Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Big Moves In Big Data: IBM New Data Acceleration, Hadoop Capabilities

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IBM just announced new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. New data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

Click to enlarge. IBM just announced new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. New data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

IBM made a significant announcement earlier today concerning new technologies designed to help companies and governments tackle Big Data by making it simpler, faster and more economical to analyze massive amounts of data. The new data acceleration innovation results in as much as 25 times faster reporting and analytics.

Today’s announcement, which represents the work of hundreds of IBM developers and researchers in labs around the world, includes an industry-first innovation called “BLU Acceleration,” which combines a number of techniques to dramatically improve analytical performance and simplify administration.

Also announced was the new IBM PureData System for Hadoop, designed to make it easier and faster to deploy Hadoop in the enterprise. Hadoop is the game-changing open-source software used to organize and analyze vast amounts of structured and unstructured data, such as posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, online transaction records, and cell phone location data.

The new system can reduce from weeks to minutes the ramp-up time organizations need to adopt enterprise-class Hadoop technology with powerful, easy-to-use analytic tools and visualization for both business analysts and data scientists.

In addition, it provides enhanced Big Data tools for monitoring, development and integration with many more enterprise systems.

IBM Big Data Innovations: More Accessible, Enterprise-ready 

As organizations grapple with a flood of structured and unstructured data generated by computers, mobile devices, sensors and social networks, they’re under unprecedented pressure to analyze much more data at faster speeds and at lower costs to help deepen customer relationships, prevent threat and fraud, and identify new revenue opportunities.

BLU Acceleration enables users to have much faster access to key information, leading to better decision-making. The software extends the capabilities of traditional in-memory systems — which allows data to be loaded into Random Access Memory instead of hard disks for faster performance — by providing in-memory performance even when data sets exceed the size of the memory.

During testing, some queries in a typical analytics workload were more than 1000 times faster when using the combined innovations of BLU Acceleration.

Innovations in BLU Acceleration include “data skipping,” which allows the ability to skip over data that doesn’t need to be analyzed, such as duplicate information; the ability to analyze data in parallel across different processors; and greater ability to analyze data transparently to the application, without the need to develop a separate layer of data modeling.

Another industry-first advance in BLU Acceleration is called “actionable compression,” where data no longer has to be decompressed to be analyzed.

Not IBM’s First Big Data Rodeo

The new offerings expand what is already the industry’s deepest portfolio of Big Data technologies and solutions, spanning software, services, research and hardware. The IBM Big Data platform combines traditional data warehouse technologies with new Big Data techniques, such as Hadoop, stream computing, data exploration, analytics and enterprise integration, to create an integrated solution to address these critical needs.

IBM PureData System for Hadoop is the next step forward in IBM’s overall strategy to deliver a family of systems with built-in expertise that leverages its decades of experience reducing the cost and complexity associated with information technology.

This new system integrates IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, which allows companies of all sizes to cost-effectively manage and analyze data and add administrative, workflow, provisioning and security features, along with best-in-class analytical capabilities from IBM Research.

Today’s announcement also includes the following new versions of IBMs Big Data solutions:

  • A new version of InfoSphere BigInsights, IBM’s enterprise-ready Hadoop offering, which makes it simpler to develop applications using existing SQL skills, compliance security and high availability features vital for enterprise applications. BigInsights offers three entry points: free download, enterprise software and now an expert integrated system, IBM PureData System for Hadoop.
  • A new version of InfoSphere Streams, unique “stream computing” software that enables massive amounts of data in motion to be analyzed in real-time, with performance improvements, and simplified application development and deployment.
  •  A new version of Informix including TimeSeries Acceleration for operational reporting and analytics on smart meter and sensor data.

Pricing and Availability 

All offerings are available in Q2, except the PureData System for Hadoop, which will start shipping to customers in the second half 2013. Credit-qualified clients can take advantage of simple, flexible lease and loan packages with no up-front payments for the software and systems that deliver a new generation of data analytics.

