Digital Entrepreneurs – What about a Canadian Dr Phil app?

dr-phil-app1As described in our SaaS Ventures program a key industry sectors we focus on is Healthcare.

One of the leading experts for Cloud Computing in Canada not just Healthcare is Dennis Giokas, CTO for Canada Health Infoway, and in his white paper series on the topic he describes SaaS as a ‘greenfield opportunity’ for the sector. In short it’s not about migrating existing legacy apps to the Cloud but rather buying a whole bunch of new ones they have never used before.

What better a scenario for new SaaS Digital Entrepreneurs, so what might these apps be?

Of course the first fundamental step is to identify the business opportunity, what is the unmet need in the market that the entrepreneur can satisfy, and with Healthcare again there is rich pickings.

For example as described in this CBC article Canadians suffer the longest wait times to see a family doctor, clearly an area that could be improved. One way to do so is exemplified by the innovative “Dr Phil app“, the service he promotes that connects patients with doctors on demand via mobile phone video calls.

Simple but highly effective: Cut right through all the red tape, connect doctor with patient, immediately, with payment on the spot to generate the required cash flow for all involved.

Mobile iPayments for Healthcare

So our first DE virtual workshop will explore, technically and commercially, how this might be replicated in Canada, and this will showcase a number of key technology innovations, most notably:

Mobile video – Obviously the first part is how is the video call achieved.

iPayments – How could the service be paid for, with the payment routed to the doctor? We’ll explore the same systems being used in Starbucks for ‘Near Field Communications’ enabled commerce.

Hybrid Cloud SaaS middleware – How might the doctor be granted access to your eHealth records, wherever they are stored, as part of this provisioning process? We’ll look at how the ‘Canadian Hybrid Cloud‘ model will be key to this requirement.

registerTo join this workshop, simply join our Linkedin group and follow this thread, it will send you email alerts as we announce more information.

Canadian Hybrid Cloud – Microsoft best practices

hybrid-cancloud1The Canadian Hybrid Cloud is our headline initiative for promoting custom solutions, based in Canada.

While Amazon and Google cater for a very specific use case scenario for their IaaS, this still only meets the needs of a fairly small minority of business needs, massive though that sector is.

In contrast the Hybrid Cloud is ideal as a framework for Custom Solutions – To cater for the many variables most business users will have such as existing hardware and legacy systems, so other tools like simple co-location and traditional managed services are also key.

Smaller, local providers are typically better equipped to respond to this variance with flexibility, and also often these projects also need high speed network performance, so the local aspect is technically important as well as meaning more customer intimacy.

Microsoft Hybrid Cloud – Best Practices

Microsoft defines their Hybrid Cloud program here, achieved through a combination of Windows Server internal to the enterprise, which can be linked to public Cloud services for ‘bursting’ and other scenarios like disaster recovery, with both environments managed via Systems Centre.

Naturally Microsoft refer to Azure as the public Cloud in their documentation, and so the primary goal of our program is to define how this same model can be achieved but with public Cloud services hosted physically in Canada.

For some industries especially the regulated ones like Government and Finance this can be an explicit requirement, and so this solutioning program will provide them with the best practices information they need to find their optimum configuration.

Mnemonic Guard supports Canadian Cloud innovation

Mnemonic Guard from Japan is our latest Crowdfunding Sponsor – Thanks!

A key goal of our startup business development activities is that as well as helping Canadian startups expand abroad, it’s also to help bring new ones to Canada too.

As part of this we showcase these opportunities here to start building initial partnership introductions and so forth.

For a sense of the market they are addressing, check out this Newsweek article on ‘Facelock’, innovations from IBM and in particular this article. on research from the University of York.

These are all innovations similar to MG, but where the university work describes academic research at this stage, MG has already produced the actual technology, ready for licencing and deployment.

MG founder Hitoshi, shares his comments on these developments here.

Read more in this outline business plan, and connect directly with Hitoshi to discuss, or email me.

Integrated Media and Gaming

Media..

A fundamental purpose of our Technology Roadmap is to align product innovation activities with specific vertical industries, and the trends and dynamics relevant to their key themes.

For example our new section for ‘IM+G’ – Integrated Media and Gaming, covers the sectors of publishing, movies and gaming.

