Tag Archives: Future

City as a Service: The Future of Urban Transportation

Model of a smart city resting atop a computer tablet.Anheuser-Busch just made the first ever beer run in a self-driving truck. The truck delivered 51,744 cans of beer from Ft. Collins, CO to Colorado Springs, CO while the driver monitored the trip from the sleeper cab, at least on the Interstate 25 portion of the ride. The historic delivery was made by Otto, the trucking arm of rideshare company Uber, partly to showcase their capabilities and partly to deliver beer. The inaugural run had the full backing and blessings of the state of Colorado.

I have written about autonomous passenger vehicles and recently wrote about the development of flying cars. I wonder how these developments will change the landscape of cities. If in the future we just rent cars by the mile to take us to work and back, where will they go at night? Or will the same car be used at night to take us to the theater? Will there need to be as many cars, since people can share them? How will this change how we live? How we think about car ownership and the role of vehicles in a community could change. Just as we have moved to software as a service for our computing needs, we could soon have city as a service for transportation.

The Next 100

BMW just wrapped up a worldwide series of presentations they called the Iconic Impulses Tour. The final show was two weeks ago in Santa Monica, CA and highlighted their vision for BMW’s next 100 years. In addition to introducing new concept cars from Mini, BMW, and Rolls-Royce they are rolling out their vision of how these cars will fit into a new urban environment. To this end, BMW/Mini has created a venture accelerator called URBAN-X to encourage entrepreneurs to help develop their vision.

URBAN-X

The mission of this new venture is “to catalyze, educate, invest in and advocate for startups who are shaping the future of cities through technology.” I assume they are hoping that future includes vehicles, however they are encouraging forward thinking about all aspects of the urban experience. If you are a successful applicant, you get $60,000 in seed money and access to hosting, legal consultation and proprietary software. You also get a chance to spend three months with business developers and engineers from Mini to help bring your idea to fruition. Some of their recent ventures include Brooklyness which makes an intelligent bike helmet, CTY which creates data analytics products for traffic flow, and Nello which makes keyless entry products though a smartphone app. The application deadline to join the next group of lucky entrepreneurs is November 29th,  details at urban-x.com.

Thoughts

I am impressed that an automobile company is thinking ahead to a time when there are fewer cars and limited private car ownership. I assume that the car companies will own the vehicles and make money through subscription services, like today’s cloud service providers. With this scenario, the city will indeed look different and perhaps we can convert at least some city parking to green space and make other improvements. What ideas do you have for the future cityscape? Perhaps your idea is worthy enough to attract funding from a car company. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Flying Cars: The Future Is Now

Image of bright yellow flying car taxi.As I was driving in congested freeway traffic last weekend I realized that one of the benefits of autonomous or self-driving vehicles is they won’t have to slow down to gawk at accidents. Eliminating that human impulse alone should help smooth traffic flow. I have been thinking so much lately about autonomous vehicles that I was unaware of the development of other new types of cars until a colleague prompted me to take a closer look at flying cars. What I found just might send me to my local airport for flight lessons.

Flying Car School

The first flying car school in North America recently opened in Roosevelt, Utah. Students will learn in the PAL-V Liberty which is produced by Dutch company PAL-V. This particular vehicle can drive on a city street and then go airborne after taxiing down a short road or runway. The company is securing FAA and European approval to introduce the first commercial version in 2018. Flying one will require a full pilot’s license because of the weight of the vehicle. A thrust engine powers the flying car, along with gyro blades that help with lift and to keep it airborne. Once on the ground, the blades and rudder fold up so that it can navigate city streets and highways.

I am not sure of the maximum distance this flying car can travel on one tank of gas, either on the ground or in the air, but I am starting to think about personal applications of this technology. It would be nice to reach a rural site without having to navigate miles of gravel roads. You could also shorten a city commute considerably if you could take off from the road in front of your house and land in front of your office.

