Now technology bubbles up to the Business Enterprise level from Consumers

The technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will bubble up into business and into enterprises quickly – far quicker than IBM, HPE, Cisco, or any of the enterprise strength IT companies would like. Initially technology came from business to consumers – think PCs. The sheer size of consumer market and its willingness to put up with beta releases makes the consumer world the ideal proving ground for the less fault tolerant enterprise world.

Drones are bubbling up. While they started in the military, they now are big segment of the consumer market. Drones or autonomous flying vehicles have been improving including automated stabilization, 4K cameras, enhanced flying times, etc. Many of them have dozens of computers on board and some rather impressive programming to make them simple to use.

Due to the wide-spread usage of drones in the consumer market, they are vastly improved and far less expensive. One of the leader’s in the industry, DJI’s basic drone, Phantom 3 Standard, is just under $500 flying for ~25 mins, includes GPS tracking, tracks subjects based photo recognition using a 1080 camera for photos and stills. Refurb is $329 and knock offs are even cheaper.  Just 5 years ago, this would have been a top of the line $5K drone, if even available.

Part of the attractiveness of the consumer world is scale. The other factor is that the consumer world is filled with willing beta testers. Recent releases of drones from reputable companies come with lots of complaints on the internal boards of not flying well, not following waypoints, and simply flying away. A drone that loses its signal is supposed to fly back to the point of origin and land. In the business world, this would be a breach of contract and might result in loss of property or life. In the consumer world, the drone manufacturer can just send a firmware update, a coupon, or at worst replaces the device.

While scale makes the money, it is the willing beta tester that enables advancement. Haven’t you signed up to be a beta or an alpha tester. I know I am for many of IBM’s early release programs. We have marvelous internal site called “Technology Adoption Program” where individuals submit their software inventions. Many have become key enablers of IBM’s business.

What else might bubble up? Virtual Reality has real possibilities for training. Consumer IoT devices will make it into manufacturing. Fitness IoT devices will make it into Medical IoT devices. Home IoT devices by Amazon, Google, and Apple will rapidly make both IoT device and cognitive (AI) advances as we all beta test their devices for more hardened uses. I know send in correction reports regularly and in general they do a good job following up. The list is endless as people gobble up consumer technologies.

We used to make fun of 3rd world countries using the computers out of toys to steer their weapons. Maybe they were just ahead of their time.

Grammar saves lives & numbers can hurt

Pasta should be cooked in salty water even if the numbers say otherwise. Olive Garden in order to get lifetime warranties on their pots, eliminated salt in the water  and they still don’t salt the water as of today (April 2016). As a decent cook, and others agree, you need salt in the water if you want the pasta to taste good. Only some junior analyst who thinks Olive Garden is the pinnacle of Italian food would think saving about $80 a year, the price of pot or the loss of 3 customer meals, would have no impact. Plus to cover the lack of taste in the pasta, you have to add more salt and sugar, often corn syrup in commercial products, to the sauce.

When we use numbers, we need to make sure the numbers, analytics, or metrics correspond to a meaningful output. I’ve seen consulting companies cut consultants to increase savings, not recognizing that if you have fewer consultants, you’ll have less revenue since consultants are the product. In a classic case, the US government made selling ice cream and visits to beaches illegal in an effort to stop polio.  The increased ice cream sales and visits to the beaches was due to the heat. The same heat that enables the polio virus to stay alive long enough to  spread.

At SAP TechEd a few years ago, I watched with fascination as Nate Silver kept telling the interviewer that the thing we really needed was to have highly knowledge analyst who understand the complexity of real life topics – actual experts. The interviewer kept wanting him to expound on SAP tools, but Mr. Silver held his ground. It is not the tool, the metrics, or anything that is technical. Some tools are better or easier than others, and SAP has some great tools was all he’d say, but paraphrasing the interview, he said “you have to understand the subject,  the relationships, and why a number might go up or go down”. Once you know the basics of the real system, you can use the numbers to look deeper, but not until.

