Thursday, May 29, 2008

Secure Communication

I have been interested and involved with computer security from the early days. I found this news regarding Research in Motion (manufacturer of Blackberry) stating:

"...its technology does not allow any third party - even the company itself - to read information sent over its network."

The article talks about the Indian government's reluctance to allow the widespread use of Blackberries. RIM was quoted further stating:

"The Blackberry security architecture for enterprise customers is purposefully designed to exclude the capability for Research in Motion (RIM) or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances."

Unilever and New Markets

While reading my friend Franz Dill's blog regarding Unilever here, I was reminded of an excellent article on Unilever's growth and capturing of market share in the emerging economies.

Unilever has been a household name in the emerging markets prior to other consumer product goods companies. It's Lifebuoy disinfectant soap is one of the world's oldest global brands. The above referenced article delves into the competition to be the brand for the household goods of the growing consumer base.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of the article:

"Although Unilever has tried to steer clear of head-to-head competition with P&G, that will not always be possible. But with the balance of the world economy shifting, Unilever's head start in emerging markets is a valuable advantage, not least because many of its brands are already well-known there."

The CPG / FMCG market in emerging economies is going to be a race, an adventure of consolidations and let us not forget that new players within those markets will emerge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Evolutionary Innovation - Pt. II & Patents

I will not belabor the subject of Evolutionary Innovation - click here for an article on multiple examples related to computer algorithms evolving an initial set of information for a solution (whether functional or not) to a new and possibly practical solution. The evolved creation (could I call it that?) is processed through computer aided simulation for validation.

This excerpt is particularly interesting:

"...the algorithm generated a bizarre flower-like pattern of holes that no human would have thought of trying."

Science Fiction? Machine that makes a better machine than what humans can create! I am reminded of what William Gibson said during an NPR interview:

"... the future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed."

Not too far in the near future I believe computations that mimic biological progressions will allow us to build individualized and personalized solutions for our everyday needs. The person with issues of severe dry scalp in Winter will have a custom shampoo synthesized for her in a matter of minutes.

All this is exciting yet I also foresee the complexity that organizations like USFDA are going to face when computers will start to create customized Rx. For example, custom pharmacological cocktails for every person in a matter of hours or minutes - How does one regulate it? See a Wired article on pharma cocktails here.

This inevitability is a lot closer than we realize. Let us indulge for a minute - one of the main issues with customized pharma solutions is the speed of the computing power for analysis, for example, of biological side effects and reactions. Specifically, today's microprocessors run close to 200 Fahrenheit and fail when pushed farther. Diamond wafers are around the corner with diamond microchips running at speeds that would liquefy silicon. Manufactured diamonds are becoming prevalent, read detailed story from Wired here. 4Ghz CPU? 400Ghz may not be far!

Therefore, this is not an indulgence but an opportunity in desperate need of hype, frenzy, marketing and Davos panels for the preeminent entrepreneurial workshops of the World like Silicon Valley and Israeli invention machinery to go after.

So far I have touched on formulated products. Perhaps insights can be gleaned from the discrete manufacturing industry like the automotive industry. Base car platforms are being personalized, such as the Scion, that have started to democratize the "made to order" car previously the domain of brands like Ferrari.

Yet, as I touched on Patents previously in (algorithmic) Evolutionary Innovation - Pt. I, the bigger concern will be with Intellectual Property. The traditional and current patent office could be considered a detriment to the future. Why? Because in its current state, it will have to grant every permutation of the algorithmically evolved invention a patent, every algorithm in itself will be a patent and then the methods of dispensation of the invention will be a patent also.

Here is an article with an example to validate my concerns above. This article relates tough questions faced by the USPTO today due to the great excitement brought about when and since the first "business methods" patent was awarded in 1998.

In case of algorithmically evolved inventions, a solution could be to take the bold step of declaring the duplication of Nature as Open Source, while the effort of deciphering Nature licensable.

Unfortunately, governments through history have not been able to seize the possibility and design the future. Mostly it is that the future seizes them and the opportunity is lost to the chagrin of the knowledge creators, who then have to find new horizons to practice their art and science.

