Contributing to Intelligence Innovation

Below are two ways to contribute to innovation in government, and specifically in intelligence matters. One is for you to consider, the other is a fun new path for me.

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Gartner sees Hype Cycle for Social Software

Fact: Gartner now says that “Web 2.0 software” is falling from its “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and is on its way to a “Trough of Disillusionment.”  However, Gartner finds that wiki software has traversed that path already and is now well on its way up again to mature enterprise acceptance as a valuable productivity tool.

Analysis: Gartner’s just released their 2008 “Hype Cycle” report on Social Software – you know, stuff like public virtual worlds and Web 2.0 tools.

(I don’t know the legality of republishing the actual chart itself, so I’m not including it; I use the Microsoft enteprise license to access Gartner research.  I do note that a Web 2.0 enthusiast from the Netherlands has already posted the new Hype Cycle chart another new and related Hype Cycle chart, on “emerging technologies,” as a Flickr image here. There’s great overlap between the two reports.)

I’ve written before about the usefulness of Gartner analyses; I have to admit that Hype Cycles are my favorites. There’s something about internally debating their judgment calls as your eye travels the path, from pre-adoption “Technology Triggers,” through the bubble-esque “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” and right down into the depths of the “Trough of Disillusionment.” 

If you’re an enterprise IT guy, in a CIO or CTO role or investigating/recommending/approving new technology investments, you really wind up focusing most time on the slow ascending climb to the right of the chart, what Gartner calls the “Slope of Enlightenment.”  Just as in the old days when corporate “data-processing” chiefs lived by the mantra “No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” today’s CIO’s rely on technology that has essentially graduated to Gartner’s “Plateau of Productivity.”

Several other initial observations on the chart:the two Hype Cycle charts:

  • Newest disruptive technology trigger charted: “Erasable Paper Printing Systems,” something being researched by numerous large companies like HP and Microsoft as well as already in startup mode, but pegged by Gartner as still 10 years or more from mainstream adoption
  • Microsoft’s Surface has achieved brand dominance, as Gartner puts “Surface Computers” on the rise in visibility
  • Other key investments of Microsoft Research are validated with positive momentum ascribed to “Mobile Robots,” “Augmented Reality,” and “Green IT,” though only the last one is within 5 years of mature adoption
  • “Cloud Computing” is still on the rise, not having peaked in hype yet, though many would find that hard to believe – with its Time Magazine cover last year, it’s practically reached the point of being satired on The Daily Show
  • “Public Virtual Worlds” are right alongside “Web 2.0” in still heading down toward their disappointment trough
  • Furthest to the right – meaning most mature and enterprise-worthy – is the seemingly venerable “Basic Web Services.”

I really like these reports for a number of reasons – among other things, it looking at them together makes clear the social aspect of a number of more mature technologies (Tablet PC, Electronic Paper) which I favor, and which too often are recognized only for their technical aspects, not the socially enabling and disruptive benefits within and across organizations. 

The Gartner report also allows the blogosphere and twitterverse to step back from the moment-to-moment faddishness of the social software sector, and reflect upon the larger context of the individual technologies.  One measure of health: not a single technology earned the dubious distinction of “Obsolete Before Plateau,” a mark of shame which Gartner regularly applies to technologies that are getting hype but show no longterm promise.

Taken together, the social software space appears robust and very, very interesting.  Get a hold of the full report, it’s worth it.

Note: post updated 8/12/2008 to add references to a second Hype Cycle report on “Emerging Technologies”


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A-SpaceX, Google, and Virtual Tuesday

Yesterday I had a “virtual world vibe” going.  At 5:30 a.m. when my dog Jack woke me up offering to take me for a walk, the first thing I noticed on my mobile was a series of tweets from Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s social software guru, posted the night before.  Twitter is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one is the ability to snatch asynchronous stream-of-consciousness statements, from strangers and friends alike, as they pass by in the microblogosphere conversation.

Chris went on a tear about Second Life, with several hilarious observations and comments within the space of an hour, so here are several from his public Twitter feed:

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Up Late? Innovate.