IBM Global Financing offers attractive leasing programs with 90-day payment deferrals for the PureData System for Hadoop, as well as zero percent loans for the broader portfolio of IBM big data solutions.

Spaceships, Aliens, And Androids: The Scott & Todd SXSW 2013 Podcast Debrief

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Scott Laningham and I first met around six years ago at SXSW Interactive.  Scott was already well known for his developerWorks podcast series and blog, and he was walking around the conference talking to people, so we decided to sit down and do a podcast discussing all the cool things we’d seen and learned about during the conference.

It was the beginning of a wonderful and still ongoing collaboration, and since that time, Scott and I have shared the stage at numerous IBM conferences, interviewing industry luminaries, IBM executives and business partners, and other thought leaders.

But we always come back to SXSW Interactive. And so it was with 2013.

Scott and I sat down on Friday via Skype and chatted for nearly 30 minutes about all the interesting things we heard and learned about at this year’s event, the first time it reached over 30,000 attendees.

Some would say SouthBy has jumped the shark. I’m not so sure. I joked early on in the event last week that perhaps it had jumped a few dolphins.

Has it gotten a lot more crowded?  Absolutely.

Has it stretched the outer limits of Austin’s hotel and transportation capacity?  Without question.

Do you have to wait in long lines stretching halfway around the Austin Convention Center just to see a keynote?  Yes yes yes.

And to my mind, it’s still worth every minute.

P.S. Scott has also established a new blog, which you can find right here on WordPress.

Written by turbotodd

March 18, 2013 at 9:35 am

SXSW 2013: A Long Future From The Lone Star

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The way I see it, former elected U.S. president Al Gore and digital payments guru and solar/space explorer Elon Musk would have it one of two ways: Either we get our act together on Planet Earth and stop treating it as a discardable TV dinner, or we get on some rocket ships and get the %#*&#$ outta here!

Of course, space travel’s still a little too expensive for the average joe, considering our recent income disparities here in the U.S., so I suspect for now most of us really don’t have much of a choice but to stay here.

Mother Earth, we’re stuck with you, and it looks like you’re stuck with us!

Gore’s talk was the kind that made you want to go ahead and just put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. But with all this gun control talk, that’s about to become less of an option.

Orrrr, you can take a more positive and upbeat view of the world, and reason that since we created many of these problems, we oughta be able to lick ‘em.

Gore’s latest book entitled The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change outlines just that, and Wall Street Journal technology editor Walter Mossberg sat onstage with Gore on Saturday to walk through some of those changes.

Gore explained the idea of “Earth Inc,” whereby we are realizing a “new stage of economic globalization with much tighter linkages and nexuses globally,” and that we have a “new relationship to the natural factors of production: labor, capital, natural resources.”

Think outsourcing, remote sourcing, robosourcing, rightsizing, and all that good stuff, and you get the general gist.

He also discussed the emergence of what he called “the global mind,” or the connections of thoughts and feelings of billions of people to each other and other devices (and vast databases…and sensors…and so on).

On this meme, he told an hilarious story about Swiss dairy cows which, with embedded sensors, are able to convey to their ranch overseers when they come into heat (for optimal reproduction). The first instance, Gore joked, of “interspecies sexting.”

Who said the former President doesn’t have a great sense of humor?

Of course, all that data and all those sensors could also lead to a stalker economy, and Gore didn’t shy away from the dark side of his six predictions.

For example, the idea that our democracy has been “hacked” and that Washington, D.C., and public policy, are now completely controlled by the moneyed interests on K Street. “The Congress is utterly incapable of passing any legislation,” Gore asserted, “unless it was approved by the special interests.”

Gore also warned us that we’re rapidly outgrowing the idea of growth, something Doug Rushkoff reminded us of in his session on “Present Future.” We’ve enslaved ourselves in outmoded economic transaction models, one that don’t take into account our ever over-social-mediated, present-oriented present tense, a tense most of us don’t even bother living in anymore (Think about all those folks who ignore you at dinner whilst they disappear into cyberland on their iPhones).

