Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

When Fixing Problems, Look Beyond

Merely Improving the Existing Solutions

One way in which technology is adopted is when an existing process is automated and made more efficient, cheaper, or reliable. Another is when a technique or innovation is applied to an existing process to drastically alter the way it occurs. The disadvantage of the latter is that it requires the idea being sold to someone who has to change to adopt it, and thereby carries a risk of failure. Applying a technology to merely streamline an existing process is a simpler to adopt as the implementation merely involves oiling an existing solution.

Given the keystone that communication occupies in our lives, you would think that it would be an exemplary case of technology implementation. Ironically though this isn't what has occurred; instead it is one of the most recalcitrant disciplines.

An example is the telephone. When it was first rolled out, it was used by secretaries to read memos sent by company executives. The secretaries would write down the message and read it to the recipient's secretary who'd deliver and collect a reply before phoning it back. It was a streamlining of the previous process, which had involved the message being carried to a telegraph agent who would encode it in Morse and send it as a telegram. We take it for granted now that a phone message is a way of conducting a two-way conversation, but for the first telephones it took a long while before the message's author and recipient would talk to each other directly and cut out the additional latency and inefficiency introduced by having couriers in-between.

While with smug hindsight we can mock the early adoption of the telephone, I fear that generations to come will do likewise with our current usage of e-mail. It originates from a scenario where mail would be used to send memos within and letters between organizations. Once computers were added to the equation, instead of hand writing memos and letters, people were using word processors and sending printed output. With networking, the obvious implementation was to shortcut the process and simply send the mail electronically to the recipient. What has occurred though is a world where e-mail has almost become the means and the end itself. A colleague came by my desk a few days ago to ask if I had received the e-mail he had sent me, and then went back to his cubicle to await my reply. Our corporate phone system e-mails you when someone leaves a phone message. In some situations I have received e-mails from people asking for a convenient time to telephone. Leaving aside the politics, flame, and other idiosyncrasies that come to the fore with e-mail, it is surely a poor implementation of technology as a means to solving the general problem of increasing communication effectiveness.

There are other examples of where the path of least resistance has been used, when a technology rollout has been influenced heavily by the legacy it replaces, rather than the promise it offers. Numeric keypads are a case in point, where telephones lay out 123 on the top row, and computers 123 on the bottom. The computer arrangement descends from calculators and adding machines, so why is the telephone different? It stems from an evolution that began with rotary phones with dials. The dial is turned clockwise to a fixed position and released, clicking on its return to generate pulses for each number; one for a 1, nine for a 9 and ten for a zero. The arrangement of the number was such that one was at the top, nine toward the bottom, and counter-clockwise next to it the zero. Nine and zero were infrequently used in phone numbers so they were the least easy to dial. When a numeric keypad for a phone was required, the engineers felt that, instead of just adopting the calculator key layout, keeping 1 at the top and 9 adjacent to 0 was easier for current phone dial users to migrate to. It was a decision based on following the path of least resistance to the adoption of technology, yet it has now created paradoxes such as the layout of soft keys on a telephony application being different from the physical layout of the keys on the computer's numeric keypad or the layout on a calculator application. It is a bizarre and seemingly insoluble legacy that stems from the initial solution being too closely aligned with the existing implementation rather than the new technology.

Apart from being interesting, these anecdotes provide lessons of failure where the common thread is that a technology is applied to an existing solution, rather than to the existing problem. When IT was first launched on corporations, buzzwords such as "business process re-engineering" were thrown about as jargon to embody the fact that computers would change the way the company worked, as well as merely improve its existing transactions. Instead, however, IT is now viewed as a cost center that has to purchase copies of operating systems and office applications, using whatever change remains to play with business innovation. It's akin to asking the sales department to pay a company's electric bills and catering costs before trying to generate new accounts, yet it passes off every day in boardrooms where IT managers have to fight daily for every dollar of their budget.

Whatever the future holds for IT, it has to come by looking at an existing scenario, and not merely attempting to tackle the old solution with a newer and faster technology, but peeling back the layers and working out what the original root problem was of the solution that's currently in place. The Internet has launched huge corporations that adopted technology as their means of doing point business rather than a bolt on, and the future is boundless as new problems are tackled with increasing bandwidth, mobility, and content type. I just hope that for each solution we aren't stuck with upside-down keyboards and implementations that hinder rather than aid communication, and that we all remember that the best solutions come from analyzing problems, not patching existing solutions.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Belgium News Desk 02/09/06 09:50:13 AM EST

One way in which technology is adopted is when an existing process is automated and made more efficient, cheaper, or reliable. Another is when a technique or innovation is applied to an existing process to drastically alter the way it occurs. The disadvantage of the latter is that it requires the idea being sold to someone who has to change to adopt it, and thereby carries a risk of failure. Applying a technology to merely streamline an existing process is a simpler to adopt as the implementation merely involves oiling an existing solution.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tappest will exhibit MooseFS at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MooseFS is a breakthrough concept in the storage industry. It allows you to secure stored data with either duplication or erasure coding using any server. The newest – 4.0 version of the software enables users to maintain the redundancy level with even 50% less hard drive space required. The software func...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software in the hope of capturing value in IoT. Although IoT is relatively new in the market, it has already gone through many promotional terms such as IoE, IoX, SDX, Edge/Fog, Mist Compute, etc. Ultimately, irrespective of the name, it is about deriving value from independent software assets participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution.
SYS-CON Events announced today that EARP will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "We are a software house, so we perfectly understand challenges that other software houses face in their projects. We can augment a team, that will work with the same standards and processes as our partners' internal teams. Our teams will deliver the same quality within the required time and budget just as our partn...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale, a global pure play Infrastructure as a Service provider and strategic partner of Dassault Systèmes, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2010, Outscale simplifies infrastructure complexities and boosts the business agility of its customers. Outscale delivers a secure, reliable and industrial strength solution for its customers, which in...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Outscale's technology makes an automated and adaptable Cloud available to businesses, supporting them in the most complex IT projects while controlling their operational aspects. You boost your IT infrastructure's reactivity, with request responses that only take a few seconds.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Systena America will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Systena Group has been in business for various software development and verification in Japan, US, ASEAN, and China by utilizing the knowledge we gained from all types of device development for various industries including smartphones (Android/iOS), wireless communication, security technology and IoT serv...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
In order to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s customers, companies are continually forced to redefine their business strategies in order to meet these needs, stay relevant and continue to see profitable growth. IoT deployment and development is integral in this transformation, and today businesses are increasingly seeing the value of investing their resources into IoT deployments. These technologies are able increase ROI through projects such as connecting supply chains or enabling sm...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Everywhere we turn in our industry we can find strong opinions about the direction, type and nature of cloud’s impact on computing and business. Another word that is used in every context in our industry is “hybrid.” In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Alvaro Gonzalez, Director of Technical, Partner and Field Marketing at Peak 10, will use a combination of a few conceptual props and some research recently commissioned by Peak 10 to offer a real-world consideration of how the various categories of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...