GPS started with Sputnik. This was covered really well by Steven Johnson in his book on “Where Good Ideas Come From“. Here is a summary.
The basic plot is easy to understand. Smart people work out how to use existing stuff to do extraordinary things with it. While he starts with English coffee houses, he also shows how trying to work out where Sputnik is leads to working out how a GPS system can be made to work.
The initial motivation is quite dark. How can I accurately drop bombs on Russian cities? But we have come through that to find GPS really useful. Like “how can I get from where I am to my next appointment”.
Improving GPS accuracy
So some new work has looked at how we can make GPS even more accurate. Modern GPS receivers can get us to within 1.5m of our current location most of the time. With commercial correction services (accounting for satellite actual positions) we can get to 0.5m of the actual position 95% of the time.
That has been OK for a while now.
Some recent advances allow the accuracy to be improved to 10cm. A recent IEEE article on Centimeter Level GPS shows how.
And the upside? Your car can now use your GPS to navigate and stay within its lane.
They got eyeglasses right but missed the other most successful wearable device of all time, the wristwatch. The first true wristwatch was made for the Queen of Naples in 1810 although arm watches date back to 1571. Neither were widely used because the mechanisms were prone to jamming and sensitive to ingress and so needed to be protected. So pocket watches and pendant watches dominated the scene. It wasn’t until the 1880s that artillery officers found it awkward to hold the watch and do their aiming and started strapping them to their wrists. This gave them visibility of the time when they needed without occupying one of their hands. The trend took off and by the early 1900s watch designs were modified to suit attachment to the wrist via a strap using lugs on the case. The age of the wristwatch was upon us.
So by this period, eye glasses if you needed them, and wristwatches or pocket watches, were widely adopted.
Wearable Computing Devices
So when were the first Wearable Computing devices? If you paid careful attention to the infographic, you might have noticed the Abacus Ring. Dated in the early 1600s this was definitely a computing device, just not an electronic one. It was a great aid to merchants of the day.
Abacus Ring – 1600s
The first wearable electronics computing device to be widely sold was the Casio Calculator Watch which was released in the mid-1970s. Take up of portable music players and headsets were a bigger trend kicked off by the Sony Walkman at the end of that same decade.
It wasn’t until Bluetooth headsets emerged in the early 2000s that we had another mass adoption of Wearable Technology followed by the explosion of MP3 players and Apple’s massively successful iPod range.
Sports trackers start emerging from 2006 but it isn’t until Fitbit finally got their product into production that they really take off from 2009 onward. Fitbit almost didn’t make it commercially because the technology was really hard to make work and even harder to make. Today they have 70% of the activity tracker market but there are a plenty of new players now they have proven the market potential.
And wearable computers got a huge lift with the Google Glass project kicking off in 2012. It raised a plethora of issues, not the least of which was privacy. Although the product was discontinued by Google in January 2015, it took the debate on augmented reality and its issues forward.
Google Glass Tear Down
The Year of the Wearable
Which brings us to 2014: declared the “Year of the Wearable”. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear wrist communications device from late 2013 had finally eclipsed Dick Tracey and the wrist communicator of the 1930s cartoon series. The explosion of product offerings has continued into 2015 with the much anticipated Apple Watch now released. And a whole new host of communications support accessories. Another growth area is pet management. As the technology gets more accessible to smaller companies we can expect this to continue covering the full range of possible options including:
Medical monitoring and health support
Activity and lifestyle management
Communications and communications support
Computing devices of all types
There really isn’t an end to where this can go. It is up to companies to deliver real value to end users in order to define the bounds of what makes commercial sense. The technology is still hard to do but as more products get to market, more companies learn the techniques needed to be successful at super low power worn devices and the whole application area continues to progress.
CEDA, or the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, run regular industry sessions to discuss topics of national economic importance. The latest was a lunchtime session covering the benefits of Innovation and also some of the challenges we need to overcome to take advantage of Innovation in Australia.
Committee for Economic Development of Australia
Here are videos of the panel discussion which raise a lot of excellent points. They are split into 2 due to their length.
Below I cover my take on some of the areas covered both before and during the panel discussion.
Innovation in Job Hunting
Job hunting, or seeking, is a 2 way problem. Potential employees want a good job and potential employers want good employees. Should be simple, right?
Doug Blue of SEEK shared some changes in the jobs market. SEEK used to just place job advertisements on a Web site. Now they have moved to employment fulfillment with up to 70% of job placements being through their services. This is typical of the shift in value creation that is happening all over the world.
A recent survey in Australia shows that 76% of people do not like their current job.
Innovation in Governance
Glenys Beauchamp PSM, of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, shared statistics and perspectives on the local economy. This is a summary of what was a very comprehensive and competent presentation.
The OECD statistics show that up to 50% of new jobs are due to Innovation. So this is an important topic for national growth. And to add more weight to the argument, 60% of productivity gains are due to Innovation.
Australia’s GDP growth has remained flat since 2011 and if this continues then our standard of living will start to fall.
