Warrior Augmentation

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable “soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions” is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.

I think the goal of having this be “potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population” is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It’s not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely–these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to “pedal to metal” drive these efforts alone.

Like on the prescient show from the 70’s, The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology…Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”

And I would add healthier and more deadly! πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)

Drone Warfare: Integration At Its Best

Drone Warfare: Integration At Its Best

I learned a lot about Drone Warfare reading and thinking about “The Killing Machines” in The Atlantic by David Bowden.

The benefits of drones for military use are numerous:

– Stealth: Drones can be relatively small (some are now even the size of bugs) and they can survey from vehicles that are aerial, terrestrial, underwater, or I would imagine, even subterranean. In a sense, even a spy satellite is a type of drone, isn’t it?

– Persistent: They can hover unmanned over enemy territory for not only hours, but also days at a time, and switching in replacement drones can create a virtually continuous stream of surveillance for months or years, depending on the need.

– Powerful: The sensors on a drone can include high-definition cameras, eavesdropping devices, radar, infrared, “and a pixel array so dense, that the device can zoom in clearly on objects only inches wide from well over 15,000 feet above.” Further, with features like Gorgon Stare, multiple cameras linked together can view entire cities in one feel swoop.

– Long-range: Drones can function doing reconnaissance or surveillance far away and deep into enemy territory. With drones, no one is too distant or remote as to be untouchable.

– Lethality: Drones can carry missiles such as The Hellfire, a “100-pound antitank missile” and other weapons that can act expediently on information without the need to call in additional support.

– Precise: Drones can hit targets with amazing precision–“It targets indiscriminate killers with exquisite discrimination.”

– Safety: Drones carry out their work unmanned with (or without) controllers stationed at safe distances away–sometimes thousands of miles back at the homeland.

– Expendable: Drones themselves are throwaway. As with a bee, a drone is more or less useless when disconnected from the hive. Similarly, a military “drone is useless as an eyeball disconnected from the brain,” since drones function only as an extension of back-end satellite links, data processors, intelligence analysts, and its controller.”

Overall, the great value of drones is their integration of technologies: vehicles, global telecommunications, optics, sensors, supercomputers, weapon systems, and more.

To me, between the questions of fairness, legality, and privacy–drones are being given a bum rap.

– Fairness: Just because one side has a technology that the other doesn’t, should not mean it’s wrong to use it. This is what competition and evolution is all about. I remember learning in school, when children would complain to the teacher that something was unfair, and the teacher would reply, “life is unfair!” This doesn’t mean we should use a shotgun approach, but rather use what we got, appropriately.

– Legality: Is it legal to kill targets rather than apprehending them, trying them, and otherwise punishing them? This is where sincere deliberations come in on whether someone is a “lawful target” (e.g. enemy combatant), “imminent threat” (e.g. self-defense), whether other alternatives are viable (e.g. collateral damage assessments), and will killing them do more hard than good to foreign relations, influence, and even possibly breeding new hate and terror, rather than quelling it.

– Privacy: The issue of privacy comes less into play with military matters and more with respect to domestic use for law enforcement and other civilian uses (from agriculture to urban planning). The key is protect citizens from being unduly monitored, tracked, and scrutinized–where freedom itself is under big-brother attack and we all become mere drones ourselves in a national hive of complacency and brainless obedience.

Rather than scaling back drones use, I liked Mary Ellen O’Connell vision of new drones “capable of delivering a warning–‘Come out with your hands up!’ and then landing to make an arrest using handcuffs.”

This is the promise of technology to learn from mistakes of the past and always bring possibilities of making things better in the future. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Don McCullough)

The Galaxy S4 Is Crap

The Galaxy S4 Is Crap

Okay, it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.

Reference my blog “How Apple Is Losing Its Fan” dated August 10, 2013.

After testing the Galaxy S4 for the last 5 days, I can honestly say, I was wrong!

I hate the Galaxy device, and am returning it tonight!

Despite a dearth of recent innovation from Apple, their iPhone is SO MUCH better than the Galaxy.

