Geospatial Innovation: SenSat

October 8, 2019

Last week, there was conference chatter about geo-spatial technology. The conference focused on LE and intel technology and knowing where an entity is remains an important capability for certain software systems.

There was also talk in one of my sessions about “innovation drift.” This is my way of characterizing the movement of “good ideas” from the US to other countries. “Drift” is inevitable: Economic, political, and social pressure ensures that digital ideas move.

I noted this morning (Sunday, October 6, 2019) the article “Tencent Leads $10 Million Investment in SenSat to Create Real-Time Simulated Realities.” The write up reported:

SenSat, a geospatial technology startup that digitizes real-world places for infrastructure projects, has raised $10 million in a series A round of funding led by Chinese tech titan Tencent, with participation from Russian investment firm Sistema Venture Capital.

SenSat processes satellite and other imagery. Then the company’s software constructs representations of what’s on the ground. The write up pointed out:

[SenSat] said it translates the real world into a version that can be understood by machines and is thus suitable for training artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

DarkCyber noted this statement in the write up:

SenSat constitutes part of another growing trend across the technology spectrum: the meshing of large swathes of disparate data to generate real and meaningful insights.

The technology developed by SenSat, founded in London in 2015, is interesting.

For DarkCyber, the most important information in the write up was the assertion that the company has obtained financial support from companies in China and Russia.

The idea, DarkCyber believes, is that the technological drift is not going to be left to chance. Reconstructions like the ones generated by SenSat, Cape Analytics, and others are likely to make the targeting options of nanodrones more interesting.

Drift is one thing; directed and managed technology drift is another.

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2019

Google Is a Curious Outfit: Who, How, Why, Where, Buy, and Build?

July 16, 2019

Ah, the familiar Silicon Valley question: Buy or build?

Reuters, a “real news” outfit, published “Google Accused of Ripping Off Digital Ad Technology in U.S. Lawsuit.” DarkCyber has no idea if the alleged lawsuit is valid or if Google “ripped off” a company called Impact Engine.

According to the “real news” story:

Impact Engine Inc filed the complaint in federal court in San Diego, California, alleging various Google online advertising platforms, including Google Ads and Google AdSense, infringed on six patents.

DarkCyber believes that Impact Engine is convinced that Googlers took technology developed by the smaller firm. Google’s present senior management is probably unaware of the actions of young at heart Googlers.

Based on DarkCyber’s experience interacting with large, successful corporations, Google-type outfits ask a lot of questions. But these are predictable and probably should not be answered without prior thought. Scripting answers is a reasonable way to prepare for a lunch with a predator.

Now what about the basic questions. Here are a few I have experienced:

  • Who are you?
  • Who developed the innovation?
  • Why was it developed?
  • Why is it better than existing innovations?
  • When did you develop the innovation?
  • Did you patent the innovation and receive a patent?
  • Where can this innovation be implemented?
  • How much of a revenue boost does the innovation represent?
  • How much did you spend in cash to create the innovation?
  • How long did it take to create the innovation?
  • How many people worked on the innovation in [a] its preliminary phase, [b] its testing phase, and [c] its commercialization phase?
  • What is the programming language used?
  • Does the innovation run from the cloud or on premises?
  • What are the next series of enhancements you plan to add to your innovation?
  • How long will those take?
  • How much money do you need to implement the enhancements in half your time estimate?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are the gotchas in your innovation?
  • Who is your nightmare competitor?
  • What do you worry about relative to this innovation when you go to bed at night?
  • If you had a magic wand, what changes would you make in the innovation as it exists at this time?
  • Would you rough out a block diagram of the major components of the innovation?
  • Would you walk us through your basic slide deck?

There are other questions, of course.

Now a company talking with a Google-type firm is likely to be darned excited to be in proximity to a deep pocket power center. Consequently the visitors are probably going to say too much, be too specific, and reveal more than the visiting team thought was possible.

Yep, well, there’s the fact that power and potential money loosens lips.

