Should large companies even try to be like startups?

This post is still very much a work in progress. Since the industrial revolution, if you were interested in a career in technology, large companies were really the place to be. Apart from the perks that come with working for a blue-chip company, the scale, breadth and depth of resources available to you meant that they had a virtual monopoly on innovation. However, over the past ten years, this changed. In many industries, scale stopped being an advantage. It slowly, imperceptibly at first, … Read more…

From the front line to the development team

We have already seen in a previous post how military history can provide valuable lessons for today’s business leaders. The Economist magazine provides a more contemporary application of how lessons learnt on the front line have applicability in the business world. Stanley McChrystal used to lead the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq which captured Saddam Hussein and killed al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq. He now runs a consultancy company advising companies on decision-making. His mantra is to devolve decision making to teams of … Read more…

Self-Driving Cars – Coming sooner than we think?

The future of the car, taking on latest developments in electric vehicles and self-driving technology was the topic of the rather immodestly titled “Great Debate” at the University of Reading held last month. As the host candidly admitted, the organising committee was undecided as to whether to discuss electric vehicles or self-driving cars, and so fudged it. In the end, much of the discussion focused on the impact of autonomous cars. Are electric cars really ready for mass-market? The first couple of … Read more…

Speed at Scale – the fast supertanker?

In a previous post, I explored the importance of adaptability in large organisations, a concept I referred to quite unoriginally as Strategic Agility. I hope I was quite persuasive about the importance of being able to change direction quickly to even large and very successful organisations. The task of operating large organisations at speed is a topic that John P Kotter is making his own, in his book and Harvard Business review article – Accelerate! Kotter argues, quite convincingly, that the hierarchical structures and organisational setups that … Read more…

Artificial Intelligence – Some highlights from 2016

2016 has been a big year for Artificial Intelligence. Taking over from the Internet of Things as “Most Talked About Tech of The Year”, this represents a set of technologies that will clearly have significant  long-term implications for how we work, buy products and consume services. This explosion is made possible by the convergence of three trends: The massive growth in data availability in every field of human endeavour, a renewed interest in the algorithms underpinning artificial intelligence, and the plummeting cost … Read more…

Why history matters. Even to tech leaders

When looking at the challenges that the fast-moving tech landscape throws up, it is often tempting to think that these problems are new to the 21st century and consequently need completely novel approaches. While the mechanics, business process and technologies may well be new, the underlying problem is very likely to be one that has been around for centuries. Just as the Roman Republic can provide a casebook of the entire gamut of political mechanations and intrigue, similarly, history books can provide invaluable advice on … Read more…

The importance of Strategic Agility

With agile software methodologies now firmly in the mainstream, it is difficult to find a software development organisation that does not claim to follow agile principles to at least some extent. For this reason, much of the discussion in agile and lean development conferences is now shifting to its applicability in the wider business world. In this post, I have a look at some of the business challenges that can be addressed through adopting strategic agility, and make some suggestions that may help … Read more…

Happenings in the World of Artificial Intelligence

While much of the tech media have been focusing on the goings on at the Mobile World Congress, some of the more interesting stories of the week are to be found elsewhere. While the differences between this year’s smartphones and last year’s models are becoming increasingly difficult to discern, the same is not true for the goings on in the world of Artificial Intelligence. Already a topic of a blog post of mine a short time ago, there have been some particularly … Read more…

Amazon Dash – this genuinely deserves the ‘Internet of Things’ tag

The Internet of Things hype continues unabated, with companies allegedly hiring Chief IoT officers, though a quick search on the Indeed website failed to throw up any ads. However, today I came across a news item that genuinely deserves a bit of hype. While all sorts of technologies and products get pitched as an IoT play, Amazon’s Dash service is a genuine internet of things application. In a nutshell this service allows companies to use Amazon as a fulfilment service … Read more…

Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo – read, despite the dodgy title

The Christmas break often provides me with some time to catch up with my reading list, and lost amongst my ever-growing pile was Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0. Now, I very nearly did not buy this book, as am often put off by titles that smack of pompous management jargon, and “Management 3.0” flies very close to the wind on that front. However am glad that I rescued it from the pile of the great unread, as it is quite a … Read more…

What’s behind Musk’s OpenAI Initiative?

