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How to drive innovation & collaboration in engineering

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:57pm
Louise Rainone, Contributor

What happens when you bring 1,500 software and hardware entrepreneurs and thought leaders to San Francisco to talk about the future of the Internet of Things? Complete and utter excitement about the future of our connected world, and where we are going to be in just a matter of days and months.

The Solid Conference, produced by O’Reilly Media, was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco on May 21 to 22. The idea for the conference was to bring software and hardware communities together in one space to discuss the connected world of the Internet of Things, and how to drive more innovation and collaboration between the two areas of engineering (think Maker Faire meets the world of Venture Capital.) These two areas of innovation are only just beginning to talk about how to make this world a better more connected place.

The big discussion these days across the spectrum is big data (it’s actually making me nauseous how often I hear this buzzword). The truth is, what we really want is information. A person can drown in data, but information, on the other hand, can give you an entirely new perspective and a leg up on the competition. Information is categorized as something that will help you make better decisions, but it’s important to define what information is valuable to you as a business person or as a consumer.

Everyone is interested in information and how to obtain that information, but what is obvious is that people want information about their daily activities and how to change their behaviors and habits for the better. Thus far, this idea is mostly shaped around the idea of sustainability, conservation, and self-betterment (i.e., health and wellness apps on our phones). Now, the information that our smart devices give us enables us to change behaviors and habits.

One of the most interesting keynotes for me was Tim O’Reilly’s fireside chat with Rod Smith, IBM fellow and Vice President of IBM Emerging Internet Technologies. The general discussion was about taking on our most pertinent issues, like water conservation, and how to make our infrastructure “smarter.” As the water crisis becomes more apparent, people and companies alike are looking to make those “smart” changes that we so desperately need (and really should have been putting in place before now).

These ideas revolve around the same question: how do we make better choices and raise awareness about consumption? This is why people are seeking out new technologies to help them make proactive decisions about how they consume water, monitor their energy consumption, and even monitor their health. As you have all heard before, this is the Wild West of the Internet of Things.

Carl Bass, President and CEO of Autodesk, presented “The Future of How things are Made.” This of course was most interesting and exciting to me because here at PCDworks, we make things. The message supported the argument that things are certainly changing in the world of “making things.” Bass talked about the most exciting technologies to hit additive manufacturing capabilities, and after seeing what’s coming out, I have to agree that the future is ripe with new manufacturing.

I feel like I keep up pretty well with trending technologies, especially in additive manufacturing, but Mr. Bass schooled me in up and coming 3D printing technologies. Like the fact that we are now 3D printing DNA, yes that’s right, DNA. While many people think that biological manufacturing is crazy, it seems many people, including Bass, think this is going to be a way to create sustainable manufacturing for many things. I love this idea. What if we can manufacture food? Could this solve the world’s hunger problems? Would this eliminate the need for brick and mortar completely? Will each home be equipped with a biological personal manufacturing device? It may actually be sooner than we think.

If you find yourself with sometime to spare check out the entire program online at http://solidcon.com/solid2014.

Every single speaker and session was captured, and while I always enjoy a trek out to San Francisco, the Solid Conference was just icing on the cake.  I gained a ton of knowledge about the future and those that are in the midst of creating a future that seems almost otherworldly. Solid 2014 got me excited about the future, and the future of the engineering disciplines ability to work together to create alternatives to how we approach business today. If you get a chance to attend the show next year, do it. It’s the perfect opportunity to engage and connect with the future – the future of technology, the future entrepreneurs, and the future of collaboration.

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