Posts made in June 2019

Farmbeats: AI & Nature Combine to Keep Us Fed

By 2050 we need to increase food production by 70% to feed the growing population and it can not be done simply by farmers intuition, we need AI. Thankfully Microsoft has developed Farmbeats which uses technology to predict the best times to plant, grow, and harvest for certain crops that reduces waste and increases production.  This is an opportunity for us to quite literally get back to our roots and redefine the food production process, even for small businesses.

Impact on the government contracting market 

Most of the government contracts for agriculture come in the form of conservation consulting and equipment maintenance. Now with this type of technology IT can get in the game. Through  government subsidies for farmers this allows a space for them to create a budget to use this technology and hire a small IT business to maintain, upgrade, and consult on how to improve harvests.  By using Farmbeats, the once separate consulting and maintenance contracts are blended and create a new revenue stream that benefits everyone. From my understanding this is not available to be subsidized just yet. However  I see an opportunity where small IT businesses can make a large impact in this field and possibly create teaming opportunities that would benefit local and national economy by employing more farmers, IT workers, and producing harvests that will over-exceed the need for more fresh produce.

See how this works at the Dancing Cow farm.

 

 

Driving Blind: Self Driving Cars

The idea of a self driving car is spectacular. Imagine sitting in traffic and you don’t have to endure your leg cramping, back hurting, and the impending rage filled honking because someone dared to try to come into your lane, just to sit there. Now that is the car’s problem. While you can stretch out in the back, have a snack, and wait for the rubbernecking traffic to be over. At the same time, that sounds horrifyingly irresponsible! What if a deer suddenly runs in to the road or debris from a truck scatters along the street. How can we rely on the reaction time of a self driving car? What can we expect from a machine that can not see?

The Opportunity

I believe there are opportunities with every type of technology and these self driving cars are no different. As explained the video the car ‘sees’ with LIDAR and Mach-Zehnder mudulator. These devices work together to create the ‘eyes’ of the machine and that got me thinking. Any type of machine needs maintenance. Therefore to continue to evolve this technology there will need to be teams in place to execute that evolution. There are already driverless arsenal and supply trucks for the military in development which means there will be companies that want to manufacturer and maintain said trucks, which opens opportunities for government contractors to create something incredible for the future.

Seeing the dilemma

In the movie I, Robot there is a scene where Will Smith’s character is discussing the lack of ethics in robots. He and a family with a little girl got into a car accident and ended up in a river. A nearby robot saw the accident and calculated that Will Smith’s character had a 45% chance of survival and  the girl had an 11% chance of survival. Since his character had a higher chance of survival the robot saved him and let the girl drown. He reaffirmed his story by saying ‘That was somebody’s baby, 11%  chance is more than enough. A human being would have known that.’

Remembering this scene makes me think about the ethical dilemma when a car with it’s  incredible ‘eyes’ must maneuver in traffic thinking about the safety of the driver over the safety of the cars, motorists, or pedestrians around them. While LIDAR and Mach-Zehnder mudulator can sense different objects around it or coming up on the road, can it make a decision on how to keep everyone in the car and on the road alive. The problem is self-driving cars are not the norm currently. And the adjustment will be a rough one because you will have humans and robots interacting and trying to co-exist.

Once again there is an opportunity here. I would love to be able to lean back and let the car do it’s thing. However knowing that the technology still needs to perfect it’s ethical ‘human’ side, it’s not quite time for us to be solely reliable on self-driving cars. The opportunity for companies is to employ more robotic, mechanical, and driving experts to create more margins for error so that the robot can function simultaneously on a mechanical and human level so it won’t be driving blind without ethics.

