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Announcing three new Gigaom Change 2016 speakers

Join us in Austin for Gigaom Change where we will explore the impact of seven technologies that will change the way you do business forever.

Over an immersive two and a half days, we will cover Artificial Intelligence, Virtual + Augmented Reality, Robotics, Nanotechnology, Cybersecurity, 3D+ Printing, and Human-Machine Interfaces to understand how these technologies are transforming industry, and why this all matters.

Helping bridge the gap between today’s business operations and tomorrow’s demanding expectations, our carefully curated league of 20+ innovative speakers will showcase how business leaders can stop wondering what the future will bring, and instead start building for it.

We’re excited to announce three new speakers added to our lineup for Gigaom Change 2016!

Shane WallAs Chief Technology Officer and Global Head of HP Labs, Shane Wall drives the company’s technology vision and strategy, new business incubation and the overall technical and innovation community. Joining our 3D+ panel, Wall will provide real insights into how 3D printing is going to transform and disrupt manufacturing, supply chains, even whole economies … in other words, how it’s literally going to change the way we live.

Melonee WiseAs CEO of Fetch Robotics — delivering advanced robots for the logistics industry — Melonee Wise is an industry expert who will speak to the state of robotics today and the need + potential for the entire industry to transform to meet demand for faster, more personalized logisitics/ops delivery using “collaborative robotics”.

David RoseTaking a place on the Human-Machine interface panel is David Rose, an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and instructor at the MIT Media Lab. His research focuses on making the physical environment an interface to digital information. David holds patents for photo sharing, interactive TV, ambient information displays, and medical devices. His work has been featured at the MoMA, covered in The New York Times, WIRED, The Economist, and parodied on the Colbert Report.

These speakers join an extraordinary group of 20+ global experts we’re lining up for Gigaom Change 2016 including:

Dr. Heike RielSpeaking on the subject of nanotechnology is Dr. Heike Riel, IBM Fellow & Director Physical Sciences Department, IBM Research. Dr. Riel’s work focuses on advancing the frontiers of information technology through the physical sciences. Her research interests include nanoscale materials and novel device concepts for applications in electronics, optoelectronics, energy harvesting and cognitive computing.

Rodolphe GelinDiscussing the subject of robotics is Rodolphe Gelin, EVP Chief Scientific Officer, Aldebaran. Rodolphe Gelin has worked for decades in the field of robotics, focusing primarily on developing mobile robots for service applications to aid the disabled and elderly. Most notably, he heads the Romeo2 project, a large-scale effort to create a humanoid personal assistant and companion robot.

Mark RolstonAddressing human-machine interface is Mark Rolston, Cofounder & Chief Creative Officer, argodesign. Mark Rolston is a renowned designer who focuses on groundbreaking user experiences and addresses the modern challenge of design beyond the visible artifact – in the realm of behavior, the interaction between human and machine, and other unseen elements.

Jacquelyn Ford Morie Ph.D.Speaking on the subject of virtual & augmented reality is Jacquelyn Ford Morie Ph.D., Founder and CEO of All These Worlds LLC and Founder & CTO of The Augmented Traveler Corp. Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie is widely known for using technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) to deliver meaningful experiences that enrich people’s lives.

Rob HighDiscussing the subject of artificial intelligence is Rob High, IBM Fellow, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of IBM Watson. Rob High has overall responsibility to drive Watson technical strategy and thought leadership. As a key member of the Watson Leadership team, Rob works collaboratively with the Watson engineering, research, and development teams across IBM.

Dr. Michael EdlemanAddressing nanotechnology is Dr. Michael Edelman, Chief Executive Officer of Nanoco. Through his work with Nanoco, Dr. Edelman and his team have developed an innovative technology platform using quantum dots that are set to transform lighting, bio-imaging, and much more. Using real insights and examples, Edleman will share how this technology is currently disrupting entire industries.

Manoj SaxenaOn the artificial intelligence panel, Manoj Saxena, Executive Chairman of CognitiveScale and a founding managing director of The Entrepreneurs’ Fund IV, a $100m seed fund, will address the cognitive computing space; specifically, a new class of machine intelligence powered software that revolutionizing customer engagement, decision-making and productivity via complex, multi-structured Dark Data.

Robert MetcalfeAnd last but not least, our opening night keynote speaker will be internet/ethernet pioneer Robert Metcalfe, Professor of Innovation, Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise at The University of Texas.

Join us and 300+ visionary leaders along with 20+ global experts for the Gigaom Change 2016 Leader’s Summit on September 21-23 in Austin, Texas to explore some of the highly disruptive ways seven key technologies are shifting enterprise business.

Tickets are on sale now! This event will sell out, so get your tickets now.

If you are interested in sharing your work either on the stage or demonstrated in the venue, please contact us asap at change@gigaom.com as we’re finalizing things now.

