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

Archive for March 2010

IBM Global Entrepreneur Initiative

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IBM announced its Global Entrepreneur initiative today which provides start-ups with no-charge access to industry-specific technologies in a cloud computing environment.

With this new program, IBM will provide access to the IBM Research community as well as sales, marketing and technical skills and its expertise and experience with the most forward-thinking institutions, governments, and businesses around the world.

Under the new initiative, start-ups can will be able to for the first time:

  • access IBM’s software portfolio through a cloud computing environment, including IBM industry frameworks to accelerate software development;
  • work side-by-side scientists and technology experts from IBM Research to develop new technologies;
  • take advantage of dedicated IBM project managers to assist in product development;
  • attend new IBM SmartCamp mentoring and networking workshops with VC firms, government leaders, academics, and industry experts at the global network of 40 IBM Innovation Centers to build business and go-to-market plans;
  • tap a new social networking community on IBM developerWorks to connect with other entrepreneurs and more than eight million IT professionals from around the world.

With its Smarter Planet strategy and years of investments in research, IBM is skilled in building product and services offerings for businesses based on new ideas. IBM Industry Frameworks, for example, are software platforms targeted to industry specific market opportunities such as Smarter Water, Smarter Buildings and Smarter Health Care.

IBM invests more than $6 billion per year in Research with more than 3,000 people in eight labs around the world.  With more than 4,914 new patents in 2009 alone, IBM has experience bringing innovative technologies to market.

“A large number of venture capital investments in the technology industry will be targeted at entrepreneurs in the US, China, Israel, UK, Germany, France and India this year,” said Promod Haque, managing partner, Norwest Venture Partners (NVP). “To make these investments count, start-ups must have the right skills in place to bring new technologies to market more quickly. Venture capitalists, businesses, government and academia must all collaborate to ensure today’s entrepreneurs are prepared to succeed.”

Under the new initiative, start-ups can for the first time:

  • access IBM’s software portfolio through a cloud computing environment, including IBM industry frameworks to accelerate software development;
  • work side-by-side scientists and technology experts from IBM Research to develop new technologies;
  • take advantage of dedicated IBM project managers to assist in product development;
  • attend new IBM SmartCamp mentoring and networking workshops with VC firms, government leaders, academics, and industry experts at the global network of 40 IBM Innovation Centers to build business and go-to-market plans;
  • tap a new social networking community on IBM developerWorks to connect with other entrepreneurs and more than eight million IT professionals from around the world.

IBM announced the initiative to 300 venture capital, business, government and academic leaders at an IBM venture capital forum in Bangalore, India.

IBM’s Claudia Fan Munce, vice president of corporate strategy and managing director of the IBM Venture Capital Group, explained why the company is opening its resources more widely to start-ups: “Businesses around the world are increasingly applying new technologies to address industry-specific needs, and technology start-ups are looking for new ways to capitalize on this trend,” she said.  “IBM’s goal is to help entrepreneurs gain the skills they need to bring new ideas to market faster using IBM technology to accelerate industry transformation and fuel innovation.”

As part of this program, IBM is collaborating with 19 global industry and technology associations to identify and connect local start-ups to the initiative through IBM SmartCamps and forums at IBM Innovation Centers throughout 2010.

The criteria for start-ups to participate in the IBM Global Entrepreneur Initiative are; 1) the company must be privately-held; 2) in business less than three years; and 3) actively developing software aligned to IBM’s Smarter Planet focus areas.

For more information, you can visit the IBM Global Entrepreneur Initiative, and also watch the following video about this important announcement:

You can also follow the IBM SmartCamp initiative via Twitter @IBMSmartCamp.

Written by turbotodd

March 31, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Air Stream

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On any given day, nearly 90,000 commercial, private and cargo planes take off and land in the United States.

More than 700 million passengers pass through some of the busiest airports in the world – Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson, Chicago’s O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles International and others – each year.

In these crowded skies, the consequences of a cyber attack could jeopardize lives.

That’s why the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking steps to protect the critical computer networks that support the nation’s air traffic centers, control towers and other aviation facilities.

