No clear path for innovators to next big thing

Instant data collection is making it difficult for innovators and technically savvy entrepreneurs to predict where the next big communications breakthrough will be.

Nonetheless, says blogger and journalist Jesse Brown, engineers stand ready to gain prestige and influence by seizing the momentum generated by the new “Internet of things.”

Brown, host of the influential Canadaland journalism website, was keynote speaker at PEO’s April 30 annual general meeting luncheon.

A one-time technology writer, Brown gained notoriety for developing a website and podcasts dedicated to journalism about journalism. In that role, he broke ground by reporting new details on such topics as the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault allegations, and other stories often involving high-profile Canadian journalists.

He regards his website as an example of how the Internet and interconnectedness are changing business models. He said many of the larger traditional industries, including newspapers and magazines, are streamlining operations as smaller, more readily connected companies offer products and services to the market.

“It’s really quite amazing today to see all the disparate types of information that can be connected to find solutions,” Brown said. “In fact, it’s often the case that once you connect a thing to the Internet, it’s rarely the problem you’re trying to solve that has the biggest impact.”

Brown cited the development of the smart phone–already considered old technology–as a device unleashing untold applications to collect information.

At the same time, Brown urged engineers to help steer communications technologies in the right direction. “The data exists today for all kinds of purposes that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. And this is where engineers will be making their presence felt. Just as the electric motor was a big game changer 120 years ago, today it’s new applications that enable more interconnections that will be the key.”

The Internet of things is also disrupting traditional business models, Brown added. He said that rather than expending enormous resources bringing a single product or service to market, today’s innovators and entrepreneurs make small investments in dozens of new ideas. “In that way, it’s okay if nine out of 10 new ideas don’t succeed,” Brown said. “It’s the one new idea that does succeed that could become the ‘next big thing.’ We shouldn’t be afraid of failure. Failure really is not as scary as we used to think it was. We should not be afraid to have nine straight failures if that’s what it takes to give rise to that one success that makes a difference.”

PEO would like to thank the sponsors of its 2016 AGM weekend:

Consulting Engineers of Ontario
Manulife Financial
Ontario Power Generation
TD Insurance Meloche Monnex
The Personal