Do NOT listen to the stats comparing them!

The battery on the Galaxy was horrendous, and after never running out of juice on the iPhone, I got a warning message yesterday on the Galaxy that the battery was almost dead after only 8+ hours of use!

Also, syncing it up with my car system was clumsy and annoying compared to the iPhone which did it seamlessly everyday.

Even simply syncing up music, videos, and so on with iTunes required a 3rd party app to facilitate this.

Checking email was a pain as there were separate icons for Gmail and the for all other email (yahoo etc.), so this very basic feature was not consolidated.

The cheap material on the Galaxy, even with the nice case I got, made it feel like the crappy buttons would break anytime.

But most important, the integration of the Apple iPhone ecosystem is so much tighter than on the Galaxy–whereas everything on the iPhone works the first time and every time, the Galaxy is an annoying hit or miss.

Everything on the Galaxy felt to me like more clicks, more annoying messages, less intuitive interface, and like I just wanted to toss it into the trash.

When the lady said she completed my switchback over to the iPhone, I only had one thing to say–thank G-d!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

IT Departments, Here To Stay

IT Departments, Here To Stay

InformationWeek asks “Will IT Departments Disappear By 2020?”

This question comes from Forrester Research which sees the commoditization of IT as eroding the base for the traditional IT function and roles.

As we move to cloud computing–apps and infrastructure, as well as continue the trend for outsourcing IT such as help desk, desk support, and more what will be left for the CIO and his or her team to do?

The article answers this question with another major trend–that of consumerization–“differentiating value and visibility among consumers and employees.”

This is where IT can be highly strategic in serving those needs in the business that are truly unique and that enable them to be high performing and even outperform in the marketplace.

These ideas of commoditization and consumerization are anchored in Lawrence and Lorsch’s business studies of integration and differentiation of organizations, where organizations need to find their ideal state for integration of subsystems–such as through cloud computing, data center integration, and shared services–and for differentiation, where organizations differentiate themselves to address the unique value they bring to their customers.

So even with commoditization of IT and integration of services, the IT function in organizations will not be going away, no more so than HR or Finance functions went away with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.

The CIO and IT function will be able to leverage base enterprise services as commodities, but they will be expected more than ever to focus on and provide strategic solutions for their customers and give their organizations the real technology competitive advantage they are looking for and desperately need.

This is what distinguishes a real CIO–one that provides strategic leadership in being user-centric and coming up with customer-oriented solutions that are not available anyplace else–from those managers that only help to keep the IT lights on.

If you are not differentiating, you are not really engaging–so get out there with your customers and roll up your CIO sleeves. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Great Big Apple Donut

The Great Big Apple Donut

Some people think the new Apple HQs (or Apple Campus 2) looks like a flying saucer or spaceship–to me, it looks like a great big donut. πŸ™‚

In all seriousness though, the planned Apple HQs is so cool–I love it!

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (4 April 2013) has a terrific article about this awesome design project.

Some of the facts about this planned facility:

– Houses 12,000 employees
– Has 4 concentric rings.
– 2.8 million square feet (2/3 the size of the Pentagon)
– 176 acres of trees, including the vast courtyard in the center which will have apricot, olive, and apple orchards.
– 40-foot high walls of concave glass
– 700,000 square feet of solar panels (enough to power 4,000 homes)
– Climate-responsive technology such as window treatments that automatically open and close
– Costs about $5 billion (1.1 billion more than the new World Trade Center)
– Move in expected 2016
– Just 2 entry roads
– 4-story underground garage
– 2 R&D labs
– Fitness center

While some think that this building is vanity, I think it is a work of art, and perfectly suits the innovativeness nature of the company.

Apple’s HQS is a reflection of itself, not just another building. The beautiful, sleek, and high-tech building melds with the company’s design philosophy and vision for great consumer products.

Just like Apple’s unique positioning in being able to integrate hardware and software solutions for their customers, their new HQS is a unification of their physical work environment with their internal vision for themselves as a company and the amazing products they put out.

