Category Archives: Technology strategy

Interesting interview with Rodney Brooks

sawyer_and_baxterBoingboing, which is a fantastic source of interesting stuff to do during Easter vacation, has a long and fascinating interview by Rob Reid with Rodney Brooks, AI and robotics researcher and entrepreneur extraordinaire. Among the things I learned:

  • What the Baxter robot really does well – interacting with humans and not requiring 1/10 mm precision, especially when learning
  • There are not enough workers in manufacturing (even in China), most of the ones working there spend their time waiting for some expensive capital equipment to finish
  • The automation infrastructure is really old, still using PLCs that refresh and develop really slowly
  • Robots will be important in health care – preserving people’s dignity by allowing them to drive and stay at home longer by having robots that understand force and softness and can do things such as help people out of bed.
  • He has written an excellent 2018 list of dated predictions on the evolution of robotic and AI technologies, highly readable, especially his discussions on how to predict technologies and that we tend to forget the starting points. (And I will add his blog to my Newsblur list.)
  • He certainly doesn’t think much of the trolley problem, but has a great example to understand the issue of what AI can do, based on what Isaac Newton would think if he were transported to our time and given a smartphone – he would assume that it would be able to light a candle, for instance.

Worth a listen..


Concorde moment

british_airways_concorde_g-boac_03I recently searched for the term “Concorde moment” and did not find it. The term has appeared on Top Gear some years ago (though I can’t find the clip), probably mentioned by James May (who knows something about technology evolution) or Jeremy Clarkson (who certainly lamented the passing of the Concorde many times.) What “Concorde moment” means, essentially, is (as Clarkson says in the video below) “a giant step backward for mankind”.

The Concorde is still the fastest passenger jet ever made (3.5 hours from London to New York) and still the most beautiful one. In the end, it turned out to be too noisy, too polluting, and too expensive, never really making money. But it sure looked impressive. I never got to go on one, despite working in an international consulting company and jetting back and forth across the pond quite a bit. But my boss once bamboozled someone into bleeding for the ticket, and lived off the experience for a long time.

palm_graffiti_gesturesA Concorde moment, in other words, is a situation where a groundbreaking technology ceases to be, despite clearly being (and remaining) best in class, for reasons that seem hard to understand. Other examples may include

  • the Palm Pilot with its Graffiti shorthand system, once used by businesspeople all over the world (and by my wife to take impressive notes in all her studies)
  • the Apollo space program – we last went to the moon in 1972, with Apollo 17, and have not been back since. 45 years without going back has resulted in some impressive conspiracy theories, but again, the lack of any scientific or economic reason for going there is probably why it hasn’t happened.
  • the Bugatti Veyron, at least according to Top Gear. Personally, I find the announced new Tesla Roadster much more exciting, but, well, everyone is entitled to an opinion.
  • and, well, suggestions?

A tour de Fry of technology evolution

There are many things to say about Stephen Fry, but enough is to show this video, filmed at Nokia Bell Labs, explaining, amongst other things, the origin of microchips, the power of exponential growth, the adventure and consequences of performance and functionality evolution. I am beginning to think that “the apogee, the acme, the summit of human intelligence” might actually be Stephen himself:

(Of course, the most impressive feat is his easy banter on hard questions after the talk itself. Quotes like: “[and] who is to program any kind of moral [into computers ]… If [the computer] dives into the data lake and learns to swim, which is essentially what machine learning is, it’s just diving in and learning to swim, it may pick up some very unpleasant sewage.”)

Notes from ACM Webinar on blockchain (etc.)

The Next Radical Internet Transformation: How Blockchain Technology is Transforming Business, Governments, Computing, and Security Models

Speaker: Mark Mueller-Eberstein, CEO & Founder at Adgetec Corporation, Professor at Rutgers University, Senior Research Fellow at QIIR

Moderator: Toufi Saliba, CEO, PrivacyShell and Chair of the ACM PB Conference Committee

Warning: These are notes taken live. Errors and omissions will occur. No responsibility whatsoever.