Innovative businesses grow faster, have a more diverse range of market offerings, and create more jobs in them and around them than businesses which are not Innovation focused.
Drivers for Innovation:
High proportion of tertiary qualified young adults
High standard of research capability
And a few challenges:
Low rates of disruptive Innovation
Reducing investment for Innovation
Low levels of venture and early stage investment
Lowest level of Collaboration with universities and publicly funded research organisations in the OECD
The Australian Government is looking at all options to improve this including funding schemes not based on grants, big science infrastructure, tax incentives, entrepreneurs programs and simplifying engagement between business and publicly funded organisations.
Lunch was followed by a panel session. The panel was:
Glenys Beauchamp PSM – Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
Geoff Culbert – GE Australia, NZ, Papua New Guinea
Andrew Smith – Shell Australia
Andy Vessey – AGL
This is a summary of the discussion.
Innovation can’t just be about improving core business output, it also has to have spread and it has to be able to cross organisational and industry boundaries.
One big challenge is moving to a net zero emissions while increasing energy availability. So clean energy generation is a key and Australia is well placed to be exploring that.
Consumers of tomorrow will be making informed choices so those businesses that don’t educate and inform their customers will lose them to businesses that do. Many traditional businesses and industries are ripe for digital disruption.
GE see software as key to their digital industrial product range. IoT, or the Internet of Things, is key to the adding of more value.
Shell are looking sideways at every industry they can to identify technologies they can harness in their industry. And they find Australia has many excellent researchers and businesses that can be tapped for solutions to problems that they don’t yet have a satisfactory answer for.
There is a role for Government to get the macro economic conditions right to encourage businesses to act through appropriate incentives. But Government also needs to change its own behaviour to be able to be a part of the future rather than living in a bureaucratic past.
Australia was outraged that we came 10th in the medals tally at the Olympic Games yet there is no outrage about our abysmally low Collaboration and business ratings! How do we get the bigger conversation going at the citizen level?
It is about investment level and investment focus. We value sporting success so we invest. To do better we have to either invest more or invest smarter. It is the same with Innovation and Collaboration. The real issue is where will the funding come from, and exactly how will it be applied. No-one seems to be addressing the lack of funding in a serious way.
Intellectual Property is no longer the main game, nor is data. It is the insights you get from data that is more important. GE have made their IoToperating system, Predix, open source because it is the leverage you get from it that is valuable, not just owning it. And it could also allow others to design devices that can readily fit into the GE ecosystem.
For me, the key points that keep coming up are:
Low Collaboration is holding us back. And this is a cultural issue. So no amount of money can fix that. We have to address the culture itself.
Everyone agrees a lot more money is needed and should be invested. No-one agrees to offer it.
Business models are still the biggest area for Innovation and we should keep pushing the boundaries on business models
So what should I discuss with the people I meet when I am out of the building?
How do they do stuff today?
Follow them around and become an expert
Then find the best in the world and follow them around
What are there unmet needs?
Where are the passion points?
Or pressure points?
Listen a lot!
Frame a hypothesis in the form of ” I think people like xxx have a problem doing yyy
The next step is to fund 20-50 people like xxx and interview them asking open ended questions and listen carefully to how they do yyy, including whether they have a problem and if the hypothesis has any merit. Be prepared to refine. Eg Rinse. Repeat. As Steve Blank says.
So who should you talk to?
Interview 100, not 5
It is industry specific – Who is the real customer?
Who are the deciders, influencers, users, beneficiaries
Who are the adjacent customers?
Who is in your zone of customer knowledge?
They could be unexpected – they emerge from the problem discover
I asked this question so I was particularly interested in this answer.
If the person with the money is different with the person with the need, you have to develop a business model that means it works for the person with the money. Otherwise, there are scenarios where there isn’t a business case that is possible?
So for now, my conclusion is that there are many possible opportunities present and if you look at customer discovery, you might just discover some.
Today, data is available for nearly everything you can think of. Or if it isn’t, then it isn’t hard to add new data sources, both internal and external to a business. But data alone isn’t the answer. It is what you do with it, learn from it and decide based on it that really makes the difference.
So how do you know what everyone else is doing?
Or how you compare?
aiia , the Australian Information Industry Association, are doing a survey on Data and Analytics in Australia and sharing the results with anyone who contributes. So I’m writing this to encourage you to contribute. I did.
I had the opportunity to take part in an Innovation session run at Trajan Scientific and Medical. This covered both the Innovation philosophy they operate under and also included a site tour and explanation of the practical aspects of building highly collaborative relationships.
Trajan Scientific and Medical
Autodesk presented a session on trends at work today:
How we make things is changing
How users buy is also changing
Everyone has access to the power to compare products online
Kickstarter has Democratised funding
3D printing allows us to make mechanical products in one hit without tooling
You can lease a micro-factory for a day or buy a 3D printer for a fraction of the cost of 5 years ago
Personalised products – such as talking a picture of you ear and getting custom ear bud made at a very affordable price
Rolls Royce now sell engines as a service
IoT now means we can instrument everything so it allows improvements in everything. This includes productivity, service, response and learning from actual product use
So now anyone can become a product designer and manufacturer
The 4th industrial revolution is not just for large organisations but individuals can also now become niche product entrepreneurs
It also allows reshoring of products that went to Asia and can now come back
Autodesk are now moving to a subscription model with cloud services so you can buy a 1 month subscription if that is all you need
You can now make products at the point of need rather than mass produce in one spot and ship around the world
And designers from around the world can now contribute to projects and the manufacture can now happen anywhere
Andrew Gooley presented a session on Trajan’s approach to innovation and collaboration.