For my first blog post of 2016, I thought it time to take a cursory look at OpenAI, the non-for-profit organisation being set up by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. This aims to provide a non-commercial basis for furthering research into Artificial Intelligence, publishing and widely disseminating the output of research carried. To this end, $1 billion worth of funding has been pledged (or ‘donated’) by a number of Silicon Valley luminaries, including PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. Silicon Valley … Read more…

Blockchains – from Digital Currency to Physical Things

A sure sign that a once-emerging technology is becoming mainstream is it being given the full front-page treatment by The Economist. This is what happened to “blockchain” technology, the set of cryptographic techniques that underpin Botcoin, the digital currency, when The Economist referred to it as The Next Big Thing. While I am pretty certain that most that esteemed magazine’s readers would never have come across the term blockchain before, the article was not short of hyperbole, equating its invention in the … Read more…

Talk to me – The role of Voice Control in the Smart Home

A recent Smart Home report on what features are most desired by users showed that in addition to self-adjusting thermostats, remote locking of burglar alarms and other such staples, one of the features that users really want is a master remote for all services. This is an expression of the frustration with the morass of incompatibility between smart devices.  Very few systems talk to each other in a meaningful way and it is clear that the fragmentation of standards and systems continues to cause … Read more…

Google OnHub – the router is now cylindrical

Following Amazon’s echo media device, Google have just unveiled an equally-cylindrical device, their all-singing, all-dancing WiFi router, built by home networking specialists TP-Link. Now I am a bit confused about this. Designed to be attractive and pretty enough placed anywhere in the home, Google seem to have forgotten that the location of WiFi routers are dictated by where the Internet cable enters the home. However, Google make big claims about its wireless performance, apparently sporting 13 antennas, emphasising the speed and range benefits it … Read more…

Lean Enterprise – Lean Startup for Grown ups

We have already seen how Eric Ries’ Lean Startup established the language and a culture of predominantly mobile-app start-ups over the past five years. The reality however, is that most of us do not work in start-ups where business models are unknown, and regular pivots are required to find out what works. Instead, most people in the tech field are employed for companies with established and (normally) profitable business models, and business processes tuned to support those business models. These companies are often large, … Read more…

Qualcomm and Samsung in new IoT chip product announcements

This has been a busy couple of weeks in terms of Internet of Things technology announcements. In particular, two titans from the mobile space, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm are attempting to catch up with Intel with processors aimed at all manufacturers of ‘things’. Qualcomm announces two new products for its $1 billion IoT segment Qualcomm are making a very strong push in its “Internet of Everything” as its smartphone technology portfolio which is no longer benefiting from growth rates it was previously accustomed … Read more…

Comparing the Cloud giants – Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure

Last month saw a number of number of the tech giants provide their most recent quarterly earnings. For both Amazon and Microsoft, their cloud activities gained a lot of headlines and column-inches in both the technical and business press. Although adopting different growth and technology strategy, their cloud computing offerings represent a significant engine of growth going forward, and is becoming an area of ever-more intense competition. Here we take a brief look at how they compare and what the … Read more…

The march of the Smart Home – big numbers ahead!

There is no shortage of forecasts on the market growth for connected devices, and last week BI Intelligence, an analyst firm added their half-penny’s worth to the mix. According to their analysis, the market for connected home devices is set to grow from around 400m units in 2015 to 1,800m units 2019, a compound annual growth in excess of 65%, far exceeding smartphones and tablets, whose time in the limelight as the darlings of the tech world is on the … Read more…

Tesla’s Powerwall – A residential energy game changer?

With hindsight, this week’s announcement by Tesla that it would move into the home energy storage market was so obvious, that that the only question should have been why was there any surprise at all. For a while, Elon Musk, PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX tech entrepreneur had been saying that Tesla would unveil a new major product, and that it would not be a car. And so it turned out that Tesla will be launching a residential battery called PowerWall, in two variants with different storage … Read more…

Will the promise of the Smart Home finally be realised as standards converge?