If grammar can save lives (“let’s eat, grandma” vs. “let’s eat grandma”) then analytics can ruin them. Many decisions, such as layoffs or substituting equivalent products, are made on the basis of numeric analysis. As responsible analyst, we must make sure our metrics of success, failure, and our discoveries makes sense. Does the data really explain the results? Is it reasonable? What is scientific, logical reason for the outcome?

As we make more data available online and accessible, we must make sure it is clear what the data represents. Finally, we have a duty to be ardent guardians of proper use of analytics and be aggressive prosecutors when others misuse data and analytics. Numbers, and the conclusion we derive from them, directly impacts people’s quality of life. Number’s can hurt.

Consumer Technology enables SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION

Consumers enable SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION in Technology. As I walked around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I could see how the technology will “bubble up” into business and into enterprises quickly. Initially, technology came from business to consumers – think PCs. The sheer size of consumer market, hunger for new functionality, and its willingness to put up with beta releases makes the consumer world the ideal proving ground for the less fault tolerant enterprise world. Companies that span both world can leverage the consumer world for its SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION and bubble those innovations into the enterprise world for higher profits.

Drones are an example of bubbling up. While they started in the military, they are now a big segment of the consumer market. Drones or autonomous flying vehicles have been improving including automated stabilization, 4K cameras, enhanced flying times, etc. Many of them have dozens of computers on board and some rather impressive programming to make them simple to use. First it was movies, then multi-million dollar homes and now you see mid-market homes with drone footage. It has become a toy for teenagers, too.

Due to the wide-spread usage of drones in the consumer market, they are vastly improved and far less expensive. One of the leader’s in the industry (Drone Market Map)( https://www.droneii.com/top20-drone-company-ranking-q3-2016)), DJI’s basic drone is just under $500, flys for ~25 mins, includes GPS tracking, tracks subjects based photo recognition using a 1080 camera for photos and stills. Lots of knock offs are even cheaper.  “Toy Drones” are just $50! Five years ago, the DJI basic drone would have been a top of the line $5K drone, if even available.

Part of the attractiveness of the consumer world is scale. The other factor is that the consumer world is filled with willing beta testers and relatively low liability costs. The consumer world is an agile one where cycles occur very quickly. A typical enterprise development cycle is 18 months. In the same time in the consumer world, you’d see a major hardware, firmware, and at least 30+ releases of software.

The demand for new and the tolerance for risk is high in the consumer market. Recent releases of drones from reputable consumer companies come with lots of complaints on the internal boards of them not flying well, not following waypoints, and simply flying away. In the business world, failure to perform would be a breach of contract and might result in loss of property or life. In the consumer world, the drone manufacturer can just send a firmware update, a letter, a coupon, award you status on their web site as hero or pioneer, or at worst – replace the drone. It’s a trivial price enabling those dipping into the consumer world to advance faster than those in the business world.

While scale makes the money, it is the willing beta tester that enables advancement. Haven’t you signed up to be a beta or an alpha tester. I know I am for many of IBM’s early release programs. We have marvelous internal site called “Technology Adoption Program” where individuals submit their software inventions. Many have become key enablers of IBM’s business. They grew up fast by being adopted and depended on by IBM’s business.

What else might bubble up? Virtual Reality has real possibilities for training. Augmented Reality with heads up displays and glasses will be welcomed the field. Giving schematics, UV and Infrared vision, and more to workers. What will make it become easily affordable and useful – another Pokemon Go that plays with glasses pushing it onto millions of users’ foreheads.

3D printing is coming of age, but I can see point where 25% of households have plastics printer and your hardware store has a metal one. No inventory of 500K parts – just print it. Lots more like LED lights, Home Automation, Sports Fitness, etc. will bubble up.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be the biggest winner from the bubble up effect of the consumer. The key to AI is having huge knowledge base or corpus and lots of training. Where better than the consumer market with a potential of 7 billion users – the population of the world – to train your AI. Whether it is Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Watson, or Google, these companies’ AI programs will benefit from the consumer training it. You get a voice interface and they get you to train their AI.

