Tag Archives: disruptive technology

Disruptive technology is more than just apps

Businesses frequently take a relatively simple view of digital disruption. In fact, it’s often not the applications that are disruptive, but the technologies and networks that power them. Rather than focusing on building the next killer app, in seeking disruptive technology, scientists and business leaders should work together and invest in the underlying technologies that change the fundamental science of how their industries operate.

Digital disruption often occurs behind the scenes, improving or streamlining the processes which define how well (or how badly) businesses and industries perform.

Apps act as simply one channel for people – whether consumers or employees – to access this disruptive technology. An “app-centric” view of disruption risks overlooking more effective ways to not only digitally transform industry practices, but also make these transformations accessible to those whom they benefit.

IoT’s disruptive technology impact

Take the Internet of Things, for example. The natural resources sector has already begun to adopt sensors, data analytics, and automation across all manner of operations, from drilling to transport and even maintenance of mining infrastructure. This disruptive technology has even percolated into not apps, but caps.

Mining3, an industry consortium made up of the CSIRO, several universities, and major mining firms, has developed a cap which monitors truck drivers’ brainwaves to detect fatigue before its deadly consequences set in.

More and more, disruptive technology comes from partnerships just like Mining3, forged between researchers and businesspeople who both seek to challenge what the status quo can deliver.

Researchers possess unique knowledge and critical faculties for tackling major industry or socio-economic issues; businesses can provide the resources, both technological and monetary, to make solutions viable on a large scale. When both parties’ goals align well, these partnerships can ensure digital disruption goes beyond the relatively trivial domain of the next social media app to catch the consumers’ fancy.

Play to your strengths

To be effective, these disruptive partnerships must play to both researchers’ and businesses’ strengths. Watson is IBM’s cognitive computing platform and a product of a collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. It can deliver surprising insights and strategic advice in almost any field – as long as it has enough data and human guidance to learn from.

When seeking to develop better treatments for cancer, doctors and research analysts, Memorial Hospital provided both: thousands of hours of training, as well as more than 12 million pages of text from more than 290 medical journals.

The more IBM Watson learns from Memorial Hospital’s expert oncologists, the more effectively Watson can help doctors spot and treat cancers, disrupting traditional methods of diagnosis and care in a way that could save countless lives. Perhaps most importantly, however, these insights and capabilities are accessible to any doctor in any licensed hospital – via a simple-to-use iPad app.

As researchers and innovators, we should focus on technologies which disrupt the fundamentals of industry and society – and an app is just the tip of the iceberg in what’s possible in this Cognitive Era.

Dr Joanna Batstone

Chief Technology Officer, IBM Australia 

Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research

Read next: Dr Joanna Batstone pinpoints what makes emerging technology so disruptive, and explains why we need to become more ambitious in our disruptive efforts. 

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

Cognitive technology is the future, digital is simply a platform

Digital disruption is no longer confined to the online world – if indeed it ever was. We’ve already begun to see cognitive technology – technology able to perform what were traditionally human tasks – disrupt industries that we’ve previously considered as offline; from taxis to hotels and even door-to-door deliveries.

In order to innovate for tomorrow however, we need to stop thinking in terms of “online” and “offline”, because digital is simply a platform, and it’s “cognitive” that’s the future.

Living in the cognitive era

Throughout the age of digital disruption, we saw industries which have, until now, underestimated the impact that technology can have on their operations.

Now, we find ourselves in the “cognitive era” – an age in which cognitive technology can understand, reason, learn and interact with natural language, and is very quickly bridging the human and machine divide in industries which never expected to be digitally disrupted. 

We are seeing augmented intelligence transform industries which have traditionally had a relatively low demand to “go digital”; industries such as healthcare, natural resources, and even fashion.

The thought of partnering AI technology with a creative industry like fashion seemed a little bit sci fi just a few years ago, yet is now on our doorstep. 

Cognitive technology in healthcare

In healthcare, cognitive technology is already playing a key role in progressing the science of how we tackle the big health battles of today, such as cancer and chronic illness.

The number of Australians affected by cancer is expected to rise by almost 15% between now and 2020, and preventable chronic illnesses place a heavy burden on our health systems. It all comes down to early detection. Take skin cancers and melanomas for example; identifying the subtlest of changes in skin lesions as early as possible is key to a patient’s survival.

IBM Research is using image analytics and cognitive technology to help doctors identify these changes in dermatological images, and improve the rate of early detection.

The same logic applies to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease; the earlier we can identify at-risk patients and put them into preventative care programs, the better their quality of life; and we can also start to lessen the burden on health systems.

Disruption in creative industries

Beyond health, there are other industries ripe for disruption from cognitive technology. Governments and urban planners now count Internet of Things sensors and mobile devices amongst the tools for creating friendlier, smarter and in many ways, self-managing cities.

Even artists and designers have begun to incorporate data into their creative concepts, whether analysing past fashion trends or creating pieces that respond to digital feedback in real-time.