LogMeIn to acquire GoTo family of products from Citrix

Back in November, Citrix announced that it would spin out the GoTo family of products (see Citrix to spin out Goto products, will cut ‘investment’ in Podio). The company cut 1,000+ employees, and considered various options, under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management Group demanded changes. Today, the other shoe has fallen, with remote access software company LogMeIn announcing that it will acquire the kit-and-kaboodle from Citrix for $1.8 billion.

The deal has been approved by both companies, and will be structured as a ‘reverse Morris Trust’ which is a simultaneous spin out and merger, which will lead to a zero tax hit for Citrix.

The combined company should have revenues of over $1 billion.

It seems that the CEO of LogMeIn, Bill Wagner, believes in the synergies between a remote access software company and collaborative communications like the GoTo family, including GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, GoToMyPC, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar, Grasshopper and OpenVoice. Which, once upon a time, remote access software company Citrix also believed in. But now LogMeIn will be taking another run at that. (Or maybe there’s more synergy between companies that use capital letters to create HardToType company names?)

I think GoToMeeting and its siblings are in a crowded and commoditized market, with real pressure from the low end of the market by Google Hangouts, Join.me, Zoom, and others. I think Citrix has done well to walk away.

Not part of the deal is the somewhat-orphaned work media product, Podio, which is has been folded into the Cloud products at Citrix, like ShareFile. Citrix declared that it was decreasing its investments in that product in November, but not closing it down. In March, development for Podio was moved to Raleigh North Carolina.

Apple services are growing, hardware slowing

Apple posted quarterly results, and received a standing ovation: the stock rose 7% at the opening this morning.

What’s intriguing is that the numbers show lower sales of iPhone (down 15% compared to last year), Mac (down 10.5%), and iPad (down 8.3%). But Apple has pulled off some hand jive, and drawn attention to what may be the future of its growth engine: services.

In the release, Luca Maestri — Apple’s CFO — wrote ‘our Services business grew 19 percent year-over-year and App Store revenue was the highest ever, as our installed base continued to grow and transacting customers hit an all-time record’.

As I mentioned earlier this week (see What’s going on in Phoneland?), the market had already priced in the negatives coming in Apple’s quarterly results. As others — like Chris O’Brien — have pointed out, Apple has done a great job managing the expectations of Wall Street, and drawing the analysts’ attention to the figures Apple wants us to pay attention to. And the trend in services, and the growing margins in iPad sales, are the figures that are causing the stock to soar.

Tim Cook stated that the services side at Apple is on track to be ‘the size of a Fortune 100 company next year’.

So, once again the maturation theme is front and center: Apple’s sales of new hardware is dropping, but with a huge installed base, what can Apple do to make money? Sell — or more aptly, rent — services to all those folks with iPhone, iPads, and Macs. (Oh, and Watches, but that’s too tiny to matter, and might never.) So if Apple can continue to grow services to the installed base — plus get some additional boost in iPhone sales in the fall when new models come out — the company will remain a Wall Street darling.

Relative to enterprise sales, the better margins in iPads has got to be a proxy for increased sales in the enterprise based on the new larger iPad Pro. But, at present, Apple doesn’t have much of a story for enterprise services. Maybe it’s time to the company to revisit the plan to buy Dropbox or Box, and replace/rework iCloud (iCloud Pro?) with a cloud file sync-and-share solution –including a deep integration with Apple’s productivity suite — that makes more sense for the enterprise?

 

What’s going on in Phoneland?

Connecting the dots on some news stories from Phoneland.

First, the CEO of Ericsson has been sacked:

Kim McLaughlin, Ericsson Ousts Vestberg as CEO After Turnaround Plans Stall

Vestberg’s departure caps a turbulent period for Ericsson, which is cutting jobs while battling fierce competition from from Huawei Technologies Co. and Nokia Oyj. The company said last week it would accelerate cost cuts after reporting four straight quarters disappointing revenue and profit. Vestberg has faced questions on probes into alleged corruption in Asia and Europe, and last week the company rejected a report in Swedish media that it may be inflating sales by booking revenue before some clients are invoiced.

As usual, that’s the proximate cause, but the deep structure is that 4G tech has been rolled out worldwide already, and no one’s buying much these days.

With much of the so-called fourth-generation networks already built in the U.S. and China, Vestberg had vowed to improve profitability, but the stock has declined since reaching a more than seven-year high in April last year.

Vestberg had carved out new business units targeting media and enterprise customers to get back to growth, while investing in a next generation of so-called 5G wireless technology, which represents the next wave of spending at Ericsson’s telecom carrier customers. However, he refrained from big, dramatic moves like Nokia’s purchase of Alcatel-Lucent SA, opting instead for a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. for Internet products like routers.

So, he’s out for thinking small bore, and we’re seeing the hiccups from the 4G/5G transition in Phoneland.