Here’s some quick thought-provoking advice from Phil McKinney, who runs HP’s Innovation Program Office.  (Phil has his own blog as well, but the advice comes from an interview yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News.)

Q. One of your tips for innovation is to stay up late, because that’s when your filters are down. (The mental filters that rule out wild ideas, which might turn out to be good ones.) Do you still do that?

A. “Oh yeah, it drives my wife crazy. The idea really is to go back to things you’d do before you were successful, before you learned that you’ve always got to be on your guard.”

Man, do I swear by that!  Phil has some other points that I’m less enamored with, mostly because I don’t believe he’s thinking very radically.  His point that in the future we might be data-mining healthcare histories is undercut by the fact that we’re already doing it, as I blogged yesterday

Another less-than-startling prediction: We’ll still be using Second-Life style virtual worlds two decades from now?  Please!  I suppose we’ll also still be changing toner cartridges!!

Check out Phil’s blog, it reflects his innovative thinking better 🙂   But don’t read it till after midnight…

 
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Innovation in Robotics: Government Uses?

Fact: Last week’s Automatica 2008, the big international robotics and automation trade-show, had “over 30,000 trade visitors from around 90 countries,” visiting 900 exhibitors’ booths, according to the conference wrap-up

Analysis: When I spoke recently at an IARPA conference in Orlando, and was asked to give a glimpse into Microsoft’s vision of R&D trends, one of the possibly surprising areas I highlighted was robotics.  We’re making a major push in that area, for reasons that might not be intuitive based on an old-fashioned impression of what Microsoft offers in the government realm.  More on the intelligence community’s potential use below.

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War is Virtual Hell

FACT: According to market research compiled by Microsoft, the global market for Modeling and Simulation (M&S) software/hardware platforms across all industries, including the defense industry, has hit $18 billion per year; the cumulative growth rate is estimated at 9.6% annually.

ANALYSIS:  The lovely wife and I have been lackadaisically house-hunting down in Virginia’s Northern Neck, the Athens of America and the cradle of our democracy. The Neck is the birthplace of George Washington, the Lee brothers (the revolutionary patriots about whom John Adams used the phrase, “This Band of Brothers,” among them Declaration of Independence signers Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, not to mention their later nephew Robert E. Lee), James Monroe, John Ballentine, etc. etc. 

Anyway, recently we toured the historic 1859 house at Braehead, an 18-acre estate actually located within the Civil War battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The house is for sale, and while it’s likely overpriced (like everything else on the market these days) [this observation has been energetically and somewhat persuasively disputed by the listing agent, who read the post], but we enjoyed the tour.  I’ve posted many (too many) photos of our little tour here.  My interest in the house is the historic angle: it’s actually where Robert E. Lee visited and took breakfast on the morning of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, one of his successful efforts against U.S. forces.  Here’s an article about Braehead’s history and historic preservation.

It was in fact at Fredericksburg that Lee spoke the words which would sum up the entire war, nay all wars, as he witnessed thousands of Union soldiers falling in battle to Confederate guns on the hills above the Rappahannock River: “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”  

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IARPA and the Virtual Long Tail

FACT: This week, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, an arm of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), launched its new unclassified website.  What’s there is initially fairly minimal, but they’ll be adding to the public information posted there regularly.

ANALYSIS:  I spent the week in Orlando, as a Keynote speaker at the IARPA “Incisive Analysis Conference.”  I’ll be writing a little more about the conference in the near future, as I saw some great demo’s and spoke to the principal investigators on many excellent and far-sighted advanced research projects sponsored by IARPA.  It was great to be there and to see so many old friends from the intelligence community, the national labs (PNNL, Sandia, Oak Ridge, Livermore), DoD, and innovative commercial R&D outfits.  Also, as the first IARPA conference since the organization’s launch, it was an opportunity to hear new director Lisa Porter communicate her vision and principles, which she did well and I’ll discuss those soon as well.  (She also kidded me about my efforts to make her a cultural phenomenon, but I blamed it on WIRED magazine.)

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