So what’s the antithesis, we all become a new collective of philistine Unabombers?

Nothing that dramatic. Well, not unless you’re Elon Musk.

The founder of SpaceX joked early in his interview with Chris Anderson on Saturday that “I’d like to die on Mars…just not on impact.”

Could we have a virtual, trans-universal drum roll, please?

Musk extolled on the “how’s” of going into space, and how his plans include building multi-stage rockets that are re-usable, thereby making space exploration more cost-effective.

He also indicated that he’s “all in,” having put most of his fortune into Tesla (his electric car company), SpaceX (his space company), and Solar City (to try and capture energy from the sun just in case things don’t work out so well on Mars?)

But Musk never left me really understanding *why* he so desperately wanted to leave Planet Earth? Was he trying to escape alimony payments from his first ex-wife? Did he want to mine the asteroids? Did the CIA want to speak with him about his attempt to purchase Russian ICBMs back in 2001?

If Elon couldn’t explain the need to get our asses (and assets) into outer space, Dr. Mae Jemison and her Star Trek-studded crew (including LeVar Burton) on the 100YSS mission certainly could!

An abbreviation for “100 Year Starship,” agree with it or not, 100YSS’s mission is clear: To make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years.”

Not for its own sake, mind you, but to “identify and push the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight…” Pause one second…Anddddd…”while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.”

Finally! A space bound mission with a realistic and practical hedge that I could get behind!

Hey boys and girls, we can certainly go across the universe in search of Marvin The Martian, but just in case we either A. Can’t get there or B. can’t find the elusive little bastard, let’s make sure we learn something that could help the people left back here on the home planet.

Imagine, Dr. Jemison suggested, what it would take to figure out in terms of energy production to get us to the nearest star (which, she reminded us, is a mind bogglingly long ways away). All that technology would have profound implications for use back here on earth.

“Pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow,” Jamison extolled, “creates a better world today.”

From your lips, Dr. Jamison, to the U.S. Congress’ ears.

Written by turbotodd

March 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Watson Heads Back To School

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Well, the introduction of the BlackBerry 10 OS has come and gone, Research In Motion renamed itself as “BlackBerry,” the new company announced two new products, and the market mostly yawned.

Then again, many in the market seemed to find something to love about either the new interface and/or the new devices. David Pogue, the New York Time’s technology columnist (who typically leans towards being a Machead), wrote a surprisingly favorable review . Then again today, he opined again in a post entitled “More Things To Love About The BlackBerry 10.”

With that kind of ink, don’t vote the tribe from Ottawa off of the island just yet!

As I pondered the fate of the BlackBerry milieu, it struck me I hadn’t spilled any ink lately myself about IBM’s Watson, who’s been studying up on several industries since beating the best humans in the world two years ago at “Jeopardy!”

Turns out, Watson’s also been looking to apply to college, most notably, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Yesterday, IBM announced it would be providing a modified version of an IBM Watson system to RPI, making it the first university to receive such a system.

The arrival of Watson will enable RPI students and faculty an opportunity to find new users for Watson and deepen the systems’ cognitive computing capabilities. The firsthand experience of working on the system will also better position RPI students as future leaders in the Big Data, analytics, and cognitive computing realms.

Watson has a unique ability to understand the subtle nuances of human language, sift through vast amounts of data, and provide evidence-based answers to its human users’ questions.

Currently, Watson’s fact-finding prowess is being applied to crucial fields, such as healthcare, where IBM is collaborating with medical providers, hospitals and physicians to help doctors analyze a patient’s history, symptoms and the latest news and medical literature to help physicians make faster, more accurate diagnoses. IBM is also working with financial institutions to help improve and simplify the banking experience.

Rensselaer faculty and students will seek to further sharpen Watson’s reasoning and cognitive abilities, while broadening the volume, types, and sources of data Watson can draw upon to answer questions. Additionally, Rensselaer researchers will look for ways to harness the power of Watson for driving new innovations in finance, information technology, business analytics, and other areas.

