Follwing is the transcript of an inteview with Chris Barger from IBM done during a break at the Business Leadership Forum in Rome.
BARGER: Hello and welcome to TheInnovationValue.com. I’m Christopher Barger. My guest today is John Patrick, President of Attitude LLC. John is a former IBM executive and is today a leading author and speaker and serves on a number of company boards.
He’s of course well known for having been one of the first and leading visionaries of the Internet and is today still one of the most innovative thinkers anywhere in the business world. It’s our privilege to welcome you to TheInnovationValue.com, John. Thanks for your time today.
PATRICK: Nice to be here, Chris.
BARGER: Well, we’re here at the IBM Business Leadership Forum in Rome, Italy. And I guess my first question, John, is what are your impressions of the conference so far?
PATRICK: It’s been quite good. The subject matter is innovation, and certainly not a new word. A lot of people taking credit for who invented innovation. Almost every company talks about innovation, but what I think is unique at this conference is the way IBM has pulled together the leading innovation companies, exploiters of innovation, from around the world and put them on the stage to share their ideas. So I guess the bottom line you could say a lot of companies talk about innovation; IBM is making it happen.
BARGER: Right, and bringing in…it really is truly a global conference, right? There are about 50 countries represented here?
PATRICK: Fifty countries, this morning we heard from CEOs, CEOs from China, Japan, Italy, India, Austria. It’s a very global conference.
BARGER: And which is great, to bring all those different diverse perspectives in to a conversation like this.
Now, beyond the speakers there are a lot of things out on the demo floor, a lot of products…or, not products, but a lot of solutions and different things being demonstrated and shown. What have you seen out there so far that’s really caught your eye or has gotten you stoked up?
PATRICK: Well, there were two things I thought were quite impressive. One is a tracking system for containers. And this is something that many of us have talked about for years, the ability to connect things to the Internet, to be able to not just enable people to interact but to be able to connect devices.
PATRICK: And so one of the most glaring security issues in the world is, how many containers are there? What’s in them? Who’s opening them? When do they get opened? And do we even know if they’re opened?
PATRICK: And the answers to those questions are not very pretty. So this technology that I saw here from IBM was fascinating. It was a physical device connected inside of a container, and then another little piece of it on the outside of the container, the combination of which allows someone to know if that container is opened.
And if it’s opened, it’s using Zigby, which is similar to WiFi, or think of it like a cellular phone, so that a local pickup device will know if that container is moved or if it’s opened. And as backup they also have the GSM cellular connection to be able to broadcast it to a far away place, so the central monitoring facility can see literally millions of containers and when they get opened. So I thought that was quite interesting.
The other one was in the healthcare arena. They showed a small model of a hospital with gurneys, hospital beds, on wheels. And each of those had an RFID tag actually attached to the patient so when you check into this little hospital they put a wristband on you…
BARGER: That’s right, just as they do now.
PATRICK: …as we’ve all seen. But this wristband has an RFID tag in it, which means whenever that person moves it’s noticed. And so when a person moves from the emergency room to the recovery room, that generates a message and a centralized application allows the primary care physician to know where you’re moving to or allows the administration of the hospital to see where the queues are, make sure nobody gets lost…
BARGER: Which would be a bad thing.
BARGER: Now, do I understand…is it possible to have the patient’s records, or not all of their records, but the record of specifically what they’re doing in the hospital, follow them through so that whatever physician…
I mean that’s the ultimate idea, of course, is to be able to integrate all the information about a patient in one place and allow that information to move with the patient so that when you go to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription, the information is already at the pharmacy. It’s added to your smartcard.
PATRICK: You authenticate with a biometric swipe of your finger just like you can on the new ThinkPads. Then you go to a doctor that you’ve been referred to and you walk in the doctor’s office, you swipe your finger. That triggers the authorization for the data from the centralized Regional Health Information Organization, a RHIO. Allows that information to come from the RHIO to that doctor so the doctor can see what other treatments you may have had, what tests you’ve had, what the results were.
This is vitally important, because in the US today there’s two trillion dollars spent on healthcare; 400 billion of it is on duplicative procedures. In other words, it’s faster and easier for a doctor to order another blood test than it is to get the results from the one you had last week.