IBM and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have announced they’ll be working together on an R&D project to better protect the nation’s civilian aviation system from the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks.

This project will introduce first-of-a-kind security analytics technologies and entirely new approaches to protecting large digital and physical infrastructures from hacking, botnets, malware and other forms of cyber attacks.

The prototype system will go beyond traditional security approaches of encryption, firewalls, intrusion-detection devices and anti-virus software.

Not only will the flexible model be designed to look retrospectively at event occurrences and system compromises, it will be able to correlate historical traffic patterns with dynamic data from monitors, sensors and other devices capturing information about network traffic and user activity in real time.

Streaming analytics will be a key design component of the FAA prototype system. This advanced technology will enable the FAA to continually analyze the massive amounts of data flowing through its networks in real time and get fast and accurate insights about possible threats and system compromises — in time to take action.

The FAA will also be able to store real-time results in a data warehouse for later analysis and supervised learning.

In the design, customized executive-level dashboards will be used to deliver up-to-the-second information on the security posture of the FAA networks.  These dashboards will give FAA officials visual representations of network workloads, tickets for found malware, and historical trends to facilitate decision making and early action in the event of network anomalies suggesting a possible attack.

“Cyber attacks have become a global pandemic and no system is immune,” said Todd Ramsey, general manager, U.S. Federal, IBM.  “Through this collaboration with the FAA, as well as others underway in government and the private sector, we hope to develop comprehensive solutions for protecting the digital and physical infrastructures of critical national networks and enterprise systems.”

The pilot project is part of IBM’s First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) program, which engages scientists from IBM Research with clients to explore and pilot emerging technologies that address real world problems.

IBM has also established the IBM Institute for Advanced Security, in Washington, D.C., to help government agencies and other institutions gain access to tools, resources and expertise to address cyber security issues.

For more details and information visit the IBM Institute for Advanced Security website.

Written by turbotodd

March 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm

The Internet of Things (Except the iPad)

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Did I mention that I’m follow the advice of the crowd (via my recent poll) and opting out of being a first-generation Apple iPad purchaser?

This is requiring a significant amount of willpower on my part.

As I watch one close friend on Twitter literally tracking his iPad’s journey from China via FedEx, and read about how iPads are all sold out before they even hit the stores, and as I conveyed to my own Web marketing team last Friday about the interesting new advertising deals being made with big magazine advertisers wanting to be first edition explorers in this new media vehicle…well, it’s just almost too much to bear.

But, I’ve been burned on first gen handhelds before. 

The original Palm Treo, for example. 

Sounded great when it first came out, cost about as much as an iPad (but this was in 2002), and it now looks fantastic in the personal tech museum in my closet.

It doesn’t help that there are now video flyovers of the new iPad apps store, complete with enticing and sexy shots of cool video games that can be played on the iPad.


I already get plenty of grief for not being a card-carrying member of the iPhone community (I’m a BlackBerry, not an iPhone), although I do have an iPod Touch, which has become my best friend on long airplane journeys.

But, I own three Macs, three iPods of one sort or another, and I use Ubuntu Linux on a Dell Latitude, so I ain’t takin’ geek grief from anybody.

Anyway, all this is missing the bigger picture emerging out there, one that IBM has begun to convey in its smarter planet initiative. 

The planet is now talking to us. 

Sensors abound which collect and convey new and potentially useful information. 

There’s data everywhere, just waiting to be turned into insight and actionable intelligence.  Sensors abound which collect and convey new and potentially useful information.

But the opportunity must be seized.  Systems of systems must be instigated to turn all that data noise into insight.

This new video, produced by some of mis amigos in our new media communications team, does a brilliant job of beginning to relate this opportunity, and in the voice of some of our leading research and development minds at IBM.

Check it out….and in the meantime, be sure to send me a detailed debrief about your iPad experience!

Written by turbotodd

March 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Netbooks In Africa

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How about a netbook for $190 U.S.?

Today, Canonical and IBM announced a partnership with Simmtronics to offer the Simmtronics netbook, the Simmbook, to emerging markets at just that price.