 

 

The Broken Tunnel: Our Peers Are Our Best Mentors

Imagine you’ve finally reached your peak. You’re not taking on small clients, your business has increased, so has the staff and your corporate account. Then a friend and professional contemporary says, ‘You’re doing great! Now here’s the next step.’
What?!
When you have finely tuned your strategies and tactics and are in the flow of success and someone says there’s another level, it can be disheartening; especially when it’s coming from a friend. The purpose of a mentor is to guide you into a higher place, and a friend should be supportive no matter what right? Wrong. A good friend can accept you for whoever you are, but a great friend sees your potential before you consider the possibility of more.
The Broken Tunnel 
A young woman woke up one morning and decided to build a train. She had ridden on many trains before, some would recognize them as the ‘Get-by’, ‘Hustle’, or ‘Pays-the-bills’ locomotives. She wanted to build something new, something unique to her that many could hop on to as well and they could all get to where they wanted to go faster. She knew specific tracks needed to be laid to carry her train so despite the obstacles and fear mongering naysayers she laid her tracks that she called Possibilities. Then she built her train that ran fast and smooth with no delay or mechanical issue, and she named her train Triumph.  She only allowed certain people on her train that were comfortable riding the Triumph on Possibilities. While they rode on her train they were inspired to build their own modes of transportation to fly high, master seas, and hit the road; all moving forward.
To protect the mechanics and exclusivity of the train she created a tunnel with few openings that would allow new people on who were also moving forward.  She called the tunnel Fear-less because there was much less to fear while inside the tunnel. People would hear Triumph but no one could see it or comment on how it was working. One day a long time rider of the train approached her and said, ‘Have you thought about breaking down these walls and opening up the tunnel? Possibilities could run through many different types of terrains and the view for your passengers will also expand.’ The woman was appalled at the thought of breaking down the walls of Fear-less, stopped the train, and kicked them off.
A few months went by and Triumph’s engines began to wear, Fear-less was still sturdy, and Possibilities began to rust. The woman slowed down the train and passengers began to leave one-by-one. The couldn’t trust Triumph to run on Possibilities and wanted to leave the Fear-less tunnel to get moving on their own modes of transportation. Very few passengers remained and the woman struggled to keep her own faith in the slow moving train. One day a passenger saw a glimmer in the distance of the tunnel. They ran up to the woman and told her to go full speed ahead towards the glimmer. The light eventually got so bright that in shone through the car, though blinded she kept going. Warning lights and alarms started to go off in Triumph, but she kept driving the train forward. Finally she reached the source of the light. Triumph coasted to the end of Possibilities that it could ride on. And there in the broken Fear-less tunnel stood the former passenger.
The woman got off the train and walked out of fearless where the former passenger stood holding a sledgehammer they named Advance. The woman broke down in tears and explained how Triumph was dying and Possibilities were running out. The former passenger said,
“I knew it was hard for you to see where Possibilities could go, because you were in your tunnel. I also knew eventually your beloved triumph would stop running because it was never meant to run forever. You left behind the old trains, but this one was only meant to get you to a point. Well here it is.  You could not see that Possibilities was ending because of your tunnel. Now with this open space you have many options of where Possibilities can be built and travel to. I have a plane, Chance, and with I have seen so many places you could go.”
The woman took a relenting sigh as the former passenger explained that she would need a new train for her new tracks. She broke apart Triumph and used some old parts, combined with new parts to build the next train. The former passenger would allow her to fly Chance every once in a while, as they gave advice on how to build more of Possibilities. It hurt her to give up Triumph, but she realized that the former passenger was the best rider on her train because with them, Chance, and building more Possibilities she created her new train Prosperity.
Break it open
While this is a story, the process is the same. We take different components of our lives to build the ideal life, but we cannot have tunnel vision and be blinded by our own wit or knowledge. It’s hard to challenge our egos when things are going well, even if they are going wrong we still believe in our own minds for what is best. Our friends are our best mentors, because they know the desires of our hearts as well as what we are capable of, even when we don’t. We know the possibilities of our business or lives, but we must build it and trust those who want to help us take chances, ride through our triumphs and move forward with prosperity.