The Super Seven at MinneDemo19

#MinneDemo. That just happened. Seven super (Emcee and MinneStar board member Adrienne Peirce’s fave word of the night) tech innovations in Minnesota. It was a sold out crowd at the Guthrie for MinneDemo’s 19th run of their event platform that invites companies to take the stage for seven minutes each and show off their tech products. The event organizer, MinneStar, even had to turn folks away, but many of them, notably the introverts, didn’t mind. They got to view the live stream just outside of the theater and enjoy their beverages.

RedCurrent in Foreground, Stage in back

RedCurrent in Foreground, Stage in back

By show of hands, I’d say about 40% of the 700-some attendees were experiencing MinneDemo for the first-time. MinneStar board member Justin Porter was jazzed about this fact and encouraged post event conversations between the talented developers and tech-minded companies in the house, including top sponsors LeadPages and Best Buy.

The event was high-energy, despite being low tech at times. WiFi issues at the Guthrie and toggling back and forth between live streaming mobile and internet presented a few painful connectivity challenges, especially for GroveStreams, who handled the hindrances expertly. I seconded Jaclyn Grossfield’s tweet, “Agreed! painful RT @jaclynanng: Technology difficulties at #minnedemo. isn’t there someone – or 700 people- who can help? #getupthere.”

I will say that Justin did a great job of stepping up and taking the pressure off presenters when this occurred. Hashup creator Bryon Shannon just needed a few moments more to sync up his mobile to run his live demo, which ran very smoothly after a few refreshes. Between the seven presenters, we heard a brief 2-3 minute talk from some of the event sponsors and during the low tech lulls, the MinneStar team offered the mic to audience members with tech-oriented events to share a bit about their upcoming gatherings including Best Buy’s hosting of MinneBar, Twin Cities Geekettes and 1 Million Cups St. Paul.

The seven demos included, in this order, HashUp, Estate Map, DocentEdu, Grovestreams IoT, RedCurrent, ToggleGreen and PurchaseBox. They covered new social-oriented apps, efficient solutions for classrooms, event-goers, recruiters and job seekers, and consumers and retailers. Super favorite part: being invited to share in the beta testing for some and getting access to services, software and apps for free as a MinneDemo attendee. I downloaded @RedCurrentApp (in the AppStore for a mere 30 hours before the event) and @PurchaseBox right on the spot (@HashUp coming in March). I also signed up to test out EstateMap because you never know when you’ll be one of Facebook’s 10,000 daily death toll (morbid for sure).

For those of you who missed the event, here’s a download in #SixWords format first intro’d to me at #OTAFargo by SixWord founder, Larry Smith (see that recap here):

@HashUp: Smart social browsing powered by hashtags.

@EstateMap: Sum of money. Hidden under rock.

@DocentEdu: Layering education on content. Flow baby.

@Grovestreams IoT: Build Your IoT. Hot in Here.

@RedCurrentApp: Synced calendar, events by category. Sanity!

@ToggleGreen: Your next gig. Your terms. GTFO.

@PurchaseBox: Save trees. Eliminate coupons. Smart retail.

All of the presenters made for an entertaining, exciting evening and overview of what’s new and noteworthy in tech in Minnesota. It’s a growing and connected community that’s creating its own culture and identity here in the Twin Cities. I’ll wrap it up by saying it’s a super exciting time to be a geek in MN.


MHTA’s High Tech, High Touch CIO Panel

Minnesota High Tech Association’s (MHTA) annual CIO panel brought, as promised, a wide-ranging discussion of the year’s top developments, along with challenges and opportunities they see in 2015. The event, held on December 11, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, covered tech perspectives from the sports immersion experience (Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings)) to expanding the social experience to enable a digital workforce (Accenture).

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of MHTA (@MAKMinnesota) and moderated by Dee Thibodeau, CEO of Charter Solutions and MHTA Board member, kicked off the event with an overview of MHTA’s ACE Leadership Program. ACE, accepting applications now, is an eight-session program covering public speaking, effective negotiation and adaptive leadership in tech.

