Scan Monthly No. 015

May 2004
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  Signals of Change
    – Reading Consumers' Minds
– Tapping the Global Genome
– The Next Internet?
– Nano-Bio-IT Convergence
    – Advances in Speech Technologies: Pointing the Way to New Applications
– Online Dispute Resolution
– Learning Implications of Social-Networking Technology and Services
– The Scan™ Process

Signals of Change

Reading Consumers' Minds
Automated call centers that can read the emotional stress in a customer's voice in order to provide a live operator when the customer is angry are providing a service. Call centers that test a person's voice to detect dishonesty are not. How many companies will pay attention to the fact that customers can tell the difference? Both of these capabilities are currently seeing implementation in commercial settings, and both are signs of changes to come as technology gradually achieves the refinements necessary to read not-so-obvious cues to human thought processes.

Tapping the Global Genome
The recent discovery of 800 new genes for photoreceptors in oceangoing microorganisms in the Sargasso Sea (along with 1.2 million new genes representing 1800 new species) implies that scientists haven't begun to tap the energy, chemical, and metabolic-process knowledge embedded in the world's genome.

The Next Internet?
The Internet is a tough act to follow, but the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is already cooking up what it hopes will take us beyond the Internet's packet-switching, connection-oriented architecture with its routing bottlenecks and high transmission-overhead costs. DARPA is looking at peer-to-peer, ad hoc wireless mesh networks that configure and heal themselves, grab and reconfigure spectrum on the fly as they need it, and provide several-orders-of-magnitude improvements in performance. The outcome will be extensive communication among machines, with human intervention only when necessary or appropriate.

Nano-Bio-IT Convergence
SRI Consulting Business Intelligence's technology navigator, Brock Hinzmann, recently helped facilitate a forum in Palo Alto, California, on the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology. Topics included the lab-in-a-cell concept, whether nanobio approaches will extend or obviate Moore's law, and who will lead in the intellectual-propertyintensive world of nanotechnology.


Advances in Speech Technologies: Pointing the Way to New Applications View summary
D04-2470   Download this Insight

Researchers have been working on speech technology, including speech recognition and computer-generated speech, for four decades, but only in the past ten years have commercial applications begun to take hold. Automatic speech recognition, speech-to-text technology, text-to-speech technology, and voice biometrics have carved out valuable markets, and some applications, such as speech-enabled interactive-voiceresponse systems in call centers or directory-assistance operations, have become commonplace. Now, the advances of the past two years are catapulting speech technologies into a range of new applications, including some in end-consumer markets. Some advances relate directly to speech technology; others affect the technology indirectly by improving system input. Recent developments such as speechless speech recognition, speech mining, speech-to-speech translation, and advanced navigation via speech all promise to increase the usability of speech technologies. With increasing integration with other technologies, speech technologies will improve access to information and offer new efficiencies, opening a number of business opportunities. Author: Martin Schwirn. 12 pages.

Online Dispute Resolution View summary
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Conflict is a fact of life in business. Companies have disputes with customers, suppliers, partners, regulators, and employees. In turn, within organizations, conflict simmers between functional departments, business units, and employees. Such conflict is not always bad: It can lead to healthy competition or creative solutions. However, poor management of conflict can waste time and consume resources, often leading to costly lawsuits. People have been searching for alternatives to the court system for more than a decade. Such alternatives particularly suit the online world, where cross-border transactions complicate efforts to establish legal jurisdictions. Online dispute resolution (ODR) uses approaches similar to those that find use offline, such as facilitated negotiation, mediation, arbitration, case appraisal, and complaint handling. However, the entire process takes place online, entailing neither a physical venue nor travel expenses for the parties. Use of ODR is growing fast: In thousands of cases, ODR providers have shown that the process can be fast, versatile, and inexpensive, resolving misunderstandings before they can escalate into more serious disputes. Author: Paul R. Merlyn. 14 pages.

Learning Implications of Social-Networking Technology and Services View summary
D04-2472   Download this Insight

Companies marketing technologies that enable or strengthen personal relationships and networks (so-called social-networking companies, or SNCs) directly influence learning by providing easier access to knowledge resources. SNCs are currently enjoying a fair amount of attention in the business press and with the venture-capital community, but skeptics abound. SNCs can affect learning by identifying experts and mapping enterprise-network dynamics, by improving the effectiveness of processes for capturing tacit knowledge and informal learning, by enabling and extending loosely coupled networks, and by helping organizations build and strengthen communities of practice. SNCs are particularly appropriate for enabling "weak ties" through which innovations propagate in organizations of various kinds as Liisa Välikangas described in R843, Corporate Renewal in a Knowledge Network, and D98-2148, Exploiting and Exploring Corporate Knowledge. This study, which SRIC-BIs Learning-on-Demand program created in conjunction with Scan, focuses on learning applications for social-networking tools in business-related environments such as companies, government agencies, universities, and alumni organizations. Authors: Eilif Trondsen, Alex Gault. 20 pages.

The Scan™ Process View summary
D04-2473   Download this Insight

The Signals of Change and the Insights that appear each month in the Scan™ Monthly are the result of a unique and creative process for identifying discontinuities and early signals of change in the commercial, cultural, and technology environments. The process depends heavily on the pattern-recognition abilities and collaborative efforts of a group of professionals. Human cognitive processes and collaboration are the most effective tools for dealing with the increasingly complex and interdependent set of variables and factors that create today's chaotic business environment. Every month, SRI Consulting Business Intelligence (SRIC-BI) researchers, analysts, marketers, and consultants assemble more than 100 abstracts of ideas, developments, and innovations that they believe are signals of change, discontinuities, outliers, inflection points, or disruptive technologies. These abstracts are data points from the fields of politics, regulations, consumer behavior, public opinion, business processes, technology, and science. A group of 20 to 25 professionals gathers each month to detect patterns and synergies among the 100 signals and speculate on the implications. This study provides an overview of the Scan process that will help Scan Monthly readers understand the methodology behind Scan content. The study will also help Scan subscribers who wish to model their annual Scan client-site workshop on the Scan process that SRIC-BI executes on a continuing basis and every month. The Scan process also assists companies in fostering future-oriented innovative attitudes and thought processes within the organization. Author: Kermit M. Patton. 12 pages.


Scan™ Briefings
The biannual Scan™ Briefings in which Scan staff present Scan analysis and findings in Menlo Park, California, will take place on:
  • 21 October 2004 at 8:00 am

  • 19 May 2005 at 8:00 am

Scan™ Abstract Meetings
Scan abstract meetings (in which SRIC-BI [now SBI] staff participate in a free-form discussion of current Scan abstracts) are open for client observation/participation on:
  • 21 July 2004 at 9:00 am

  • 22 September 2004 at 9:00 am

  • 20 October 2004 at 1:30 pm

  • 26 January 2005 at 9:00 am

  • 23 March 2005 at 9:00 am

  • 18 May 2005 at 1:30 pm.
Please contact your SRIC-BI (now SBI) marketing representative to schedule participation in any of the Scan meetings.

Watch List

The Scan program's scanning and research processes identify areas on the periphery of your organizations's focus that constitute potential opportunities or threats. The areas that we decide bear watching go on Scan's watch list of defining forces that are transforming the business environment. Current watch-list topics include:

The Scan Program's Watch List of Defining Forces