Andrew Gooley of Trajan
Trajan stands for science interfacing with society. They have focused on making scientific based components for products and particularly boron and silicate glass items for laboratories, patient samples and individual users needs. They have multiple plants around the world. It is not the product that defines them but the collaboration process. Trajan was a Roman Emperor and introduced many desirable social innovations.
Trajan now see collaboration as the core commercialisation competence they have and is the primary competitive advantage they have. An example is the way they have worked with the University of Adelaide photonics department to use their facility, run it as a commercial entity, use it for their own manufacture and also improve it using the technology they have already developed for their own manufacturing facilities around the world.
An example is collecting and analysing patient samples in the home. Then extending that to third world countries and remote communities to improve their health outcomes. Or reducing premature births by facilitating in home health monitoring to identify conditions that lead to that and providing timely dietary feedback.
Their primary collaboration relationship building technique is to fire bullets before you fire cannons. So try something small to even determine if it can work at all. Not every university or other private company are capable of collaboration.
Their other strength is the ability to run their manufacturing so that they can build to order today. Industry 4.0
I was personally impressed during the tour and came away feeling excited about the possibilities for Australian companies to compete on a global basis if we go about it the right way.
It is 2016 and we are a long way from the 1970s. So of course the world has moved on. Today’s programming has advanced significantly and we have super low powered systems of extraordinary capacity and easy to program securely. Surely!
This isn’t the first time we have done this. If you go back to Top Programming Languages 2015 you will see that C was second and Java was first. This year, C is first. A 1970s language is back to being first for all programming in 2016. Why?
In 2016 devices shipped in the product category known as the Internet of Things exceeded all other mainstream electronics device categories. Take all mobile phones, tablet computers and iPads, desktop computers, netbooks, laptops, servers and general computing devices combined, and this is less than the value of products shipped in the category of the Internet of Things.
And this is what is driving the use of the C programming Language. For these small, low powered, low cost, essential to our future devices, have to be programmed in something that lets you get close to the hardware so you can manage it, and also operate in a high level language. My hat goes off to Dennis Richie and KenTompson who developed this language in the early 1970s and gifted it to us all. Their vision has carried an entire civilisation forward.
Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie
So more than 40 years later, I am still very grateful for their foresight, vision and competence in creating the most used computing language on earth today.
If you are wondering what the product does, it measures electromagnetic radiation from the electricity distribution grid using custom designed antennas, does DSP math on it, determines if a fault condition such as Partial Discharge is present, and sends an alert if it detects that. It does this at 250MSPS every second and uploads the summary results to a web service. Using PPS GPS synchronisation you can determine the distance to the fault from each EFD Device. Scatter a few of these around the network and you have the most cost effective Early Fault Detection system you can get. It is also a classic high bandwidth IoT project.
OK, enough engineer speak. Here is a summary from the night.
The MC was Merv Hughes who brought a lot of humour to the night through his novel pronunciation of technical terms.
The Keynote Address was given by Dr. David Nayagam who walked us through the The Bionic Eye project and the difference it was going to make to people experiencing blindness that didn;t have underlying receptor damage.
And we had an extraordinary interlude of entertainment by the Unusualist, Raymond Crowe.
PACE Zenith Awards 2016
2016 PACE Zenith Awards Winners
Here are all the winners by category:
Safety system innovation – Robotic Automation, for Multi-product Robotic Automation
Manufacturing Control – Sage Automation, for Integrated Process Control
Automation Innovation – Robotic Automation, for Multi-product Robotic Automation
Transport Control – Encroaching. For POW’R-LOCK
Mining and Minerals Process Control – Scott Automation & Robotics, for ROBOFUEL
Water and Wastewater Control – SMC, for Ethercat Network for Treatment of Wastewater
Machine Builder – Automation Innovation
Oil and Gas Innovation – Yokogawar Australia, Julimar Development Project
Power and Energy Management – Alliance Automation, Oxley Creek Rehabilitation Project
Best PLC. HMI and Sensor Product – Bestech Australia, Beanair Wireless Sensor Network
The state iAwards for 2016 are done and dusted and Skynanny has received a merit award, this time in the consumer product category. Here is a copy of the announcement.
Consumer – Merit Recipient
SKY NANNY – Nuguy Nominees Pty Ltd t/as SKY NANNY
SkyNanny is a child safety product built for parents by parents. It is a device worn by a child in his/her clothing which is paired to the parent’s mobile phone. Its more than just a location device. SkyNanny will prevent your child from going missing in the first place.