MHTA's Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA’s Oct 2014 WLIT Panel of Fearless #WomeninTech

MHTA does a well-rounded job of covering all types of events throughout the course of the year from their Spring Conference (May, 7, 2015) to membership-building events like golf outings. My first MHTA event was their October 21, 2014, Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) panel, where four top tech women in our local community shared their stories specific to their career paths and overcoming challenges.

The CIO panel offered yet more insight into the Minnesota tech community and drove home that fact that technology is so prominent and integral to any business. Interestingly enough, three of the five panelists were women. Kudos! Panel members’ industries included restaurant, medical, construction and tech services and management consulting. The diverse range of topics and insights covered delivered at least a few nuggets that each of the audience members could walk away with and directly apply to their own business and role.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Karen Bird, VP of Information Technology at BWWings, shared how they’re using tech to drive customer experience in their restaurants with tools like tech at each table enabling games and more. Eventually, you might be able to order your adult beverages with one tap. Emcee Dee, a recent visitor to BWWings, recapped her positive experience.  As a mom who’s brought her two kids (ages 9 and 11) to BWWings for eats and not necessarily a “immersive sports experience,” I can second that. When I visit, I appreciate the atmosphere, service, wings and most especially my Guest Experience Captain, an individual skilled in conversation and catering to your needs who doesn’t need to rush off to wait on 10 other tables. Karen’s leading the tech charge to take their concept internationally with restaurant openings in Dubai and more in 2015.

St. Jude Medical
Mark Murphy, VP and CIP of St. Jude Medical, touched on big data, security, managed services and the cloud, citing the extreme petabytes of information collected hourly from companies like Walmart. A word of caution: the current systems an average business has in place are not going to cut it. One mammoth challenge, also brought up during the end Q&A session, centered around what do do with all of the data companies are collecting. Too many companies are suffering from analysis paralysis. Mark stressed looking at data and building cross partnerships in other industries. This type of approach ensures relevance and deliberate research to support innovative ideas, like St. Jude Medical’s Quadripolar Lead.

MHTA's CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

MHTA’s CIO Panel Forecasting 2015 Tech Trends

Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs
Anita Scott, CIO of the Minnesota Department of Health and Veteran Affairs, shared insight on the process of bringing medical marijuana to Minnesotans. The forms and process flow chart she presented for players from facilities to care providers to the individuals was highly complex. Twenty-some companies invested a significant, non-refundable application fee to submit their companies to full the manufacturing and distribution roles statewide. Two were selected. Anita shared the video from Channel 12 TV, highlighting Maple Grove as one of the sites. One of the players happened to have their facility already built. At this news, my new friend next to me leaned over to note how interesting that was. We stifled our laughter.

Mortenson Construction
Robin Brown, VP and CIO of Mortenson Construction, from what I could gather, brought a breath of fresh air to a privately held, exponentially-growing construction firm. Mortenson, a respected name in construction in Minnesota since 1954, to its founders and leadership credit, has sought out expertise not only in construction, but other verticals. Delving into solar and wind power, for example, has helped them build relationships and value with their clients. They’re also using new technology (3D SketchUp) to bridge the gap in remote locations and job sites to bring more onsite manipulation of blueprints, process, materials and scheduling. More adaptable information and its quick dissemination is critical to solve some of their toughest challenges.

Andrew Wilson, CIO of Accenture, one of the world’s leading organizations providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services, with more than 305,000 employees, is British. I mention this because I could listen to his accent no problem, which is made possible by Accenture’s own TV channel with weekly content. What I found most exciting was Andrew’s discussion surrounding how they share internal content through online company communities via software like Lync and Yammer. He said blogging, for him, is obsolete. He places content on their community-driven page and engagement goes through the roof.

Overall, MHTA inspired great tech conversations through this diverse panel and set the stage for programming and content we can look forward to in 2015 with events like Tech.2015, the WLiT quarterly series and the 15 years and running Tekne Awards (Nov 18, 2015). Here’s to heightening the conversation surrounding tech in Minnesota!

Wearable Tech: By Fan or By Force?