With 15 terabytes of hard disk storage, the Watson system at Rensselaer will store roughly the same amount of information as its Jeopardy! predecessor and will allow 20 users to access the system at once — creating an innovation hub for the institutes’ New York campus. Along with faculty researchers and graduate students, undergraduate students at Rensselaer will have opportunities to work directly with the Watson system.This experience will help prepare Rensselaer students for future high-impact, high-value careers in analytics, cognitive computing, and related fields.

Underscoring the value of the partnership between IBM and Rensselaer, Gartner, Inc. estimates that 1.9 million Big Data jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2015.

This workforce — which is in high demand today — will require professionals who understand how to develop and harness data-crunching technologies such as Watson, and put them to use for solving the most pressing of business and societal needs.

As part of a Shared University Research (SUR) Award granted by IBM Research, IBM will provide Rensselaer with Watson hardware, software and training.The ability to use Watson to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence has enormous potential to help improve decision making across a variety of industries from health care, to retail, telecommunications and financial services.

IBM and Rensselaer: A History of Collaboration 

Originally developed at the company’s Yorktown Heights, N.Y. research facility, IBM’s Watson has deep connections to the Rensselaer community. Several key members of IBM’s Watson project team are graduates of Rensselaer, the oldest technological university in the United States.

Leading up to Watson’s victory on Jeopardy!, Rensselaer was one of eight universities that worked with IBM in 2011 on the development of open architecture that enabled researchers to collaborate on the underlying QA capabilities that help to power Watson.

Watson is the latest collaboration between IBM and Rensselaer, which have worked together for decades to advance the frontiers of high-performance computing, nanoelectronics, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, and other areas. IBM is a key partner of the Rensselaer supercomputing center, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, where the Watson hardware will be located.

Flanked by the avatar of IBM’s Watson computer, IBM Research Scientist Dr. Chris Welty (left) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student Naveen Sundar discuss potential new ways the famous computer could be used, Wednesday, January 30, 2013 in Troy, NY. IBM donated a version of its Watson system to Rensselaer, making it the first university in the world to receive such a system. Rensselaer students and faculty will explore new uses for Watson and ways to deepen its cognitive computing capabilities. (Philip Kamrass/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Global SmartCamp Finals: Next Week In NYC

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IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals are slated to be held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on February 7th.

The SmartCamp initiative was launched in 2010 with the goal of identifying early-stage entrepreneurs who are developing business ventures that would align with the IBM Smarter Planet vision, and give them the visibility, mentoring, and resources that only a large company like IBM can provide.

On the 7th, eight startups from around the world will compete in New York City for the title of “IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.”

The IBM SmartCamp Global Finals will bring together leading venture capitalists, industry experts, press, analysts, entrepreneurial organizations and academics to network and celebrate entrepreneurship.

The Global Finals will feature eight startup finalists from around the world, from Kenya to France to Singapore. The eight finalists not only come from all walks of life, but they offer a broad range of innovative solutions that all have the potential to make the planet a whole lot smarter.

Finalist HistoIndex, a startup from Singapore, has an imaging solution which will allow for earlier detection and better treatment of fibrosis.

GetWay, a big data startup from Brazil, enables any industry to precisely monitor real-time sales data in retailers spread all over a territory.

And QuintessenceLabs, from Australia, has harnessed the properties of nature as described by quantum science to fortify the protection of data in-transit, at-rest and in-use.

You can be a part of the excitement on February 7th at the SmartCamp Global Finals, where you’ll have the opportunity to network with innovators, business leaders, and experts from around the world, hear the startup finalists’ presentations, and witness the naming of a new IBM Entrepreneur of the Year.

Go here to learn more and to register to attend the event. As an FYI, I had the great privilege of helping cover the event last year in San Francisco, and recorded a video with Scott Laningham (embedded in this blog post) where I summarized what I learned.