Embracing cognitive computing

The digital age is well and truly a given for all businesses and we must embrace this new era of cognitive computing. The emerging technologies on our doorstep – from the Internet of Things to cognitive technology to quantum computing – will make data even more powerful than it already is.

This means we need to become more ambitious in our disruptive efforts: rather than seeking to simply overturn the latest applications or digital platforms, we should focus on how to apply technology which can understand, reason, learn and interact with phenomena in the physical world, and vice versa.

Dr Joanna Batstone

Chief Technology Officer, IBM Australia 

Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research

Read next: Joanna Batstone, discusses how scientists and business leaders can work together in disruptive partnerships.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

Uber-type services growing in popularity

Despite strong opposition from traditional taxi operators and some governments, Uber and Uber-type ride sharing services, have proven very popular amongst travellers, according to a University of Sydney Business School survey.   

The Transport Opinion Survey (TOPS), conducted by the Business School’s internationally respected, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), found that nearly a quarter of all Australians have used a ride sharing service while more than 40 per cent would if one was available locally.

“What we are seeing with Uber-styled services is the growing appeal of high quality mobility services that in due course might be a substitute for the taxi and indeed one’s own car,” said the Director of the School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, Professor David Hensher.

The latest Transport Opinion Survey also found that 7% of those who used an Uber or Uber-type services did so as a substitute for some travel in their own car and 4% substituted all of their own car travel. 10% used a ride-sharing services but did not want to lose the option of their own private car.

TOPS also asked Australians if they would be willing to make their car available to other people for a fee. About 20% said they would share their car with other people either by driving for Uber or similar companies (10%), peer-to-peer car sharing, through organisations such as Car Next Door (4%), or by both (5%). More than half (56%) said that would not be prepared to share their car with anyone outside their immediate friends and family.

“These percentage are relatively low at present but suggest a growing interest in mobility as a service in contrast to having to own a car in order to use a car,” says Hensher. “This will open up in the future with the aid of digital apps and new ways of serving the transport market that are not dependent on ownership.”

The latest TOPS survey also reveals that Australians are regaining confidence in their local transport services. The TOPS Confidence index rose from 44 to 62 over the past year but remains well below the base line of 100 set in September 2010.

As for the future, more people now look to the next 12 months with confidence than did in 2015 (46 to 65) and to the next five years (62 to 78).

TOPS is the only national survey to measure public opinion on transport related issues. The first 2016 report is at: http://sydney.edu.au/business/itls/tops

This article first appeared as a media release from the University of Sydney on 4 October 2016.

Using Big Data to save tiny lives

Computer scientist Carolyn McGregor has developed a disruptive technology utilising big data, that is set to start a new era in personalised medicine. Her life-saving Artemis IT platform analyses patterns in data such as heartbeats and breathing in newborn babies and spots problems before they are apparent to medical staff. The approach has great potential to save lives and is now being applied beyond the neonatal intensive care ward to astronauts and tactical response units.

In 1999, computer scientist Carolyn McGregor found herself in a neonatal ward in Sydney’s Nepean Hospital, surrounded by newborn babies, each connected to a range of medical monitoring devices.

“I was watching all of these medical devices flash different numbers, alarms going off, and I was just looking at the sheer volume of the data and thinking there’s just such a rich source of data here and wondering what was happening with all the data that was on the screen,” she recalls.

McGregor, Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics based at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada discovered that measurements were being jotted down on paper charts every 30 or 60 minutes. “I thought, these numbers are changing every second or even faster. There’s so much we could potentially do with all of that,” she says.

That meeting was the spark for McGregor’s work in the use of big data in neonatal health and she is now a leading international researcher in critical-care health informatics. Before moving to Canada in 2007, McGregor established, grew and led Health Informatics Research at Western Sydney University, where her internationally recognised research was supported by over $1 million in grant funding from sources such as the Australian Research Council and the Telstra Broadband Fund. This was foundational research that led to her going on to establish her award winning Artemis Platform.

Typically a nurse in an intensive care ward watches a patient’s breathing and heartbeat, essentially to make sure they’re still alive and haven’t gone into cardiac arrest or another life threatening situation. But as McGregor suspected, the data can tell doctors and nurses so much more than that, when harnessed and analysed properly.

Subtle changes in the pattens of breathing, heart rate and other indicators can all show changes in the patient’s condition that might indicate something more serious, but are undetectable from traditional observation.

For instance, neonatal sepsis is the leading cause of death among new-born babies in both the developing and developed world.

“If you watch the behaviour of the heart, the heartbeat actually starts to become very regular or more regular if the body’s coming under stress, like it does when you have an infection. So because we watch every beat of the heart, we can tell if we’re starting to see a regular heart rate. Couple that with some other indicators and it gives doctors a better tool to help them to say this is probably infection,” says McGregor.