A perfect example of a headline topic for this industry is the recently leaked NY Times Digital report, defining many of the critical agenda points for the industry, most notably the big elephant in the room, the complete destruction of the traditional print industry by digital media, and their currently inability to adapt to this change.

Y’know,  just that small item, no biggie.

In this article Searching for a New Business Model, they sum up the sinking ship by how much water is coming in, versus how much is going out.

Need bigger buckets.. 🙂

They also offer telling insights into the challenges faced:

“In general, the shift to replace losses in print ad revenue with new digital revenue is taking longer and proving more difficult than executives want and at the current rate most newspapers continue to contract with alarming speed, according to the study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Cultural inertia is a major factor. Most papers are not putting significant effort into the new digital revenue categories that, while small now, are expected to provide most the growth in the future. To different degrees, executives predict newsrooms will continue to shrink, more papers will close and many surviving papers will deliver a print edition only a few days a week.”

Canada even has their own equivalent.

Not quite leaked and not as sensational but also the Ottawa Citizen showed off their new Digital strategy describes how that newspaper is adapting to the trend, launching a multi-platform content strategy.

There’s a ton of great research to tap to plan these strategies. For example in this article Neilsen explore the different customer segments within this trend, such as the difference between tablets and e-readers, and where and how each is used.

..and Gaming

As per the introduction this industry group is Media AND Gaming, so why this combination as typically they are treated quite differently, because they are.

However at another level really the most important point to highlight about the Digital trend is of course Convergence – The Cloud is blending content, apps et al together, and then it is intelligently fed out to the various devices.

Hell we’re all in the same business now, there is just audience and there is services and content to deliver them.

The gaming industry is now become bigger than movies – As mind-blowingly described here GTAV pulled in $800m in the first 24 hours, dwarfing all the biggest of the movie releases.

As the Guardian reports here when you consider that games sell better when they have well written story lines, then you can see that the lines that separate publishing and gaming are blurring too then it’s all becoming one big melting pot.

zombiesNew format innovation

Given how the size of this pot is expanding hugely then the opportunity is growing, but as per the above points about the Digital trend, if you aren’t adapting to how it is also changing then you’re being left out of it.

So the primary goals of our sector program are to showcase some winning ideas for these new business models and critically define how they could be implemented via Cloud Computing, so they are actually possible, repeatable and scalable.

This means ‘new format innovations’, how is content produced, delivered, consumed, paid for, etc.

For example there are niche market opportunities, and the NY Times has a huge range of fascinating projects: Their labs, a mobile app, new interactive story models and a book/blog type format, called Snowfall.

It’s this last one that I am personally passionate about, in particular where it further involves comics.

Great innovations in this field include developments like Alan Moore, the icon of this industry who authored Watchmen, V for Vendetta et al, who is launching open source software for creating Digital Comics! Nerd alert,  I am super psyched, and I have a few ideas of my own in this same area that I will be trying out to help flesh out this sector program, like is discussed in this Guardian article.

We also have a Linkedin CCN sub-group for this industry program – Join in here.

Introducing the Canadian Digital CIO

Recently the leaked NY Times Digital report defined this hot topic area, the ongoing trend of everything going Digital and how this is impacting the role of CIO.

Canada even has their own equivalent.

Not quite leaked and not as sensational but also the Ottawa Citizen showed off their new Digital strategy. This discusses how they are overhauling their business model for the new online era.

Our Digital CIO library section will now start to compile a section of more of these leadership examples, to showcase what CIO’s in Canada in particular are doing to pioneer their Digital strategies.

Digital Strategy

When discussing the Digital trend we don’t often hear about scenarios such as outsourcing email, even though that could mean a shift from internal IT to a Cloud provider like Google.

So moving to the Cloud or moving systems online in general, does not necessarily make it a relevant part of this conversation. Rather the key distinction is one that defines the nature of the opportunity for the CIO, the evolution of their role inherent to this trend.

In short it means a focus on strategic benefit to the organization, not operational management, an evolution from the ‘Data centre manager’ to instead be an executive at the board table who leads transformational change.

What we can see common to case studies such as Starbucks and their ‘Tweet a Coffee’ app, or providing loyal customers with ‘virtual shares’ in your flotation, are examples of technology being pioneered in new ways to better improve customer interactions, to grow sales and to establish innovative leadership in the field.

