Electric Cars: TechCast Expert Update


In his July 2012 newsletter, TechCast editor Chad Davis (2012) repeated what entrepreneur Elon Musk said about the state of electric cars 20 years into the future in that “more than half of new cars manufactured will be fully electric”. He continued with “I feel actually quite safe in that bet. That's a bet I will put money on." And he quickly added, "It's probably going to be in the 12- to 15-year time frame." In addition to what the naysayers spoke of, Davis (2012) added a Pike Research predictive report that appeared to suggest that it would be closer to a third of all the cars built by the year 2032. The TechCast experts on the subject agrees with Musk’s forecast in spite his acknowledgement that the current state of battery technology is hindering factor.

Have we been here before? Does the forecast ring of familiarity? Mark Twain was famous for remarking about historic recurrence in that "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme". Thankfully, Jonathan Katz of Industry Week recalls when the electric car first attempted penetration into the mainstream market…back in 1974. More important, he remembers the forces of the day driving the innovation. As he recalled, the energy market crisis and governmental pollution compliance deadlines were the impetus for electric vehicle (EV) innovations much like today. He noted that the same concerns about the technology then hold true today. James Overbeke, editor with Industry Week in1974 wrote in an article on the subject of electric cars that "The best available can rarely go 100 miles at 50 mph". "Also, they require 5- to 7-hour periods on the recharger”.

It’s 40 years later with today’s electric vehicle state rhyming with 1974 complete with an energy crisis of sorts and environmental protection enforcement by the federal government - similar and powerful forces. So, what's different this time that makes history rhyme instead of repeat. Market forces (energy and govenment) then did not include the individual consumer. In 1974, the EV market became narrowly focused toward delivery vehicles, buses, taxis, garbage trucks. What about the average passenger car? Wisdom of the day warned that overemphasis of electric passenger cars could tend to waste developmental funds. Moreover, designers of electric vehicles would not produce anything new. Fast forward 40 years and market forces rely almost solely on the consumer demand for passenger vehicles. Only the technical and financial forces mirror each other during both times. Battery technology was a problem in 1974 and remains a problem today. Cost for the purchaser was a problem and unfortunately remains a problem today.

On the whole, I’d say Samuel Clemens would espouse in a most colorful fashion through his famous pen character how accurate his quote was. Still, let’s not lose sight of the forecast about the technology itself. Given the 40 years since the reboot of the electric vehicle and the rhyming characteristics of the past versus the future, I’d hedge my bets that 20 years is rather optimistic on the part of Mr. Musk and the TechCast experts. And there’s one more unexpected force that has had a bigger impact on the fate of the EV than any other – innovation itself in the form of hybrid and still more efficient fossil-fueled vehicles. Unless we forget, the EV has been around for more than 100 years. Perhaps a 40 year cycle doesn't look so bad after all.

Davis, D. (July 2012). Elon Musk: 50% of New Cars Will Be Electric in 20 Years. Retrieved August 24, 2012 from
Katz, J. (May 2012). The Electric-Car Craze Takes Hold -- in 1974. Retrieved August 24, 2012 from
Overbeke, J. (June 1974). Electric Vehicle Industry Sounds a “Charge”. Retrieved August 25, 2012 from

Security Innovations

DNA research has done more than just produce cures for medical diseases. It opened the door to help solve problems of other types. Welcome to the new world of bio-security.

The National Science and Technology Council (2006) notes the future of the biometrics community will be shaped by four primary driving forces:

  1. National Security
  2. Homeland Security and Law Enforcement
  3. Enterprise And E-government Services
  4. Personal Information and Business Transactions

The council further offers four preeminent challenges for the biometrics community:

  1. Improve collection devices - biometric sensors
  2. Develop efficient and effective large-scale operational capabilities
  3. Establish standards for plug-and-play performance
  4. Enable informed debate on why, how and when biometrics should be used

The council's analysis of each driving force reveals shared areas of concern, which in turn suggest the most crucial areas for enhanced emphasis and collaboration within the biometrics community. 


National Science and Technlogy Council (2006). The National Biometric Challenge. Retrieved September 1, 2012 from

Life Extension Innovations



Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant more commonly known as the active ingredient in red wine. Resveratrol very likely has more health benefits than just protecting against heart disease thereby impacting medical fields in various ways. According to Australian researcher Lindsay Brown, the breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more. It has long been a question as to how such a simple compound could have these effects but now the puzzle is becoming clearer with the discovery of the pathways, especially the sirtuins, a family of enzymes that regulate the production of cellular components by the nucleus (Brown 2009). The medical community has yet to jump on the resveratrol wagon (pending FDA approval) making its viability as a go-to pharmaceutical less likely. Still, the powerful health food industrial complex found a way to capitalize on the early buzz.