Fluor Corporation: Building Buildings…And A Better Workforce

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Some interesting customer stories and case studies have been prominently featured at the IBM Connect 2013 event down in Orlando.

One that was announced earlier today involved Fluor Corporation, a global leader in engineering, construction, and project management.

Fluor is unifying its 43,000 employees around the globe using IBM social software, helping empower its workforce to more effectively communicate, collaborate and spur innovation across its construction sites and engineering offices.

Employees across 60 Fluor global office locations on six continents are now united, able to find colleagues with unique expertise to develop and implement innovative solutions for project issues in diverse industries, including chemicals and petrochemicals, manufacturing, oil and gas, infrastructure, power, renewable energy and more.

In a matter of weeks, more than half of Fluor’s global workforce joined the social networking platform, uploading profile pictures, detailing expertise, and making new connections.

Their intranet, powered by IBM Connections and IBM WebSphere Portal, contains more than 11 news and information portals and more than 1,200 collaboration spaces with almost 2,000 active forum participants in the Connections tool allowing the Fluor workplace to be more collaborative and responsive, regardless of location or time zone.

Research from Deloitte indicates that organizations using social technology to engage and empower their employees are improving productivity and unleashing innovation to gain real competitive advantage.

According to a recent report, people-focused businesses generated 26 percent more revenue per employee and had 40 percent lower turnover rates.

Social business has really changed the way organizations of all kinds interact with their clients and their employees,” said Alistair Rennie, general manager, Social Business, IBM. “Today, organizations are thinking entirely differently about how to activate employees to drive business outcome. Social business is driving a smarter workforce. When you’ve got a smarter workforce, you’re changing the way the core processes in your business run, leveraging the incredible talent in your organization to meet your clients’ most critical needs.”

For more information about IBM’s social business initiative and creating a smarter workforce, please visit here,  or follow #IBMSocialBiz and #IBMConnect on Twitter.

Patents And Oscars

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This is a big day for announcements.

First, IBM announced a record 6,478 patents in 2012, patents for inventions that will enable fundamental advancements across key domains that includes analytics, big data, cybersecurity, cloud, mobile, social networking, as well as industry solutions like retail, banking, healthcare, and transportations.

These patented inventions also will advance a major shift in computing, known as the era of cognitive systems.

This is the 20th consecutive year that IBM topped the annual list of U.S. patent recipients.

Ginny Rometty, IBM’s chairman and CEO, had this to say about the milestone:

“We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM’s century-long commitment to research and development. Most concretely, our 2012 patent record and the two decades of leadership it extends are a testament to thousands of brilliant IBM inventors — the living embodiments of our devotion to innovation that matters, for our clients, for our company and for the world.”

IBM’s record-setting 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company’s 2012 U.S. patent output.

There was also an early morning announcement from Los Angeles, this year’s Academy Award nominees.

There was another long slate of Best Film nominees, including Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

I’ve seen five of the nine, which puts me well ahead of where I am most years in terms of what films I have and haven’t seen.

Best Actor nominations were led by Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln and Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook.  If you’ve seen Lincoln, it’s hard to see how the Best Actor Oscar doesn’t go do DDL.

On the Best Actress front, the nominations were led by Juillard-trained Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  But don’t rule out Emmanualle Riva for Amour, or the chamelon-like Naomi Watts in The Impossible. In a crazy year, Quvenzhane Wallis could even walk away with the Oscar for her crazy good performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the most unique, imaginative films I’ve seen in years.

Quentin Tarantino got a nomination for Django Unchained in the Best Original Screenplay category, but I think that one is there for the taking by Mark Boal, screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty.

Congrats to all this year’s nominees.  As a big movie fan myself, looking at that slate of Best Pic nominees, you realize what a strong movie year it’s been.

Finally, on the topic of movies, if you’re a big movie fan, check out Stephen Rodrick’s piece in The New York Times magazine about the trials and tribulations renowned screenwriter-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Affliction, et al.) had financing and making his new film, The Canyons, which stars that ever-intemperate actress Lindsay Lohan.