  • intro: old enough to remember the discussions in the early 90s about how the internet would change mail services – completely forgetting shopping, entertainment and others
  • Blockchain solves the problem of transferring value between Internet users without a third party
  • goes beyond the financial industry, can handle any kind of transaction
  • most of the world has access to a mobile phone, only about 20% has access to the banking system
  • Blockchain is the banking industry’s Uber movement
  • Blockchain much wider than Bitcoin, will facilitate new business models.
  • Blockchain transfers rather than copies digital assets, making sure there is only one instance of it.
    • settlement process: no clearing houses or central exchanges
    • peer-to-peer transfers, validation by network
  • Example: WeChat taking over payments in China, no link to banks
  • many commercial or government services are basically “databases” that are centrally managed, with one central point of failure
  • Blockchain allows a distributed ledger, information put in cannot be changed
    • Estonia thinking about a Blockchain in case of hacking or occupation
  • public (open), private and government blockchainsxx1
  • allows new services to existing customers, lots of inefficiencies up for grabs
    • estate records, voting, domain control, escrow, etc…
    • iPayYou allows use of Bitcoin
    • Walt Disney looking at Blockchain (DragonChain) for internal transfers, also use it for tracking supply chain to their cruise ships. Opensourced it.
  • 80% of Bitcoin mining done in China
  • regulation comes with a cost
  • Shenzhen want to be Blockchain Tech capital
  • 6-level security model, developed by William Mougayar (goes through it in detail: transaction, account, programming, distributed organizations, network (51% attacks, perhaps as low as 30%, smaller blockchains more vulnerable), governance)
  • Ethereum blockchain focusing on smart contracts: Hard forked in 2016, DAO issue where somebody hacked DAO code to siphon off money, hacking the program using the blockchain (not the blockchain),
  • credit card transaction can take up to 30 days, with disputes and everthing, Blockchain is almost instant
  • How “real” is blockchain technology
    • Goldman-Sachs invested $500m+
    • 15% of top global banks intend to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain
    • etc.
  • what is holding it back?
    • difficult to use, understand, buy in; perception of risk and legality
    • difficult to see value for the individual
  • questions:
    • what are the incentives and adoption models?
      • different philosophies: computing power must be made available in the network: industrial mining vs. BitTorrent model, the amount of computing provided will be important, if we can find a model where just a little bit from every mobile phone is required
    • what are the hard costs of Blockchain?
      • you can google the costs. There are other approaches being developed, will post some links
    • can Blockchain be compromized by a virus?
      • theoretically, yes. Bitcoin is 10 years without, open source means verification (change is happening slowly because of code inspection)
      • comes back to incentive and governance model
  • and that was that…recording will be at in a few days.

SmartHelp – geolocation for crisis situations

I am on the board of SmartHelp – a platform for crisis communication for emergency services (or, indeed, for any company that needs to locate its assets or employees in a hurry). The platform has been running in production in two emergency services (fire and ambulance) in Trondheim, Norway, since December 2014. It allows the public to contact the emergency service via a Smartphone interface, give precise details about where they are automatically, and also to chat and share their medical information (fully encrypted up to a medical standard.)

Here is a video demonstrating how the system works:

We are currently seeking partners for marketing and further developing this platform outside the Norwegian emergency service market. Please contact me (, +47 4641 0452) or Fredrik Øvergård, CEO (, +47 977 32 708)  for further information.

Does someone have to die first?

double-classroomBlogpost for ACM Ubiquity, intro here:

Digital technology changes fast, and organizations change slowly: First using the technology as an automated, digitized version of the old way of doing things, then gradually understanding that in order to achieve productivity and functional breakthroughs. We need to leave the old metaphors behind. For this to happen, we need new mindsets, unfettered by the old way of using the technology. I wonder if my generation has the capability to do it.

Read the rest at ACM Ubiquity: Does someone have to die first?

Accenture and connected health

(Notes from an Executive Short Program called Digitalization for Growth and Innovation, hosted by Ragnvald Sannes and yours truly, in Sophia Antipolis right now.Disclaimer: These are my notes, I am writing fast and might get something wrong, so nothing official by Accenture or anyone else.)

Andy Greenberg is relatively new to Accenture, having a background in various technology companies involved in health and fitness monitoring.

The Internet of Things is the next era in computing, we are moving to the second half of the chessboard, Moore’s law is still active. Everything gets faster all the time, sensors cheaper, more and more connections and kinds of connections becoming available. A lot of the data growth has been driven by sensors. Smartphones everywhere, but can’t be assumed in the health space.