So, why hasn’t the scientific community moved forward in developing its commercial application? The answer is one of  a legal nature. The much-touted health benefits of red wine took a hit recently. Dipak Das, a University of Connecticut researcher who has published extensively on the positive effects of resveratrol, was found guilty on 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data published in 11 different journals. Scientific institutional forces acted quickly to distance itself from the fallout of the investigations. Unfortunately, the move delayed any momentum gathered by researchers leading various studies. However, other researchers in the field are quick to point out that while the charges might mean the end of Das’s career, resveratrol research is alive and well. If resveratrol is to regain its promise to extend life, countervailing arguments within the scientific community will have to diminish. 

Brown, Lindsay (2009). The Biological Responses to Resveratrol and Other Polyphenols From Alcoholic Beverages. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.00989.x

Better Democracy by Structured Design


In his book titled ‘How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power, author Bausch and Christakis explain how he believes the Structured Dialog Process more efficiently overcomes Bruce Tuckman’s classic burdens of dialogue (Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing) with an integrated mix of facilitation processes and software support developed over the last 35 years (Christakis 2006). He condensed his ideas further in the paper, the New Agora:  New Geometry of Languaging and New Technologyof Democracy.

Structured Design Process

Just what is the Structured Dialogue Process (SDP or SDDP) that Bausch and Christakis speak about? SDP is a methodology based on a structured, inclusive and collaborative dialogue that develops a sense of co-designing and co-ownership of both the process and the contents. The process was created to assist non-homogenous groups in intense brainstorming discussions and should be an essential step in any plan for innovation or change. One might ask why this is important. The SDP promotes focused communication among the participants in the designing process and in the ownership of and commitment in the outcomes. It is therefore a relevant practice that can be implemented where effective engagement of stakeholders is crucial.

I don’t take this position alone; it’s shared by the three most recent recipients of the Northern Virginia Technology Council-Washington Technology CTO Innovator Awards (Tim Hoechst, co-founder and CTO of Agilex, H. Gilbert Miller, corporate vice president and CTO of Noblis, and Neil Siegel, vice president and chief engineer of Northrop Grumman’s Technical and Engineering Group,). When interviewed, they admit to reliance on structured approaches and strategies to stay on top of technology and market trends. They reason their way through the hype and come up with effective solutions to the most pressing problems currently facing both industry and government (Hayes 2012). Referencing the diagram below, the CTOs can be credited for using the beginning steps of SDDP where you replace the “hype” with (a) Complex Situation and “pressing problems” with (b) Frame and Focus on a Triggering Question. 

Structured Designed Discourse has an impact the....

FINANCIAL - Participatory democracy is a powerful tool in all social enterprises. The business community has long had monetary incentives to make democracy work ... at least at the level of collective planning. For this reason the link between business strategy and civic discourse will have some profoundly convergent moments.

CULTURAL - We know decision-Making is central to human activity. Thus, we are all decision-makers. However, "good" decision-making starts with a repeatable, purposeful, strategic-thinking process or structured dialogue. At first glance, SDP may be seen as method to overcome the difficulties within cultural constraints. It does more, much more – it provides a model for identifying what we need to evolve cyberspace into Philanthropolis. 

Christakis, A. (2006). How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-Laboratories of Democracy. New Delhi. Atlantic Publishers and Distributers.

Hayes, H. (March 2012). Top CTOs on the keys to innovation. Retrieved August 11, 2012 from

The Best Fit: NGT or Delphi Method


The NGT technique takes advantage of pooled judgments from a variety of people with varied talents, knowledge, and skills to form a consensus (Dobbie, Freeman, Rhodes, & Tysinger 2004). The Delphi Method collects and distills the anonymous judgments of experts using data collection and analysis (Hartman, Khran, & Skulmoski 2007). While both are iterative processes, the breakdown of its membership and practice differ:

During NGT, each individual group member independently develops a list of ideas surrounding the issue under discussion. Group members report one idea at a time, followed by discussion. After all members have presented their ideas and the group has discussed them, each member ranks the ideas presented. Under the Delphi method, opinions are sought on a particular topic. After the opinions are collected they are summarized and returned to the experts for further opinions and judgments. Several rounds of this generate a synthesis of opinions.

The basic differences between the Delphi Method and NGT as explained by Kumar and Sharma (2000) greatly influence the approach I would take to exploring an innovation idea. First, the Delphi participants are typically anonymous to one another, NGT participants become acquainted. Second, NGT participants meet face-to-face roundtable style; Delphi participants are physically separated and never meet in person. Third, while in the Delphi process, all communication between participants is by way of written questionnaires and feedback, in NGT, communication is between the participants.