Meanwhile, below I’ve included a nice video clip summarizing IBM’s 20 successive years of patent leadership, and you can learn more about IBM’s patent efforts on our Tumblr site.

Written by turbotodd

January 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

How Turbo Gets Things Done

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This is a screenshot from Turbo's implementation of "GTD" software, Thinking Rock, which is based out of Australia.  Thinking Rock, in combination with GTD cloud-based app Todoist, along with Google's Gmail and Calendar, helps Turbo keep most of his project and to do balls in the air.

This is a screenshot from Turbo’s implementation of “GTD” software, Thinking Rock, which is based out of Australia. Thinking Rock, in combination with GTD cloud-based app Todoist, along with Google’s Gmail and Calendar, helps Turbo keep most of his project and to do balls in the air.

This blog post is coming hot off the Mac simple word processing app, WriteRoom, NOT my recently rediscovered Royal manual typewriter.

I decided this blog post would just have to go down burning some carbon.

I wanted to continue my theme of “getting s— done” by writing a little bit about my own approach to putting David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology into actual practice, both by elaborating a little about my own approach and mentioning the tools I use.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been a faithful subscriber to the cloud-based taskmaster, “Remember the Milk.”

Though I can absolutely recommend RTM, I’m making some changes for 2013, and have done a little migrating.

My primary replacement tool(s) are a combination of the following:

1) Gmail

2) Todoist

3) Thinking Rock

Allow me to explain.

Nothing beats tying (most) everything back to the cloud, and Gmail’s calendar feature is as good as they come for “remembering” specific tasks (via their “Reminder” function, tied to the Google calendar).

But in the spirit of exploration, I moved from RTM to Todoist (purchasing a year-long subscription for about $30 U.S.) because I liked the simple project structure and user interface (and, the fact that they support just about every computing and mobile device I have!).

And, because I can tie it to my Gmail inbox and calendar, I get daily emails reminding me of what my latest “to do’s” are.

But, with all that said, I still didn’t feel Todoist had the GTD structure I was looking for, especially when it came to breaking down individual projects/tasks.

So, I’ve revived my use of “Thinking Rock,” software from an Australian software provider, as it provides a much more structured interface and database for GTD management, IMHO.

Though I’ve not yet paid for the “full” version ($39 for a license that covers all future upgrades and support), I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

You can see a screenshot from my current “project” list in the embedded graphic above.

I like ThinkingRock’s literal embrace of the GTD approach, and find that when it comes time to really spending time to sit and break down tasks for a project or future actions, it provides the kind of easy-to-input-and-use interface I was looking for.

You can read some of the reviews here, so apparently I’m not the only one of this opinion.

So how do I make them all work together?

It’s actually pretty simple.  Whenever I have a new project or action, I use the “Collect Thoughts” feature in Thinking Rock to start the input.

Then, in the project view, as I start to determine specific actions, when I have one with a specific date attached, I input that into Todoist (a minor bit of duplication that I don’t mind), which is then tied to a specific date.

That way, whenever the due date is up, I’m reminded on either that day, or, if I planned ahead giving myself a buffer, in advance of the final due date.

I generally know which actions need to have reminders on the actual due date versus those that have need for a buffer, and this way, I get automated emails from Todoist each and every morning listing the outstanding “to do’s.”

I also sometimes use Google Calendar to have reminders sent for very specific time-gated concerns (doctor’s appointments, concerts, lunch with friends, etc.).

Mind you, this combination is a recent phenomenon, but so far, it’s working well for me.  So long as I keep up my daily and weekly reviews (which are instrumental to a successful GTD strategy), I have a feeling I could be well on my way to a very productive 2013!

A Manual Start To The New Year

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Once again, I don’t think I’m going to make any New Year’s resolutions.

I find bargaining with myself like that to be somewhat whimsical, if not purposeless.