Options

Another flying car in testing or limited production is the AeroMobil, based out of the Czech Republic. They have been flying/driving prototypes since 2014 and are close to introducing a production model. Another option is the Terrafugia Transition which is being developed by a private company out of Woburn, MA. The company expects the first production vehicle in 2019. The Transition is described as a folding-wing, two seat, roadable aircraft. Even more exciting is the Terrafugia TF-X, which is billed as a four seat plug-in/hybrid electric flying car with vertical take off and landing capability and computer controlled flight. It is not expected to come to market until 2023 at the earliest.

Infrastructure

I am very excited about the possibility of flying cars in the near future, but there are a lot of infrastructure questions still to be answered. First of all, what classification are they given by the various world flight administrations? Are they airplanes or sport aircraft? Flight certification and licenses are different for each. At what elevation do they fly? Just above the ground or at 1000 feet? Are there particular areas that will be set aside for takeoff and landing, or can you launch anywhere? Will you have to check in with the nearest control tower before leaving for the office? These and many more questions require answers before we can start flying to work. I am hoping that brilliant minds are working on these issues so that the infrastructure is ready when the first cars are launched.

Thoughts

“The Jetsons” and “Back To The Future” have formed my view of the flying car. In both of those depictions, vehicles traveled in lanes in the air, just as we do on the ground. I think we can get more creative than that but it will take a lot of thought to make personal air travel safe and feasible. I am already thinking about the combination of flying cars and autonomous vehicles. That would be the ultimate in efficiency and convenience.

Are we ready for flying cars? They appear to be coming soon to a road or grassy field near you. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Star Trek Technologies: 50 Years Later

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner post as Spock and Captain Kirk in a vintage black and white photo from the Star Trek series.The original Star Trek television series is celebrating its 50th anniversary so I have been thinking about some of the technologies they depicted that have become reality. Unfortunately, we still are not able to beam each other through space, but some of our current devices and applications have already surpassed the imagination of science fiction writers.

Set Phasers to Stun

In the TV series and the movies, characters always carried a phaser, particularly when they were exploring new worlds. This device had different settings and worked presumably by emitting a phased particle beam to either stun, freeze, or kill their opponent. Our equivalent is the taser, which I highlighted in a recent blog on law enforcement technology. It is different in that you need to make physical contact and it will only stun and not kill, except in rare cases. There is news that scientists are working on a real-life phaser, but that may just be wishful thinking from Star Trek fans.

Communicators

This is an area where I think we have surpassed the writers’ imagination. In the original Star Trek television series the characters used a cell phone type device to talk to another person on the ship. Nextel developed something similar in 1996 with their push to talk service over a standard cell phone. In subsequent franchises, the crew needed only to touch the logo on their uniform and they could start communicating. Fast-forward to 2016 when people walk down the street seemingly talking to themselves while communicating with someone not just on the proverbial ship, but possibly in a foreign country. How far we have come from the mythical communicator of 1966.

Telepresence

In the TV shows, the characters could communicate with each other via a telepresence video screen. They could even communicate with alien ships if their systems were compatible. Video communications were fairly foreign in 1966 but I think we now take it for granted. I was fortunate to be part of a pilot for HP’s Halo teleconferencing systems, now part of Polycom. The aim was to create identical rooms so that it appeared that your colleagues in Tokyo were just across the table from you. Now video communications have come to the smart phone through Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or Tango. That means our version of the communicator not only lets us speak to each other but also lets us do full video conferencing. Take that Captain Kirk.

Universal Language Translator

In a large universe it is necessary to be able to translate between many different languages. The crew of the USS Enterprise had a universal language translator they used to communicate with alien cultures. It somehow could translate any language. Our version is a bit more limited in the number of languages and I don’t think it currently translates Vulcan. Voice translator apps for smart phones are still in their infancy but work fairly well for about 50 languages. They feature speech to text or text to speech, and some have the ability to use the camera to capture and translate an image such as a road sign. I am excited about a new earpiece in development from Waverly Labs that allows you to hear and translate a foreign language. They are taking pre-orders now through Indiegogo.