What happens when the small outfit leaves with booth leftovers in hand, a reasonable vegan lunch, and worshipful praise from the big company’s “team players”?

Let me boil down the gist of the debriefs in which I have participated:

  1. Is this innovation any good?
  2. Can we duplicate it quickly and easily? (Build?)
  3. If not, how much do you think the innovation is worth?
  4. Can we just license the innovation? (Semi-buy?)
  5. Should we forget this outfit and go to the competitors named in the meeting?
  6. Don’t we already have this functionality?
  7. Does anybody remember meeting with this company or anyone who works there before?
  8. Should we buy this outfit?

There are other considerations, of course.

In short, when big Google type outfits meet with small innovative outfits, the expectations of the small company are likely to be different from those at the big company.

Therefore, the legal dust up. Worth monitoring this particular action. But the matter of patents, prior art, and the patents which the big company may have tucked in their cloud storage device are likely to have some bearing on the matter.

One thing is certain: The lawyers involved will get paid a lot of money. And the money people? Sure. Money people.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2019

Forcing China to Fill the Google Gap

May 20, 2019

I read the Reuters’ exclusive “Google Suspends Some Business with Huawei after Trump Blacklist – source.” The news story presents some information which on the surface is interesting. Google allegedly has “suspended business with Huawei.” There is a caveat; namely, “except those publicly available via open source licensing.” Huawei mobile phone users can chug along for now. Reuters quotes an unnamed source in the rich tradition of “real news.” The source allegedly said:

“Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google.

The number of blog posts and “real” news stories about this Google move is intriguing. Most of these follow the standard impact on business, what about the users, and whither Android lines.

My thought is that innovation often is a result of adversity. If I narrow my focus to topics related to intelligence analysis and a bit of the lawlful intercept activity, this development could have some unintended consequences. Put aside fears of more industrial espionage, hassling of Google and other US firms as a retaliatory measure, and the grousing of US companies faced with losing Huawei and its suppliers as customers.

Chinese engineers may turn their attention from reasonably effective facial recognition and surveillance systems to the job of moving beyond Google’s technology, creating parallels for some US technologies, and innovating in ways to lock out prying eyes from certain types of data transmissions.

The thrill of making life difficult for Huawei and demonstrating that Google is on board with US trade policies may be short lived. Maybe China moves some of its more interesting technology into the “Google gap”? Perhaps China steps up the for functionalities no longer easily available? What if China finds a way to shut certain mechanisms for monitoring information shoved around by Huawei and other Chinese vendors’ equipment?

The unintended consequence is that the US and possibly some of its allies will be forced to become more technologically innovative.

The big question for me is: “What if this is the turning point for Chinese technology?” China could force the US to become makers of buggy whips and seat covers for the new communication vehicles which may come down the information superhighway.

That’s a big and unintended consequence to consider in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, May 20, 2019

BBC Explains the End of the Open Internet After It Ended

May 18, 2019

A 3,500 word story from the BBC explains the end of the open Internet. The main idea is that the US approach of sending anything to anyone is not what China, Russia, and other countries will accept. “The Global Internet Is Disintegrating. What Comes Next?” is not news. The essay is a pinch of intelligence agency analysis (a small pinch I might add), some business school semantics, and the routine quotes from experts.

The “what comes next” is mostly ignored. The reason is that the actions taken by a number of countries over the last decade represent the construction of a series of walled gardens. Blocking access is old hat in Iran. China and Russia have stepped up their efforts with political hand waving. Russia has laws which make the US companies either roll over or shut down. How about LinkedIn in Russia?

China is doing the system administrator squeeze. The twist is that Chinese high technology companies are lending a helping hand. Last time I was in China it took only a few minutes for my mobile phone to become a less than helpful gizmo. Five years earlier it took a couple of days to achieve the near useless state.

The BBC explains:

A separate internet for some, Facebook-mediated sovereignty for others: whether the information borders are drawn up by individual countries, coalitions, or global internet platforms, one thing is clear – the open internet that its early creators dreamed of is already gone.

