog post here.  That video is helpful as it has tags associated with the content.

e-Science Institute Wiki.  An interesting academic discussion here:  http://wiki.esi.ac.uk/Cloud_Computing

Sun's Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer  is talking about the Red-Shift Theory.  See him talking about it at Sun's Analyst Summit 2007 on video here.  See also the Wikipedia entry for Red Shift.

Amazon is pushing their Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, also known as "EC2", which allows scalable deployment of applications.  Current users are able to create, launch and terminate server instances on demand, hence the term "elastic".  See the Wikipedia entry for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

Dell has announced their Dell Cloud ComputingTM  Solution.  They say it is "designed to provide data center optimization, increased energy efficiency, and lower deployment and overall management overhead for customers whose IT infrastructure, or compute cloud, is the “factory” for their business. These data-intensive customers include major providers of goods and services over the Internet, financial services organizations, national government agencies, institutional university and laboratory environments and upstream petroleum producers."   Read their press release here.  For more information on Dell Data Center Solutions and the Dell Cloud Computing Solution, visit www.dell.com/cloudcomputing.

Microsoft:  Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Business Division says:  "We are laying out a roadmap for new Microsoft Business Division services and investments designed to increase computing options and break down barriers for everyone from individuals to large corporations," Raikes stated. "The new offerings and programs … represent the next phase of the division's strategy for online services."   Quote from Microsoft Follows Google Into Cloud Computing

Cisco has announced a new high end switch for the datacenter.  Accompanying the announcement is their new software layer "Fabric" (See link to Business Week Article below).  Cisco's Press Release (links below) said:  "Cisco builds on its data center leadership and innovation with the introduction of the new Cisco Nexus family of products and additions to its Cisco Catalyst Series.  The Cisco Nexus family was developed to meet customer demands for more efficient and sustainable next-generation data centers.  New modular, fixed and blade additions to the Catalyst Series continue to build on switch innovations and an architectural approach specifically designed to unify all components of the data center."

Wipro Infotech president Suresh Vaswani   "The domestic and APAC arm of India’s third largest software exporter is also venturing into cloud computing.  “We plan to take two approaches to the market — firstly, tap the top 300-400 customers in a market and, secondly, offer cloud computing services to the mid-market customers"   ALSO…Says Mr Vaswani, "Though early days yet, many mid-market customers will start questioning why should they invest on their own infrastructure when they can avail of services like this.  Cloud computing is a future business driver for us.’’ Wipro Infotech plans to soon structure its business into `on premise computing’ and `cloud computing."  Quote from an Economic Times article at this link.

Salesforce.com  "Cloud computing, or Platform-as-a-Service, has enormous potential for the enterprise," said Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff in a statement.  "Cloud computing offers almost unlimited computing power and collaboration at a massive scale.  With Force.com Platform-as-Service, we are providing the necessary building blocks to make cloud computing real for the enterprise."  Quote found at this link.  

Shelly Palmer's:  Living in a Cloud – The Present Future of Wireless Connectivity.  Shelly Palmer is Managing Director, Advanced Media Ventures Group LLC    This paper written in 2006 is from a perspective of someone in the Media Industry.  Excerpt: "What are the probable futures of massive broadband clouds in America?  With the statutory transition from digital to analog television less than three years away, the possibilities may be endless, but the probabilities are much easier to calculate.  As the various frequencies that are currently occupied by analog television signals become available at auction, we should see an extraordinary amount of activity by the big Internet, communications, media, entertainment and electronics companies all moving towards a single goal – life in the cloud."  Get the article at this link.

Other Bloggers.   There are many bloggers talking about cloud computing.  http://technorati.com/tag/cloudcomputing

So that represents a little of the buzz that is out in the medial  There is so much more, but this gives you a feel for it all. I think you'll agree that Cloud Computing is a broad concept and that it will become a truly disruptive force in the years and decades to come.