Thoughts

Science fiction series such as Star Trek are a great catalyst for spurring our imagination about technology. An anniversary event is a great opportunity to reflect on our progress. Are there other Star Trek devices that we have already nailed? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Trend Spotting: Keeping Track of the Ever Changing Game

Businessman climbing above the clouds to get a better view of the landscapeI have been thinking lately about the value of trend spotting and the people or groups that provide that service in your organization. To some organizations and industries it is very important and to some it is not even on the radar. Is it important to your organization? Does it need to exist?

By trend spotting, I am referring to the practice of monitoring trends, particularly those that are pertinent to your business or industry. Those may be a demographic shift; an alteration in preferences for one product over another; a change in how people perceive a product or service; a political movement or a response to the shifting political current. All of these things could have an effect on how you do business and the way you sell your product or service, including developing the right product mix. In our connected world, it is easy for demands to suddenly boom or to die out just as easily, and without monitoring those trends, we could either miss a new opportunity or be left holding the bag when demand for our specialty or product dries up.

I have been searching for web sites that could extend my trend spotting abilities and help me to stay abreast of new developments that are important to me. Here are some sites that may be of interest to you as well.

Springwise

Springwise.com, according to their site, is “helped by a network of 17,000 spotters and scans the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering immediate inspiration to entrepreneurial minds.” These spotters are organized into a group through springspotters.com. This is a fascinating concept that I have never considered in the past—anyone can submit a trend or a new business idea that they think is rising, and if their submission is chosen and aired, they are awarded with “cool gifts.” You can either browse their site or become a paying member and follow the trends related to your needs. This is, in essence, crowd sourcing for trends.

Trendwatching

Trendwatching.com is very similar to Springwise. It is a fee-based service that supplies you with trend information targeted specifically to your business and industry. The trends are fed by an organization called happyspotting.com. An interesting fact—contributions to happyspotting are rewarded with points that can be redeemed for gifts. Apparently, it is not about the money anymore, it is about the cool gifts.

What Springwise and Trendspotting are doing is harnessing the power of people around the world who are watching out for new products, new businesses, and new ways of doing things. I do not know what the qualifications are to be a happyspotter or a springspotter, but there must be an algorithm or filter that tries to determine whether this is a random occurrence, the beginning of a trend, or a “tipping point”. To help you stay ahead of the trends, these could be valuable services to you.

Thoughts

Are you a trend spotter? Do you have someone in your organization that is dedicated to that task? Perhaps multiple people each have a piece in their job description? Is it even important to your organization to stay on top of trends? Let me know your thoughts on how important you think this is.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

The Power of Continuing Education

Computer keyboard with Continuing Education keyMy life has been heavily influenced by continuing education. I forgot to go to college at eighteen like everyone else (OK, it was a conscious choice) but still managed to land a good job early on in the high tech industry. It didn’t take me long to realize that I really did need more education in order to not only remain in my position but also to advance. For a number of years I worked full time while pursuing an undergraduate and and then a graduate degree. In the process, I came to appreciate the value of an ongoing education and made a commitment to myself to continue studying beyond my degrees.

The Next Big Thing

I think that we all need to be ready for the next big thing. The only problem is that we don’t always know what the next big thing is. So, how do you prepare when you don’t know what is coming? This is the power of continuing education. Not only does learning improve your ability to better see into the future but it can also prepare for it. In our fast-paced world, it is not easy to keep up on trends or technologies that can and will benefit our business, but keep up we must.

Courses

When was the last time that you took a class to sharpen your skills or to learn a new skill? In addition to academic studies, over the years I have taken courses in cooking, baking, welding, basket weaving, guitar, and scuba diving, among other things. They were all relaxing in that they did not relate to my career in any way, but they also taught me a new skill and sharpened my learning abilities.