Second story: Steven Russolillo says that Apple is ripe for a Rally, despite the fact that market watchers are negative on the giant:

Much of the bearish thesis is due to weakening iPhone sales, which account for more than half of revenue. The iPad isn’t selling as well as it used to and the jury is out on the Apple Watch. Tech investors are allergic to anemic growth, which explains why the tech-heavy Nasdaq has lagged behind the Dow industrials and S&P 500.

Still, Apple has been punished more than enough. The iPhone slump appears priced in. And while the next iPhone, expected later this year, likely won’t be a significant upgrade, there is optimism that sales growth will soon bounce back. Analysts forecast iPhone unit sales will rise 5% for fiscal 2017, which ends next September.

The real question is not about stock price (or profits, either, with $10.52 billion in the March quarter), but about consumer buying behavior. Will we have to wait for a new mobile device — like AR/VR goggles? — before there is another huge surge in consumer demand for mobile? Watches aren’t the future, but goggles will be, I bet. Not a 2016 trend, though. Maybe 2017?

The third and last data point for today: Aaron Pressman digs into AT&T’s efforts to convince Wall Street its wireless business is healthy. His argument reviews the standard argument that postpaid subscribers — the ones signed up for monthly accounts — are generally considered to be better sources of reliable revenue than prepaid subscribers, who generally ‘spend less for service, buy cheaper phones, and tend to defect to other carriers more frequently’.

The bottom line is that so far this year, AT&T’s postpaid subscribers grew only 1% while prepaid subscriptions increased 21%. That’s disturbing to Wall Street, based on the ruling assumption that postpaid customers are preferable.

Thus, Stephens has been trying to push some new math on the analysts. In essence, his argument is that the best customers in prepaid are actually a lot better—and more profitable—than the worst customers in postpaid.

The average service revenue AT&T collected from postpaid customers who have left—and who mostly had not upgraded to smartphones yet—was only $35, he said during a conference call with analysts on Thursday afternoon. But the new prepaid customers signing up with Cricket are bringing in “closer to a $41, $42” of average revenue. Additionally, it costs less to acquire a new prepaid customer and less to provide them with customer service, he noted.

“So from that standpoint, the economics are better, and it is being shown in our margins,” Stephens told analysts, pointing out that while total wireless revenue was down slightly, profit margins were at record highs.

So AT&T has landed in a different dimension, where the economics are reversed, with T-Mobile and others screwing up the numbers for postpaid, while the supposedly poor prepaid sector looks good. However, this may be only true for a short transient period.

And the back office transitions around cable and internet, suggest other churn as the world is turning:

The telco is shedding expensive-to-maintain cable TV customers at its U-Verse unit while adding less costly satellite TV customers for DirecTV. AT&T is dropping broadband Internet customers who connect via older DSL lines while trying to add fiber optic broadband customers. And it’s trying to move corporate customers from traditional managed networks to cheaper virtualized networks. If all of the transitions succeed, both revenue and profits should grow.

Putting all the dots together? The consolidation in Phoneland is accelerating. Old technology is maturing, while new technologies and business models are only slowly emerging, which is leading to the downdraft at Ericsson, and financial analyst disdain for Apple and AT&T. The slowing rate of purchasing — by telcos and consumers, both — is leading to consolidation, the classic market maturation that comes right before a new era of breakthroughs and growth. But those breakthroughs won’t be in 2016.

Rob High talks Artificial Intelligence with Gigaom

Rob High

Rob High is an IBM Fellow, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, IBM Watson. He has overall responsibility to drive Watson technical strategy and thought leadership. As a key member of the Watson Leadership team, Rob works collaboratively with the Watson engineering, research, and development teams across IBM.

Rob High will be speaking on the subject of artificial intelligence at Gigaom Change Leaders Summit in Austin, September 21-23rd. In anticipation of that, I caught up with him to ask a few questions about AI and it’s potential impact on the business world.

Byron Reese: Do you feel like we are on the path to building an AGI and if so, when do you think we will see it?

Rob High: Cognitive technologies, like Watson, apply reasoning techniques to domain-specific problems in things like Healthcare, Finance, Education, and Legal — anywhere there is an overwhelming amount of information that, if processed, can substantially improve the decisions or outcomes in that domain. For example, the work we’ve done with Oncologists to help them identify the most appropriate treatments for their cancer patients is based on having assessed what makes the patient unique; standard of care practices and clinical expertise that has been used to train the system; and the available clinical literature that can help doctors make better decisions. This helps to democratize that expertise to a wide swath of other doctors who do not have the benefit of having seen the thousands of patients that major cancer centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering or MD Anderson see.

