July edition – 3 Innovation Ideas – Any takers?

innovation headIdeas are just ideas until you start working on them to transform them into real projects. So here are some of the ideas that have been going through my head. Some of them are probably rubbish or already done, but if you think an idea is worthwhile exploring more and you are interested to develop it further then let’s discuss. Eventually, I am looking for like minded people, that could help develop the idea. I hope to write down a few new ideas every month or two. If the idea is good and gets traction, then it would make sense to explore it further in a hackathon or through a kickstarter project. Have your say, comments most welcome!

1 – Multi-media center and home content aggregation – Can’t we do better?

Content storage, streaming and the multi-media center market are probably quite cluttered already, but frankly I am surprised nobody has come up with something better than what is available on the market. ITunes, AppleTV are great from a user experience perspective, but are pretty closed eco-systems. It is cumbersome to add content that is not on apple devices and still to get the same user experience. It usually starts with the problem of linking all devices to some kind of hub, being it protocols or authentication issues, I feel we are today constrained by closed eco-systems.  Second is the issue of the digital library presentation. I believe it should be possible to do a much better job at automatically sorting and structuring your digital library. Too much manual job involved. Just take the example of adding album and DVD covers to your itunes library, what a nightmare! Is it that difficult to dynamically add a few websites, where you can search for album or DVD covers? As long as your search for US content you are OK, but try to find the cover for a french movie or an italian music album you will not get that far with what’s built-in, and while Amazon is a good source of info, it is not enough. I want to add local sites that have usually much more regional content available. Same applies to content reviews? Where do you get the reviews from? Here also you should be able to select where the reviews are from, probably also taking language into consideration. I think a great improvement would be to use an approach like wordpress does for blogging or paper.li, for content curating, where you basically dynamically structure the way your portal should look like and your content should be filtered and presented. You will say, not everybody is tech savvy, but that is where you can leverage on the “Alpha” users, which could explore various ways of rendering for a local community, then share these settings with rest of community. I believe there is an opportunity for an open-source project to develop something really useful and the base is maybe already available (I am thinking XBMC or similar) .

2- Crowd sourcing revisited

I love the idea of crowd sourcing, since it brings a lot of like mind people together.  Betting on innovation idea is great to get community involvement. What I feel is missing, and that makes me sometimes a bit reluctant in participating, is how much do you actually know of the team behind a kickstarter project? Adding some kind of social influence information, like linkedin  recommendations or klout score could help get a better idea about the team members. Similarly I think information about the skill sets required and skills available in the team could help in the assessment. Another possible development with crowd-sourcing is to combine the actual financing of the project with the team build-up phase.  I see this type of approach already used in hackathons, but I believe it could benefit also to integrate these early stage needs  in the crowd sourcing platform.

Beside the  financing aspects and people’s contribution, I believe a crowd sourcing platform could also include other resource types required for a successful  project setup. Here I am thinking about computing resources or office space, but anything valuable for a project could be included, like coaching, marketing or sales support.

The idea would then be to provide an opensource platform, where you crowd-source pretty much everything and throughout all stages of an innovation project.

3 – Social media community manager – Twitter Circles?

For those of you heavily engaged with social media like twitter, linkedin, google+, instagram, you will probably agree with me that it becomes increasingly difficult to manage all you connections without proper tools. Yet, many of the tools available on the market have serious limitations in the way they manage the community connections. Personnally I have tried two tools, SocialBro, which I use on a daily basis, as well as Hootsuite. Both of them are great, and serve slightly different purposes but are not necessarily efficient. Here are or two functions I would like to see to manage twitter for instance. When searching for new followers, it would make sense for instance (instead of searching the whole twitter user base and filter on keywords) to have mechanims to search followers and friends of people you already follow or search their lists. So in a sense introduce a closeness function, similar to what you have in linkedin. Another function I am missing and that has to do with timezones in a sesne is that we are all active at different times of the day, so I would like to be able to filter based on who has been active for the last few hours. There are may more search criteria that one could implement to better manage communities.  I think also a graphical representation would help in that process. Another limitation of current tools is that they limit themselves to processing multiple streams, but without adding much intelligence on top. Wouldn’t it be good to know how much commonality you have with an other person across skills, social networks and interests? I think there is an opportunity to develop a tool that provides more value to community, and it think a good start would be to develop it for twitter first.

OK, so now I have started publishing my first set of thoughts, let’s just hope that the landing is not too brutal and that nobody responds. Looking forward to your feedback.

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Will wearable computing take us by storm?

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The world of wearable computing is evolving at lightspeed and the impact these connected devices will have on our daily lives will be dramatic. From the simple fitness devices we see today, to the smart watches and google glasses which are just around the corner, we are not too far from some of the visionary scenes of a movie like ironman. 