We need to capture the data, and we can’t send it all away – so we have to do data analytics on the edge, i.e. do analysis right away. You have to think about some things, such as engineers designing for engineers is not a good thing, and that if you can do something – such as connecting a device – it does not necessarily mean that you should do it. However, there will be 25 to 50b connected devices in the next few years – and it can deliver value. Tesla, for instance, can update its cars  instead of recalling them, improving customer satisfaction and saving money. An Airbus can send messages about needed parts, in the future they will be 3D printed at the airport before they land. There is a large gap between how many CEOs think IoT is important and how many have any kind of capability to do it.

IoT has enormous potential in health care. We have an aging population – and that is true of the health providers as well. Patients have different expectations: “health consumers are becoming consumers, comparing their experience not to the last doctor’s visit, but the last time they bought something on Amazon”. Spending on healthcare is increasing, as is the number of connected and connectable devices.

IoT enables connected health services, including merging the experience at home and at hospital, feeding data from home and feeding treatment from hospital to home after a hospital stay. The key is to understand the complexity of where people are at different times and manage accordingly, as opposed to thinking that they are either one kind of patient and another – we are all different types of patients at one time or another. Key is to focus on preventing readmission to hospital, but there might be more value in managing the healthy population – focusing only on the high risk patients may not be the right strategy. (Dee Edington – Zero Trends). It is not just about getting the ill well, but keeping the well well.

Moore’s law works both for fitness devices and medical devices. For fitness devices, wireless offloading of data makes a real difference, the holy grail is when the data offload disappear completely, if something monitors you all the time and alerts you to do something then you are more likely to use it. Medical devices have been more about diagnosis, now moving into monitoring and adherence. Proteus Digital Health, for instance, has a smart pill that monitors that it is being taken, for instance. Problem is that you need to wear a patch, and the first drug it is being applied to is one for schizophrenia – in other words, the patients that are most likely to be paranoid… There is also work done with smart devices, such as asthma inhalers, which can track how much it is used, geolocate, match to other people using inhalers same day, track pollen count etc. Find covariation from individual and communal data.

Healthcare players need to understand consumer expectations – Disney spent more than one million on wristbands to make the interaction with their parks much more frictionless. Healthcare providers should do the same thing – help their patients navigate through their services – including hospitals – to make the experience more seamless. This is happening in the pharmaceutical space: About half of all presecriptions are either not filled or taken incorrectly. Some names: Gecko Health, Propeller Health, Adherium, Inspiro medical.

When you add connectivity to the mix, it changes everything. One challenge is that even though the value is clear, the person receiving it may not be the one paying for it. This means that many device innovations are seen by their creators as a way to be unique, that will change over time because the value is much bigger of things being standardized and more widely distributed. You also need to standardize to the lowest common denominator from a connectivity perspective. Security is obviously an important issue as well.

Q: How do you make a secure app, how do you handle security?

Andy: Only a minority has a code on their phone, so you need a separate login. Security has be be part of the design from the very beginning. The biggest piece of guidance is to understand that.

Q: Can you see health care become completely digitalized?

Andy: Health care will always have a large human element, and there are huge hurdles in interoperability, but in between 5 and 10 years we will see significant action. The technology is not the problem any more, it is all about adoption.

Francis: We are stuck in a fee for service model that is, in my opinion, broken. Should move to a value model, and digitization can help with that.

Q: Where will we see the first real use of it?

Andy: Already seeing that, pockets of it. Maybe the most interesting and recent adaptation is the use of telemedicine about mental health. The VA hospitals are doing that to allow face-to-face conversations with clients with mental health issues. The key here is having payers pay for this as legitimate treatment. Remote monitoring is coming along. Change in payment models and health plans that change prices if you carry a device also drives this.

Q: The nordics are a bit of digital laggards – what will happen here?

Andy: The nordics tend to be ahead in technology and behind in business models. The aging population is a driver and Asia is a big area for that. Regulatory constraints are going to be a big hurdle, some countries are so high on privacy that they make it almost impossible to even try. Payment is important – if governments say they are willing to pay for making the elderly stay home longer, then it will come.