What do you think will be the next big bubble up technology from the consumer world to the enterprise world?

 

 

Our 2 fears of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We have two (2) overarching fears of AI. AI domination is the most irrational fear where AI becomes smarter than organic intelligence and wipes out or subjugate the organic life forms. This plays out in number of number of science fiction works like “Transformers”, “Terminator” and “I, Robot”. In “I, Robot”, the AI unit is claiming to do it in service of humanity. I’d argue AI domination is the least likely scenario of doom and maybe in dealing with our second fear, we can solve our AI domination fear, too.

The second fear is that of misuse of AI. I’d argue that is the same argument has been used against every technological advancement. The train, automobile, nuclear fission, vaccines, DNA, and more have all been cited for ending the world. I suspect someone said the same thing against the lever, wheel, fire, and bow. Each has changed the world. Each has required a new level of responsibility. We’ve banded together as humans to moderate the evil and enhance the positive in the past. Ignoring it or banning it has never worked.

Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are working together in the “Partnership on AI” to deal with this second fear as described by the Harvard Business Review article “What will it take for us to trust AI” by Guru Banavar. It is a positive direction to see these forces coming together to create a baseline set of rules, values, and ethics upon which to base AI. I’m confident others will weigh in from all walks of life, but the discussion and actions needs to begin now. I don’t expect this to be the final or only voice, but a start in the right direction.

I hope the rules are as simple and immovable as Issac Asimov’s envisioning of the  3 laws of robotics on which the imagined, futuristic positronic brains power AI robots. Unfortunately, I doubt the rules will be that simple. Instead they will probably rival international tax law for complexity, but we can hope for simplicity.

The only other option is to stop AI. I don’t think it is going to work. The data is there and collecting at almost unfathomable rate. EMC reports stored data growing from 4.4ZB in 2013 to 44ZB in 2020. That is 10^21 (21 zeros) bytes of data. AI is simply necessary to process it. So unless we are going to back-out the computerized world we live in, we need to control AI rather than let it control us. We have the option to decide our fate. If we don’t then others will move forward in the shadows. Openness, transparency, and belief in all of human kind have always produced the best results.

In the process of building the foundation of AI, maybe we can leave out worst of human kind – lust for power, greed, avarice, superiority. Maybe the pitfalls in humans can simply NOT be inserted in AI. It will reflect our best and not become the worst of human kind – a xenophobic dictator.

Putting the AI genie back in the bottle will not work. So I think the Partnership on AI is a good first step.

 

Saving $1.8T but at what cost? and do we have a choice?

We continue to automate and improve business systems. I’ve spent my whole career improving business efficiency. Each time we do so, we mostly disrupt lower level service jobs and now some medium level professional jobs. We do this because making a business more efficient, effective, and cost competitive keeps that business ahead of its competition.

The recent article by CIO Insight “How Repetitive Tasks Waste $1.8 Trillion” made me consider the consequences, both bad and good. That $1.8 Trillion amounts to a lot of people’s jobs. The downside is elimination will be the elimination of jobs. I once recall discussing how we were going to put in telephonic automation for the service desk when someone said “you know, we just fired 300+ people.” We observed about 30 seconds of silence, swallowed hard, and then finished our task of designing the solution. It was going to happen regardless as most of their competitors had already eliminated large human level 1 service desks. Now we are observing the impact of readily available cloud wiping out many small and medium data center and application support people’s jobs. I’m certainly not against cloud solutions. IoT, Mobile, and SaaS solutions all stem from basic cloud capability and are creating NEW job markets and careers.

Jobs are both a way wage along with an identity for most of us, so I take it personally and seriously. I’ve done both the laying off of people and been laid off. Neither is fun. After I had to lay off my staff, I was physically ill and just thinking about it gives me the chills. I was able to get the best of them lined up with new job opportunities. No one wants to be told they are no longer needed and can be discarded.

