Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Augmented Intelligence

How do we connect A to B?

Or does A even connect to B? Or more importantly, how can we use A to make a better decision about B?

Recently, I have become absolutely fascinated with the potential around cloud based collaboration backed with massive amounts of meaningful and sort able data provided in collaboration with computers. It's interesting to see the dialog shift away from Man vs. Machine to >> Man and Machine vs. Big Issues. Isn't this really what the promise of technology is? The ability to team the calculative (CPU) with the cognitive (human mind) to make better informed decisions that can have a huge impact.

So what does it all mean? Of course, the rise of Big Data has begun....or at least now we are focusing on how to better use the millions of petabytes each year that we generate to create value. Why this trend is relevant, is that for the first time in our history we are now able to capture, collect and sort huge amounts of data relatively inexpensively. So what do we do with this "stuff"?

To be fair, I'm not sure (how's that for honesty?)... but this trend has some fascinating possibilities. Particularly, in the areas of system to process mapping. While, this may seem to be arguably the "least sexy" of the big data trends, allow me to indulge this opinion further.

In an ever increasing manner, there is an interesting counter culture to a movement away from big software products to solve their smaller issues or repetitive pain points. This is hopefully evident in the rise of the quantity of apps that exist now versus 5 years ago. And though there are a rising number of conversations on data storage and cloud based apps. Do apps work? Is there a place for them within the AECO industry? Largely, I think the answer is yes.

Apps; unlike traditional out of the box software that ride on "fat clients" mostly ride on "thin clients". Thin clients are apps that use the processing power of other servers, and in many cases these servers are cloud based. This virtually unlimited processing power (though you pay for it through a service like Amazon web services) opens up a number of possibilities to process and connect large amounts of data about what we do and the decisions we make and their results. Additionally, we can now display, filter and sort this information in meaningful ways to better inform our processes.

One of the projects, we are working on now is actually investigating, who uses what information throughout a project's life cycle. This study will begin in design and follows all the way to operations and maintenance. What will be interesting about tracking the access to this information through various stakeholders, will be to challenge our constructs around information exchange and seeing if "A" does in fact connect to "B" or if it actually connects to "Q" (and thus, that we have no idea what we're talking about). Either way we are using Big Data around file accessibility to find if we are making the right planning decisions... more importantly and probably more fun is the surprises we envision coming from this exercise. I look forward to sharing the app after this project.

I've attached a great video from Sean Gourley on Augmented Intelligence. Check out the part where he uses his software Quid to make information 3D. Interesting stuff as we usually go the other way around, so to speak in BIM and model content creation.