Can technology and open innovation change lives for the better? (Part 2)
- Posted on July 29, 2013
I’m a firm believer in the power of technology and the importance for us, as an industry, to help harness open innovation to build a better society. There are many ways that this can happen. On one end of the spectrum, The Economist recently published a fascinating story about creative usage of mobile phones to combat dengue fever and, more subtly, to fight corruption and improve public official morale.
At the other end of the spectrum, in the United States, the White House’s Office of Science and technology is encouraging usage of innovation by creating a forum for creative minds within and outside government to connect, and work together to spur game-changing open innovation in global development.
I, too, have been involved in supporting this trend. I was recently invited by Peter Temes to participate in a very interesting discussion about open innovation in large organizations at the ILO Institute. I was pleased that Alph Bingham was also in attendance at the session sharing his insights on the topic. As you may already know, Bingham is founder of the Eli Lilly spin-out, InnoCentive, the pioneering global network focused on scientific and technical innovation.
An area which has been talked about for a few years but is finally poised for prime-time is the transformational potential of the Internet of Things. As every computer, every device, every car, every human is getting connected on the same network, our ability to combine and correlate the data to get fascinating insight is growing exponentially. As an example, Eric Gundersen recently demonstrated some thought provoking cultural and social patterns by analyzing open data from billions of geo-tagged tweets.
But this is just the starting point. As “everything” ranging from a loaf of bread to a car tire joins the network, we are starting to see virtual personalities operating in smart spaces using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within smart social, environmental, and user contexts.
As an example, some new roads are being built with hundreds of thousands of sensors being embedded in the asphalt. When connected, these sensors can provide detailed real-time information about traffic and road surface condition. The road would be able to communicate with a car, in near real-time, and “warn” the car about a localized icy patch. The car would be able to use that information, combine it with other factors (such as my speed, my exact location, my driving habits, the exact state of the tires, etc.), communicate with other cars in the vicinity and back with the road, and collectively take the actions needed to reduce the risk of an accident (for example, safely slow the car down and change lanes). This is not science fiction, this is being piloted TODAY and, incidentally, besides from reducing the risk of accidents, this would also provide the road company the opportunity to reinvent its business model, essentially giving them an additional revenue stream as data providers.
As more parties get connected and adopt open innovation practices, the opportunities to make sustainable and affordable improvements in areas such as health, public safety, tourism, energy and water and government administration are fantastic. This is not a trivial journey though, and I’m heartened by the mindset of sharing and increased collaboration that some cities around the world are taking to tackle the problems and opportunities with the help of Microsoft’s CityNext initiative.
Obviously, the questions of personal integrity and data privacy will be important, but as I've mentioned before, the question of having the right innovative and creative mindset to envisage the art of the possible will be equally important. As always, I welcome your own thoughts and reflections on both opportunities and challenges.
We invite you to read Part One of this blog series that looks at disruptive technology and its positive impact on society.