CeBIT 2016 – The Difference of a Year

May The Fourth Be With You

About the only thing in plenty at CeBIT Australia 2016, is Sphero BB-8 prizes in exchange for your SPAM address.

Poster of the first Smartwatch Keyboard
Some UI’s were just not meant to be

A couple of years ago 3D printing was all the rage at CeBIT. Last year two technologies dominated the “ooh, shiny” bucket, drones and home automation (IoT) technologies.

This year my assessment of the CeBIT 2016 exhibition was more muted. Yes Cloud was there, but not in the Salesforce dominating way of previous years. Mobile developers, and app startups still have a presence, but far more mainstream.

Table Computer
Reminds me of the original MS Surface Table Computer. Still not as cool as the computer in The Island though

Big data is making a splash of course, as is Virtual Reality. Universities were keen to show their research on solar powered everything (including cars), robotics, and VR. And that was it really.

It wasn’t that shiny new technologies, at the top of Gartner’s hype cycle, weren’t represented. It’s more that there are enough of these to blend into the overall noise of the exhibition. The promise of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) has traversed the trough of disillusionment to whatever the plateau is, and now considered mainstream.

Notable omissions included:

  • Microsoft – I’d expect their Azure IoT play in competition to IBM and SAS, not to mention the shiny promise of “holographic computing” with Hololens
  • Cisco – Where’s the Fog Computing and SDN?
  • Intel – Everything from RealSense 3D to IoT
  • Slack – They’re in country now, HQ in Melbourne
  • Uber – We know what they do, but what are they going to do?
  • Tesla – Wall Power Packs, the ‘S’, even video of the ‘3’, supercharger stations?
  • Apple – let’s face it, they never come to CeBIT, CES, MWC, AWE, E3 or anything other than their own
  • – Big Data, Visualisation?
  • Google – From mobile to maps and everything inbetween
  • AWS – IoT, Big Data
  • Samsung – Personal VR, mobility, wearables?
  • Sony – PlaystationVR
  • Telstra, Optus, VHA, NBNco

Where I thought 90 minutes was going to be a stretch to see all the exhibitors, it was more than enough to see the entire floor and chat to a couple of exhibitors.

What would be really cool would be to see more:

  • Autonomous and Connected Vehicles
  • Bio-informatics – bioprinting, DNA editing etc.
  • Robots – practical robots in surgery, people care, manufacturing
  • Nanotech – again healthcare, but also IoT, agriculture, smartdust
  • Blockchain – lots happening here, but not a lot to see
  • AI & avatars

All in all, ok but nothing to write home about. Certainly no “JLAT” moments.


The New Three Words Of The IT Zeitgeist

The globe with the word zeitgeist floating above

Do you consider what's hot in your career?

There are any number of articles around the Internet, and on this blog, pointing to the coming disruption to all industries. It's unlikely your career will escape unscathed. So it is incumbent on you to continually consider what skills and experiences are in demand.

For my industry, [Information, Business, High] Technology I summarise this in

“Rog42's three words of the zeitgeist.”

Every year I summarise my intuition about what's hot. What's driving the industry. Where I should learn skills, and develop thought leadership to serve my customers.

Over the last 5 years, the top three words have been: Cloud, Mobile, and Social. Yes there are other themes, some relatively new, like Big Data; some perennial, like Security. But overall vendors and customers alike have been:

  • Determining strategies,
  • Hiring teams, and
  • Implementing solutions

Around Cloud, Social, and Mobile.

Over the last year or so, this has changed…

Take a look at the job postings, consider the political mandates, read the press. Cloud, Social, and Mobile are considered all BAU (Business As Usual). The leading companies, if not yet fully executing, have defined strategies, hired (& fired) their staff, and are already benefitting from the returns on these investments.

If your organisation isn't implementing a strategy around Cloud, Social, and Mobile, this means two things:

  1. It's unlikely you'll be in the position to reap the benefits of the next wave of technology
  2. It's very likely your competitors will slowly, but increasingly, outperform you.

So what are the current three words of the zeitgeist? Can you guess them?