With the business school jargon “digital deciders” wafting through the article, the question “what comes next” is not answered. The reason is that the reality is unpalatable to many in what China and Russia think of as the West.

The actions of countries attempting to prevent unfettered flows of information are designed to protect the government and commercial sector from the difficulties that arise when using US technology without an old fashioned speed limiter. Smaller countries are not keen on having Facebook and Twitter users coordinate protests and disrupt what these countries’ governments see as “normal” processes.

The so called digital deciders have already decided. The future is in place, and what needs to be described and understood include:

  • The actions of China and Russia are designed to control US influence. The future is a shift from control to more aggressive actions.
  • The alignment of nation states will be a decision by those countries to sign on for either the China approach or the Russia approach. In short, new blocs are now taking shape.
  • The behaviors of US high technology companies are designed to increase the power of these firms. Therefore, the companies will find themselves sued and hassled because some thinkers in China and Russia believe it is their duty to step in and reign in the actions of unregulated US firms.

The future of the Internet is, in my opinion, a battle ground. Bad things can happen in such a place even if it is digital.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2019

digital deciders

A Google Moonshot: Shoes

February 2, 2019

I read “Alphabet’s Verily Has Been Working on Health-tracking Shoes to Measure Movement, Weight and Falls.” The news that Apple cut off Google from the app store is trivial next to this announcement. The problems with France and other EU government authorities are inconsequential.

Google is innovating in — wait for it — shoes.

I learned:

Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, has been looking for partners to co-develop shoes with sensors embedded to monitor the wearer’s movement and weight, as well as to measure falls, CNBC has learned.

Potential partners include the designers who created Rosa Klebb’s knife shoes for “From Russia with Love,” innovators who have implemented tootsie wear described by Richard Freiherr von KrafftEbing, and the manufacturer of shoes tailored to those skilled in the art of the shuffle dance.

image

The write up explained:

If Verily progresses with the project, the shoes could have a wide range of health-related uses. For instance, sudden weight gain can be a sign that the body is retaining fluid, which is a symptom of congestive heart failure. Another area of interest is fall detection, two of the people said, which could be useful for seniors in particular.

Product enhancements range from providing dagger shoes to those engaged in military operations, unusual shoes able to make digital recordings of interesting people have interactions, and YouTube shuffle dancers who put their health in peril performing moon walk moves.

With miniaturization, Google could encapsulate a variant of the Loon balloon, deploying the mechanism when signal boosting is required.

Now word on how the new initiative relates to solving death, another of Google-targeted problems.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2019

Google: Innovation Desperation or Innovation Innovation

December 5, 2018

Google has an innovation problem. The company has tried 20 percent free time. Engineers were supposed to work on personal projects. Google tried creating investment units. Google has acquired companies, often in time frames that seemed compressed. Anyone remember buying Motorola Mobility in 2011? Google created a super secret innovation center because the ageing Google Labs was not up to the task of creating Loon balloons and solving death. There have been competitions to identity bright young sprouts who can bring new ideas to the Google. If I dig through my files, there are probably innovation initiatives I have forgotten. Google is either a forward looking outfit, or it is struggling to do more than keep the 20 year old system looking young.

Image result for archimedes eureka

Has Google tried thinking in the hot tub like Archimedes? Google has bean bags, volleyball courts, and Foosball. But real innovations like those AltaVista mechanisms or GoTo’s pay to play for search visibility? There is Web Accelerator, of course.

I read “An Exclusive look inside Google’s in-house incubator Area 120.” The write up reports that a wizard Googler allegedly said and may actually believe:

“We built a place and a process to be able to have those folks come to us and then select what we thought were the most promising teams, the most promising ideas, the most promising markets,” explains managing director Alex Gawley, who has spent a decade at Google and left his role as product manager for Google Apps (since renamed G Suite) to spearhead this new effort. Employees “can actually leave their jobs and come to us to spend 100% of their time pursuing something that they are particularly passionate about,” he says.