Unlike some organizations which are foolishly tearing down all their walls and working as if they in sitting in Starbucks, Apple understands how to marry the need for a social and collaborative work environment with a proper and respectful functional space.

Apple’s building will be beautiful and functional just like their computing devices…and they remain true to themselves and us. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Cupertino Government)

The Counterterrorism Calendar

The Counterterrorism Calendar

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) “leads our nations efforts to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort.” The NCTC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Not since the playing cards used in the 2003 Iraqi invasion with the most-wanted identified on the cards have I seen the employ of such a common tool for sharing such important information–until now with the development by the NCTC of a Counterterrorism Calendar.

Typically, pin-up calendars have been devoted to beautiful models, Dilbert cartoons, and areas of personal interests and hobbies–such as cars, sports, aircraft, boats, or whatever.

I was impressed to see this concept used for sharing counterterrorism information; really, this is something that we should be mindful of every day–it’s about our safety and national security.

The counterterrorism calendar has both a website and a PDF download.

The website has an interactive timeline, map, and terrorist profiles–so you can learn about terrorism by time and space and those who commit the atrocities.

Timeline–you can view by month and day the major terrorist acts that have occurred–and many days have more than one terrorist act associated with it–and only seven days out of the whole calendar year have no terrorist acts listed–so for those who are focused on just 9/11, there is a whole calendar waiting for you to view.

Map–the map allows you to see the home base and geographical sphere of influence of many terrorist organizations–17 of them–along with a profile of each of those terrorist groups. There is also a button on the bottom of the page to see all the countries impacted with victims from 9/11–there are 91 countries shown with victims from this single catastrophic event alone.

Terrorists–the site has a list of terrorists with their profiles, identifying information, what they are wanted for, and amount of reward offered, or whether they have already been captured or killed. There is also a list of the 10 most wanted off to the right side of the page–with a rewards of $25 million listed for the #1 spot for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The downloadable calendar has this information in a 160 page color-calendar–with a wealth of information for a calendar format like this–it is so large, I don’t think you could actually hang this calendar because no regular push pins could actually hold it.

So if you can pull yourself away from the stereotypical Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar, then you may actually be able to learn a lot about what our counterterrorism efforts are all about. πŸ˜‰

The Integrated Hat

Even a hat can get a A+ for integration and this one does.Β 

It comes as a nice straw hat with eye slots and a sunglass effect built in–just roll the front lid up and down to adjust the coverage.Β 

Takes a little of its strong look from Batwoman and a lot from the runway models of Fashion Week.Β 

I like it for its creativity and coy looks–not so much for it’s functionality, I am sure.Β 

So Apple may have a lock-up on integration when it comes hardware and software these days, but Kate Spade has it hats-off in the fashion arena.Β Β 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

G-d’s Creation and Man’s Adaptation

Technology_everywhere

I took this photo today at the East View of Sugarloaf Mountain.

This guy is sitting on the rocks towards the summit of the mountain and doing of all things…technology–it’s REALLY everywhere!

He is nestled away in the brush and trees on this rock–off the mountain edge–and is typing away on a laptop computer.

Not what I was expecting in the middle of all this nature, but then again I was guilty of bringing along some of my tech toys too.

And at one point–on this–what felt to me–like a near vertical climb (but it wasn’t)–and standing lopsided on these protruding rocks, all of a sudden my smartphone rings.

“Hello,” I say grabbing onto a branch of a nearby tree.

On the other end, “Yes, the is so and so from Dr. whatever’s office, and your test results came back as this and that…”

No, it wasn’t bad news, thank G-d, but it was just so awkward getting this call up on the this lush mountain and in this way.

I thought for a moment–maybe, I shouldn’t have brought my phone and other technology stuff on the hike–then it would be just me and the beautiful nature–man and mother Earth–alone and as one.

That thought lasted about a full split second–yeah, that’s truly nice–but like Adam in the Garden of Eden without his fig leaf, I feel truly naked–without my technology.

The garden is a lot more inviting when I know the rest of the world is just some personal technology away.

