Technology innovations have had a significant impact on economic growth in the past sixty+ years, creating markets and new capabilities, and delivering a wide spectrum of solutions in all industries. Sophisticated manufacturing, advances in human health and safety, synthetic biology, information communication (ICT), and connecting people, systems, and business are all examples resulting from technological innovations.
The SVForum Game Changing Technology conference in Mountain View, CA on May 9th focused on disruptive technologies and the major transformative developments in the enterprise, big data and analytics, 3D printing, and cloud-based technologies. To stay competitive, companies need to anticipate the most significant technology trends and develop innovative ways to use them. Globalization of technology is a given, but Silicon Valley is still the worldwide leader in a number of innovative fields. SVForum, centered in the valley, has a reach to over 18,000 technology professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.
Disruptive technology solutions can come from any industry and in any area. Over the next few years game changing innovations will reshape how we market, sell, communicate, analyze, manufacture and more. There are many factors in what can be defined as a game changing innovation; from investment perspective, the key is to look at all the aspects, markets, competition, life span and the identify of ‘those things; that carry minimal risks to turn financially meaningful. Investors are always at the front end of gauging and supporting ‘the next transformative thing’. While investors have different approaches, they all balance the desire to get the most value of their portfolio versus the level of risks involved.
Dr. Jeffrey Welser, Director of Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (IBM/SRC) at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA, focused his presentation on the impact of emerging technologies on the enterprise. Dr. Welser gave a comprehensive and informative overview of big data history, its conceptual evolution and current challenges. He also talked about IBM’s approach to big data and where we are headed.
Big Data has several aspects – the four “V”s:
- Volume of data, especially in the enterprise, such as transactive data.
- Variety of data sets with various meanings (and possible applications).
- Velocity – With increasing levels of connectedness, data is coming fast and in real-time.
- Veracity – Addressing credibility issues: what’s true in the data collected and what’s just noise.
Although data has always been present in the business world, today we have multiple sources, where more data is coming from social media (SM) platforms, is unstructured, and it’s harder to extract value by straight-forward machine algorithms. Mining value from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other SM platforms is a focus of some emerging analytics models.
Processing data has become more complex and involves several steps, from collection, extraction, integration, and the utilization of analytics models to get value, i.e. applicable, or even actionable, meaning. Today, advanced analytics aims to combine several model sets that will allow companies new insights, prediction and not just reaction, and new answers.
Dr. Welser gave an example from energy generation operations. When using Predictive Maintenance in drilling or fracking operations, energy generation companies can reduce risks of equipment failure, increase production output, and also increase safety rates.
How can data affect people-centric processes?
Technology is becoming pervasive in new areas of our lives than ever before: in the home environment (the automated home, for example), in various models of connectivity, monitoring and managing city operations like energy, water and transportation infrastructures, and many more. However, software applications cannot always provide the solution, especially where human interaction is concerned. For example, new medical/health applications that dispense drugs or require body-implanted sensors may present behavior challenges, where patients, medicine, and human interaction converge.
People-centric processing is one of the areas IBM has been focusing on. It starts with the basic understanding of the role people play in the process of performing functions; what is the workers’ perspective and interpretation when they do a certain task. Such point of view enables insight into patterns of behavior and focuses on what actually people do, how they think, how they execute, and how they use information in their job. This can help enterprises in making teams more productive and help management design more effective incentives for employees.
‘The way people do things’ has also changed with the increasing use of mobile devices. Dr. Welser pointed out the need to think along the lines of “mobile first” and not “also mobile”, when designing solutions or systems. Having the mobile mind-set upfront is important in business today. Furthermore, continuous client or user experience, regardless of the device or digital media they use, is key in providing the same interface. Working on a laptop or desktop (at the desk) needs to be the same as working on mobile devices (away from the desk).
The challenges of language processing in order to extract information:
In social media platforms, people use language to twitt, post “likes”, give an opinion, or describe emotions or things. When processing language, we face the challenge of combining structured data with unstructured data. Analytics algorithms, then, need to address the intricacies of human expression in language, ‘understand’ ambiguity, cynicism, etc.
To illustrate machine ‘intelligence’ in language processing, the IBM’s Watson computer performance on the Jeopardy TV show embedded sophisticated language-processing techniques. The computer was specifically developed to answer questions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy. In 2011, Watson competed on the show against former top human champions and received the first prize of $1 million. Watson was programmed to address tricky and ambiguous questions, and work around human intelligence, where people have the ability to maneuver and interpret language uncertainties and deduce meanings. Watson also demonstrated cognitive computing which includes a learned experience, i.e. learning from past questions and building its capabilities step-by-step. In the Active learning model, Watson was learning as more and more questions were asked. These complex and integrated features were key in leading Watson to, eventually, surpass the human competitors at the game and win.
Dr. Welser emphasized that the ultimate vision is to combine computing, natural language skills, and analytics, which will take shape in the next iteration of software tools. To formulate the idea on how to use data is one thing; to have the necessary skill-set to build such models, in order to actually implement this vision, is another. In the future, enterprises are anticipated to develop the advanced skills and expertise.
SVForum Launch: Silicon Valley 2013 is coming up on June 4th.
Check for more information on the full-day event here.
Now in its 9th year, Launch: Silicon Valley is firmly established as the premier product launch platform for startups from the San Francisco Bay area, and around the world . The event, co-presented by SVForum, Garage Technology Ventures and Microsoft, provides the next generation of emerging technology companies with the opportunity to pitch their products to, and network with, an audience of Silicon Valley’s top VCs, Angels, corporate business development executives, prospective customers and partners, bloggers and media.
As in previous years, Launch: Silicon Valley 2013 will feature new companies that are ready for launch, but are not yet well known. These are companies that have a product or service available (as of June 4, 2013), but have not been out in the marketplace for more than a few months.
Launch: Silicon Valley 2013 categories include information technology, mobility, digital media, next generation internet, life sciences and clean technologies.
Visit www.launchsiliconvalley.org for a list of 2012 Top Award Winners and more information.