Okay, Area 120. That even more mysterious than the famous Area 51. I am thinking of the theme from “Outer Limits.”

The Googlers “pitch” ideas in the hope of getting funding. A Japanese management expert explained a somewhat similar approach to keeping smart employees innovating. See Kuniyasu Sakai’s explanations of the method in “To Expand We Divide.” You probably have this and his other management writings on your desk, right? Someone at Google seems to have brushed against these concepts. In Fast Company / Google speak, these new companies are “hatchlings.”

Several observations:

  1. Innovation is a problem as companies become larger. Google illustrates this problem.
  2. Google’s approach to innovation is bifurcated. Most of its “innovations” originated elsewhere; for example, IBM Clever, AltaVista technology, GoTo-Overture “pay to play” advertising. The company’s goal is to innovate using original ideas, not refinements of other innovators’ breakthroughs.
  3. Google faces an innovation free environment. A recent example may be found in the wild and crazy Amazon announcements at its Re:Invent conference. Somewhere in the jet blast of announcements, there were a couple of substantive innovations. Google does phones with problems and wraps search in layers of cotton wool. Amazon, its seems, is sucking search innovation from Google.

For these reasons Google is gasping. Even rah rah write ups about Google like the recent encomium to Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat (both AltaVista veterans) is a technical “You Can’t Go Home Again” description of the good old days.

On one hand, Google’s efforts to become innovative are admirable. Persistence, patience, investment—yada yada. On the other hand, Google remains trapped as a servant to its Yahoo (GoTo and Overture) business model for online advertising.

The PR will continue to flow, but innovations? Maybe.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2018

Changing How Electronics Are Done

July 18, 2018

I read “DARPA Plans a Major Remake of US Electronics.” The write up reports that the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding activities to “radically alter how electronics are made.” The idea is to make an engineer skilled in the anticipated art to become more productive. If the funding generates innovation and applied research deliverables, “the effect could be to make small groups of engineers capable of feats that take 100 engineers to achieve today.”

There are some interesting observations presented in the write up. These are attributed to Bill Chappell, who is the DARPA directors for this initiative. The write up is important because the stated objectives are one that will allow some technical and process roadblocks to be removed; for example, acceleration of innovation, increasing productivity, and stepping up activity for open source hardware.

However, there are several ideas percolating in the statements in my opinion.

First, the US is not producing what we call in Harrod’s Creek “home grown electronics engineers.” In part, the initiative is to increase US activity. China and Russia, two cite two nation states, are creating more technical professionals. Now the US has to do more with less.

Second, big picture problems are not what some US projects accomplish. The way innovation works is to make incremental advances within often quite specific scopes of interest. This new initiative is more big picture and less improving the efficiency of an advertising server’s predictive matching in silicon or some equally narrow focus.

Third, the program suggests to me that some insightful US government professionals are concerned about the US electronics industry. The idea that technology from another nation state could create an unknown vulnerability is sufficiently troubling to warrant this big picture program.

In short, the failures of the US electronics sector have become a concern. One hopes that this project will address, in part, this significant issue. In my DarkCyber video news program to be released on July 24, 2018, I comment about the forthcoming Chinese made blockchain phone. I ask one question, “Does this device have the capability to phone home to the manufacturer? Could the device be monitored by an entity in the country of origin?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2018

Google: The Bibliophile

July 9, 2018

I love to read. Apparently Google is reading more than I ever could. According to Quartz, Google is officially going to start reading more and turning to books to answer questions: “Google’s Astounding New Search Tool Will Answer Any Question By Reading Thousands of Books.”

Google’s brand new search engine is called “Talk To Books.” The best way to describe Talk To Books is that it is like a huge full text, academic database, but instead of the content being listed individually it is all completely searched. Google described it more eloquently: thousands of writers discussing one question. Talk To Books works like a regular Google search, except the search engine searches for results in 100,000 Google Book entries.