The types of artificial intelligence used in these systems are spectacular in that they are able draw inferences from literature written in natural language, and to be taught how to interpret the meaning in that language as it applies to bringing the right information at the right time to the doctor’s fingertips. Unlike Artificial General Intelligence, our goal is to amplify human cognition — not to do our thinking for us, but to do the necessary research so that we can do our thinking better.

What do you make of all of the angst and concern being talked about in terms of why we should perhaps fear the AGI?

The concept of a machine-dominated world is inspired more by Hollywood and science fiction writers rather than technologists and AI researchers. IBM has been firmly committed to responsible science and ethical best practices for over a hundred years – it’s embedded in our DNA. Our focus is on applying cognitive computing to amplifying human cognitive processes, not on replacing them.

The reality is AI and cognitive technologies will help mankind better understand our world and make more informed decisions. Cognitive computing will always serve to bolster, not replace, human decision-making, working side-by-side with humans to accelerate and improve our ability to act with confidence and authority. The industries where Watson is being applied today – healthcare, law, financial services, oil & gas – exist to benefit people working in those industries.

For example, Watson augments a doctor’s abilities by aggregating and producing the best available information to inform medical decisions and democratizing expertise. But it’s the human doctor who takes the information Watson produces and combines it with their own knowledge of a patient and the complex issues associated with each diagnosis. Ultimately, the doctor makes the recommendation, informed by Watson, and the patient makes the decision – so there will always be a complementary relationship between human and machine.

Do you think computers can or will become conscious?

Today, we are making significant advances in integrating embodied cognition into robotics through Watson and that remains a primary focus. Our technology currently allows robots to – like humans – show expression, understand the nuances of certain interactions and respond appropriately. There’s still a need to teach robots certain skills, like the skill of movement, the skill of seeing, the skill of recognizing the difference between a pot of potatoes that are boiling versus a pot of potatoes that are boiling over.

However, we do believe that we’re only in the first few years of a computing era that will last for decades to come. We are currently assessing what’s doable, what’s useful and what will have economic interest in the future.

Great. We’ll leave it there. Thank you for taking the time to talk today.

Rob High will be speaking on the subject of artificial intelligence at Gigaom Change Leaders Summit in Austin, September 21-23rd.

Slack invests in ecosystem of bot companies

Slack has announced $2 million in funding for bot startups in its Slack Fund, that has been passed out to 11 new companies and 3 existing investments. The list, as reported by Techcrunch:

Abacus is intelligent expense reporting software that brings report creation and approvals right into Slack.

Automat is making it easier for anyone to build a bot that passes the Turing Test. Automat is in private beta today.

Birdly connects Slack and Salesforce so that anyone can access the information they need about a given account.

Butter.ai is a personal assistant that makes all of your company knowledge easily accessible. Butter is in private beta.

Candor, Inc. aims to improve working relationships through radically candid feedback. Candor’s Slack app is not generally available yet today.

Growbot lets you encourage and commend your teammates for a job well done with a helpful bot.

Konsus gets you 24/7 access to on-demand freelancers to help you get the job done, all via Slack.

Lattice helps you establish goals, OKRs weekly check-in and continuous feedback with your Slack team.

Myra Labs helps you build amazing bots with an API that provides machine learning modules out of the box. Myra is in private beta.

Sudo is a bot that manages your CRM, taking all of the pain of manual data entry away from the sales rep. Sudo is in private beta.

Wade & Wendy are two intelligent recruiting assistants. Wade is a career advocate who helps find you opportunities and Wendy helps recruiting teams to source candidates. Wade and Wendy aren’t live yet, but you can sign up for their waitlist.

Previously funded

Awesome.ai helps team stay in sync, find clarity and reflect on what’s important.

Begin is a bot that helps improve your focus and efficiency, keeping you on top of all of your work.

Howdy is a friendly, trainable bot that powers teams by automating common tasks.

Bots are a very hot area right now, part of a growing trend toward contextual conversation in enterprise work technologies (see Contextual conversation: Work chat will dominate collaboration) and in the consumer sector, in open messaging apps.

I will be developing a report on Chat, Bots, and the Future of Work Communications in the fall, based on research launching soon. This trend interacts with the rise of AI, and spoken communications, and even the rise of augmented and virtual reality.

