Intelligent Communities – Smart Grid Smarter City!

November 18, 2010

Ok, so I didn’t write this article – (Robert Bell) did. But, I did do the research, and a degree in business development networking to get me to this point!

Which is:

Albert Einstein supposedly once wrote that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”  Whether or not the Smartest Man in the World actually said it or Rita Mae Brown wrote it in 1983, it is famous because we have all been there.  Nothing could be more human than to repeat a failing strategy because it feels so much more comfortable than looking at a new set of facts.

Case in point: the International City/County Management Association recently published the results of its Economic Development 2009 Survey, conducted in October of last year.  Over 700 members – 22% of the sample group of cities and counties with more than 10,000 people – completed the survey.  The results spoke volumes about how we prefer the familiar and ineffective to the new and promising.

When asked if their local government has a written small business development plan, 84.5% of respondents said “no.”  How about a written business retention plan?  Seventy-three percent said “no.”  Does your jurisdiction have special technology zones designed to encourage technology-related industries and businesses to move there?  Eighty percent did not. And what are the two biggest barriers to local economic growth?  The availability of land for development and the cost of that land.

As reported in a post on July 28, the latest research in the United States shows that nearly all net job growth since 1977 (practically the Stone Age) has been created by start-ups in their first year of business.  Other research stretches that period of strong job creation to five years, but the point is the same.  Getting a Fortune 1000 company to locate a facility in your community will make you a hero for a day.  But by itself, it will not ensure the prosperity of your economy.

What do startups need?  Being new and fragile, they need access to management expertise and high-quality employees.  They need credit and capital, and connections with potential customers, strategic partners and investors.  The good news is that, if they survive and grow, retaining them is easy: startups tend to stay where they were founded unless they cannot get what they need there.  Given the fact that technology in all its forms is a part of nearly every process, service and product today, they are very likely to be technology-related in some way.  And while they may eventually need land to construct that signature building that signals their success, that’s somewhere at the bottom of the priority list.

This mismatch between the needs of the most desirable employers in the broadband economy, and the perceptions of people in economic development, is breathtaking.  Fortunately is little sign of it in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.  The municipally-owned Electric Plant Board (EPB) of Chattanooga is deploying a fiber-to-the-premises network to every home and business in their service area.  The driver for the project is the implementation of smart grid technology.  It is EPB’s ambition to gather data and send instructions in real time to every element of the distribution network, as well as to thermostats, hot water heaters and other equipment on customer premises.  The dirty little secret of electric generation and distribution today is that the network is run by guesswork, and maintains its reliability by massive over-building of capacity to handle peak loads.  EPB expects that full implementation of smart-grid technology throughout their network will let them reduce costs enough to justify the fiber deployment on that basis alone, with the revenue from data, voice and video services adding icing to the cake as well as fulfilling EPB’s mandate to support the city’s economy.

Chattanooga  city’s political, administrative, nonprofit and business leaders, want to understand how to leverage this asset to accelerate the community’s economy and bridge its economic and social differences.  This is a place that was named the most polluted city in America in 1969.  The pollution was caused by metal foundries that subsequently went out of business, leaving the economy on life support.  From that low point, the city has fought its way back.  The rebuilding of the downtown and riverfront, which restored civic faith and pride, also taught Chattanooga’s leaders how to collaborate.  They have turned to nurturing local arts and local entrepreneurship, and targeted their business attraction efforts to wind turbine and other clean energy firms, on which foundation they hope to build a competitive business cluster.

It is pleasing to see a place with so many pieces of Intelligent Community development in place.  Especically their understanding of the need to turn those pieces into a functioning whole, an ecosystem in which broadband, knowledge work, innovation and digital inclusion can reinforce each other and drive inclusive prosperity for many years.

Stay tuned to news from Chattanooga, as the EPB shows us how to add intelligence to the grid and the city does the same for its economy.

Follow Robert Bell…


Apple. The worlds most innovative company – again!

November 15, 2010

I love being at the forefront of innovation and change. In fact my role as an innovation advisor depends on it! Fortunately, greater openness in innovation and technology, is creating exciting new economic opportunities for start-ups and small business owners businesses who can acquire global marketing and product development capabilities that used to be available only to the world’s largest and wealthiest enterprises.