We have already seen how the connected home market is overwhelmed by a morass of incompatible and competing standards, and products made by different manufacturers are unlikely to work together unless they use high-level APIs such as Google’s “Works with Nest”. In the dumb home, interoperability was taken for granted. An incandescent bulb would work with any switch and thermostats were readily interchangeable. The addition of complex app & web based interfaces, the foundation of ‘smart’ systems has created a multitude … Read more…

Frugal Innovation – Doing more with less

Frugal Innovation – “the ability to do more with less” is the title of a recent book by academics Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu. This started off as a book called Jugaad Innovation (from a Hindi word meaning an innovative fix), examining innovation facilities in developing countries, but then found interest in developed economies as companies tried to adapt to consumers’ more spendthrift ways as well as an increased importance being placed on sustainable solutions. Frugal innovation as proposed by the … Read more…

Facebook extends its platform through messaging and ‘things’

I am playing catch-up with the news from Facebook F8 developer conference, but looking at some of the (excellent) press reports, a couple of things stand out as being of interest as providing pointers as to where Facebook is heading. 1. Messaging as a Platform One of the announcements that got most coverage was the release of an API to allow third-parties to integrate their apps and experiences into Facebook. To the cynical (a grouping I sometimes find myself associated with), this … Read more…

Postscapes – A one-stop-shop of IoT knowledge

I have referred to this site in previous posts, but I have been remiss in providing it with the credit it deserves. Postscapes is probably the most reliable and comprehensive guides to the Internet of Things landscape, covering news, companies, and events. For anyone interested in sourcing a supplier, or getting some guidance, this is an essential stop. The open-source / maker space is well covered, including Arduino, Raspberry Pi and crowdfunded projects, and applications are categorised into body (i.e. health), … Read more…

Please welcome the Wireless IoT Forum

It is a new week (well, nearly) so it must be time for a new Internet of Things consortium or standards initiative. Please welcome the Wireless IOT Forum which is being established with William Webb, President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) as its head. Wireless IoT Forum launches to drive Internet of Things development This blog has already addressed the multitude of standards in the Internet of Things space. In fairness this new grouping aims to bring … Read more…

IBM – $3billion in IoT and Weather Company tie-up

While there is nothing particularly exceptional about an Internet of Things – related announcement, this one is pretty big, at least in dollar terms. IBM has announced this morning that it will create a new Internet of Things business, consolidating its existing activities in its Smarter Planet and Smarter Cities initiatives. The numbers are quite striking – $4 billion to be invested over three years, and 2000 consultants, developers and researchers assigned to it. The key capabilities IBM will bring … Read more…

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – Four years on

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is the book that spawned a movement, and is widely regarded as the start-up manual of choice by would-be tech millionaires. This is the book that popularised the term Minimum Viable Product, introduced the term ‘to pivot’ and espoused the concept of validated learning as the main measure of progress for tech start-ups. However, notwithstanding its success, I feel that Ries’ approach could be a bit more nuanced. Agile software development lends itself very well … Read more…

The battle for the mobile wallet heats up

It was easy to be distracted by the wondrous devices on display at the Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago, with smartphone vendors scrambling over each other with new device launches. However, some of the more significant announcements were not about phones or networks, but about the rapidly-shifting mobile payments landscape. Google shifts gear Google have made two major payments-announcements over the past month or so. First they bought Softcard (formerly called Isis) from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and … Read more…

Wired: Who cares what OS your car runs?

Excellent article on how a new front in the smartphone Operating Systems war – the car. Ford neatly summarises the auto manufacturers’ positions: ““We don’t want the customer to base the choice of a $40,000 car on the $300 phone that they carry in their pocket,” The article however misses the point that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that either Apple or Google will dominate the dashboard – don’t forget that the useful lifetime of a car (13 … Read more…

FT on the state of the Telco Industry

In the first of a number of Mobile World Congress-themed posts, here’s the Financial Time’s take on the state of the telco industry. With the billing relationship being undermined by app stores, customers feeling stronger affinity towards their smartphone vendors and applications, and competition driving down both revenues and quality, it is a tough time. Yet Ericsson’s CEO sees opportunities too: “Ten years ago, they all did the same things. But now carriers have suddenly got a lot of options … Read more…

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