GigaOm Research on Blockchain and Healthcare, IoT, Insurance and Beyond

https://ben554.typeform.com/to/MBD5sV (click to contact GigaOm regarding participation in our research)

There is a tremendous amount of growing interest in blockchain in recent months and GigaOm is currently exploring the business implications of this trend across a number of verticals. While most of the current activity is in the finance or fintech sector, there is growing interest in blockchain’s impact on the IoT, healthcare, sharing economy and beyond. Smart contracts, pseudonymous identity management, transparency and cryptographic security are features that have applications well beyond banking. The most obvious use case of distributed, cryptographic ledger data systems in finance is to make more efficient clearing mechanisms for financial transactions. Securities and banking transactions depend on clearninghouses that can authenticate users on each end of a transaction and enable the transfer of funds or completion of the transaction, but this takes up to three days in most cases. Blockchain transactions can automate this type of transaction and cut out the costs of the middlemen who currently handle the bulk of global financial transactions. A great deal of startup activity in the fintech arena is focusing on mobile money and remittances as well as large collaborative intiatives with the largest banks to build private blockchains (or permissioned blockchains) that are closed networks rather than the standard open or public blockchain. With the growth in prevalence of security breaches across the economy, it is no wonder that many other verticals are beginning to pay close attention to developments in blockchain and how it can be used to improve data management, transparency and certifying provenance of goods or that they are not counterfeit, and address the challenges of un-interoperable technology systems. Furthermore, at GigaOm we are looking at new business models that blockchain is going to enable in the coming years.

We are currently taking a close look at healthcare, insurance and the IoT as the next generation of blockchain startups and applications beyond finance. Healthcare is rife with interoperability challenges that stand in the way of coordinating patient care, patient safety and very onerous administrative costs or waste. Companies such as Gem, a blockchain startup, are heavily focused on data management systems using blockchain that can connect diverse datasets across the silos as well as guarantee authenticity of data. The blockchain can be used to create a type of universal record with a timestamp, a library that enables data retrieval across diverse databases. This will become exceedingly valuable as precision medicine and the explosion of sensors, wearables and mHealth apps proceeds. The current health systems and the legacy health IT players quite simply are not well designed to manage the volume and types of data that are being generated today. This stands in the way of realizing the goals of precision medicine in a scalable, pragmatic manner anytime soon. Blockchain and APIs may enable a post-EHR layer of applications to enhance the functionality of current EHRs and make care coordination and population health management much easier to accomplish but this will take several years to become mainstream.

IBM and others major IT vendors are collaborating with the Linux Foundation around the open source Hyperledger Project to accelerate innovation in the blockchain arena. Much of this is driven by growth in the internet of things (IoT) and the need to manage data and services across devices in this ecosystem. Smart contracts can enable micro-payments for services rendered by IoT devices or those monitored by sensors. The security concerns that the IoT raises are also important features of blockchain data management. Alternative versions of blockchain applications such as Tangle are being developed to bring the cloud closer to the devices powering the IoT. New business models are utilizing smart contracts in the context of micro-grids and solar power to enable P2P sharing of energy and payment systems.

More authentic sharing economies may emerge at the nexus of blockchain and insurance. If efficiencies can be realized to authenticate users and incidents, these may enable new forms of insurance for users of AirBnB as one example, but entirely new forms of insurance that involve crowdfunding and matching funding with needs much in the way that Uber and AirBnB do with taxis and apartments. We are also beginning to see microloans of insurance. The authentication and provenance functionalities of blockchain will have robust use cases in mitigating insurance fraud. In healthcare alone Medicare fraud is a major source of lost revenue for the public sector and source of waste.

GigaOm is conducting original research into this rapidly changing space and are looking for companies to work collaboratively on this syndicated report with us that explores the innovative use cases of blockchain. If your company has a strong interest in this work and would like to share your insights or actual applications we would be happy to discuss collaboration in the coming weeks.

For information on how to collaborate in our research click: https://ben554.typeform.com/to/MBD5sV

Ran Zilca on Millennials Think About Work Too Much

Ran Zilca of Happify ran a study on Millennials that reveals them to be work-obsessed, bed-loving, and irreligious [emphasis mine].

When asked what they are grateful for, people typically respond with the things they personally recognize as important — what they appreciate and value. Gratitude text can therefore provide a glimpse into the fundamental life priorities of individuals. In our study, 276,296 Happify users (30.7% of them in the age range of 25–34) responded to a gratitude exercise where they were asked to “jot down three things that happened today or yesterday that made you feel grateful.” Users were directed to think of a broad range of possibilities: “It could be something someone did for you, something you did for yourself, or just the simple fact that the sun was shining.”

Across all ages, the most common topics were related to “spending quality time with family and friends.” Yet the topics for which Millennials specifically expressed the most gratitude were different: “positive interactions with colleagues,” “having a low-stress commute,” “getting a new job,” “being satisfied with an existing job,” “sleeping,” and “relaxing in bed.”

Four out of these six topics were career related and had to do with the process of finding a job or with daily work experiences, and the remaining two topics were related to time spent in bed. Since the gratitude question specifically asked about things that happened today or yesterday, we can fairly confidently say that the unique things characterizing positive Millennial experiences take place at work or in bed.

The two topics of gratitude that were far less common for Millennials were “religious events,” a positive event that happened at church or a church event like singing in the choir, and “friends and family,” a topic that was among the most common for users of other ages.

Millennials are career-wacked drones that apparently live to work and sleep, and they lack the grounding of sociality and spirituality, alas.