To keep abreast of the emerging trends, disruptive technology and new ideas I read on average a couple of hundred, posts, tweets or articles each day. But in my 25 years or so in this space  there is one company that consistently leads from the front. In a innovation study recently released by Booz & Co. But it’s also had its tough times: In the early 1990s, the company squandered enormous resources and billions of dollars on a series of failed products like printers, scanners, and the Newton PDA. Its efforts to do every- thing itself, building capabilities as varied as cutting- edge hardware development and volume manufactur- ing, led to huge losses and massive layoffs.

But once Steve Jobs returned as chairman and CEO in 1997, Apple began to focus its portfolio and its capabilities. I was fortunate to be invited to 1 Infinite Circuit Cupertino the following year about the time the iMac was released. Apple has since concentrated very selectively on what it does well, and what really differentiates it from its peers: deep understanding of end-users, a high-touch consumer experience, intuitive user interfaces, sleek product design, and iconic branding. For example, Apple narrowed its product line and began leveraging the Apple brand through its Apple Store retail strategy.

Innovators – Booz & Co

The results speak for themselves. Apple’s profitability and market cap are well above the industry average, and this year our survey respondents voted it far and away the most innovative company — all of which it achieved while consistently spending far less on R&D as a percentage of sales than the median company in the computing and electronics sector.



Apple’s bite…

October 31, 2010

Tony's Digital0002_2The image on the left is regarded as one of the first 4 colour desktop separations in Australia. Created by a wonderful designer  Andrew Harris, and output by an equally talented and pioneering team – The Xpress Group. (1986)

Back then, a QMS Colourscript printer (the first in Australia) cost us $45,000 and took about 40 minutes (if you were lucky) to rip a 20mb file just to see a colour proof. Back then we were right at the edge. But we were excited as we were  leading the analogue to digital revolution in Australia.

Back then… was about the time the time when the ‘power’ began to shift away from obese system providers to “we the mob”. But, creativity, graphic design, typography, photography did not die- its flourished.

Yes traditional analogue trades and crafts died – Typesetting was the first to go then, Compositors, Scanner operators etc…the list goes on just as it did when we moved from the horse and buggy era. Journalism did not die (well some might argue that) but newspapers now are – thanks to the Craigslist, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and now the iPad. What really amazes me when you look back over past 30 years or so is just how damm clever and innovative Apple (Steve Jobs) has been.

No other company on earth has brought about such radical change to so many traditional analogue industry sectors – DTP, Music, Animation, and now commerce and trade – iTunes (Apps Store). Did the music industry die? no, it’s just morphing into a different industry supply chain model. However as an ex muso sure I too am amazed when I see a a band performing live just playing there iPhones …but heh the relentless march of anything that can be digital will be digital…is unstoppable which is why I’m such an optimist and am so excited about our future!

Yes, the challenges of the future will no doubt be novel, but they won’t be insurmountable. Whether it’s breakneck technological change, environmental sustainability, or economic turnarounds, these are issues that need to be met with radical optimism and the conviction that Nothing is Impossible.

In that same spirit the boys at Rype – are blazing a new trail following there Mobility and hi touch dream!

And so the revolution continues…



From Hi Tech to Hi Touch

September 11, 2010

I am privileged. Privileged to be at the forefront of yet another technology revolution!

The first ‘DTP’ was back in 1985 when I sat spellbound watching CEO Paul Brainerd demonstrating ‘Pagemaker’ on a Mac SE – composing a page of text, graphic and a photo which he then output to an Apple laserwriter via a new page description language called Postscript. Three companies collaborating together. Apple, Aldus and Adobe.

The Desktop Publishing revolution heralded a new shift from the analogue to digital world. Typesetters were the first to go, then film compositors, scanner operators, dark room photo editors – and along with them went the multi million dollar proprietary technologies. Hell, Crossfield, Kodak, Agfa just to name a few!

Enter the Xpress Group – Apple evangelists leading the DTP charge.

The second was in 1998 when a mate (Mark White) in his typical Tennessee drawl proclaimed – that the internet would soon spawn new – B2B marketplaces – digital hubs – business vortexes which Gartner predicted would be a multi trillion dollar industry and would streamline draconian commission riddled dysfunctional supply chains!

This time the revolution was led by a journalist and social entrepreneur- Kevin Jones and his iconic B2B event business – Net Market Makers. And so began a fast paced ride which included stratospheric peaks, black holes, bottomless pits, sharp turns and hairpin bends, and where multi millionaires were made in the blink of an eye – until the inevitable market correction – in 2001.