More tomorrow…


The 21 (to 25) Pivotal Movies That Shaped My Career

The 21 (to 25) Pivotal Movies That Shaped My Career

Time for a somewhat light-hearted post after Easter 🙂

I find myself firmly ensconced in an IT career, although it wasn't always planned this way. Recently I shared the top 39 books that have shaped my career, but everything is connected, and movies are as important in filling the maelstrom that is our intuition, emotion, and even cognition.

As with the booklist, I have sorted these in alphabetical order so as not to imply any sort of stack-rank. I've also avoided movies where I rated the book, unless the movie was uniquely determinant. As you'd expect there's a lot (majority) of SciFi here, but not all. Here goes:

1. Back To The Future I, II, and III

There's so much richness in these comedies. If you learn nothing else, learn these two simple truths:

  1. Life constantly changes, so we must evolve. I.e. Life (& we) will be as different from now in the next 10 years, as from the last decade. This is an astounding truth that few people learn.
  2. Moore's Law means the next 10 will be exponentially greater than the last 10. Although we don't have flying cars, we do have 3D printing, IoT, AR, Drones, etc. etc. The movie got more right than wrong.

2. Blade Runner

Another movie that created an impression very early on. When does artificial intelligence become sentience? How can you determine AI from human? Especially when the 'intellect' of the AI may be greater than that of the human. Throw in a dystopian future, flying vehicles, and cinematography that bleeds into your dreams. Another imperative piece.

3. The Creator

This tackles science vs religion, nature vs nurture, and predestination vs free will. From a career perspective even considering the possibility to clone someone was science fiction but could we make it happen?

4. Cry Freedom

Another non-SciFi. For someone who had just spent a couple of years in the military during the troubles in the townships, this was an important film. It is often chronologically incorrect, focusses too much on the Woods family escape, and has inconsistencies in the production. For all that, this was the continuation of a very important journey for me. I saw it much later than the theatrical release.

5. Enemy of the State

Turns out the surveillance nation pictured in this movie was pretty accurate after all. Watch for a great performance by a young Jack Black.

6. Existenz

A Jude Law movie. We descend into virtual reality game world, yet is reality real, or just the next level?

7. Gattacca

Another Jude Law movie. This should be required watching. CRISPR-CAS9 is the real, current world technology that will allow us to modify the genome of our children. Yet the true world changing genii would never have been allowed to be born in a world with that much control. Perhaps I resonate so closely to the protagonist because I too was a 'love child,' (and want to go to Space). Consider ethics when you consider complex systems – led me to do IT & Ethics in my Masters Degree.

8. The Island

This is a modern take that riff's off of “A Brave New World” and “The Running Man.” I just love the technology (& Scarlett Johansen) from the Microsoft Surface inspired (yet Apple aesthetic) table computer, to the Augmented Reality XBox Game (Kinect, and Hololens anyone?), to the Video phones, biometric security, automated home and I want that flying motorbike.

9. The Matrix

Hoo boy, this is the brilliant recreation of the question posed by Socrates as described in Plato's “The Republic” as “The Allegory of the Cave.” Are we real, and if not, would we experience real as real, or rather be back in the delusionary virtual world. You're welcome to ignore the sequels.

10. Minority Report

This movie is no longer SciFi. We have most of the technologies described, if not mainstream, about to be: Driverless cars, long range iris scanning and facial recognition, robots, augmented reality, gesture based computing, and not pre-cogs, but Big Data allowing police to pre-empt crime.

11. The Net

This movie imagined the power of the mobile Internet. They had no idea.

12. No Way Out

Is this the best Kevin Costner movie I've seen? Or maybe the only good one? Great plot, great twist, and the constraints of technology of the day – like 24 hours to render the negative on a polaroid – like a polariod – all contribute to this movie. It would be a tough one to remake.

13. I, Robot

Are robots appliances? What happens when they become more? When they dream of electric sheep? Plenty of real world technologies here from robots & androids, AI, and osteo-integration (spoilers). In-ear phones. Driverless, and hovering, cars. We need to design these systems.

14. Runaway

Another take on tech aided police. Individual targetting bullets? Absolutely.