Originally published at www.stoweboyd.com.

Dr. Michael Edelman talks quantum dots with Gigaom

Michael Edelman

Dr. Michael Edelman joined Nanoco in 2004, led the initial fund–raising and spun Nanoco out of the University of Manchester. Prior to Nanoco, Michael held a number of executive roles including responsibility for licensing the technology developed by GE/Bayer joint venture, Exatec LLP, Vice President and Managing Director at yet2.com , Commercial Director at Colloids Ltd and Business Manager at Brunner Mond & Co ltd., Michael started his career with ICI, has a Ph.D. in organo–metallic chemistry from the University of Sussex, UK, and undergraduate degree in classics and chemistry from Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.

Dr. Michael Edelman will be speaking at Gigaom Change Leaders Summit in Austin, September 21-23rd. In anticipation of that, I caught up with him to ask a few questions.

Byron Reese: Tell me the first time you ever heard about Nanotechnology?

Dr. Michael Edelman: Oh gosh, probably in the late eighties. And in the late eighties, we weren’t really calling it nanotechnology then, we were calling it colloidal chemistry, which is chemistry on a very small scale and then the nano name took off. Nanotechnology has been around for thousands of years, starting off with some of the early pigments and dyes used by Greeks and Romans to paint pots. So it’s not a new concept, chemists, physicists have been working on these sorts of technologies for a very very long time, and typically what we mean by nanotechnology is materials, things under 75 to 100 nanometers. You are looking at working with sizes 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. So pretty small.

Wow us a little bit with some of the science fictiony things we may live to see that nano is going to enable.

With Nanoco, my company, we play in the area of florescent semi-conductors called quantum dots. What’s unique about these materials and nanomaterials in general, is that they start to behave in weird and wonderful ways when they get very small.

And the amazing thing that our materials do is they fluoresce, they give off very, very bright, different colored light; red, green, blue, orange, yellow, whatever color you want. And that color is strictly dependent on the size of the nanocrystal. We are manufacturing these nanocrystals with a diameter between one and ten nanometers which is ten to one hundred atoms across.

We accurately manufacture these materials, growing these crystals of one, two, three, five, seven nanometers. It would be as if you had a very tiny golf ball with a diameter of one nanometer, and you expanded it. The chemical makeup is the same, but the mass is changing and this changes the electronic properties, which in turn changes the optical properties or color of light emitted.

When you have a material that lights up very brightly with only tiny amounts of energy, people start getting excited. We can bind specific anti-bodies to the quantum dots and use them to more accurately image and diagnose cancer. They absorb energy so they can also be used very effectively as new generations of solar cells.

So the ‘wow factor’ for the materials, these quantum dots, is that it’s a true platform technology that can be used across a number of different and unrelated end use applications from cancer imaging to next generation displays.

I get excited because it is very infrequent that you see a true platform technology. It is a word that is overused today. People talk about platform technologies all the time, but when you see a material that actually can be used in a number of unrelated sectors its tremendous.

Dr Nigel Pickett, our CTO and co-founder and I started Nanoco in the UK, in a converted men’s bathroom at the University of Manchester and have grown very successfully since then.

So you’ve actually expanded into the woman’s bathroom at this point?

[laughing] We’re actually much bigger. HP started in a garage and we started in the toilet.

Well you’ve got no place to go but up from there.

Well it was a big toilet.

In what sense are quantum dots quantum?

Because you get what we call a ‘sized quantization effect’ which is where the electronic properties of the semiconductor materials are changed, meaning the band gap of the material can be altered by changing the size. That is the quantum effect.

And how will they be used in quantum computing?

Our main focus today for these materials is on things that require enhanced color, so as a company we are not working on quantum computing. The folks working on quantum computing, using more traditional semiconductor technology, use molecular beam epitaxy to grow these quantum dots on wafers. That is the area that’s focused on the quantum computing.

We are essentially chemists and we are making these quantum dots in chemical reactors. In essence we are high-tech cooks, we add ingredients, we stir those ingredients and we heat them. How we do it is fairly sophisticated but the advantage of this is that the finished product is very cost effective to make, so we can apply these onto TVs today. Those TVs are at a price point that you and I can buy. Whereas quantum computing today is not there yet.

So where are you from a commercial standpoint with your technology?

The technology right now is getting launched into the marketplace. The Company has signed a number of deals, and probably [the one] that we’re known for is with Dow Chemical. Dow has built a large facility in South Korea to service the display industry, mainly the Korean TV giants. And the first products coming online are products from Samsung. You can go to Best Buy today and buy a new Samsung TV with enhanced color that comes from quantum dot technology. The first market to take off is the display market, and in the display market the first products are the high end color enhanced 4K displays. We are talking about LCD TV’s and LCD is the predominant display technology out there with about 240 million LCD TVs being sold each year. We’re helping the LCD technology, which has been around for a number of years, evolve and continue to get better.

