The Sensing Wave of Opportunity

Recently, I found myself considering three different proof-points of how we are entering the "Sensing" wave of innovations and technologies as described in the 10 year Forecasts published by the Institute for the Future …

Proof-point #1:  Sensing Filters

The first proof-point is Clay Shirky's presentation at the Web 2.0 NYC where he made the case that we're not suffering from Information Overload but Filter Failure.   For filters to be successful, they need to "sense" what is important to me by becoming social-aware, context-aware, relevance-aware and location-aware.  Filters need "sensing" intelligence to correctly filter the flow of transactions, conversations and relationships that are important to me.   Here's Clay's presentation:

Proof-point #2: Sensing Signals

Sandy Pentland at MIT has a new book out titled Honest Signals.  I met Sandy a few years ago while doing some work with the MIT Media Lab.   At that time, Sandy was in data gathering mode… yet you could see the value of his research as it related to enterprise communications, collaboration and customer service applications. The new book outlines Sandy's findings from 5 years of research on how individuals communicate (send signals) beyond the conscious conversation… and the value of "sensing" those signals.

Here's an introduction summary:

"How can you know when someone is bluffing? Paying attention? Genuinely interested? The answer, writes Sandy Pentland in Honest Signals, is that subtle patterns in how we interact with other people reveal our attitudes toward them. These unconscious social signals are not just a back channel or a complement to our conscious language; they form a separate communication network. Biologically based "honest signaling," evolved from ancient primate signaling mechanisms, offers an unmatched window into our intentions, goals, and values. If we understand this ancient channel of communication, Pentland claims, we can accurately predict the outcomes of situations ranging from job interviews to first dates.

Pentland, an MIT professor, has used a specially designed digital sensor worn like an ID badge–a "sociometer"–to monitor and analyze the back-and-forth patterns of signaling among groups of people. He and his researchers found that this second channel of communication, revolving not around words but around social relations, profoundly influences major decisions in our lives–even though we are largely unaware of it. Pentland presents the scientific background necessary for understanding this form of communication, applies it to examples of group behavior in real organizations, and shows how by "reading" our social networks we can become more successful at pitching an idea, getting a job, or closing a deal. Using this "network intelligence" theory of social signaling, Pentland describes how we can harness the intelligence of our social network to become better managers, workers, and communicators."

Proof-point #3: Sensing Worker Effectiveness

Michael Moaz at Gartner highlights how aggregating and analyzing an employee's use of company and public applications will be used to sense the effectiveness of workers.

"What happens to this flotsam of data about us? Maybe nothing. Or maybe software systems begin to monitor the amount of time we spend on all of the media in our work lives, in the same way that your phone minutes are measured, your time in an application are measured at work, or your time in the office, or time stamps are captured for your credit card purchases. It isn’t too hard to project when these systems will evolve and become a standard part of your evaluation as an employee. I am employee 6746 with my company, and this week I spent 12 hours outside of the corporate productivity systems. Next we monitor how any of this time tracks back to achieving each of the metrics set for me in my capacity as an employee. Were you more productive meeting business goals? More efficient? If you were effective and efficient, it will be great. But what if you weren’t? Then how will your time invested in the social network be viewed?"

I believe the emerging wave of "Sensing" solutions and innovations will create new, fast growing companies and whole new industry segments just as the "Computing" Wave ( think Mainframe, Midrange, PC, Software) and "Connecting" Wave ( think networking, routing, switching, LAN, WAN, Wireless, Mobile) did over the last 25+ years.

… So watch for social-aware, context-aware, relevance-aware, attention-aware, location-aware, activity-aware technologies and related analytics applications as further proof-points of the growing "sensing" wave of opportunity.


  1. Yes, and not that far off, but probably, not that granular to begin with. Also, perhaps, it will start with the individuals desire to see where they are most effective, not with the company’s desire to find who is most effective.

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