15. Runaway Jury

Ok. This one isn't SciFi. This one is about influence. It is a study on influence. Anyone who is in influence, like a consultant, manager, sales person, teacher, or instructor needs to watch this movie. I've been all of those roles.

16. Serenity (& the Firefly TV Series)

The control of the Alliance vs the freedom of anarchy. Learning Mandarin is probably a good idea, considering the privacy of the individual when designing the big data and IoT systems. There's plenty to like about this movie, especially the “neither utopian, nor dystopian” aesthetic that brings a deeper sense of realism.

17. Sneakers

Hacking into banks, governments, and controlling the world. This opened my eyes to social engineering, different modalities for orientation (e.g. the blind guy figuring out where he was by sound – genius), and the genius of teams trumping the individual.

18. Star Trek

The series, all the movies, DS9, they all contributed to thinking about the way technology can really enable and empower.

19. Star Wars – IV – VI

Another, less utopian take on a world where robots do the menial labour like controlling the farm equipment (IoT anyone?). Where we have AR, holograms, 3D chess, and light sabres. Watch for the upcoming Disney VR game.

20. Top Gun

So this one had an indirect effect. Once upon a life I wanted to fly. Jets. In the military. This of course was the 80's recruitment movie for the US Navy, to the Air Force's Iron Eagle. I'd already been selected for the South African Air Force, then taken off the course for an unspecified medical reason. At the time I'd been devastated, but strangely this movie liberated me what had been a lifelong dream. This combined with Cry Freedom.

21. Wargames

Where do I begin? Hacking, surveillance, IoT like control, and of course, Artificial Intelligence. This movie was pivotal at an impressionable age in considering IT as a profession. It is definitely worth a rerun. In fact this movie was one of the reasons I went into IT. No question.

There they are.

Definitely not a complete list. Not by a long shot. And not all great movies either. But each of them had some part to play in me ending up where I've ended up.

What movies have I missed?

To Harness IoT You Need To Leap The Curve

In a litany of challenges facing progress, 2 stand out:

1. We humans tend to think linearly

The challenge with this is that we disregard nascent developments that grow exponentially until it's too late, e.g. The impact of Moore's Law. So we see established businesses like Borders, Blockbuster, and Kodak going bankrupt in a world of Amazon, Netflix, and Instagram.

The truth is there are many businesses stuck in an old way of doing things. Trusting in paper based processes, or even these processes computerised in “Systems of Record.” Right now these businesses are struggling under the onslaught of agile start-ups that don't have legacy systems, but take advantage of Metcalfe's Law too by using “Systems of Engagement.” I.e. Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud.

But there are new technologies coming that already outstrip these. “Systems of Insight and Action.” I.e. IoT, VR/AR, 3D Printing, Robotics, Autonomous Vehicles, Machine Learning and AI, and Bioinformatics.

The only way to stay relevant in this shifting market (by which I mean the way we transact, entertain, legislate, educate, and govern) is to 'leap the curve.' To adopt nascent technologies and trust in the awesome power of compounding interest, or exponential growth curves.

2. We don't think anything will change

For some reasonwe think things will remain as they are now. Yet, even in our own lives we can see radical shifts. Our children don't know what a 'dial tone' is, let alone why the 'dial.' Most Millennials can't remember a time before Facebook, let alone the Internet. Let alone mobile phones.

We acknowledge that we've changed in the last decade, but don't believe that we're going to change nearly as much in the next. Yet we will, probably more. And the market is changing too.

Again, to truly adopt nascent technologies, everything needs to change. Businesses that can't embrace change will go out of business.

Innovate or Die

Yet <5% of Australian small businesses plan to innovate a new product or service this year. Large enterprises are looking to innovate, but stuck with the expense of legacy systems.

This applies to individuals too. Most large IT firms are 'restructuring' and shedding people with years of IT experience. Simultaneously there is an increasing demand for people with current technology skills. Not legacy skills – those are all being offshored or automated – but cutting edge skills.

As an organisation, change is constant, and exponential curves in technology mean you need to innovate.

As an individual, technology is replacing manual labour, and cognitively repetitive work. You need to be constantly learning.

Either way you need to 'leap the curve.'