By the way, I tried in vain for fifteen minutes to search for a simple statement describing the purpose of the US Patent & Trademark Office i.e. Who do they serve? What do they do?  And how does that come about? This continues to be an area of improvement for USPTO.

Caring and nurturing of the seeker, the discoverer and the inventor through the USPTO has brought great success to the USA in the past two centuries. It must take the lead here to enable us to continue to remain at the head of the World in knowledge creation and the ability to leverage it for growth.


Dubai, a frequent destination for me is presented here in pictures by Gulf News. Excellent tour of the city if you have not visited it.

The picture here is of the World's only 7-Star hotel Burj Al-Arab in Dubai.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Global News Sources

I have been asked often about the news sources I use to learn what is happening in the World. This reminds me of a chance meeting about twelve years ago with Mr. Bernard Shaw of CNN fame from the days of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

When I asked him the same question as above, Mr. Shaw shared with me that he scans multiple news sources across the globe in an attempt to gain insights. Being a global traveller myself, I have found at times that important news has been completely missing or misrepresented within certain borders - the more interesting point to note being that some of these borders may be considered as the most democratic of nations and societies.

Here is a list of few of the news sources I use:

Here are a few financial news sites I use daily:

I have found The Economist to provide valuable news on various subjects including economics, science, politics, etc.:

Finally, Mr. Ardeshir Cowasjee is someone I read often to get perspectives into Pakistani politics and life. Every so often there are good articles highlighting international viewpoints:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Floating Homes

Every time I visit a city or a metropolitan area next to a large body of water, I see how the masses are restricted to establish abodes on sides not occupied by water. It is usually refreshing to have this forced upon a city to give it beauty and a means to provide it environmental cleanliness... in most cases!

But now you may choose a house on the water, not a boat house but an actual house. See Floating Homes. Enjoy!

Academic Capitalism

During my travels across the globe in the past ten years, I have noticed a larger presence of American Universities in the Gulf region. It is an interesting experience to be driving along the terminus of a distant nation 10,000 miles from home and out pops up George Mason University.

For me in today's ever flattening world, the last bastion of respect among nations and regions is the knowledge giver and knowledge creator. For academia, the two are intrinsically connected and are NOT mutually exclusive. A pure knowledge giver is a consulting company. A pure knowledge creator is a research and development facility. Universities are the roots of the tree on which the above two branches grow.

I will discuss my involvement in the business of knowledge in the upcoming blogs and place links here. For now, see this article from The New York Times reviewing the allure of money for the US academia to go overseas to the ongoing concerns and issues faced by the existing US universities overseas. (note: you may have to get a free log-in to NY Times first)

(algorithmic) Evolutionary Innovation - Pt. I

I have always wondered whether all new inventions, concepts and ideas have existed before at some abstracted level. Philosophically speaking, I believe that is the case. In innovation, we have tried to mimic evolution, adopting the lessons from nature's selection processes, resulting in successful gains. Perhaps one day understanding punctuated equilibrium and replicating it will start to help us bring about the true breakthroughs desperately needed within innovation.

My points above seem to find validation in The Economist's article (in the Technology Quarterly) talking about evolutionary algorithms being used to "evolve" ideas, methods and even existing patents to create something new. Of course, "new" here takes on subjectivity.

Here is an excerpt that caught my attention... it touches on another topic I will discuss in my blogs - Patents.

"... the most cunning use of an evolutionary algorithm, though, is by Dr Koza himself. His team at Stanford developed a Wi-Fi antenna for a client who did not want to pay a patent-licence fee to Cisco Systems. The team fed the algorithm as much data as they could from the Cisco patent and told the software to design around it. It succeeded in doing so. The result is a design that does not infringe Cisco's patent—and is more efficient to boot."

I see an interesting future here!

Innovation: Adjacency, Laterality or Something New

Innovation, the word, the concept, has become a term that could be equated to ever changing and fulfilling the needs of the highest bidder, more perception than reality, more observation than fact and so on...

Yet, I believe here is a fantastic article (by The Economist) showing how innovation is challenging its static definitions. Perhaps innovation is choosing to become a statesman?

The Economist discusses an invention (frequency comb) in one industry finding application in a totally unrelated sector (breathalyzer). The question it raises for me - is this an example of "Adjacency", "Laterality" or something new?