To explore my innovation idea, the Delphi Method with closed colla-boration is a more practical choice because it has the advantage of having several judges removing the biasing effects that can occur during face-to-face interaction in addition to taking advantage of real-world knowledge from experts.


Dobbie A., Freeman J., Rhodes M., & Tysinger J. (June 2004). Using a modified nominal group technique as a curriculum evaluation tool. Retrieved August 3, 2012 from

Hartman, F., Khran, J., & Skulmoski, G. (2007). The Delphi Method for Graduate Research. Retrieved August 4, 2012 from

Kumar, A. & Sharma, R. (2000). Principles of Business Management. New Delhi. Atlantic Publishers and Distributers.

TED Talk: ‘Little Bits’ to Big Future


Ask almost any passerby about a Lincoln Log and you’ll instantly transport them back in time to a place where creativity had no boundaries. You may also see a hint of a smile or even elicit a giggle or two. Ask them who invented the Lincoln Log and the demeanor may quickly change to one of puzzlement. Most do not know that John Lloyd Wright, son of world renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was the inventor of the Lincoln Log. They also would not know that his inspiration was the great Japanese Hotel ‘Imperial’. He got the idea of the Lincoln Log while observing his father build the hotel. 

I’m confident young Wright did not understand the impact his architectural creations would have on generations of children. That is, until his Lincoln Logs became an unexpected success. Now taking center stage is Ayah Bdeir. Bdeir, an engineer and artist, is the founder of littleBits and karaj, an experimental art, architecture and technology lab in Beirut. In her TED talk, she reveals two points:

  1.  Old technology, even toys can be re-imagined or re-purposed.
  2. Innovative concepts are no longer in the hands of just experts.

Bdeir demonstrated how seemingly complex inventions can occur, grow and spur even more open innovation. Should the conversation stop here? Of course not, allow me to move the conversation in the direction of the future, but let us look briefly at the past.

Bdeir’s Little Bits is an updated version of John Lloyd Wright’s creativity without minimizing the contribution of the transistor. Better yet, her innovation picks up where Lincoln Logs and transistors left off:
  1. Spur architectural and engineering creativity for both children and adults.
  2. A simple tool that explains how things work or teach advanced technical concepts. 


Bdeir’s innovation creates the possibility of teaching rudimentary electrical engineering development and design to children at an early age. Continued advancement of the field will not have wait until they enter college. This educational paradigm shift can have a global impact on science and technology where we reduce the time it takes produce new and important technologies while opening the door to fantastic possibilities.


The cost of innovation can be staggering. Federal government spending on high tech R&D in 2012 was forecasted to be about $125.7 billion, while U.S. industrial spending was estimated at about $279.7 billion, with academic spending projected at $12.3 billion (Grueber & Studt, 2011). Although these figures are still just projections, they provide a window into how much innovation costs. Imagine if we could harness the ingenuity and practicality of our forward-thinking youth with the aid of concepts such as Little Bits. We could apply rapid solutions to existing problems in far less time with much less effort saving millions of dollars.


The work of Bdeir makes for more than just a great talk at a TED conference. It serves to remind us how innovation can be spun off from some of our oldest, fondest toys to make for a major paradigm shift in a given field. We only have to look around us – even in the past, to see that we’ve just scratched the surface of our innovative capacity. We no longer need wait until we are adults to solve problems when we can observe our children at play and watch them solve problems. Why? Because they are not bound by their thoughts. Moreover, Bdeir demonstrated how seemingly complex inventions can occur, grow and spur even more open innovation. The implications for educational and economic research leave little doubt that we can re-purpose effective, but older learning tools for children and adults.


Bdeir, A. (February 2012). Building blocks that blink, beep and teach. Retrieved July 31, 2012 from

Grueber, M. & Studt, T. (December 2011).  2012 Global R&D Funding Forecast: R&D Spending Growth Continues While Globalization Accelerates. Retrieved August 29, 2012 from

2012 NMC Horizon Report - Special Topics


Key Technology:  Internet of Things. 

The National Intelligence Council (2008) informs the term Internet of Things (IOT) originally referred to the possibility of discovering information about a tagged object by browsing an Internet address or database entry that corresponds to a particular RFID. Today’s visionaries have seized on the term and expanded its meaning to include the general idea of things or everyday objects that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable, and/or controllable via the Internet - whether via RFID, wireless LAN, wide-area network, or other means. Everyday objects includes not only the electronic devices we encounter every day, and not only the products of higher technological development such as vehicles and equipment, but things that we do not ordinarily think of as electronic at all—such as food, clothing, and shelter; materials, parts, and sub-assemblies; commodities and luxury items; landmarks, boundaries, and monuments; and all the miscellany of commerce and culture.

