Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation: Using the Net

Here is an interesting site ("Find Satoshi") that seeks to locate a man given only his photograph and first name. It is billed as the largest-ever experiment in 'six degrees of separation.'

What could this mean for minimizing identity theft? authentication? validation?
What business models could this spawn?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The End of Innovation?

We recently talked about how three laws (Moore's, Metcalf's, and the Bandwidth Law) contribute and enable technological innovation. This got me to thinking about a article I recently read. (

The main focus of the article is Moore's law and how people are becoming skeptical that it is really going to hold true in the near future. As the article points out, HP recently announced a way to make chips that are much denser than those of today, but it is also quick to mention that this is achieved by efficient layout and not innovations in transistor technology. It is becoming increasingly harder to make smaller transistors because of energy leaks which lead to inconsistent states and a build up of heat. We are rapidly approaching the physical limits of our current technology.

While the effects of this roadblock on microchip manufacturers such as Intel and AMD is evident, namely that they won't be able to develop "newer, faster" chips which will slow their growth, I am more worried about the impact this will have on a broader scope. For example, we talked about how UPS drivers are using handheld devices to track their deliveries, something that would not have been possible some years back due to hardware costs and lack of stable technologies. Advances in processing power, in adherence to Moore's Law, broke down the barriers and enabled UPS drivers to leverage a new technology.

What happens if Moore's Law breaks down and advances in transistor technology reach a standstill? To see this more easily, what would have happened if Moore's Law had broken down 10 years ago? UPS drivers would not have their handheld devices, delivery would be less reliable and auditable, online package tracking would not have been possible (or at least not as feasibly), and so on.

I'm sure we will be able to leverage the current day's technology for years after the breakdown, but eventually we may find ourselves in dire straights in terms of technological innovation.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Privacy issues

With emerging technologies collecting ever more data about our lives their is a clear threat to our personal privacy. The question is how bad is this and what should we do about it. First, I feel that privacy for it's own sake is not as important as it appears at first glance. Until recent history people lived in smaller communities where everyone tended to know everyone Else's "secrets" anyways and they all lived with it.
What I feel makes modern privacy violations so much scarier are 2 key changes. First, is that people have begun to assume that they are more anonymous and have secrecy where they may not. Second, some people are in a position to have far more information on you than you do on them creating a Major imbalance of power.
I believe that new technologies will continue to make society more transparent regardless of how we feel about that. So why fight the tide when the real issues of awareness of and control over that information are far easier to shape.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

IS Laws and Apple Computers

I filled out the chart with product and service offerings from Apple Computer, Inc. I believe most of them are self-explanatory, but am willing to explain some of the less obvious choices.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Innovation isn't just IBM's play. . .

Capgemini CEO Paul Hermelin has a corporate strategy that matches the theme from class Today. His recently announced strategy was discussed during the press announcement of the acquisition of Kanbay (press release), a company in India heavily focused on Financial Services. It is called I-cubed (i^3) and stands for:

  • Industrialization
  • Individualization (or Intimacy)
  • Innovation
In this video, he mentions having a seamless process for delivering the complete 'package' to customers given the problem of distance or globalization. Obviously this is a trend that all consulting companies are picking up on. Are they hoping being the 'know how' people of innovation along with delivery will be the new standard of IT consulting?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Energy in the Line of Sight

NPR (realplayer link) had an interesting story this morning on Southern California Edison's Advanced Metering Infrastructure Lab's work on "smart meters." The idea is to allow customers to get real-time information on their energy costs, with alerts as to when prices are high and conservation is needed. In the future, the lab hopes to use these meters to allow consumers to create energy profiles to minimize their energy usage. The program was started in response to the energy crisis of 2001, and is slated to replace all of SCE's meters by 2012.

In addition, the AMI has equipped these meters with communications links to allow them to communicate with the "smart" appliances and thermostats of the future. They'll be the digital "central nervous system" of its power operations, sending back data that the utility will use to make its power generation and purchasing decisions.

Who said utility companies were boring?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Does innovation make us better people?

Whatever the benefits of innovations like smart objects or multi touch interaction devices, we can easily argue that human moral fiber is little improved by new technologies.

New forms of tehcnologies seem increasingly to lead to new ways of satisfying old urges. The worldwide interest in the Saddam hanging video captured by a camera cell phone is a case in point. For more food for thought, see:

My undergraduate Computer Science program from which I graduated at the dawn of the internet (not so long ago!) actually included a technology ethics course that allowed us to examine the moral implications of emerging technologies (then, the hot topic was VR). Perhaps MSIS programs like ours should consider an updated version.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What makes us human?

What really differentiates us as humans from the rest of the animals we share this planet with is our ability to control our destiny. All other animals live in the present. If they're hungy, they eat. If they grow weak, they die. At some point in history humans evolved their capacity to learn from experience and adapt to changing conditions.

In Thursday's lecture we asked the question "what could you do if all objects were intelligent?" We considered a world in which all objects can sense and react to information about their environment and then communicate that information to other objects. If computing is becoming ever cheaper and powerful, and all objects can communicate all the time, what kind of a world are we heading towards?

So back to the point about humans being able to control their destiny. If, for example, your car can communicate with every other car out there, know real time information about traffic conditions, other drivers on the road, and where it is you want to go, then doesn't this, to some degree, remove the ability to control your own destiny? At what point does the ability to capture real time information about you, process it, and change your surrounding envirionment, catch up and surpass the rate at which that information itself is being generated? At what point does the "machine" learn your behaviors and predict your movements? At that point are you reacting to the system or is the system reacting to you?

I don't know about you, but it scares the hell out of me.

The iPhone touchscreen is only the beginning

Here's an interesting take on the business/government/societal challenge of making sense of and finding new connections in the mountains of digital data we're collecting.

Jeff Han, NYU researcher, posits that our problems conceptualizing new connections is due to the limitations of our legacy interface devices. His solution is a new multi-sensor touchscreen technology that promises to not only revolutionize the way we physically interface with computers, but more importantly, the methods we can develop to conceptualize and visualize our data.

Here is a URL to a video of his presentation:


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Six Degrees

During the winter intensive, Professor Van Alstyne described a part of his research where you identify "betweeners", or those in an organization that are gatekeepers to specific divisions. Using these "betweeners" is the shortest path of communication to the destination. This path supports the concept of "six degrees of separation".

Innovation through IBM GIO Lens

Here is a useful blog written by a senior IBM manager, Irving Wladawsky-Berger. You may find his blogs interesting and useful as a reference.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome to IS714: Spring 2007

Welcome to Spring 2007
Boston University SMG Blog on Mastering IT Strategy.