Monday May 15, 2006

The Wireless Doctor

We then visited a demonstration of the Healthcare supply chain, showing the use of database and proximity technologies (RFID & Barcode) for people, data and drugs. The real interest here is how the proximity technology enables cleverer and new applications which reinforces the demonstrations given by John Ames (See here...).

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Home 2.0

On the site, BT have built a demonstration suite illustrating one view of how new technology will change the home. The home is quite cute, but I'm not sure if its because I'm a sucker for these things. In retrospect, I'm not sure how truly futuristic the their Home 2.0 really is, but it does have a bunch of great toys.

The demonstration showed a Wifi LAN with a computer on it and demonstrated the maintenance and configuration of a numer of household items, including the lights (using the phone as the switch), and more obviously various home entertainment devices. I know that my new phone can act as a remote control handset for bluetooth enabled devices, but managing devices by the phone could be quite usefull as a security device if away, or returning home late, or as suggested by one of the other vistors for monitoring your older kids. "Stand away from the cookie jar".

Also, multi-streaming was demonstrated with one sound track for the kitchen and one for the bedroom. (You can't do that with Sky).

This all rather fascinates me, as I had been coming to the conclusion that for electronic/digitial entertainment, a Home LAN is becoming necessary, with the various devices playing traditional client, server and console roles. This is a step beyond the computer network's required to play multi- or massivly multi-player online games, and my views began to form as I realise how limited my options are as a Sky basic subscriber, and the difficulty in putting a second screen into the bedroom. Sadly, we were not demo'd BT's IPTV service, but we were shown an IPTV feed from Spain, with High Definition.

Now, once upon a time, I'd have thought it a good thing to be able to use my phone to program the VCR, but in the world of multi-channel, I don't know when anything's on, so it doesn't matter.

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Intelligent Paint?

We were introduced to John Ames, one of BT's Futurologists who took us on a little journey from Constable's horse & cart stuck in the mud (here... @Wikipedia), through the canels to the railways, arguing that innovation disrupts by destroying business models. He talked about real internet pervasivness (, we're talking intelligent paint here) and then showed us a bunch of RFID based applications, including printed paper.

He then moved from the RFID applications which allow computers to know where something is, to Bio-feedback systems. He demonstrated a game in which the two players wear finger gloves which measures how relaxed they are, and their relaxation drives two animated dragons in race (on a screen). If the players get really relaxed, the dragons fly. They're both technologies that lower the barriers between the real and virtual worlds. What interested me in the speech, was the breadth of vision offered, as he suggested that the nature of work will change as machines begin to be able to undertake "Professional" work. The previous presentation and demo had raised the question as to which Sci-Fi sources they were using, but it reminded me of Neuromancer, Minority Report and the Matrix.

John also quoted "Clayton Christiansen", the author of "The Innovator's Dilemma", first pointed out to me by Kieron Bradley, so I'm going to have to read it now! I've checked him out on Amazon and put it on my wish list.

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Intelligent Infrastructure

BT then demonstrated their veiw of Intelligent Infrastructure, the first part showed intelligent cameras, that can detect objects, and the demo had a loitering threshold so that if a person or a bag were to stay somewhere inappropriate for too long, then actions can be taken. The demo, was really about event management, but the camera application was used several times during the day, as it is one way of capturing real world information from non co-operative people and objects. The demo, then identified the nearest (appropriately trained) security guard (role played by our host), who demonstrated a voice recognition system for authentication and showing that the system knew where he was, by answering the voiced question, "Where am I?".

In this case, it did so because as a system co-operator, he had an RFID badge. The system then opened all the doors between our guard and the loitering bag.

The second demo showed a cement mixer that won't start unless an appropriately safety trained engineer asks it to start (not voice recognition this time, although it could be) and that the appropriate safety equipment is in the proximity. It can't make the engineer wear the gear though. A side effect of puting this device on the 'net, is that its activitly can be monitored and so maintenance activity planned on the basis of better knowledge, for instance how busy has it been, not how long since the last service. Its a bit of a difference from our definition of "Intelligent Infrastructure"

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The Changing Network

Everyone probably knows that BT are building out a new IP based network, but this will be across the whole of their network which has a global reach today. This together with the development of wifi & rfid, means that the Internet become pervasive and the network is no longer exclusively offering point to point connections (to make a call). I think this is important and revolutionary.

One of my feelings about the weakness of Carr's "I.T. doesn't matter!" is that it required a definition of infrastructure industries (which he didn't provide) and that the phone companies and railways only offered connections. The electricity, gas and water companies really offered a network. This is partly due to the homogenous nature of supply, we don't care if its the first c.c. of water out of a reservoir, or the millionth nor which reservoir it comes from. We don't care which technology components support our voice call, but we do care if it connects us to the wrong people, and with data, order is important. These all make IT and IT networks different from the classic utilities.

Alan Crowther then continued to place BT's activities in the context of the evolving network. BT Global Services are looking to help their customers, primarily companies, take advantage of the new business opportunities that the today & tomorrow's Internet offer. The state there are five priorities, "Build out the New Infrastructure", which may be social, and is not restricted to IT alone; "Ensure Security & Manage Risk"; "Serve Customers & Citizens", allows them to address private and public sector problems and opportunities, "Enable the Work Force" and "Extend the Organisation".