The Artemis platform which McGregor and her research team have developed records more than 1200 readings every second, helping doctors harness and manage all of the information that the medical devices produce, and providing a mechanism to analyse all that information in complex ways.  It allows them to choose which indicators and conditions they want to monitor, and track those important subtle changes.

It is a lifesaving technology  for the tiny patients where a few hours can make a major difference in recovery rates. “We can see these patterns sometimes 24 hours before the baby starts to really succumb and show signs of an aggressive infection,” McGregor says. Neonatal infections can cause lifelong health care issues for sufferers, such as with their lungs.

Along with improving outcomes for individual patients, the technology has the potential to help health care systems save money. For instance, if a baby acquires an infection in the neonatal unit then the length of their stay is typically doubled – a two-month stay becomes a four-month stay. Identifying and treating these infections earlier has the potential to slash these times.

So far the Artemis platform is being used in partnering hospitals in Canada, China and the USA. It has developed to the point where it is scalable and will be rolled out to more hospitals in the near future.

McGregor says neonatal babies are arguably the most complex patient population, so solving a problem for them first, means it will be easier to solve for other populations. Indeed, McGregor’s work has applications beyond neonatal critical care. Variations in the heartbeat, for instance, can indicate a viral or bacterial infection, the onset of depression, drowsiness, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

It also has application beyond the traditional healthcare sector. A conversation with former Canadian astronaut Dave Williams led to a joint project with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA on how the technology can be used to monitor the health of astronauts when they travel into space.

Astronauts share several similarities with neonatal babies, McGregor says. “Both have to do with adaption. There’s a physical body change when a baby is born, and when it’s born early the change happens before the body’s ready. The lungs have to start to functioning to provide oxygen to the body and the heart changes its function when you’re born. And when an astronaut goes into space, they have to deal with weightlessness, there is a risk from radiation and the impact of weightlessness on the body can cause problems. We need monitoring systems to help watch the body adapt,” she says.

There are plans to use the system on NASA’s planned journey to Mars in the next couple of decades, because there will be weeks at a time when the alignment of the moon and the planets cut the astronauts off from communication with Earth.

McGregor is also working with tactical response teams. When soldiers or police have to clear a building or rescue a hostage, their adrenalin can surge and their heart rate can accelerate to such an extent that they’re at risk of passing out. A platform called Athena gathers and monitors the soldiers’ physical indicators as they complete  virtual reality training and provides analytics of how their body is behaving during the training activity. In this way they can understand how they are behaving in those scenarios which  helps them learn how to control their physical reactions.

McGregor grew up in the Hills district of Sydney’s north-west and says she always had an affinity with maths and enjoyed logic puzzles, so her maths teacher suggested she study computing after finishing school.

She enrolled in computer science at the University of Technology Sydney and at the same time worked at St George bank as a computer science cadet. Following her studies, she joined and ultimately led a project at St George to set up what was then called an executive information system and would now be referred to as big data. “It was the first of the new type of computing systems to analyse the way the business ran as opposed to the computing systems that we originally had which were systems to help the company run,” she says.

After a stint at Woolworths using data to understand what customers were buying and how to group products in the store to induce them to spend more, McGregor enrolled at the University of Technology Sydney to do her PhD in computer science, and then began to teach part time at Western Sydney University.

It was then that Dr Mark Tracy, a neonatologist from the Nepean Hospital, approached Western Sydney University and said he’d like to work with the computing and maths departments because he had more data than he knew what to do with – a visit that set McGregor on her current path.

McGregor says the practical experience that many Australians gain during education by being required to spend time working in companies while they study, is invaluable and an opportunity that many other countries do not provide.

As McGregor completed her undergraduate degree, she was one of only five women in a class of around 100. Sometimes women in science and IT can have inferiority complexes she says.  But a well-functioning innovative environment needs different perspectives and people of different backgrounds, genders and cultures, she says.

“So for women I would say, acknowledge the skill set that you have and the abilities that you have. You have a fantastic potential to make a significant difference in the technology space.”

Australian workers are highly regarded overseas, she says. “I think the Australian culture is to just get in, contribute, make a difference, get it done. We have a very good reputation as a highly skilled workforce to come into companies, whether you’re bringing innovation or you’re just bringing commitment,” says McGregor.

While McGregor currently bases herself in Canada, she is is  an honorary professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong, south of Sydney which enables her to supervise students in Australia and also to bring her research to Australia.

McGregor says she is inspired by the possibilities for further innovations in the use of big data for medical research.

“I really think we’re just at that tip of the iceberg of a whole new wave of doing research in the medical space,” she says.

“This is the new face of health care. In partnership with genomics, for every individual using fitbits and other personalised devices, the way forward will be to manage your own health and wellness. We are building the platforms and tools to do this.”

– Christopher Niesche

This article was first published by Australia Unlimited on 29 October 2015. Read the original article here.

Read more about Carolyn McGregor here.