FEATURED STORY

To create the future we want, we need more moonshots

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Tim O'Reilly and Astro Teller talk about technology and society, and the importance of moonshots.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

In this week’s Radar Podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly sits down with Google X’s Astro Teller. Their wide-ranging conversation covers moonshots, the relationship between technology and society, the learning process for hardware, and more. What follows are some snippets of their conversation to whet your appetite — you can listen to the entire interview in the SoundCloud player below, or download the podcast through Stitcher, TuneIn, or iTunes.

Technology doesn’t create net losses for the economy

Tim O’Reilly: The policy makers, I think, need to stop talking about creating jobs and start talking about the work we need to do in the world, because if you do that work, you do create jobs. I was struck by this when I went to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. He was really into scientific agriculture, as was Thomas Jefferson. He had this vision that America could feed the world. There was that economic vision: there is something that needs doing. One of the things I love about Google X is it’s driven by solving problems, and those problems actually often do create new opportunities for work.

Astro Teller: I completely agree with you about the problems. In addition, when you look at the history of technology — its introduction, and what happened in society afterword — technology has functioned in every case in the past as a lever for the human mind or for the human body. Things like the introduction of spreadsheets destroyed the business, the profession of bookkeeping — but because we trained people, we as society trained people, they became accountants, they became analysts. As many jobs as were lost were created, and more work, more productivity was created in the process. The bulldozer took away, in a very analogous way, a lot of jobs from people who were digging with shovels, but because we trained them to do things like build the bulldozers, drive the bulldozers, maintain the bulldozers, it wasn’t a net loss for the economy.

I believe that the failure mode we are currently in, to the extent that there’s a failure mode, is not the introduction of new technologies but the failure of our society to train the young people of the world so that they will be prepared to use these more and more sophisticated levers.

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“Internet of Things” is a temporary term

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Pilgrim Beart on the scale, challenges, and opportunities of the IoT.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

In this week’s Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chatted with Pilgrim Beart about co-founding his company, AlertMe, and about why the scale of the Internet of Things creates as many challenges as it does opportunities. He also talked about the “gnarly problems” emerging from consumer wants and behaviors.

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Smart building: Building bridges between IT and facilities

Building organizational bridges across the enterprise is critical to ensure successful IoT deployments.

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With the proliferation of IoT-enabled systems and devices across the physical environment, the IoT is already embedded in the enterprise, often deep inside the industrial infrastructure. Generating terabytes of data, sensor-laden objects — lighting, HVAC systems, thermostats, beacons, and others — justify their cost based on the business benefits alone. Whether for energy savings, process efficiency, worker tracking, threat detection, or other purposes, facilities engineering teams are procuring these sensors and systems to address business needs. The challenge? Buildings are getting smarter without explicit or intentional involvement from IT, creating missed opportunities to leverage these assets and their data, and to align with a broader IT strategy.

While IT focuses on the computing and network infrastructure rather than the physical environment, facilities teams are deploying a new layer of smart devices across the infrastructure, without thinking that these objects are actually a series of data-generating nodes on the corporate network. To extract maximum value from these new, smart, networked devices, organizations need to redefine the historically challenged relationship between facilities and IT teams. While facility managers handle everything from plant operations, HVAC systems, maintenance teams, and snow removal, they are now also a new customer or partner for IT as buildings become instrumented. IT teams are subject matter experts and strategic partners that can ensure technology acquisitions within the physical environment will integrate with the other systems across the enterprise.

In fact, for the deployment of IoT technologies across the enterprise, there are obvious questions that IT is particularly well suited to address: Read more…

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The future of car making: Small teams using fewer materials

How we make cars is a bigger environmental issue than how we fuel them.

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Around two billion cars have been built over the last 115 years; twice that number will be built over the next 35-40 years. The environmental and health impacts will be enormous. Some think the solution is electric cars or other low- or zero-emission vehicles. The truth is, if you look at the emissions of a car over its total life, you quickly discover that tailpipe emissions are just the tip of the iceberg.

An 85 kWh electric SUV may not have a tailpipe, but it has an enormous impact on our environment and health. A far greater percentage of a car’s total emissions come from the materials and energy required for manufacturing a car (mining, processing, manufacturing, and disposal of the car ), not the car’s operation. As leading environmental economist and vice chair of the National Academy of Sciences Maureen Cropper notes, “Whether we are talking about a conventional gasoline-powered automobile, an electric vehicle, or a hybrid, most of the damages are actually coming from stages other than just the driving of the vehicle.” If business continues as usual, we could triple the total global pollution generated by automobiles, as we go from two billion to six billion vehicles manufactured.

The conclusion from this is straightforward: how we make our cars is actually a bigger environmental issue than how we fuel our cars. We need to dematerialize — dramatically reduce the material and energy required to build cars — and we need to do it now. Read more…

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Connected machines: Taking manufacturing to the next level of IoT

Linking factory machines back to their builders creates an efficient production loop.

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Save 25% on registration for Solid with code SLD25. Solid is our conference on the convergence of software and hardware, and the Internet of Things.

We’ve all seen how connected products can transform industries in areas like home energy management and personal health, and manufacturing is no exception. When products communicate back to their original makers, the manufacturers can detect production flaws well before customers would need to raise warranty claims. Further, product usage data can become the core of value delivered to the customer. Now that we have Fitbit and Jawbone UP, would you ever consider buying a traditional pedometer whose only method of telling you steps is on an LCD display? These ideas can be applied to machines on the factory floor, too.

In a previous blog post on the connected factory, I shared how Cisco’s designs combine best practices from operational technology (OT) and IT into robust and secure networks. I also addressed how wireless connectivity can enable a more effective workforce and how digital transformation with real-time production analytics improves quality.

Now, imagine extending that connectivity beyond the plant floor and internal operations by connecting factory machines back to the machine builders that created them. Manufacturing operations that rely only on data generated within the plant and shared internally are missing an important opportunity. Sharing data with the machine builders who know the machine best can create opportunities to significantly improve machine performance by making those machines smarter. Read more…

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Diversity and good intentions

Supporting nonprofits that encourage diversity in the tech world.

At O’Reilly, we value diversity. At each O’Reilly conference, we choose a worthy nonprofit (particularly those that support diversity in the tech world) that we want to support. In the conference registration process, we invite attendees to make a donation to that organization, which is matched by O’Reilly Media.

Past matching donation recipients included some wonderful organizations, such as the National Center for Women & IT, Code.org, Girls Who Code, PyLadies, Anita Borg Institute, Black Girls Code, Women Who Code, and we’re currently raising money for Code2040 at OSCON.

For Solid 2015, we selected Double Union. A hacker/maker space by and for women seemed like an excellent nonprofit to get support from Solid attendees and O’Reilly.

But we made a mistake. We mentioned Double Union as the recipient of these matching donations and used their logo on the Solid Conference website, without first getting the permission of the Double Union board. That was a mistake that never should have happened.

At Double Union’s request, we’ve removed their name and logo from the conference website. We have also apologized to the Double Union board. Read more…

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