Likewise, for lighting systems we have developed some products that we launched earlier in the year into horticultural lighting. What we’re doing is tuning the LED light with the quantum dots, so the light emits specific wavelengths that promote specific plant growth.

Looking forward in the next two or three years, what are some breakthroughs our readers should just keep an eye out for in the news?

The televisions are here now, they are getting rolled out and you are going to see a lot more of them. [Also] light and different types of light sources using quantum dots are here and you are going to see more quantum dot based lighting.

What I am excited about, if I look three to five years down the road, is the use of these materials in biological imaging and life science applications. Because our materials are all heavy metal free, [they can be used in the body] to very accurately image and diagnose cancer at an early stage, at a very sensitive level. You can tag specific anti-bodies onto these quantum dots of whatever color, and manipulate the size so they can get through the cell walls. Then they can bind specifically to a cancer that you are targeting. This, to me, is amazing.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to discussing this further in September.

Michael Edelman will be speaking on the subject of nanotechnology at Gigaom Change Leaders Summit in Austin, September 21-23rd.

Review: SmartDraw Helps to Tame Wild IoT Networks

With the rabid adoption of IoT (Internet of Things) devices across the enterprise and the ensuing infrastructure changes, comes unmitigated complexity. Many network managers, let alone their superiors and subordinates, are having difficulty wrapping their heads around the inherent complexity of the modern, IoT-enabled, network.

San Diego based SmartDraw Software has heard the cries of the IoT besieged and has built a tool that brings simplicity to the diagramming process. What’s more, the company has introduced SmartDraw Cloud as a companion product (or alternative) to the company’s desktop based SmartDraw 2016 Business Edition.

Simply put, network diagrams, org charts, office layouts, floorplans, decision matrices and flow charts are the fodder of business and excel at serving as a visual representation of conceptual ideas, which go a long way towards getting buy-in on most any project. The importance of bringing simple understanding to complex infrastructures becomes obvious when you realize that some decision makers need to see it to believe it.

SmartDraw’s goal with SmartDraw Cloud is to empower those that must explain. SmartDraw Cloud brings a new paradigm to the diagramming market, something akin to “diagramming as a service” and, at only $12.95 per month, ithas become a budget friendly alternative to expensive tools such as Microsoft Visio. As a cloud offering, the product brings the full feature set of SmartDraw 2016 Business Edition to more than just the traditional Windows desktop. SmartDraw Cloud runs on OSX, IOS, Android, Linux and pretty much any OS that can launch a modern browser, such as Edge, IE 10+, Safari, Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

Hands on with SmartDraw Cloud:

Beyond the aforementioned IoT and network diagramming capabilities, there are literally thousands of different use cases for SmartDraw. The product offers 70 different categories of drawings, with some 4,500 templates and 34,000 symbols to help users get started. SmartDraw Cloud gives most anyone the ability to draw most anything. That said, the product really shines when it comes to diagramming complex concepts. For those in the world of IT, SmartDraw can become an indispensable companion for building network diagrams, IoT maps, flow charts, and decision trees,  all of which are used extensively by the majority of tech savvy businesses.

Getting Started:

Diving into SmartDraw first takes making a decision, which basically comes down to choosing what iteration of the product to use. However, there is one caveat, if you purchase the $297 Windows version of SmartDraw 2016 Business edition, you will automatically get a full year of the Cloud service as well. With that in mind, it may make the most sense to start out with the cloud-based offering and then decide if a desktop version is warranted. Either way, SmartDraw does offer a 7-day free trial of the product for those investigating its capabilities.

Using the cloud iteration of SmartDraw proves to be a very simple process, it just takes logging into the cloud app at https://cloud.smartdraw.com, and the user is presented with the GUI, which is almost indistinguishable from the desktop version of the product. That means users can switch back and forth from the desktop and cloud version with relative ease. All of the menus, icons, templates and other elements are virtually identical between the cloud and desktop iterations of the product.

Creating a Networking / IoT Diagram:

The GUI makes creating any diagram amazingly simple. For example, creating a network diagram means navigating down to the Network Design document menu and then choosing the type of network diagram desired (Network or Rack). Fifteen example network diagrams are also offered, giving a neophyte user a head start on building a new network diagram.

For this example, I chose the Enterprise Network template, which then launched another browser window with the diagram editing screen and a sample network design, fully populated with symbols and connections. The design GUI offers a variety of tools, making it easy to change any element on the screen, add effects, create text and so forth. A tabbed interface on the left allows users to choose device images from a “SmartPanel” which supports full drag-and-drop capabilities.

