Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where I write now

I now write about:

My corporate site is 21 thoughts.

You can also check out these retail experiments (US):

Thursday, September 08, 2005

when did Orlando last give you flowers?

Friday August 6th, 2010: culture and the bottom line”, Jenn clicks save on the latest entry to her corporate blog; 30 more minutes of profound (she wishes! Ok, she’ll settle for mildly inspired but infused with zest) musings.

Best friend Carmen, a freelance media consultant, delivers everything by voice, but Jenn still likes to type, even if yolky fingers make the keyboard sticky. Breakfast! Egg with soldiers will never go out fashion.

2010 has been a good year for Jenn; the latest high, promotion to creative accounts manager, will be celebrated in style.

Carmen and Jenn always lunch at the Vista Café on their way to the village. It’s a feel good thing; they’ve been coming for years and love the views down to the Tyne. From here, they’ve surveyed every step in the 5 year transformation of the valley.

Jenn has been promising herself a pair of James D boots for about as long as she can remember. Dragged onto stage by Stella McCartney at the Paris fashion week, local boy James’ studio would normally be ‘strictly window shopping only’. Today though, buoyed by the promotion, Jenn’s plastic is going to take the hit.

As they stroll down through Ouseburn’s maze of cafes, boutiques and galleries, a voice whispers out to her:

Hey Jenn, how’s it going?"

Orlando Bloom whispers again and catches her eye.

She turns a little red, it might only be a hologram, but that coy smile still makes her giggle. Teased by Carmen, she reaches for the bouquet that Orlando is offering. As she touches the flowers they melt into personalised messages in her hands: a reminder that it is Carmen’s birthday next week; the Blue Funk Café announcing that fresh chocolate and orange brownies are about to emerge from the oven; best of all, although the brownies are famously “to die for”, a promise from James D of a real bouquet if she buys those boots.

Jenn knows about holograms, they’ve been all the rage in the games studios, and in Tokyo they’ll even ‘push’ you onto trains. More importantly, how did the hologram know about Jenn? That Orlando was the man to melt her heart? That she needs, really really needs, those boots?
It’s all RFID tags and biometrics databases. A tag in Jenn’s mobile gives away her identity, a sensor detects her approach, looks up her profile, and hey presto… it has read her wish list, checked her social network of friends, and even discovered her shoe size… the correct pair of boots will be ready and waiting for her to try.

Back in 2005, we’d started to appreciate the consequences of low business numbers in the North East. Start-ups, so often business to business ventures, were frustrated and our economic growth potential was hampered. Concentration on the creation of clusters based on the creative, innovative and digital media industries through 2006 – 2008 had had initial mixed results. The success stories of 2009, though, spawned a whole network of knowledge intensive companies that are generating real wealth.

Where are the business opportunities in this scenario? Will you be setting up the design studio, running the software development houses, or bringing great Mediterranean inspired delights to the cafes? Perhaps you will have started up PerfectDelivery, collecting the purchases, exquisitely gift wrapping them, and ensuring they are waiting at the front door when Jenn returns home? Of course, PerfectDelivery will be high tech too, RFID tags on the purchases will have told you, long before you pick them up, what size wrapping paper you need to prepare, pre-determined the delivery route, taken into account current traffic flow and told your supplier you are running low on gold ribbon. There are other rich pickings here as well; will you be the hotshot lawyer advising on the challenges to personal privacy, or perhaps the planner inspiring further regeneration of the village?

OK, here’s your chance to get published:Identify a future job opportunity in the scenario. Email me your idea, and the most inventive will be published on the future* blog. You will also receive a copy of the “The Visionary’s Handbook” by Taylor & Wacker.

written for the September / October edition of Informnorth (a North East regional magazine targeted at 16-24 year olds)
illustration by
aardgoat 2005

future of engineering

Have you seen the Sage Gateshead? You can love or loathe its aesthetics, but check the engineering details: how did they mould those shapes? Glass that cleans itself! Acoustics that can even make McFly sound good!

Has engineering just got cool? Great engineering constructions are suddenly art and they are suddenly inspiring. We marvel at our new football stadiums with their majestic cantilever stands, whilst the sweeping arch of the Millennium Bridge draws thousands to the quayside. If we can continue to develop creativity and imagination in our universities and colleges, then you can be sure that our future works will simply get even cooler.

Of course it’s not just our buildings and edifices that are engineered. It’s getting increasingly personal; the iPod is a tremendous feat of engineering (by the way, did you know the head of design at Apple is a Northumbria University graduate?); the next Xbox and Sony consoles will be high definition, and battle will soon be locked in the fight to become the digital hub of our home. In a couple of years time, as you wait to ride a hipped half pipe, what gadget are you going to want in your Santa Cruz backpack and will it impress the cute kid in the Emily Strange beanie? What’s more, are you going to be the one designing and engineering it?

So, you’re sorting the gear that we desire, but are we going to be able to enjoy it? With all the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere, are we going to be able to breathe? Will we be able to spend a steamy afternoon with the Chilli Peppers at a great open air gig, or will the hole in the ozone layer have consigned the outdoors to a night time only activity? Did you know that down on Teesside they are engineering solutions; clean hydrogen fuel cells; closed loop chemical plants and sequestration, processes that keep the carbon out of the air and turn it into something useful. Wind farms are appearing up and down the region, is the next step to take them offshore? Maybe wave and sub-sea tidal power, being researched in Blyth, holds the answer. How does the strap line: “be an engineer, save the world” sound? Could you be the person who comes up with a solution that turns the heat of Africa into a valued resource; power a continent and empower a continent?

Where should we be looking for the next great engineering achievements? In the movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise’s newspaper is a single sheet displaying dynamic stories. Enabled by nanotechnology, this fold-away digital paper is not fiction though; companies like Fujitsu plan to have it in production next year. Perhaps the next step is digital clothes; would you be the talk of the party if your t-shirt was playing the latest DVD release? Nanotechnology is one bright future for engineering and with our North East skills in chemicals, paints, research and design real opportunities could exist in this field.

What about ‘traditional’ engineering? It’s true that basic components and engineering skills are becoming increasingly commoditised and highly vulnerable to the cheap labour and production markets of China, India and the Far East. However, even here we can envisage opportunities. We have great experience and excellent high level skills; can we leverage them? Can we manage, design and add value to the overseas plants? Can we continue to manufacture specialist products, perhaps high grade steel from our Teesside furnaces, turbines for the wind farms, or innovative deep ocean technology?

The future of engineering will abound with exciting opportunities. Let’s get visionary and realise them.

written for the July / August edition of Informnorth (a North East regional magazine targeted at 16-24 year olds)