Digital Economy

Remembering What’s Important in the Internet of Things:

Or Why Samsung Engineers Must Not Do Laundry

One of the fastest moving trends is that of ubiquitous computing or the “Internet of Things.”  It’s a pretty exciting time and you’ve probably noticed from my presentations that I’m pretty jazzed about the opportunities that the Internet of Things represents.

In the middle of last year, our 15 year old washer and drier were getting so noisy that they were almost calling out to be replaced.  While we thought our previous laundry pair was futuristic with the stain brain touchscreen, we didn’t realize how much the world has changed.  In addition to the larger capacities, energy efficiency ratings and great new functions, the technologies that they employ have advanced to make the chore of doing laundry as easy as it possibly can be.  So when we looked at replacing our noisy pair, getting units with touch screen controls was a high priority.  Samsung had just what we were looking for with a pair that uses touch screen controls.  These machines even have WiFi connections so that you can control them from your smartphone.  Sadly, they still don’t collect your laundry, sort, fill the washer nor fold it when it done.  That said, they are pretty good at getting your clothes clean.  Until…  Until I noticed this little sticker on the front of the washer.

filter2“Please clean the filter once every two months” – OK, I guess I better do that.  With two Bernese Mountain Dogs and gals with long hair, the last thing I want is a hairball gumming up the works.  There’s a little round plug behind this little door that you turn and pull out.  So I got out a 10 inch bowl, placed it in the drawer underneath the plug and removed the cylindrical filter.  Gosh, water went everywhere.  In the bowl, in the drawer, along the bottom sill and ultimately on the floor.  I quickly cleaned the filter screen, replaced the plug and got the paper towels.  I dried the drawer, dried the floor and everything else that got wet.  And I dried it again, and again and again.  Who had that great idea?  Open a filter and soak your laundry room with the water that’s left after you’re done washing a load.  While I was prepared with a large container, how many people would think of that?  But the water doesn’t come out evenly.  It flows everywhere.  Now an engineer that occasionally does laundry might realize that they might want to direct the water someplace.  They might realize that even if the water goes everywhere, it might be an idea to have the water collected in the plastic drawer stay there and not flow out and under the appliances.  It leads me to believe that the engineers who worked on the filter had never actually used it and experienced the mess that results.  Samsung engineers must not do laundry.

It leads me to the mission statement that I have on my blog: “Using technology in the right place, in the right way at the right time.”  I’m reminded of the electric drill that inspired my engineering journey.  You see, this drill has a little red LED that would blink when you were getting the energy boost to power through and finish boring that hole.  Living in Canada and doing my fair share of renovations in the freezing cold, I was reminded that when I am using a drill in -40 temperatures, I simply want it to drill that hole.  I want the drill to work after it falls off the ladder for the third time.  It struck me that the LED and the energy boost were features that really didn’t add anything useful to this power tool and might actually take away some of the expected utility.

The messy filter serves as a reminder to engineers and designers everywhere.  It reminds them to remember the primary purpose of the thing that they are working on.  The coffee maker needs to be a coffee maker first and be connected second.  The refrigerator should probably keep food cold before it tweets the status of the eggs.  The light bulb might need to illuminate the room in addition to having its colour adjusted from your smartphone.  As we seize the opportunities though the internet of things, let’s make sure we remember the primary purpose of those items we’re working with and make them better by connecting them.

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Categories: Digital Economy, General, Innovation | Leave a comment

#GetItDone #Nation’sCapital

In today’s fast paced work world, it’s really great to be able to work from almost anywhere.  With Microsoft Office and the Cloud I was able to #GetItDone from a few places around town.  Most of these spots had free wireless access and for those without it, I used internet connection sharing on my Windows Phone. Can you recognize all these spots around town? Be sure to click on the images for hints on working from anywhere in the nation’s capital!

WP_20131103_003 WP_20131102_002 DSC_0253 DSC_0256 WP_20131103_016
DSC_0275 DSC_0259 WP_20131103_005 DSC_0257 DSC_0265
DSC_0274 WP_20131103_006 #getitdoneYOW DSC_0262 WP_20131103_008
chateau fat WP_20131103_015 DSC_0273 DSC_0260 WP_20131103_017
capitalwifi WP_20131103_019 WP_20131103_018 WP_20131104_004 wpOffice

NOTE:  Although other brands appear in this post, it does not represent their endorsement of any products or services (frankly, they had the free wifi)

Categories: Cloud, Digital Economy, Entrepreneurs, General, Innovation | Leave a comment

Growing jobs and innovation using a 3P approach

Hey, I’m over on the Microsoft in Government blog today.  I explore how governments can invest their dollars to best benefit startups. I asked entrepreneurs to weigh in, and they identified three guideposts.  These 3Ps won’t be what you expected. http://msft.it/3P

Categories: CIO Toolbox, Digital Economy, Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Come on Deputy, Don’t Fear the Tech Gear

 “Senior leaders in government remain concerned about IT projects”, revealed a good friend of mine following a recent executive roundtable he attended.  He went on to note how unfortunate this is given the strong potential that technology has to meet the government’s objectives noted in the speech from the throne and other significant initiatives. 