Like the guy reading and working on his laptop nestled on the mountain–maybe what we have is the best of G-d’s creation and man’s adaptation–a beautiful marriage–good for the body and the soul.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Technology Forecast 2013

Technology_forecast_2013_-_and

I am an avid follower of everything technology and trends, but am tired of hearing about cloud, mobile, and social computing.

It’s time to get over it with the agenda of the past and get on with it with the future of technology.

In the attached graph is my Technology Forecast 2013, and here is where I see us going forward:

1) Service Provision–Cost-cutting and consolidation into the cloud is a wonderful idea and it has had it’s time, but the future will follow consumer products, where one flavor does not fit all, and we need to have globalization with a local flavor to provide for distinct customer requirements and service differentiators, as well as classified, proprietary and private systems and information.

2) Service Delivery–Mobile is here and the iPhone is supreme, but the future belongs to those that deliver services not only to remote devices, but in wearable, implantable, and even human augmentation.

3) Human Interaction–Social computing epitomized by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more is a cool way in interact with others virtually, but wall posts, email, and chats are getting cliche–next up conjoining with others with capabilities such as telepathic communication, mind melding collaboration, and even virtual sex for the outlandish.

4) Robotics and Artificial Intelligence–With something like 10,000 drones flying the friendly and not-so friendly skies and even drones that autonomously land on aircraft carriers, the next robot is coming to the ground near you–drones will become (an)droids and will eventually have the AI to become part of our everyday society.

5) Service Assurance–Enough playing defense with a sprinkling of offense against our worst enemies–it’s past time to move from trying to stop-gap infiltrators and do damage control once we’ve been robbed blind, and instead move to a hunter-killer mentality and capability–the price of being a bad boy on the Internet goes way up and happens in realtime.

6) Data Analytics–Big data isn’t a solution, it’s the problem. The solution is not snapshot pretty graphics, but realtime augmented reality–where data is ingrained in everything and transparent realtime–and this becomes part of our moment-by-moment decision processes.

7) Biotechnology–Biometrics sounds real cool–and you get a free palm reading at the same time, but the real game changer here is not reading people’s bio signatures, but in creating new ones–with not only medical cures, but also new bio-technological capabilities.

8) Nanotechnology–Still emerging, quantum mechanics is helping us delve into the mysteries of the universe, with applications for new and advanced materials, but the new buzzword will be nano-dust, where atomic and molecular building blocks can be used on-the-fly to build anything, be anywhere, and then recycled into the next use.

Overall, I see us moving from mass produced, point-to-point solutions to more integrated end-to-end solutions that fit individual needs–whether through continued combinations of hardware, software, and services, man-machine interfaces/integration, and building blocks that can be shaped and reused again and again.

From my perspective, there a seeming lull in innovation, but the next big leap is around the corner.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Hey, Gesture Like This!

This new gesture-recognition technology from Leap Motionis amazing.”For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimension with your natural hand and finger movements.”

The closest yet to get us to the vision in the movie, Minority Report.

“Leap is more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard, and more sensitive than a touchscreen.”

Scroll, pinpoint, pan, play, shoot, design, compose, fly–just about everything you do onscreen, but more in sync with how we generally interact with our environment and each other.

I like when the guy in the video reaches forward and the hands on the screen reach right back at him!

I’d be interested to see how this can be used to replace a keyboard for typing or will it be augmented by a really good voice recognition and natural language processing capability–then we would have an integration of the verbal and non-verbal communications cues.

In the future, add in the ability to read our facial expressions like from a robot and then we may have some real interaction going on mentally and perhaps dare I say it, even emotionally.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (24 May 2012), the Leap is just the size of a “cigarette lighter that contains three tiny cameras inside” and costs just $70–“about half the price of a Kinect.”

The Leap is so sophisticated that it can “track all 10 of a user’s fingers and detect movements of less than one-hundredth of a millimeter.”

At their site, I see you can even preorder these now for estimated shipping at the end of the year.

I think I’ll put this on my holiday gift list. πŸ˜‰