What makes this interesting is that this could potentially be an academic and research worthy search engine. Futurist Randy Kurzweil and TED curator Chris Anderson discussed Talk to Books in a recent TED talk and how it will not take over regular Google search:

“Kurzweil noted that Talk to Books is not meant to replace keyword search. It uses “semantic search,” drawing on the ability of the tool’s AI to understand natural human language. Results range from goofy to profound, but semantic search’s goal is to call up a sentence that sounds like a plausible retort a person might say in a conversation.

The main goal of Talk To Books is to stimulate creativity and generate new ideas. As Google struggles to innovate, perhaps this service can jump start Google Ventures, Google X initiatives, and Google acquisitions. Ideas are one thing. Meaningful innovation is another. Google, it seems, is discovering books as a source of knowledge value.

Whitney Grace, July 9, 2018

Google: Innovation Desperation?

May 3, 2018

I have lost track of the ways Google tries to spark innovation. Years ago there was something called Google Ventures and before that “20 percent free time.” Today Google has demonstrated its hunger, need, and thirst for innovation by crating an investment mechanism for the Alexa killer, Google Assistant. “Google Starts Throwing Cash at Google Assistant Startups” explains:

Google is launching a new investment program for early-stage startups working to broaden Google Assistant hardware or features. The new program provides financial resources, early access to Google features and tools, access to the Google Cloud Platform, and promotional support in efforts to bolster young companies. Google says its investment program will also support startups focusing on Google Assistant‘s use in travel, hospitality, or games industries.

Like Apple, Google is watching the Alexa McLaren eat up the miles. I know it is silly to compare Amazon, Apple, and Google. Amazon sells books and plans to become a policeware hub. Apple sells hardware and wants to be a services vendor as iPhone X devices provide evidence that peak mobile phone day has arrived. And Google? It is after 20 years of trying to be different, still sells online ads.

The fix is to pay “entrepreneurs,” high school students, MBAs, and homeless FORTRAN programmers to build and expand the Google Assistant ecosystem.

Will the play work? My thought is that Google looks a bit wild eyed with its innovation efforts.

Perhaps it is true that I am worn out by Silicon Valley gyrations. Google, according to the write up, has “passion for the digital assistant ecosystem.”

That’s a plus.

But after 20 years of innovation, Google remains, as Steve Ballmer observed, a one trick pony. Throwing money at the pony is a long shot to change the beast into something different.

Worth watching the transformation attempt, however.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2018

Alphabet Google: The Personnel Slide Down Continues

March 9, 2018

Google is one of the top technology companies in the world and their services are employed on nearly every computer, phone, and tablet. Google is at the most innovative when it comes to developing new technology, but a former Google insider said the opposite. Steve Yegge writing for Medium explains his Google experience in his article, “Why I Left Google To Join Grab.”

Yegge loved Google and still considered it to be one of the best places in the world to work, but he left for some good reasons:

“The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability. I believe there are several contributing factors, of which I’ll list four here. First, they’re conservative…Second, they are mired in politics, which is sort of inevitable with a large enough organization; the only real alternative is a dictatorship, which has its own downsides. Third, Google is arrogant…But fourth, last, and probably worst of all, Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.”

Google has reached the apex of its innovative spirit and has gone the way over all corporations and, arguably, politicians. Google has grown so big and powerful, hires the top players in the field, and controls so many products/services that it does not want to lose face, its employees have ego problems, and they serve the almighty dollar. It is a repetitious pattern that has been playing out for ages. One of the greatest examples was the British Empire. The British Empire became so big and powerful that the resources were spread too thin, the ruling parties were arrogant, the subjects suffered, and those in power never wanted it to change. It sounds like Google, does it not?

Yegge then talked about the new endeavor called Grab and stresses the importance of keeping your ear to the ground in order to make and grow a business. Google has gotten too big, but it still has a lot of powerful and it will be awhile before it falls. Another company will pick up the slack. Someone always does.

Whitney Grace, March 9, 2018

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