Starting in South Africa, the Simmbook is preloaded with IBM Client for Smart Work, which includes IBM Lotus Symphony (productivity suite), access to IBM LotusLive cloud collaboration services, and the choice to add other IBM Lotus collaboration software like Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime.

This move helps bridge the gap between low price and high performance, providing a desirable form factor (the netbook) with an affordable software and OS footprint, one that provides a better computing option for those in small-medium businesses, non-profits, and even academia which might not otherwise be able to afford these types of collaboration resources.

“As Africa makes economic strides during a time when new technologies like cloud computing are emerging, the Simmbook netbook with LotusLive, Lotus Symphony, Lotus Notes and Ubuntu Linux provides businesses with a complete solution at an affordable price,” said Clifford Foster, IBM sub-Saharan CTO.

“CIO’s, IT directors and IT architects from all type of organizations in South Africa — even those that typically cannot afford new, expensive personal computers — can now legitimately consider netbooks instead of PCs for business use.”

Designed specifically for mobile computing, the Simmbook provides the power of a full-sized laptop in a compact body. IBM Client for Smart Work is IBM and Canonical’s complete desktop package that’s open, easy to use, and offers a security-rich alternative to costly, proprietary PC software, such as Microsoft Windows.  It  can help lower costs by up to 50 percent of a typical Microsoft PC.

Simmtronics is working closely with IBM to provide low cost computing in emerging markets around the world.   In addition to African countries, the low-cost Simmbook will also be available in India, Thailand and Vietnam.

The new Simmbook preloaded with IBM Client for Smart Work can be purchased online directly from Simmtronics using this order form http://www.simmtronics.com/order_form.php.  Simmtronics and IBM plan to continue to work with clients to offer the Simmbook at a competitive price to other countries around the world.

Written by turbotodd

March 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Go Daddy China

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This has been an interesting week.

I’ve not been blogging much because I’ve been too busy playing work catchup after SXSW.

Hope you’ve been digging the podcast interviews Scott Laningham and I conducted as much as we did producing them.  We talked to some really interesting people here in Austin last week.

Of course, time rolls on, and everything changes, including in the interactive space.  I’ve been watching the Google/China situation with great fascination.

When I was in Beijing, it was before the Olympics and I stayed in the Beijing Hilton, and far as I could tell, I never had any issue with Internet filtering.

But boy have Google and China gone at it this week.  Last one out turn out the Great Firewall.

My own personal take is that while information wants to be free, China wants to keep it locked up, and Google can’t get a high-enough cost-per-click to make it worth their while.

So they reroute their mainland search queries to the “special administrative region” of Hong Kong, forcing the China government-owned mobile companies to rethink their mobile search deal, and in the end Microsoft’s Bing is the beneficiary.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Even GoDaddy.Com has told the Chinese to take a domain-sales hike, which is really disappointing, for I was looking forward to someday seeing Danica Patrick scream around the corner Chairman Mao’s visage overlooking Tiananmen Square NASCAR style.

Of course, they may, in fact, be fighting the last Internet war — smartphone traffic has taken off like a rocket, up 193% year-over-year, according to AdMob.

The iPhone leads the way in terms of share, at 50% (up from 33% last year), followed by Android (up from 2% to 24%), and Nokia losing share (from 43% down to 18%…ouch!).

This just in time for Microsoft and FourSquare to start cozying up, with Bing now offering up a Foursquare map application that allows Bing map users to see check-ins on FourSquare.

Hey, maybe the Chinese Communist Party can use Bing maps to see Foursquare check-ins of Google sales reps running around Beijing trying to avert the wrath of the Golden Shield?!

Written by turbotodd

March 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm

SXSW Interactive 2010: Interview With Ushahidi’s Patrick Meier

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During our recent experience at SXSW Interactive, Scott Laningham and I had the opportunity to visit with a number of interesting folks and record their thoughts in a series of podcasts at the event.

One interview in particular had to do with Ushahidi, a social incident mapping and visualization technology that was used to identify and visually represent incidences of election-related violence in the 2007 Kenyan elections.