Are you connected by Fit Bit, Moves or Map My Run to track your every move and motivate (or guilt) you into a healthy lifestyle? Are you an early adapter sporting GoogleGlass or awaiting Samsung’s Simband, a wristband to track multiple measures of its wearer’s health continuously? Or are you highly skeptical and find this type of tech invasive?

Wearable Tech InfographI recently attended day two of the Midwest Mobile Summit (#MWMS14) in Fargo, ND, where wearable tech was a key part of the conversation. Speaker Redg Snodgrass, CEO of Wearable World, Inc., an incubator focused on glass and wearable technologies based out Silicon Valley, presented The Dawning of the Wearable Economy. On May 6, coincidentally day two of the summit, Redg’s company released this infographic on The Existing Wearable Technology Landscape.

To place the infographic in context, Wearable World says, “The industry may still be in its early stages, but the number of companies developing wearables is fast expanding. With this growth comes an increase in overall product diversity. To help demonstrate this massive growth, we have created an infographic that identifies the major players within the space and showcases the infrastructure companies that support these new devices in order to help paint a more detailed picture of the taxonomical state of the wearables industry.”

Redg touched on this infographic during his May 6 presentation and the excitement in the room exponentially increased. The infographic broke wearable tech down by three categories including Lifestyle, Entertainment, Health & Fitness, then further segmented those into watches, glasses, clothing, jewelry, smart phones and headgear. They also dropped in company logos for those currently participating in these wearable tech spaces and capturing a slice of the industry expected to be at $30B by 2018.

Besides the infographic, one image that stuck with me from the presentation showed a baby with its ankle wrapped in a wearable tech device. The device could track your baby’s temperature among other things, alerting you to any abnormalities. Despite the fact that this is undoubtedly valuable information, when wearable becomes more mainstream will parents be guilted into using these types of devices? As we move forward with all of these devices, where is the empathy in tech? As Redg pointed out and I tweeted in 95 characters: @redgsnodgrass #mwms14 : no more #dudefest in tech — #women have empathy = good for #wearabletech.

While the fast-paced development of wearable tech, especially for health and fitness benefits, really excites me, I want to be a voice for the thoughtful use and adaption of wearable tech. To some extent the market will determine success or failure, as GoogleGlass is fully aware of. I believe in seamless and integrated tech that makes our lives easy and more fulfilling, but we are not there yet. Currently we’re at: “I’m so tired of looking at my iphone all of the time. I am ready to go back to a heads-up society.” (thanks @JameyErickson, #JMU612, for that insight!)

Heads-up: let’s pay attention to the user experience and effects of new wearable tech, specifically in terms of safety and privacy issues. Speaking a a parent of a 9 and 11 year-old, I do have concerns. I talked to one father who installed a tracking device in his 16-year-old daughter’s new car, unbeknownst to her. He also tracks her location via her mobile phone. What effect does this have on an individual? Is it a healthy way to teach teens to be responsible and build trust?

Rather than solely focus on tech because you can, I’m thinking about tech in terms of why and how you should and to what extreme. On Twitter the Internet of Things conversation is hashtagged #IoT (the Internet of Things refers to an expanding network of interconnected internet-enabled devices). The Guardian posted this article June 7 about the Internet of Things, which I found insightful as a reminder of the transition period we’re going through now. “When people talk about the Internet of Things, they tend to get hung up on the ‘things’ themselves. Actually, the real value and insight comes from the data that these devices provide. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is possible in terms of data extraction. It’s a very exciting time.”

We’re also in a time where people who choose to track and share their data still represent a minority. No one is going to force you to wear a connected device, but incentives (monetary or otherwise) and benefits will compel more people to use wearable tech. As a marketer, the potential for data collection and use is attractive. Consider the example of the car insurance company Drive Like a Girl, as cited in the Guardian article. They install on-board car computers that monitor your driving and offers cheaper premiums to those drivers who prove less likely to have an accident (okay so you aren’t actually wearing this device, your vehicle is). “We use the latest telematics technology to give girls the fair price they deserve, not because they are female, but because they are safer drivers,” the company’s website states. “With telematics, they can prove it.”

Where do you stand on the wearable tech scale? Are you a fan of it all or do you feel it being forced upon you?