You’ll recall that the speech from the throne (http://www.sft-ddt.gc.ca/ ) calls for a review of administrative services with an emphasis on improving efficiency.  It also calls out the launch of a “digital economy strategy to drive the adoption of new technology across the economy.”  eGovernment conversations also raise the concept of government as a model user of technology, or even in some cases , a leading edge adopter of technologies through the use of test facilities.  So why the reluctance?

There are any number of reasons why senior leaders may be nervous about embracing IT enable service transformation.  One leading reason is the uncertain outcomes following several large bag phonegovernment IT projects.  I believe that this is a result of incongruous timing between policy and technology.  Government priorities, policies and even projects often span several years.  One great example is New Brunswick’s goal to become self-sufficient by 2026 (http://intraspec.ca/report-E.pdf ).  Started in 2007, this initiative had a close to 20 year time horizon.  If we shift to have a look at the technological pace of change where new features / services are being delivered on an almost weekly basis, especially in the case of internet based services, we can quickly see the staggering amount of change that can occur over 20 years.  While the number of changes due to weekly enhancements (1040) gives us a number that we really can’t appreciate, perhaps taking a look back at a common technology 20 years ago will put things in perspective.  The early 1990s saw the emergence of 2G networks and the cell phone pictured here.  So it would have been hard to imagine the multifunctional smart phones many of us use today. 

Now let’s think about a traditional large government project.  Large government projects take time, often spanning multiple years.  Often the time between original concept to final delivery can span several technology generations leaving even the seasoned project manager with a change control nightmare just to keep pace with changes in technology and, perhaps even more challenging, changes in their customer’s expectations.

Ruthless Incrementalism

Given this apparent discordance between policy and technology, what is a senior leader to do? My feeling is that the key is to deliver measureable and meaningful outcomes in shorter timeframes.  In place of multi-year, multi-million dollar “Projects”, deliver multiple low cost projects within a given year.  Instead of one million-dollar project, reconsider the project as a “Program” with one thousand, thousand-dollar projects.  These small projects promote agility in face of technological change while building towards the broader program goals.  The program can make rapid adjustments to ensure ultimate success should any one small project fail.  There are a handful of other key principles that support this nimble approach to IT services delivery that I’ll explore later through this blog.  But until then, with my apologies to the Blue Oyster Cult, “come on Deputy, don’t fear the tech gear

Categories: CIO Toolbox, Digital Economy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Putting technology to proper use?

So the premise behind these conversations is around putting technology to its best use for a particular situation.  Essentially, using a screwdriver to twist in screws and not bashing them in with a hammer.  It’s often helpful to have guidance or instructions for how we can use these tools most effectively.  This is the world in which I find I spend most of my time, thinking of that connection between guidance (or policy) and the technology it addresses.  I have been looking at this interaction for quite some time, perhaps my entire career, although it has evolved over many years.  I can recall a time when the guidance dealt with the process of physically moving a ribbon of paper tape from the tape punch to one or many of a variety computer systems operated by other nations.  Giving a little thought, perhaps out loud, to the potential scope of this conversation in today’s technology driven world I drew up a mind map of those top of mind subjects where technology and policy came together. 

I think you’ll agree that it’s not a small area of study.  But as you think about technology a little further, you begin to see how it has become an integral part of almost every aspect of our lives.  The conclusion I reached is that all policies have a technology element.  Technology drives better health outcomes, improved education and environmental stewardship.  In this flat world of spikey regions, the availability of robust technology infrastructures helps attract people to liveable communities and drives economic growth.  The growth of the knowledge economy is inextricably connected to information technology. 

Now I know it seems a little far-fetched that a policy on, say, forestry has a link to information technology but after you go beyond the mental image of Paul Bunyan and his double sided axe, you quickly see how technology enabled (perhaps even driven) this sector has become.  A quick review of the Canadian Forestry Service website under R&D leads you to FPInnovations, “the world’s largest private, not-for-profit forest research institute.”  Their “Innovation Hub” provides a snapshot of how technology is driving innovation in this important segment of Canada’s economy.

With this incredible broad subject area, there will be any number of interesting areas to think about how best to apply the right technologies to the right problems in the right way.

Categories: Digital Economy, Innovation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Government is a Team Sport

Earlier this week, in conversation with some of our worldwide government teams, I had the opportunity to share some of our experiences with the open government activities underway across Canada. With so many great initiatives underway, I couldn’t focus too long on any particular project and really looked to try to draw out the higher level success factors that could be replicated in other regions around the world.  As I went through the recent events and noteworthy news items, I shared the Open Data case study posted by David Eaves (http://bit.ly/98WVqt ).  While David called out some of the work that Microsoft is doing for Open Gov, it struck me that the singular “Microsoft” really hides a significant lesson learned or best practice and that lesson is that Open Gov is a collaborative effort of many. 