Patrick Meier, Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping and strategic partnerships, explained that the name Ushahidi in Swahili means “witness”…as in, to bear witness.

In the 2007 Kenyan elections, the tool was quickly developed to allow the collection of user-generated cellphone reports of riots, stranded refugees, rapes, and deaths and have them plotted them on a map to allow for quick assimilation of the data and to redirect precious police and election monitoring resources.

More recently, Ushahidi has been used for crisis management in the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes, with the tool helping gather thousands of messages reporting trapped victims, and distributing the workload so that workers in a situation room in Boston were helping IM U.S. Coast Guard officials in Haiti to determine where to search for victims.

Patrick’s interview will make you rethink your own preconceived notions of crowdsourcing, and illustrate how visual mapping tools can not only help us get from point A to B…but how they can save lives and help protect the innocent in times of crisis, natural and manmade.

You can listen to the podcast here (16:40, MP3).

Written by turbotodd

March 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I’d Like To Talk To The Gecko, Please

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Hold, please.

My two least favorite words…particularly when I call a company to try and get help with some kind of customer service issue:

Correcting my mobile phone bill…trying to get ahold of someone at an airlines to tell me if I can use my miles for a particular route…dealing with my insurance agency (Look, can I just talk to the Gecko, please?  He seems to know what he’s talking about in those Geico commercials!)

As a part of IBM’s significant investment in the business analytics and optimization arena, the company is looking to address the problem of making sure callers can find the best resource for answering their question.

IBM collaborated with specialty insurance provider Assurant Solutions to develop the Real-Time Analytics Matching Platform (RAMP).

RAMP is helping Assurant Solutions call centers to increase customer retention and sales yields by combining data about the individual customer with each contact center agent’s specific calls, expertise and past performance to optimize the routing of calls.

IBM GBS consultants designed a “matching-engine” which leverages this combination of customer insight, agent profiles, and real-time analytics to provide “individual-level” decisioning and assignment of calls not available in most contact center applications.

This is in juxtaposition with most current contact centers’ current approach, a skills-based system which only takes into consideration the agent’s product focus and availability.

Assurant’s implementation or RAMP has seen retention revenue grow by 37% and sales revenue grow by 29%.

RAMP is activated the moment a customer contacts the call center. Within seconds the platform uses data generated from previous call center interactions to identify acceptable wait times for individual customers.

RAMP then factors in agent performance and qualifications to decide which agent would serve that customer best. At the same time, RAMP determines when the optimal agent will become available using prediction algorithms based on the length of the current call and historical call handle times.

The analytics-based decision engine then assigns the caller to the optimal agent and routes the call in real-time to that agent. The engine tracks each call assignment and makes necessary adjustments if an agent’s call ends before or after its predicted time.

The video below, though kind of cheezy, does a good job of explaining RAMP’s capabilities.

RAMP is available today through IBM Global Business Services’ Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) service line.

The Assurant Solutions companies are part of Assurant, a premier provider of specialized insurance products and related services in North American and selected international markets.

Assurant, a Fortune 500 company and a member of the S&P 500, trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AIZ. Assurant has over $25 billion in assets and $8 billion in annual revenue. www.assurant.com

For more information on RAMP and other IBM Business Analytics and Optimization offerings visit www.ibm.com/gbs/bao

Just don’t ask to talk to the Gecko.

Written by turbotodd

March 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Cootchy Cootchy Coo

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Puppies and babies.  You just can never go wrong with puppies and babies.

Once upon a time I worked on IBM’s corporate marketing team handling our Internet advertising, and as much of an Internet geek as I was, I always loved our television spots.

But a new spot made in partnership with Ogilvy and Mather and Motion Theory simply takes one’s breath away.

Entitled simply “Data Baby,” the new 30 second spot uses a combination of live action (babies!) and “generative art” to demonstrate the data opportunity presented in monitoring a newborn’s vital signs.  In turn, the visualization helps demonstrate how IBM technologies help analyze data to make for smarter healthcare.

Me, I just want to tickle the little baby!  Cootchy cootchy coo!