Skeptics will say that wearable computing industry is still a big hype but I believe we have hardly seen the tip of the iceberg and there are just too many technology trends converging and too many business benefits for this not too happen at a large scale and much faster than anticipated.  Here is why…

Connectivity is almost everywhere

Mobile Connectivity is almost everywhere, being it through Wi-FI or 3G and LTE, we can now be constantly connected with our mobile devices and at affordable rates. Mobile data share plans will also make it easy to connect more devices to our current subscription, but in the worst case you can always use your mobile phone or home gateway as an aggregation point. The truth is, that any device that benefits from a connection will have one. The phone is most likely to be our aggregation point for data traffic, since this is the device we always carry with us, but this might change over time.

Wearable devices us Open Source Operating Systems, Open API’s and SDK

Wearable devices are becoming mainstream, fitness devices produced by Nike or Fitbit are already part of the common sports gear and soon we will see smart watches from Sony and Apple on retailer stores. Health monitoring devices are also appearing as mass market devices.  Many of the devices we see right now are very much single function or very focused functionality which means they do not necessarily need to be open to the developer community but this is changing as the device becomes more of an interface to the rest of the world.

Many devices manufacturers that see the wearable device as an interface or a portal will most likely want to build on open operating systems, being it Linux or Android they are providing open API’s to stimulate innovation and community engagement. We see this already with Google Glass supporting HTTP REST API’s to interface with their device. Google’s main competitor Vuzix is taking a similar approach and seem to have come even further since they have a rich SDK and a developer program to encourage innovation.

In addition to these hub devices, with Open API’s we also see companies developing sensors that can be embedded in cloth and some even washed.

Cloud infrastructure and Bigdata

With the availability of cloud and bigdata infrastructures it also means that the data captured by these wearable devices can rapidly be processed and insights can be actionable insights can be gained. It also means that the data can easily be augmented to be provide new information and insights to the end-user of the device.

Imagine yourself walking through a book store with you google glasses and by zooming on the ISBN, or barcode you get access to instant book reviews from Amazon, pricing information and other information about the book author. The system could also provide you with recommendations you might like based on your previous readings and by access the local in-store information portal you could actually get guidance on which shelf to find the book. That is if you are still going to bookstore.. but I guess you get the point.

Cloud, bigdata and analytics could change the way we use devices and transform them to become some kind of life support system.

Consumer and Business Benefits

I believe consumer and businesses will both drive the development of wearable computing.  On the business side devices like smart glasses enhanced with augmented reality will allow major costs saving and efficiency improvements in the enterprise, especially in segments where you need your hands free. A good way to exemplify this is how SAP and Vuzix are partnering to bring augmented reality solutions to the enterprise. In this video, you can see how the smart glasses allow a logistics worker to get important information and guidance in his daily warehouse activities while keeping his hands free, this allows him to save time and avoid dangerous situations. If elaborate a bit more the needs from job safety you can find all kinds of wearables devices, what if you would start measuring vital signs of people working in hard physical environment, that could help do preventive care.

On the consumer side healthcare and fitness are two big interest areas and we see more and more self-diagnosis and monitoring devices appearing on the market.

If you have a sense of humor, you can also check out some more exotic projects like Durex Fundawear.The famous condom manufacturer is working on underwear which can be controlled with you mobile phone, no more on that!

Another interesting example is the invisible bicycle helmet, it looks like some sort of scarf, but is in fact a hidden airbag for cyclists, that use sensors that determines when to unfold.

Earlier this year Juniper Research issued a report forecasing a total of almost 70 million smart wearable devices sold in 2017, including smart glasses, health and fitness devices along with enterprise wearables, compared to almost 15 million sales in 2013. I believe these numbers are still conservative.

So will wearable computing take us by storm?

I believe it will, the technology is there and the benefits are huge both for the consumer as well as the enterprise, but time will tell how fast this will really happen. Also I am sure I have missed plenty of use-cases and companies doing great stuff. I would love to get your feedback, experiences and thoughts about this topic.

Have you heard of tweet seats? Reconnecting with digital natives

tweet_seats_verona Apparently this is already a trend in the US, but it is the first I came across this usage of social media in Europe. The Arena of Verona announced a couple of weeks ago that it would provide discounted seats for people willing to tweet about the live performance they are watching at the Arena. This is an attempt to connect to the younger generations who are always connected and that might not be possible to reach with traditional media. The Arena wants to achieve two objectives with this: one is to reach out to the younger audiences but also to leverage on the viral effect we can get through social communities.The seats are well located in front of the stage so that the phone emitted light is not disturbing the actors and the tickets are attractively priced at 10 Euros. I hope there is no age limit, since I will certainly try to get one of these tickets during my next stay in Italy.

I guess the ultimate objective with this initiative is that we get these wow feelings and emotions reaching  to friends and families so that they also want to see the performance.  More common is the usage of twitter in live TV shows, where it is mostly used to provide instant feedback and interact with show hosts, but then again that is from your living room. Interesting is that social media marketing is happening in Opera and theater environments where normally a “turn off phones” rule is the norm. Is this just an experiment or is this phenomenon here to stay?

Most of the younger generations have probably never stepped into a theater or an opera, and getting these generations to make that move requires a bit of rethinking. Introducing twitter seats is maybe just what the performing art needs to reconnect with digital natives.