That’s not to say I’m not optimistic about the future. I just find that being practical…being realistic, if you would…has served me better over the longitude of time.

Another thing that has served me well is the very act I’m currently engaged in: Writing.

This blog is now well into its 8th consecutive year, and trust me, if I didn’t like to write, it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

So rather than come up with a list of grand technological projections and prognostications, this year, I’ve decided to go a little more Luddite on you.

Fear not, that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning all social media and going out to live in a cabin in the woods with nothing but a copy of Thoreau’s Walden, or, Life in the Woods and some granola bars.

God, live without Facebook or Twitter for a year, are you *&^@#$# kidding me?! How in the world would I know what was going on in the world, or whose friend’s cat just took its first bath?!

No, I’d never do anything that extreme.

But I did do this: I ordered a new ribbon for my old Royal manual typewriter.

For you kids in the audience who have never seen a typewriter, it’s a small portable machine we used to use to put down our thoughts.

It’s a contraption that…I know, get this…requires NO batteries or electricity (unless you bought an electric typewriter, in which case you were bound to the grid).

Now, again, I want to be straight with you: The typewriter didn’t have a “Like” button, so for many of you, I know, that’s a dealbreaker.

In fact, it had no share function whatsoever, other than taking the piece of paper you were writing on and mailing it to another person. So yes, it was essentially useless for any kind of crowdsourcing.

But, what it WAS good for was sitting down, thinking through an idea, focusing, and actually starting to tell a story or pull together a thesis with no interruptions (instant messages, Facebook messages, direct Tweets, SMS messages, smoke signals…) other than those created by your own imagination

I know, it’s a hard notion to comprehend, focusing, especially when you’ve never had to focus.

And the idea of doing one thing at a time…well, yes, it’s almost heretical in our multitasking times.

But that is one of the things I wish for in 2013.

Because I’ve seen what happens when people become possessed by the multitasking smartphone demons. They remind me of Linda Blair’s head turning round and round in “The Exorcist.”

It’s not pretty to watch, and yet there’s no priest you can call for smartphone demons. You just have to watch the poor person suffer until their multitasking becomes so overwhelming they just have to let their iPhone run out of juice.

Yes, that’s what I wish for in 2013: For people to have the opportunity to focus.

Instead of trying to do everything, and doing it mediocre, I wish to see more people do just a few things, or even just one thing, really, really well.

Come to think of it, at minimum, I’d like to see more people doing just one thing at a time (especially while they’re on the freeway).

Multitasking is highly overrated. There are very few humans who can do it and do it well, and the odds are pretty high you’re not one of them. And studies suggest that people who smoke marijuana do better at cognitive functions than people who multitask.

Put that in your iPhone and smoke it!

So my recommendation: Consider revitalizing American productivity by using a manual typewriter.

No, you won’t be able to directly enter that blog post into WordPress (although perhaps that’s a new widget Matt Mullenweig and his team can consider for future versions), but writing that first draft without electricity and with minimal interruptions will be good for the environment and your psychological wellness.

The other thing you might consider is to keep a journal. When I was traveling across America in 1987 in my Volkswagen bus, I used a manual typewriter AND kept a journal, and that period is one of the few times in my life I can actually go back and account for because there’s an actual record.

If you use a Mac, DayOne is a great journaling app that makes it very easy to journal and allows you to even synch up your entries into the cloud (if that gives you even a small sense of permanence).

It’s January 1st, and I promise I’m going to get started on all this just as soon as that new replacement ink typewriter ribbon I had to order off the Internet arrives via the mail.

Those things are harder to find than an iPhone 4 case these days!

Written by turbotodd

January 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Ooh Ooh That Smell — IBM’s 2012 “5 in 5″: Innovations Of The Senses

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IBM released its annual “5 in 5″ list yesterday, the seventh year in a row whereby IBM scientists identify a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs around the world. This year, the 5 explores innovations that will be underpinnings of the next era of computing, what IBM has described as “the era of cognitive systems.”