This may seem like a truism to many of you, but I think it’s well worthwhile to state.  It’s clear to me that it’s a team sport from at least two different perspectives.  From an internal perspective, our open government work relies on the tireless efforts of people across a variety of teams including the local public sector team, the developer evangelism team, our product groups, the partner team and many others.  However, the work of all these people wouldn’t be effective if it weren’t for the external conversations, brainstorming and other interactions that we have had.  The CloudCamps, ChangeCamps, roundtables, consultations and even one on one conversations with thought leaders have all contributed to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for individuals, businesses and governments.  Without this collaborative approach, any of the activities we started would most certainly have not hit the mark.  There are many individual teams working hard at the local level and perhaps even regional level open government activities.  I’ve noticed that there are several common themes that always pop up during these conversations including civic engagement, transparency, privacy, common data-sets, standards/Interoperability, social networking and others.  Perhaps it’s time to time to bring these teams together for a national level conversation on open government across all three levels (municipal, provincial and federal).

Categories: Digital Economy, Open Government, Policy | Leave a comment

Building Canadian Innovation and Jobs with the Cloud

(originally published March 15, 2012(

Whew!  What a busy week.  I’ve just come back from a whirlwind tour of our country describing the results of an IDC study on the impact that the Cloud has on Jobs.  These visits were capped off with the exciting opportunity to share the news on CBC’s Lang and O’Leary Exchange show.  You can see me at 40:30 at this link.

While the tour lasted only a few days, I’ve been crisscrossing Canada (yes those are 25 flight segments since mid-January) meeting an increasing number of businesses that are harnessing the cloud to grow their business.  It’s been really invigorating to see so many great innovators.  What’s really great is that while those of us in technology appreciate the impact that it is having, perhaps the bigger impact that it has on business is really starting to be appreciated.  And this impact is not just on tech companies, it’s on all types and sizes of business.  By making computing as easy to get and use as you would electricity from a socket, businesses can focus on their ideas, their innovation and the next big thing.  By helping larger businesses run their computers more efficiently by following the steps used by Microsoft to deliver services to 100’s of millions of people allows larger businesses to use those resources for innovation instead of mundane maintenance.

I know that some people will be skeptical about the idea that jobs are going to grow across the economy and that roughly one in five jobs will be attributable to cloud computing.  If you look at the great innovation we’ve encountered across Canada, you’ll not only see the IT aspects, but also the opportunities to grow jobs in other industries.  Here are the examples.

http://www.mediavalet.co/  – Mediavalet makes it easy to share photos, audio and videos around the world.  Thousands of hotels use this service to provide potential visitors a glimpse of what’s waiting for them as they plan their trips online.  In this case cloud can help build jobs across the tourism industry as it brings in more visitors, allows hotels to focus on their business and builds new marketplaces.

http://www.newspaperdirect.com/ – Newspaper direct delivers over 2000 newspapers in 95 languages around the world to a variety of electronic devices.  Not only does the cloud fully enable the delivery of the content, it also helps newspapers reach a larger audience allowing them to hire more reporters, advertisers and editors.

http://www.opreie.com/ – By taking the paperwork out of real-estate transactions, Opreie’s solutions allow real estate professional focus on their clients and building out their business.  By reducing the time and complexity of the transactions, real estate professionals grow their office and take on more clients.

http://www.cortex.net/  – Cortex Business Solutions harnesses the cloud to automate and streamline their purchasing process.  With today’s increasing pace of business, all businesses need confidence and predictability in their procurement.  Through reducing the costs associated in this critical part of their business, organizations can invest in their core capabilities; be it energy exploration, transportation or environmental services.

http://www.connect2fans.com/ – Today’s entertainment marketplace has dramatically evolved with talented people now more connected with their fans than ever before.  By making it really easy for build marketplaces to bring talented people and their fans together, Connect2Fans helps talented people spend more time on their passion and reach the community that appreciates it.

whatsnexx.com – Whatsnexx provides a cloud based one-stop marketing environment talking the complexity out of all aspects of marketing campaigns, professionals can focus on the more important elements of reaching their audience.  This helps marketing firms hire more artists, writers and communicators in place of computer support staff.

http://www.redwoodglobal.ca/ – Talented people are the lifeblood of today’s economy and Redwood Global helps organizations find the very specialized talent to be successful.  By moving to O365 cloud based office tools, Redwood Global was able to avoid overhead associated with computer management and focus on helping clients find the people they need.

http://www.resaas.com/ – Social networks have always contributed to individual and business success.  By bringing together the often distributed real estate community in their own social community, Resaas connects professionals so that they can be more effective in their practice and grow their business.

www.gaugemobile.com/ –The Cloud empowers consumers more than ever before as it provides a wealth of information at their fingertips.  2D barcodes are making it easier than ever before to link the physical world and the virtual world.  These connection symbols are appearing on any number of places and things across the economy. GaugeMobile makes it easy for businesses to harness the great capabilities of barcodes and the emerging wireless equivalents (NFC) to grow their audience and customers.  This can help everyone from organic food creator invite more people to savour their creation following to artists building a greater following by making it easier to appreciate the background to their works.

I think you’ll agree that while cloud technology certainly provides a foundation for the innovative companies listed above, it provides a springboard for jobs across the economy.

Categories: Cloud, Digital Economy, Innovation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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