Phil Barnett (a Sun co-worker) asked about where Green issues were included or addressed, and the answer placed it very much in the context of corporate responsibility and good citizennship. I think that those who think this is important need to work harder at understanding how to make Green issues visible in the companies P&L. While shareholder supremacy is the principle of corporate governance, in any trade-off between the shareholders and pollution, its the environment and the companies neighbours that will loose. Law makers have the choice of prohibition or taxation. I think I need to do some reading.

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Tuesday Mar 14, 2006

Doing more with the Phone

I also went to a presentation entitled "Connected Life" given by a spokesman for Yahoo!. While much of what he spoke was a 'pitch' for Yahoo's new mobile portal "Go! Yahoo", he did have some interesting insights into how people may come to use the internet. I still believe that the screen size and resolution of today's phones seriously inhibit they're use as internet access devices for web content. Lets face it, I'll often print documents onto A4 paper to read it, but Yahoo are offering services around multiple access devices, so if you need a keyboard, use one, if you're on the road use a phone. I am slowly returning to Yahoo using their Groups, Instant Messenger and as documented here..., their portal's RSS integration and am looking at Yahoo Maps. (See my blog here...). I am just getting a new phone, with a Java VM, so I'll wait for their Java launch and see if its usefull.

I went for a quick trip round the exhibition stopped by at the three Sun stands, advertising ourselves as experts/providers of Business Grid's and optimised Data Centre architecture and technology. There were a bunch of Sun's Galaxy and SPARC systems on display, including UltraSPARC T1 based systems, I finished the day visiting the "BT in Finance" stand.

Again, written after the event and uploaded on 21 March 2006 and back dated to the time of occurrence. Sorry its taken me so long to post this.

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Monday Mar 13, 2006

Game Playing on the Move (with EA)

Lincoln Wallen, the CTO of Entertainment Arts Mobile and interviewed recently at http://www.mobileindustry.biz spoke to the "Telco & Media" breakout session, at the best attended session of the day. I checked out EAs job site a couple of years ago and discovered a vacancy for "Vice President (MIS)" which sounded pretty impressive, but as I read more about it, it became clear that this job was not the No 1. It made me wonder what the CTO of an organisation like EA did and needed to know. Well, now I've heard him speak.

Lauren's presentation (not available publicly) reviewed both demand and supply factors to their organisation, and touched on his companies positioning and the competitive dynamics. He placed demand in the context of multiple channels, including retail, broadcast and mobile. Given EA is a content publisher, it was a very technology orientated presentation, exploring what tomorrows devices would look like and the impact these technology changes will have on the market. It reminds me of the disappointment I felt when reading an interview with one of the authors of the original Doom who banged on about pixel rendering and density rather than story development, depth and what made the game a great playing experience. Despite this personal reprise, Lincoln, maintained a relevance reviewing and forecasting market trends and suggesting (maybe hinting) at his organisations response. He also ensured we never forgot that playing experience is key to success. One interesting feature is that he produced some charts talking about the number of hours spent on multi-media leisure consumption. It just makes me wonder where the hours come from, I expect I'm paying for it. Interestingly, he did not necessarily talk about if the new technologies and processing capability would change the nature of content, although he did suggest that surfing Google is a leisure activity for some - I'd have expected E-Bay, but the interesting thing is the recognition that games/video have non-game/video competition, and that consumer's time, not budget may be the constraint. (This is similar to one of their most successful game franchises, "The Sims", where time is the key constraint.)

Again this was written after the event and uploaded on 21 March 2006 and back dated to the time of occurrence. Sorry its taken me so long to post this.

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Sunday Jan 22, 2006

Uploading to the Qube

I have now used Google/linux to find unix2dos and dos2unix .rpm files and installed them using

rpm --install

i.e. they were missing from the Cobalt build and somehow the ftp client I was using wasn't handling the conversions, so this should make editing my shell scripts using notepad &/or context on windows easier.

As I implied last month I have got to get to grips with the bourne shell again; I'm holding off on the Korn Shell. These editing techniques may help

I have also got to grips with using ftp/wget on the Qube. Its a lot quicker than using http and quicker than using other system as web clients for the fetch.

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Sunday Jan 15, 2006

Follow my steps at del.icio.us (, or here)

Thanks to Jim Grisanzio who rendered his del.icio.us feed on his blog, using their link roll gadget. (You may need to log into del.icio.us to make it work).

I have implemented mine here in my sidebar panel, with a limit of 7, so you'll need to come to my HTML version of the page to see it. I need to work on the HTML style that the roll is published in, but I shall be amending my personal sites to use both this and the tags tool. Because I bookmark a lot of what I browse, by reading my del.icio.us feed (the hyperlink is in the sidebar), you can get some idea of what I am (or am planning) to do.

I was busy doing some DIY this weekend, so the new links at the moment are not based on the weekend's reading, which my monday links often are. I am considering assembling a computer of my own, which for thos of you who know me is a big step, so we have a few e-shopping sites that will sell me stuff, although these are not recommendations. I'm merely sharing my research.

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