Can technology change lives for the better? Or is it “all about the money?” Is IT used to positively influence our society? Or is its role primarily to help businesses increase revenue and lower costs? Or perhaps, on the 10-year anniversary of Nicholas G. Carr’s infamous HBR article, “IT Doesn’t Matter,” is IT just ubiquitous?
These were thoughts going through my head during a recent dinner party with a few friends when the discussion turned philosophical. Most of us are parents to young children and the lighthearted yet serious dinner chat was about how one’s profession helps make the world a better place for our children to grow up in. To my left I had a medical doctor who also does allergy research. To my right sat an architect who was working on green city planning. They had plenty of inspiring stories to tell. Now, I’m quite proud of my work, but I’ve not often thought of my work as aiding mankind. Helping a telco operator offer better customer service via big data? Yes! Supporting a government agency connect and communicate to citizens via social computing? Check! Enabling a utility company to make the work for their field force easier through a mobile solution? Absolutely! But changing the world??
I love working with disruptive technology and I asked myself, where have we used innovation and technology creativity to really make a difference in the community? Eventually, I remembered our team in France working with Paris hospitals on a solution to be used in reimaging patient care at home (pregnancy, elderly care) with a Windows 8 solution which really focuses on making the nurse/patient relationship natural and “human.” I remembered our work with a global mobile device and services manufacturer on mission-critical public safety, used for example during fires or traffic pileups, where keeping connected and having situational awareness can save lives. I remembered our collaboration with a children’s pediatric oncology research center to fight cancer by using Azure to automate pattern recognition and early detection by improving upload, conversion, analysis, storage and access of medical images. I remembered Osakidetza using a solution for rehabilitation of chronic patients with Kinect as a key device for the interaction between doctors and patients. Technology is used to provide continual care throughout a person’s life, and potentially prevent unnecessary hospitalization, not to mention increase patient autonomy.
I don’t mean to compare the work of a business systems integrator with that of a medical doctor or a police officer, but I fundamentally believe that technology is underpinning more and more of our society and that it has the potential to make for a better society. I’m particularly excited about the transformational potential of the Internet of Things, where “things” have identities and virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within social, environmental, and user contexts. More about this in my next blog post.
You might ask, “What about the rest of the dinner conversation?” By the time I remembered my stories, the discussion had moved onto the latest Star Trek movie, which I’ve not yet had a chance to see….so I took comfort in the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero: “Silence is one of the greatest arts of conversation.”