One of our little themes in Emerging Tech for while has been ambient displays, whether they be real or virtual. I really like the look of Chumby Industries. They’re starting with the clock radio as a low cost, low power, wifi connected device. I think a lot will depend on how low cost they can make them, but I think we may see if we can get one for our lab, it’ll keep the rabbit, penguin and orb company.
I also like how everyone has started using “industries” as part of their company name. I think “industries” has become the new web name of choice.
For those of us in Hursley who are old fashioned enough to still have TVs, a must watch has always been, Dragons Den. People with ideas or businesses have to present to a set of investors with the hope that they will pay for a stake in their company. It can often seem very similar to the sort of thing we have to do here, presenting emerging technology to customers, or trying to convince our IP attorneys about a patent disclosure.
One of the businesses yesterday was doing online downloads, but with the songs dynamically mixing together when transitioning from one to the other. He did a great job of explaining the idea, won over the investors and got the funding. A much better job than I did several years ago trying to patent an idea for desynchronising music to make it feel more live. The idea was that you’d download the song, but it’d never sound exactly the same twice. So maybe the title, “Britney Spears In Your Living Room” didn’t help with some of the more traditional reviewers. Luckily, a great mentor in the form of an IBM master inventor wouldn’t let them win and it did at least get published (hit guest user and then go the url again – great i know). Next week, my brilliant idea for centripetal submarines…
The Hursley lab is playing a major part in a large research project, known as ITA. ITA, is a joint US and UK programme of fundamental research into network centric systems. It’s lead by IBM, but with a number of industrial and academic partners (Boeing, LogiaCMG, Honeywell, UCLA, Cambridge, Columbia etc. – there’s a full partner list here).
In the UK, the project is going to be run out of the Emerging Tech group, which means a few of us on eightbar are likely to be involved. There are some interesting themes around collaboration and social networking as applied to military environments, which we’re likely to be responsible for. Anyway, we’re off to New York in September to get started, so I’ll be able to write more about what we’re actually going to be working on then.
You don’t get many places that are much more English than Hursley village, with the little post office, family butchers, pub and church. Even the IBM offices are nicely hidden behind trees. There are always little things inside Hursley, however, that remind you that we’re definitely part of a US company. Last week these little stickers appeared in the toilets across the site.
Rest Room? Since when did anyone this side of Greenland ever use the term “Rest Room”. 🙂
Last night was the Institute’s Gala Dinner, the bit where people dress up, there’s eating and even a little dancing. The meal was nice, Roo and I got to catch up with some people we knew from giving a previous Emerging Technology pitch. After the meal there was some live music by The Sun Band, who were pretty good. I liked their varied set list, a little bit of The Kinks, some Blondie, The Bangles and some Curtis Mayfield. Live music is always so much better than having a DJ.
Some of the entertainment was definitely provided by this IBMer who turned out to be a bit of a mover. I think he had a good 20 years on his partner. He started off fairly slowly, just like everyone dances, but suddenly he was spinning and throwing her all over the floor, it was actually fairly impressive. She could obviously dance too, but did looked exhausted afterwards. I’m not sure who either of them are, I’ll try find their names today.
It’s pretty cool to see people’s hidden talents coming to the fore and it seemed to get everyone else up on the dance floor, though some of us weren’t given much of a say in the matter! Anyways, it was fun, just need to prepare our presentation for today now.
Roo and myself are currently in Nottingham demonstrating and presenting on Second Life for two days. It’s the IBM IT Specialist’s Institute, a yearly internal get together for people in the IT Specialist profession. Attending the institute is often used as a reward, but it’s mainly about increasing your social network and learning about other things that are happening in IBM. As well as the two days of presentations and demos there’s usually (I’m a bit of a veteran of these things) some entertainment, a nice meal and a few free drinks.
Roo and I were feeling a little peckish last night when we arrived and weren’t too confident in how filling the evening hog roast snack was going to be, so we headed off to the local town center to find some food. There wasn’t much open, it’s a student area and we’re well into Summer vacation now, but we did manage to find a Subway. So here’s Roo posing for our first Institute photo (I’m sure there’ll be more).
It’s a funny time in Hursley at the moment. With lots of people being away on holiday it feels a little empty. That’s not to say it’s been very quiet. The last two weeks have been work experience time in the local area, so there’s been a lot of school age people on site. Being such a big site, Hursley can cater for a lot of of work exp students and it’s a pretty cool place to come and spend a week or two. As you can see from the High Performance Computing office (Emerging Tech’s neighbours), they’ve been making their mark.
It’s also about this time that people on our regular student schemes start to arrive. We have IBM Futures students (aka PUEs), who are taking a year out of education, normally between college and university. There’s also ITs (Industrial Trainees), who are on the industrial placement year of a sandwich degree. Finally, there’s Extreme Blue students who work on a specific project for 12 weeks during the Summer.
These schemes are important to IBM as it’s a good way to get some of the best people in. A lot of people who start on IBM’s student schemes end up coming back as graduates. Roo, Ian and myself all started in IBM as students (though this was a long time ago). It’s also good experience for the students as they work on real projects right from the start and help keep us (slightly) older people on our toes. There’s normally a pretty active student community, Winchester and Southampton’s nightlife does very well out of IBM students. It’s a great way to spend a year.
Over Christmas we were having lots of debate about the temperature and lack of a cold snap, in the Hursley area. To be a little more scientific about it I climbed out a stairwell window, braved the thorny raspberry bushes and attached a thermometer to to my old office window (now belongs to Roo and Rob). Anyway, it’s been in the shade all afternoon and its still showing a rather pleasant 32 degrees.
As well as producing software products, IBM Software Group has a high output of T-Shirts. If you work in Hursley as part of the Java, MQ, CICS, WebSphere or Lotus development teams, the chances are you have one/several/a shop of team T-Shirts. Now, computer geeks like T-Shirts and not being part of an IBM brand, us people in Emerging Technology were lacking in any group merchandise. So, a couple of hours in Flash and a few experiments with Cafepress later and we have T-Shirts.
Check out the full range of Emerging Tech fashions here. Coming Soon… EightBar products!
We had a bit of a Hursley bloggers meetup today. There’s now quite a few UK based IBMers blogging inside and outside the firewall. We’re lucky to have a good internal blogging setup and most of the people who now write publicly got to grips with the whole idea in the relative safe waters of the IBM intranet. One of the things we’ve all found from writing internally is that we’ve made a lot of new contacts that we wouldn’t otherwise have made. Apart from that, we talked about Singapore (which I think I should get Hannah to write about here), Blogher, Brian’s growing team and the excessive noise made by the Hursley Cha Bar drink making machines.