Enter OZeCorp Ltd – OZe evangelists leading the B2B charge.

So fast forward – to today 2010 as we witness another revolution – another shift a shift I call hi touch!

This hi touch future will again revolutionise the IT industry for you see… It’s not just about click and drag; it’s more about touch and feel. It’s not just about text and charts; it’s more about imagination and creativity. It’s not about energy sapping file servers or IT grunt, it’s about more sustainable cloud based solutions fostering real work collaboration and – the ability to always be connected.

Enter Rype hi touch IT evangelists and an endorsed member of the professional: Apple Consultants Network.

Rype’s dream is to ignite workplace creativity, to empower employees, to improve morale, to boost productivity, to increase profitability and to foster collaboration. And there commitment to you is they will reduce your IT dependence and costs associated with outdated thinking and inefficient legacy technology systems.

Welcome to the hi touch revolution

Welcome to Rype – freedom in business for life


Living in a childs dream!

July 11, 2010

For some of us…we are at the crossroads. Who can we trust or believe?.

Despite the rhetoric; the art of conversation, listening and working together to solve problems (real collaboration) – is almost nonexistent.

Complicated bureaucracies, siloed approaches within business and especially within the layers of Government seem to be at the heart of the problem Why? Perhaps it’s because of management hierarchies, bottle necks or strictures of structures that is actually blocking real meaningful conversation or open dialogue.

Meanwhile  the knowledge, resources, and computing power of billons of people are now self-organising into a massive new collective force. Interconnected through social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, Wikis, Skype,  and then there’s Google – the internet is providing the first ever global platform for realtime collaboration moreover these new online discussions are rapidly changing society and spawning new meritocracies or peer to peer networks and breathtaking businesses models.

Yet these new tools that foster conversation and collaboration are almost completely misunderstood and are banned by many business enterprises, or government authorities or wider industry groups.

Kids solving problems ref:

Children make you want to start life over.  ~Muhammad Ali

So let’s remember what it was like when every day was an adventure and collaboration learning and playing was fun!

Perhaps it’s time to replace legacy Hi Tech systems with new Hi Touch interactive tools.

See you in the playground of life.



iPad – Unleashing Creativity!

July 1, 2010

This is my third  post in a row about the iPad, and whilst I knew it would be a big hit, little did I realise what a profound effect it would have at home especially with my wife Jenni.

Yes I was there at the Apple Store – Robina – the day the iPad was released in Australia – lots of happy smiling faces in fact I was greeted by Sonia the Store Manager as I have purchased a quite bit of stuff since they opened last year.  Anyway I decided on the 32 gig 3G iPad so later that night when I arrived home gave it to Jenni to see what would happen – as I especially wanted her to have something she could play with – as she is hugely talented doodler and in fact is a gifted artist!

So we then downloaded a couple of painting and drawing Apps and then without any detailed explanation, training or online assistance, my talented wife started to draw and voilà over the next few weeks amazing things started to happen…

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…It was as though the artist which had been struggling inside finally found a new creative outlet and was released!

Over the past couple of weeks Jenni has also taken up painting again with new a creative range of her own stylised artwork which she is now selling at a local gallery…WOW!

As an Apple evangelist and long time believer never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this magical new iPad device would inspire so many people let alone my own talented and beautiful wife to unleash her own creativity.

Thank you Apple (again)



Look mum…I’ve got a shiny new glass ‘slate’

April 17, 2010

Slate |slāt| – a flat piece of slate used for writing on, typically framed in wood, formerly used in schools.

Innovation and Creativity

The future of education, learning and communication just took on a whole new look.

It looks a lot like a shiny glass blackboard and it’s called the iPad. It’s not about typing or a mouse; it’s everything to do with interactivity – touchlook and feel.

It’s not just about text, pics or animation, it’s more about bringing a book or a newspaper to life with digial video. It’s not about a local disk a USB drive or even a desktop processor, it’s more about the ‘cloud’. It’s not just about pulling information; it’s about pushing IT. It’s not about repurposing old software, it’s more about rewriting everything from scratch.

Move over Geeks. Digital connectedness just hit the masses. We’ve now got a new tool anyone can use. From a 2 year old to a 92 year old!

At last IT will become fun.

Because – Hi Tech. Just got replaced by Hi Touch!