This next generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense, and begin to experience the world as it really is, and this year’s predictions focus on one element of the this new era: The ability of computers to mimic the human senses — in their own manner, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

But before you try and spoon-feed your iPad some vanilla yogurt, let’s get more practical.

These new sensing capabilities will help us become more aware, productive, and help us think — but not do our thinking for us.

Rather, cognitive systems will help us see through and navigate complexity, keep up with the speed of information, make more informed decisions, improve our health and standard of living, and break down all kinds of barriers — geographical, language, cost, even accessibility.

Now, on to our five senses.

1) Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone.  Imagine using your smartphone to shop for your wedding dress and being able to feel the satin or silk of the gown, or the lace on the veil, from the surface on the screen. Or to feel the beading and weave of a blanket made by a local artisan half way around the world. In five years, industries like retail will be transformed by the ability to “touch” a product through your mobile device.

IBM scientists are developing applications for the retail, healthcare and other sectors using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to simulate touch, such as the texture and weave of a fabric — as a shopper brushes her finger over the image of the item on a device screen. Utilizing the vibration capabilities of the phone, every object will have a unique set of vibration patterns that represents the touch experience: short fast patterns, or longer and stronger strings of vibrations. The vibration pattern will differentiate silk from linen or cotton, helping simulate the physical sensation of actually touching the material.

2) Sight: A pixel will be worth a thousand words. We take some 500 billion photos a year, and 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. But computers today only understand pictures by the text we use to tag or title them; the majority of the information — the actual content of the image — is a mystery.

In the next five years, systems will not only be able to look at and recognize the contents of images and visual data, they will turn the pixels into meaning, making sense out of it similar to the way a human views and interprets a photographs. In the future, “brain-like” capabilities will let computers analyze features such as color, texture patterns or edge information and extract insights from visual media, having a potentially huge impact on industries ranging from healthcare to retail to agriculture.

But please, no Escher drawings, at least for now…that’s just plain mean.

3) Hearing: Computers will hear what matters.  Ever wish you could make sense of all the sounds around you and be able to understand what’s not being said? Within five years, distributed systems of clever sensors will detect elements of sound such as sound pressure, vibrations and sound waves at different frequencies.

It will interpret these inputs to predict when trees will fall in a forest or when a landslide is imminent. Such a system will “listen” to our surroundings and measure movements, or the stress in a material, to warn us if danger lies ahead.

I’m ever hopeful such systems will be able to “listen” to my golf swing and help me course correct so I can play more target golf!

4) Taste: Digital taste buds will help you to eat smarter. What if we could make healthy foods taste delicious using a different kind of computing system built for creativity? IBM researchers are developing a computing system that actually experiences flavor, to be used with chefs to create the most tasty and novel recipes. It will break down ingredients to their molecular level and blend the chemistry of food compounds with the psychology behind what flavors and smells humans prefer.

By comparing this with millions of recipes, the system will be able to create new flavor combinations that pair, for example, roasted chestnuts with other foods such as cooked beetroot, fresh caviar, and dry-cured ham.

“Top Tasting Computer Chefs,” anyone?

5) Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell. During the next five years, tiny sensors embedded in your computer or cell phone will detect if you’re coming down with a cold or other illness. By analyzing odors, biomarkers and thousands of molecules in someone’s breath, doctors will have help diagnosing and monitoring the onset of ailments such as liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy by detecting which odors are normal and which are not.

Already, IBM scientists are sensing environment conditions to preserve works of art, and this innovation is starting to be applied to tackle clinical hygiene, one of the biggest healthcare challenges today. In the next five years, IBM technology will “smell” surfaces for disinfectants to determine whether rooms have been sanitized. Using novel wireless mesh networks, data on various chemicals will be gathered and measured by sensors, and continuously learn and adapt to new smells over time.

Watch the video below to listen to IBM scientists describe some of these new innovations and their potential impact on our world.

Written by turbotodd

December 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

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