Chui, Löffler, and Roberts (2011) believe the IOT has great promise, but there are challenging forces that must be tackled so the concept can gain real traction and become more widely embraced. Early adopters will need to prove that the new sensor-driven business models create superior value. Industrial groups and governmental regulators will have to address data privacy and data security, particularly for uses that touch on sensitive consumer information. Legal liability frameworks for the bad decisions of automated systems will have to be established by public and private stakeholders. The financial cost of technology must fall to levels that will spark widespread use. Technological standards for networking that support them must evolve to the point where data can flow freely among sensors, computers, and actuators. Software to aggregate and analyze data, as well as graphic display techniques, must improve to the point where huge volumes of data can be absorbed by human decision makers or synthesized to guide automated systems more appropriately. Individually, these challenges could take years to resolve – together, decades. 

The 2012 New Media Consortium (NMC) and Educause Report ‘Higher Education Edition’ pegged the IOT time-to-adoption as being 4 to 5 years. I find the estimate to be overly optimistic not only for the challenges already mentioned, but for the lukewarm adoption of IPv6 - the protocol key to facilitating the expansion of the Internet. Gartner Research provides an estimate of 5 to 10 years (Brockmeier 2011).

The estimate is part of their ‘Hype Cycle’ for technologies. To explain, the Hype Cycle tracks technologies through a lifecycle that begins with a technology trigger through the plateau of productivity. The idea is that companies can use the assessments to decide whether to invest in specific technologies (Gartner 2011). With all the challenges and the extended expectation of adoption by mainstream, I estimate the time-to-adoption to more like 10 to 15 years. Why? The IOT will birth disruptions of technology all the way to the end.

Key Trend: The NMC and Educause take the position that the abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging educators to revisit our roles. Further, institutions must consider the unique value that each adds to a world in which information is everywhere. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information are paramount. Mentoring and preparing students for the world in which they will live and work is again at the forefront. They conclude that universities have always been seen as the gold standard for educational credentialing, but emerging certification programs from other sources are eroding the value of that mission daily. Conversely, I see where certification programs from other sources augment – even innovate the mission of educators.

Jones (1995) first acknowledged that learning occurred in other formats and outside the context of traditional education yet stood little chance of being recognized. Ensuring that individuals can have the learning they have achieved recognized by employers and institutions of higher learning was critical to addressing the issue of limited resources. Further, leaders inside and outside higher education had high hopes that technology would keep higher education from becoming less isolated while being tailored to the needs of the individual. Instead, some observers of higher education expressed concern that industrial certification could eventually challenge traditional degree programs and the educational path of choice for discerning knowledge workers.

The observers concerns proved a bit overblown as community colleges served as the ideal educational institution to address both education and certification. How? Flynn (2000) explained that community colleges satisfied the demand for credentialed education and training that falls outside the traditional college model and calendar for completion. Moreover, they didn’t hold the stigma of the ivory tower portrayed by higher traditional education –all while providing the necessary tools for entry into a 4-yr institution, if desired. Through partnerships, community colleges promoted certifications with the support of industry and business. The outcomes were tangible with either path – an A.A. degree or a professional certification. This formula was quickly adopted by the for-profit universities and has steadily made its way through the traditional universities and colleges.  

Does the modified Delphi process that they used to develop it affect the results?

In their article ‘The Delphi Method for Graduate Research’, researchers Hartman, Krahn and Skulmoski conclude that when adapting a modified Delphi process, there needs to be a balance between validity and innovation. Their literature also suggests that the absence of triangulation by other research processes means there was no departure from the traditional Delphi method needing results corroboration. Based on this observation, one can assert the modified Delphi process employed by the NMC did not influence the outcome of the results – it merely streamlined it.

Typical Delphi Process

NMC Modified Delphi Process

Brockmeier, J. (August 2011). Gartner Adds Big Data, Gamification, and Internet of Things to Its Hype Cycle. Retrieved July 25, 2012 from

Chui,M., Löffler, M. & Roberts, R. (January 2011). The Internet of Things. Retrieved July 23, 2012 from

Flynn, W. (2002). More Than a Matter of Degree--Credentialing, Certification and Community Colleges. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from

Gartner (2011). Gartner's 2011 Hype Cycle Special Report Evaluates the Maturity of 1,900 Technologies. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from

Jones, D. (November 1995). Higher Education and High Technology: A Case for Joint Action. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from

National Intelligence Council (NIC). (November 2008). Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. Retrieved July 23, 2012 from