Drag and drop is something not normally found in a browser-based application. Thousands of symbols are available, including all different types of PCs, routers, switches, firewalls, servers and so forth. The GUI also includes a handy tool, which allows a user to search for symbols, allowing normally unrelated symbols to be added to a diagram being created, such as a landscape element like a lamppost or a tree being added to a diagram for IoT networking equipment to indicate where a sensor, IP/WiFi security camera or other device is located. Just by using the drag and drop capabilities, along with symbols from the libraries, an informative network diagram can be completed in just minutes.

All symbols contained within the diagram can be linked, grouped, have text added to, resized, and even have hyperlinks to other diagrams associated with them. Line drawing proves very easy, where by selecting the line tool, lines can be connected between symbols.

Once the diagram is ready, it can be shared with others by simply clicking the share icon. The diagram can be shared as a view only element (which does not require the recipients to have SmartDraw) and is fully viewable in any browser. If the diagram is shared with a “View and Edit” status, recipients can modify and re-share the diagram. Sharing is accomplished using an emailed link to the diagram.

Creating a Flowchart:

Flowcharts are often the primary fodder behind any type of business process, especially those that involve IT operations. Here, SmartDraw excels in its ability to quickly create flowcharts that have logical progressions and incorporate the Boolean logic that can drive decisions. The product comes prepopulated with flowchart templates, as well as examples that speed design, allowing those creating the charts to focus on critical logic and not the mechanics of graphical design. That said, users can still create attractive, professional-looking flowcharts that are easy to modify and expand as time goes on or processes change.

For example, starting a flowchart based upon the flowcharting template consists of little more than selecting the appropriate visual objects and then adding instructions or text. The product’s “SmartPanel” provides numerous visual examples, along with relevant descriptions, which are easy to select, use and understand. Flowcharts can be built in a matter of minutes and delivered to those looking to achieve the given result. SmartDraw’s real strength here comes in the forms of ease of use and speed, trumping competing products by allowing users to build a flowchart in a matter of minutes, instead of the hours it normally takes using other tools.

Visualizing Data: 

SmartDraw also includes the ability to quickly create infographics. Here, the product is loaded with templates and charts that can enable a user to build an infographic for most any situation. Population templates, process/cycle infographic templates, World Data Map templates, and dozens of others are readily available, allowing users to simple plug in collected data and create a professional looking graphical representation of that data.

The product also bundles in several charts, which can be inserted in diagrams. Those charts include the basics, such as bar charts, pie charts and so forth, as well as more advance 3D charts, which give a little more life to the pedestrian data that network managers may be reporting on. Most notable for the IT management realm is the “Relative Value Chart”, which makes it much easier to visualize cost comparisons when calculating critical IT budget elements, such as ROI and TCO. Timeline, Spheres, and Venn infographics are well represented by the GUI, making it a simple chore of selecting what graphic a user needs to use and then just populating the data.

Engineering and CAD:

While SmartDraw makes no boisterous claims that the product can replace multi-thousand-dollar design packages, such as AutoCAD, MATLAB and others, the product sure goes a long way towards covering the basics by providing several engineering templates that can be used to create electrical wiring diagrams, industrial automation designs, and even architectural blueprints. Users can quickly layout floor plans, office buildings, circuit panels and several other CAD/CAM type diagrams with relative ease. The included tools and wizards take a lot of the guesswork out of what are normally complex designs and can expand IT’s ability to be part of the design process. What’s more, a short learning curve and ample integrated help makes what may seem at first impossible, an achievable goal for individuals without any prior CAD/CAM experience.

But Wait, There’s More:

At the risk of sounding like a late night infomercial, there is much more to SmartDraw than the above examples. The product includes templates and examples to build cause & effect diagrams, decision trees, emergency & disaster planning diagrams, flyers & certificates, forms, project management charts, mind maps, org charts, process documentation, schedules, strategic plans and much more.

However, the products core strength lies with more than just countless charts, templates and graphical design tools. The real strength comes from the ease of use associated with created those complicated visual representations. A chore that was once only in the realm of professional graphic artists, that could take days or even weeks to deliver attractive visual representations of complex data sets.

One would be remiss if they did not mention SmartDraw’s primary competitor, Visio. SmartDraw offers several advantages over Visio, starting with the availability of SmartDraw Cloud and ending with ease of use. In between those two comparative bookends lies features such as the ability to share diagrams with others (who lack any type of diagramming package) and the automation that SmartDraw offers in the form of intelligently connected objects. For those comparison shopping, SmartDraw offers the Visio Filter, which imports native Visio drawings into SmartDraw, without losing any content, making it easy to play around with SmartDraw’s feature set, without having to recreate Visio drawings from scratch.

Once you add the cloud-based version of SmartDraw to the mix, you wind up with a real winner, at least when it comes to visualizing most anything you can imagine. For a visual tour of SmartDraw’s capabilities, please visit this companion slideshow over at eWeek.