Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TG Tech Briefs: Stories Worth Sharing for Week Ending December 20, 2014

There have been lots of stories over the past few weeks about wearables and sensor technology.

A New Chip Could Add Motion Sensing to Clothing A company called mCube has made a new kind of accelerometer that is small and cheap enough to lead to smart electronics in clothing and sports equipment.

First Look at Simband, Samsung's Health-Tracking Wearable of the Future & The Apple Watch May Solve the Usual Smart-Watch Annoyances Samsung’s new health tracker is equipped with six sensors, and its modular design means developers can add their own proprietary sensors as well. The six sensors it comes with can keep tabs on your daily steps, heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and how much sweat your sweat glands are producing. The blood pressure sensor is a photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor. The Apple Watch also has a PPG sensor.

Sweat Sensors Will Change How Wearables Track Your Health Researchers have discovered that perspiration may carry far more information and may be easier to stimulate, gather, and analyze than previously thought. This electronic sweat-patch uses paper microfluidics to wick sweat from the skin through a membrane that selects for a specific ion, such as sodium. Onboard circuitry calculates the ion concentration and sends the data to a smartphone. The electronics within the patch are externally powered, as in an RFID chip.

More Than Skin Deep & Artificial Skin That Senses, and Stretches, Like the Real Thing Both of these stories are about a thin, stretchable material that in which sensors and electronics can be incorporated. Making electronic devices that are skin-like will ultimately allow us to intimately integrate very advanced semiconductor technology and sensors with the body.

Radio-Controlled Mouse Hints at New Diabetes Treatment In this fascinating research at my alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, mice were made to respond to a radio signals by releasing insulin. One day this might allow people with type 1 diabetes to use an app on their phone to alleviate their disease at a cellular level.

Finally, being in the electronic monitoring industry for criminal justice, as well as from Colorado, I get asked lots of questions of about marijuana detection. There are few press releases popping up about marijuana breathalyzers, such as this one from Washington State University and this one from Lifeloc. These stories are high on promises but low on details. What’s not stated is that concentrations of delta-9 THC in breath are so low that there is no reliable sensing technology outside of traditional, lab-based chromatography. My opinion is that this is a really a law enforcement issue; not an electronic monitoring issue. THC does not readily disappear from the body, so there are many reliable ways to determine if somebody has recently used marijuana. But there is no reliable chemical test to determine if a person is under the influence of pot right now, and I don't see one coming for some time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TG Tech Briefs: Stories Worth Sharing for Week Ending December 13, 2014

Here are the latest product development and technology news that I find interesting.

New Smartphone Battery Goes From Dead To 70 Percent Charged In 2 Minutes,Scientists Say This team of researchers in Singapore have supposedly developed a way to charge batteries quickly by replacing the graphite normally used in the battery's anode (negative pole) with a gel made from titanium dioxide. They have applied for a grant to build a large-scale battery prototype for electric car tests, and say these new batteries could reach the market within two years.

New iPads Come with Special, Multi-Carrier “Apple SIM” & Apple's Quiet Attempt to Shake Up Wireless Carriers Could Benefit Us All Have you heard about the new “Apple SIM” that comes with latest iPad? It’s a software programmable SIM, meaning you can change carriers without swapping the SIM card. Participation is limited now, but Apple is trend-setter, so I imagine that we will all be able to advantage of such a SIM 2 or 3 years down the road. This could have a huge impact on how cellular carriers compete for business!

Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 There’s nothing earth-shattering, or even surprising, on Gartner’s list if you follow technology… but the concept of software-defined infrastructure is quite intriguing to me.

The'Internet of Things' Will Be The World's Most Massive Device Market And Save Companies Billions Of Dollars The growth in mobile computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to amaze me... a projected 6.7 billion connected device shipments in 2019! (Yes billion, with 9 zeroes.)

Finally, I found the chart below from MIT Technology Review very surprising and worth sharing. This one chart provides great insight into the whole Net Neutrality debate, and explains why a few companies who need tons of bandwidth will be more than willing to pay-to-play. The impact, if any, on small users like us remains to be seen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Measuring Product Development Productivity

I've recently been involved in a number of discussions about how to measure product development productivity, and I thought this was a great topic worth sharing. I've wrestled with this topic for much of my career, and have developed some pretty strong opinions on the subject.

First, I am not in favor of what I think of as "easily quantifiable but hollow metrics" such as lines of code, number of work items, number of drawings, number of ECOs, etc. Why? Because these measure effort and not results, and they may have little relationship to the success of the business. Remember, the whole purpose of product development is to help a business accomplish its goals. There are teams that can crank out tons of code that does not help the business in the least. Inversely, some teams may produce things that really matter to the business with a much smaller code base. Which team would you rather have?

Therefore, product development metrics need to be related to goals that are important to the business. These goals probably have something to do with increasing profits, revenue, or market share by introducing new products and features, but there are many other possibilities. Coming up with such metrics is admittedly easier said than done.
Here are two metrics that I have evolved into to over time:

1) Revenue from new products introduced in the past three years. This is pretty easy to measure and can be tailored to for any business. Perhaps it's 1 year instead of 3. Perhaps revenue is replaced by the percent of end-users who use new software features released in the past year. You get the idea.

2) ROI from development effort. This is much more complicated. Actually, the "I" part is pretty easy, but the "R" part can be tough; it will require debate and agreement among various stakeholders. This is also a long-term metric, as large projects may take years to produce any ROI at all.

I'm interested in your thoughts and comments. What metrics do you use?