The story behind the story makes pivot tables seem primative by comparison.  And, in fact, no spreadsheets were harmed in the making of this TV spot…babies, either.

To pull off the visuals, the team built custom code to translate spreadsheets of raw data derived from a newborn’s respiratory, heart rate, blood pressure, EKG oxygen saturation, and temperature readings into “motion paths,” paths which move and evolve design elements organically across image sequences.

Think baby visuals.

As Motive Theory’s web site explains, “In the spot, patterns gently float up in-frame, seemingly from the surface of a newborn baby resting in a neonatal ward. Ethereal CG life patterns, fractal-like shapes and other visual expressions flow upwards to form a stylized mobile that is captured as a reflection in the baby’s eye. These beautiful design elements warmly envelop the baby, delivering an authentic visual representation of the myriad pieces of data made available to doctors with the help of IBM technology. This is data, as the spot conveys, that helps doctors treat babies more effectively and build smarter hospitals.”

Yeah yeah…look at the cute little baby…cootchy cootchy coo!

Enough of my description — watch the spot and see for yourself.

I got to hear about the story behind the story last October at the IBM Information on Demand event when we heard directly from an Australian researcher who partnered with IBM Research to help investigate this “stream computing” opportunity.

The techniques being developed have the potential to save young lives around the globe, and in the process help the medical profession get smarter about treating and preventing infant death syndrome and other infant-related medical problems.

Of course, the data and visualizations are one source of inputs.  But there’s nothing like hearing from the youngsters directly themselves as to what they thought of the commercial-making experience.

I’ll leave you with them for now…but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you break out into your own “Cootchy Cootchy Coos.”

Written by turbotodd

March 18, 2010 at 8:17 pm

SXSW Interactive 2010: John Tolva Talks Smarter Cities

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John Tolva has a very cool job.

And in his capacity as IBM director of citizenship and technology in our corporate philanthropy group, John has also worked on some very cool projects.

Take, for example, the Virtual Forbidden City, which launched in time for the Beijing Olympic games in 2008 and helped bring a Chinese cultural landmark to life in virtual reality.

These days, John is very much living and breathing in the real world, helping identify cities around the globe to be candidates for IBM’s “city forward” efforts.

In the process, he’s demonstrating how IBM can help cities become smarter in the way they are built, revised and run, and in the services they can provide their citizens.

You can learn more about IBM’s smarter cities efforts here.

Considering that 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by the year 2050, we all have a vested interest in helping city systems improve no matter where in the world we live.

Listen to this podcast (16:25, MP3) we recorded recently at SXSW Interactive in Austin to hear John explain smarter cities in more and fascinating detail, and also to discuss his experience in the IBM Corporate Service Corps, IBM’s equivalent of the Peace Corps.

Written by turbotodd

March 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm

SXSW Interactive 2010: Smarter Social Media

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Thanks again to everyone who showed up yesterday during the LAST time slot of SXSW Interactive on the very LAST day to hear myself, Adam Lavelle, and our fellow speakers (the hashtag for my talk was #unsociablecompanies).

I called the attendees of the “Fast 15” session the “Green Berets” for having stuck it out so long, and considering we were stacked against Bruce Sterling’s always hilarious and sobering closing keynote, I figured we might only have a few of the Hilton staff stopping by to listen, but in fact there was at one point a line out the door!

Thanks very much for all the great conversation and questions afterward, and the always fun-to-replay Twitterstream.  I saw that a few of you mentioned wanting to have access to the slides, so I’m attaching them below as a PDF.  I’m also included a less-than-10-minute video recap of the session for those of you could not attend.

Expect more blog posts highlighting a number of additional podcasts that Scott Laningham and I conducted during SXSWi 2010, as well as closing day recap along with David Salinas.

For everyone I met and spoke with at the event, I hope you enjoyed SXSW 2010 and learned as much as I did, and I wish you all well on your travels home and your attempts to climb out from under the email pile!

SXSW Interactive 2010: SXSW Interactive 2010 — Smarter Social Media — Final — Todd Watson (PDF, 3.8MB)

Written by turbotodd

March 17, 2010 at 5:58 pm

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