BARGER: Right, which doesn’t seem to…it will help the industry both…. It will help patients certainly but it will also help the healthcare industry.
PATRICK: It helps everybody. It helps, the payers like it, the providers like it and the patients like it.
PATRICK: And of course it results in less errors. And this is the frightening part about today’s world of healthcare, is that people actually die because of information mistakes.
BARGER: Right, which never used to happen, which is ironic given that the quality of care or the quality of the technology that provides care now for us is better than ever. It also complicates things more than ever.
BARGER: Now, you’re out and around obviously speaking on topics around innovation. And what do you talk about out there? What do you see that’s happening next? Where’s…what’s really some of the other innovative stuff that we haven’t necessarily seen at this conference that really is catching your eye? Where’s…what’s the next big thing, so to speak?
PATRICK: Yes, well, there’s a lot of next big things. I’ve been thinking for years about the Internet in terms of fast, always on, everywhere, natural, intelligent, easy and trusted. And there are important innovations going on in each of those seven areas.
In the area of speed, I would single out the BPL — Broadband Power Line, a method to deliver broadband high speed Internet service not through the phone company, not through the cable company but through the electric company. And this is actually happening, and it’s a good thing.
BARGER: Where is it happening?
PATRICK: Well, it’s happening in Germany, it’s happening in Pennsylvania, it’s happening in I think in 20 some states now in the US. Virginia has one major community planning to make it available to everybody in the community.
PATRICK: So, you know, community based broadband.
In the area of, let’s say always on, we see a lot of innovation happening there. WiFi is really still at the beginning. We’re beginning to see WiMax, which will bring WiFi into a community. In the old days we used to call them T1 lines, or we used to talk about the back hole of…well, that’s going to be replaced by wireless also. And it will greatly expand the availability of wireless Internet service into remote areas all over the world.
A lot of interesting things are happening in the development environment. Ajax is something I’m quite enthused about. It’s a fancy technical buzzword, but what it really means is having Web applications that look like they’re desktop applications.
Web pages that don’t reload every time something changes, it’s just, you click on something and the data changes. You don’t have to reload another Web page. So that’s quite exciting from an end user perspective, you know, to have applications that are more natural, more responsive.
A lot of things are happening in the area of tagging. This is why blogging is really still at the very beginning, because it’s not just about you or me writing about something. I mean, that’s important and valid. But, how about that patient moving down the hall at the hospital, that RFID tag triggering not only some information to the hospital but generating a blog posting for the primary care physician showing up in that doctor’s patient folder so that he can see what is…what’s going on with his patients.
Or how about a press release, or a warranty recall, or a weather update, or a stock market transaction, or an auction that finished. Or you know, any kind of information really should have…have tags on it like a blog does, that give it context so you can find it, and sort it, and archive it, and syndicate it, and…. So I think it’s quite profound what’s going on in blogging.
BARGER: That’s an interesting parallel that I hadn’t even… that I hadn’t even considered. I wanted just, I guess, we’re running out of our time and I know you need to get back into the conference. But one last question to sort of help everybody that’s out there.
What are some of the disincentives or the roadblocks that get put up to innovation and how do you counsel people to overcome those objections? How do you overcome some inertia to make innovation happen?
PATRICK: Well, the possible impact, negative impact, is always regulation, lobbyists who are arguing for fair competition but what they really mean is protection, slowing down progress. So there are some inhibitors of that nature, but the way to overcome it is leadership.
And that’s what we’re seeing here at this conference. We certainly heard it from Sam Palmisano yesterday, we’ve heard it from CEO, after CEO, after CEO, talking about innovation, talking about personal leadership, how innovation starts at the top.
And each of these companies have incredibly impressive financial results to go along with their talk, so it’s not just…
BARGER: Which is very important.
PATRICK: Exactly. It’s not innovation for innovation’s sake; it’s innovation for shareholders’ and customers’ sake.
BARGER: Innovation that matters.
PATRICK: Innovation that matters.
BARGER: All right, well with that, we’ll close out. I want to thank my guest John Patrick of Attitude LLC. John, thanks for your time, and thank you for listening to this podcast from TheInnovationValue.com.
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