ETech 2009 – D1
Day One of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose (March 08, 2009)
Here we go, my first post with team (FG)… Sat through more than 25 sessions listening to 56 speakers. Hectic week? Below are some of the interesting topics.
(Tutorial/ Workshop, Keynote Address, Ignite Etech)
Brady Forrest (Chair of ETech) kicks off the conference by giving a brief introduction to this year’s theme of “Technology of Abundance and Constraints”. Main focus will hover around open source software/ hardware, energy identity/ urban planning, low cost computing, and smart sensors. It is also interesting to note that Etech is handing out RFID tag for the first time, which can be used to explore fun interactive projects, such as photo booth, personal info collector (to replace exchanging namecards), etc…
They have eight workshops running concurrently (four each in morning and afternoon session) on day one. Attended Holistic Service Prototyping: Sketching Hardware and Software presented by Matt Cottam of Telart, where he shared the transformation of America’s focus from agriculture to manufacturing to services. Consumers are demanding more than just the ownership of a product but the suite of related services that co-exist with the product. An easy to understand example would be Apple’s IPod – Not only is this a media player, but it also provides users the option to download music from iTunes. He then moved on to share this interesting project he did with elevator maker, OTIS, where tenants are able to use their IPod/ Iphone to communicate and control their elevator system, merely by the touch of an Icon – Doesn’t this sounds cool! Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to have the elevator/ cab/ train wait for you instead? Optimization at its best… Designers/ companies in this emerging field must develop new approaches for communicating (thru smart sensors, RFIDs, low power signals, etc) and conceptualize comprehensive service offerings to meet the demanding needs of the future consumers… Ended the workshop by participating in an exercise to brainstorm how the use of sensors can benefit future consumers… E.g. The future of guidance systems for the blind would include a proximity sensor shoes, coupled with force pressured belt linked to a GPS system (with RFID capabilities) to provide direction and suggestions of where to dine, shop, etc. Similar technology could be adopted to fit the collar tag of your pet so that you never lose a dog again!!! Hmm, you wonder wonder wonder!!! Good fun and great interaction opportunity with the crowd!
As for the afternoon session, I initially wanted to attend the workshop on 3D Printing by Zach Smith, but unfortunately this was cancelled. Ended up attending the workshop with Rob Faludi, who is the co-creator of Lilypad, XBee. Again, another workshop on how we use sensors (point to multi-point) in this new era of low-bandwidth, low cost, low power wireless network to device communications technologies that changes the way of life. However the content of the workshop hinges mainly of the product XBee (Open sourced hardware – more of this topic will be in Day Two session), where attendees installed the XBee (which can be purchased on the spot, if you wanna keep’em) into our laptops to communicate with the rest of the field, and also performed simple programming to compete and see who get the monkey clapping… Unfortunately, rather boring as my Macbook was one of the three laptops using Mac OS X software, which conflicted with the software installation… Sigh! Sat through the session looking over the shoulder of the guy beside me – It’s like learning to drive without getting your hands behind the wheels. Anyway, the entire exercise was merely to exhibit the ability to use low cost, low power, multi-point networking to communicate or transmit signals.
The highlight of the day would definitely have to be Tim O’Reilly’s take on how we should focus on the Stuff That Really Matters, especially in times like these where the world’s economy is falling into ruins. He then quoted how the creators of Facebook are spending time in developing application for one to “throw a sheep/ poke a friend”, which in his point of view has not much value. He urges us to relook at how we live our lives or model our business case, not only from the financial/ economic aspects but as a social venture (More Es – Ecological, Environmental than F – Financial) – how we can reinvent the future to take on the imminent challenges (such as global environmental issues) that we are facing today.
In short, two key takeaway from his speech – 1. Work on something that matters to you more than money; and 2. Create more value than you capture. If we are to innovate, allow flexibility for the system to evolve and in return, be friendly to those who extend you…
Lastly, the late night special – Ignite ETech. Backed by popular demand, after great review from last year’s session. There are a total of nine speakers, each having 20 slides for 15 seconds. Sniplets of the more interesting topics below:
Free Space (Jane McGonigal): Not really an emerging technology but merely a platform to sniff and generate innovative ideas from the crowd in a forecasting game based on the scenario in 2020 that custom satellites are cheap to built and cost only $99 (iSAT). What would be your strategy?
Cloud Efficiency (Niall Kennedy): Techie term for internet efficiency. With the rapid expansion in Internet usage in recent times, more is required to regulate and perhaps develop a efficiency rating for each website, so as to ensure efficiency use of data resources. Interesting idea to adopt similar concept of energy efficiency rating on Internet usage…
Arduino (Tom Igoe): Announced the launch of Arduino MEGA which has evolved with improvement in memory, pins allocations. Fyi, Arduino is the next generation of open sourced electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware. Is this the next Intel???
Paradox of Identity: Cloud Computing is Evil (Brad Templeton): Brad discuss how users are gradually shifting from the use of local PC (data stored in your hard disk) to time sharing (Network/ internet based). Personal data/ information are now being shared in the Internet, simply by having a user signed up to gmail, yahoo, facebook, etc. Now that your data is out there, where is the security in all this? Will there be any policy regulating the use of such data? The bigger question here would be: Who owns the data – you?