To the positive, people can be moved to new jobs. The best companies work with their people to find them jobs that can help the company grow. As individuals, we all need to be on the look out for the possibility we’ll be disrupted by new technologies. There is no job that is immune entirely. Hands on trades people are probably the least susceptible, but even they must learn new skills constantly to stay employed. If you are in job that can be digitized, you need to start planning how to adapt. Your job will be under threat inevitably.

Companies are not social employment agencies and I don’t advocate socialism. I think it is in their best interest to be part of the community, since ultimately it is the community who consumes from them and makes them successful. Companies in capitalistic market that must out compete each other and to do so must make money for the owners / stockholders. In addition, if a company does not continue to move forward ahead of its competition, it will fail and NO ONE will be working for that company.

In the end, the march of improvement and technology is inevitable part of human history. Stopping progress is neither possible or wise. We can and should think about how to do it humanely by recognizing the impact and helping those impacted find ways to be productive members of society. We can use it wisely to improve our conditions as a planet and as human beings.

 

Healthcare technology dependent on new Healthcare Regulation

Recently, Andy Slavitt, CMS Acting administrator, wrote “Pitching Medicaid IT in Silicon Valley“. His requests are sensible and well founded, but will fail. I’m not saying he won’t have modest gains, but his gains will be held back by overly burdensome Code of Federal Regulations that regulates all regulated industries including health care providers, pharmaceuticals, utilities, etc.

I am currently working at a global Pharma company and it is embarrassing the volume of labor and the amount of paper we consume in the name of quality. We are switching to a digital system, but the effort will remain the same. Every item has to be written up for expectations, dry run testing to get 100% correct, written, printed in screen print, and then signed. Any exception such as an extra temporary file in the directory results in a hand written explanation. I’m not convinced that any of this QA work will ever add anything to quality of the pharamceuticals the company produces.

I fully get the need to test, but this test so we can’t be questioned model of micro-testing and lack of awareness of digital images will continue to hold back the industry. Cloud, at any level (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) requires the ability to certify the template and assume all instantiations are also certified if they have no errors in the instantiation process. Again, I’m not against testing or quality, but the redundancy is a waste.

The other 2 issues that will need to be conquered for healthcare is: 1) privacy and 2) standardized data formats at least for header records. Privacy is pretty obvious in that I don’t want anyone reading my information unless required and released by me. At the same time, it is important that my “data” goes into the pool for analytics to give researchers the ability to learn from the population. There is no perfect answer for anonymizing data, but good security and good tools are well-known, understood, and can be implemented.

Data standards are not a new issue in our industry. While 80% of data is non-structured, the 20% that is structured never seems to line up so we spend anywhere from 60-80% of our analytics money messaging data. To tie together all this data, we’ll need to have at least some standards for header records.

Again, I salute the efforts by Andy Slavitt (@aslavitt), CMS Acting Administrator, for his efforts. I hope he gets his interns and can make a big impact. He’s got a big job to do.

 

Wish I was going to Sapphire 2016

Since 2005, SAP Sapphire meant panicking for 6+ weeks of April and half of May. Since I’m no longer in the IBM SAP Practice Global CTO, I won’t be there. I’m still deeply involved and interested in IBM‘s efforts in the SAP world. It impacts most of my clients and I spend a lot of time on the interfacing of SAP software to many of IBM’s latest capabilities like Bluemix and Watson and most recently in developing an FDA compliant cloud for SAP. SAP is still on my mind, still important, and I wish I could go to Sapphire to see my friends who have become like family over the decade.

The focus is on Digital Transformation for all IBM’s SAP Practice. It aligns perfectly with IBM’s focus on Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries. Take some of your valuable time to speak with the IBM experts in booth #104 to understand how the unique partnership between IBM and SAP on Digital Transformation can benefit you and your company.

You can go beyond just discussing Digital Transformation, you can touch it. You can touch it in the IBM Booth #104. Gagan Reen, who leads the LSS, and his team will be launching Digital Transformation Cognitive Solutions as part of the IBM and SAP Digital Transformation initiative.

Please let me know how Sapphire goes this year. What is new? What is pure hype and what is real? Have a great show and I will remain calm all of May, but I will miss of you, my extended work family, at Sapphire.