Do you need to pick up a certification to be current in your job and in your career? There are classes, both onsite and online that can help you learn that new skill. Perhaps you are thinking of starting a new degree program? That takes a big commitment in terms of time and resources but can open doors that were previously closed to you. If you’re on the threshold, I would encourage you to jump in. It can be a very rewarding experience and lead to future possibilities you had never considered.

Reading

How often do you pick up a book or an e-book? When was the last time you read one? I always have a current book that I am reading, either in preparation for a course or something tied to my other interests. I have always enjoyed reading and I count on the ideas that I glean from this activity to keep me mentally awake and sharpen my critical thinking skills. Be it career-related material or in another field of interest, it is an excellent form of continuous education. If you dropped the habit of reading after your formal education, you should pick up a book and try it again. You will be surprised what you will learn.

Audio

I am in the process of re-listening to a lecture series called “The Great Ideas of Philosophy.” I occasionally get distracted, especially while driving, and I need to listen multiple times. I am fascinated by the history of philosophy and how each set of ideas builds on the thoughts that came before. I can sometimes see and recognize threads of previous thinkers in today’s modern philosophies. I have even thought of pursuing a degree in philosophy so that I can discover that one critical thought that preceded all the others. Although philosophy is a hobby, listening to the lectures helps keep me sharp and open to ideas and new ways of thinking.

Teaching

Do you have a skill that you are willing to teach others? Teaching is a great way to keep learning. In order to teach, you need to make sure you know your topic and continually stay on top of your skills. Plus, the teacher can often learn something from the students. If you are open to new ideas, those inspirations can come when you are not expecting them. If you have the opportunity to teach a skill, even on a volunteer basis, do it. It can be very rewarding and a good way to polish your subject and teaching skills. Two for one!

Thoughts

What do you do to stay current and learn or practice skills? Give me some feedback and inspire me to learn even more.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

 

The Second Machine Age?

Steel robotic android hands holding blue digital earth I have been reading a book recently called The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. In this book, the authors project a future where mankind will work alongside increasingly sophisticated computers and machinery to create a better world. They tell a compelling story about the history of the industrial age leading up to the current technological age and describe our current time as the second machine age.

Others, however, are not so optimistic about our technological trajectory and where it is leading us economically. In 2003, economist Tyler Cowen wrote a book titled Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation in which he argues that technology has been and will continue dividing workers into two classes. Those workers that are proficient with such technology as computers and robotics will thrive, but those who are not will find themselves unemployed or underemployed. In the author’s defense, he does lay out strategies that can help the latter class to join in the prosperity.

My purpose for this blog post is to start a dialogue and hear your thoughts on the pace of technology changes and how they will affect our future and our economic system. Will technology lead us into a bright future or drive us into perennial unemployment?

The Second Half of the Chessboard

In their book, Brynjolfsson and McAfee refer to another publication, The Age of Spiritual Machines. The author, Ray Kurzweil, draws an analogy between the old story of the emperor and the inventor, and our current technology advancement. In the story, the inventor of chess negotiates with the emperor for payment for this new marvel. He asks only one grain of rice that doubles on each square of the chessboard. The emperor readily agrees, thinking that the inventor is indeed a humble man. By the time they reach thirty-two squares, he is up to 4 billion grains of rice. After that, they reach the second half of the chessboard where things get really interesting and will eventually reach 64 quintillion grains of rice.

This story is based on exponential increase, and the analogy is that we are just now entering the second half of the chessboard. If you thought that the pace of technology advancement was furious in the past, hang on for a wild ride in the future.

Thoughts

The questions still remain—will we benefit from technology or will we be run over by it? Will we be driving the bus or be passengers? I believe that it is up to us and how prepared we are. It is going to take work and constant learning to be in the driver’s seat. What do you think? Are you optimistic or are you worried? Can you keep up? Let me know your thoughts by replying to this post. I hope that we can start a conversation and figure this out together.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.