These sentiments are reflected by industry experts, and coincides with the evolution of the role of the CIO to become more strategic, closing the gap between business and IT that ZDNet describes here and that McKinsey explores here.

Harvard suggests the CIO could become the Chief Digital Officer to better lead the use of technology for strategic customer programs, and Cloud computing can be the platform needed for accelerating these types of initiatives.

Therefore we can first see that an evolutionary adoption of Cloud computing goes hand in hand with a journey for the CIO as well – From operational manager of a cost centre with poor value for money perceptions, through to a boardroom-level change agent who is directly driving new profit-making initiatives.

Should Canadian Government outsource IT to the Cloud?

hybrid-cancloud1

Our upcoming white paper ‘Building Ontario’s Cloud Roadmap‘ will explore how more use of Cloud outsourcing will help boost Ontario’s flagging economy.

Recognized experts make this same recommendations. Other papers we will be using as reference papers include the Drummond Report as well as Roger Martin’s Prosperity report.

Both make the same points, that i) there is opportunity to cut costs and the deficit by more efficient outsourcing this way, and ii) there is also a lack of investment into productivity-boosting new technologies, essential to accelerating more innovation and new growth.

However as we can see through this initiative from the OPSEU, there is also an institutional resistance to this approach, and so our white paper will explore the tension of these two views and seek to find an ideal scenario that meets the needs of both.

In the meantime what do you think:

Brian Shepard, CEO at Tenzing Managed IT Services

Brian ShepardBrian Shepard’s leadership in financing and business planning has allowed him to evolve a modest web hosting company established in 1998 into Tenzing Managed IT Services, a rapidly growing and highly successful managed hosting company that addresses the needs of Ecommerce and SaaS providers.

Tenzing’s success has been built upon Brian’s continued focus on strategic industry partnerships, acquisitions and building a forward thinking and dynamic corporate culture. Under Brian’s leadership Tenzing ranks among Canada’s fastest growing IT companies and is a recognized leader in its field.

Brian majored in Computer Science and Economics at Brock University.

Founded in 1998, Tenzing delivers more than scalable infrastructure, fast networks and great managed services. Tenzing combines deep commerce platform expertise, advanced managed services, and extensive industry partnerships to help merchants increase revenues and deliver remarkable customer experiences. Retailers, Brand Manufacturers, SIs and ISVs choose Tenzing for  their specialization in impactful technologies, operational delivery of services, and industry insights. Tenzing is SSAE16 Type II, ISO 27001, PCI-DSS and VISA PCI certified with datacenters in the US, Canada and United Kingdom.

For more information, visit: www.tenzing.com.

Interactive Fiction – Killer Stories for Killer Apps

bootstrapThe goal for this web site for it to become a practical resource that helps new entrepreneurs fast-track new startup venture ideas, in particular those considering Crowdfunding.

This will be achieved through development of our Startup Guides library section.

Crowdfunding Accelerators

With this in mind key activities will include showcasing related industry trends and opportunities, for example analyzing sectors like “Interactive Fiction social gaming”, where popular online communities intersect with games and storytelling.

As described in this Guardian news article, ventures like tech gadgets, films, books and games are all ideal candidates for crowdfunding, with many successfully raising tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for new projects. This is because quite simply they’re the most fun of course! So they naturally generate the most interest and thus demand.

For example check out  this video trailer for a new concept of game, ‘The Hum Game‘, great concept for a horror game. Not  surprisingly this spookie atmosphere attracted the fans required to begin its funding journey.

Virtual Cloud Gaming

Furthermore with our Cloud computing and innovation focus, we’ll also look at the role of new technologies and even new game formats they can enable, to help add more stimulus to the topic.

Really the key message about the technology is that nowadays there is so much horsepower you are truly limited only by your imagination, and so innovative originality in the format and the storytelling is key as well now.

As Wikipedia describes Cloud Gaming is the core building block of using the infrastructure as a capacity, for the computing and media streaming required to operate online games, such as Minecraft moving to Amazon.

This is only one small step though in the potential of levering Cloud innovations. For example in this article the interviewee describes how he is bringing console quality gaming to mobile devices, so there is innovation continually happening across all the technologies involved. Again each presents a related commercial opportunity, this was a project successfully funded through Kickstarter for $500k.

Furthermore there is the expansive capacity of virtual worlds and the virtual realities made possible by wearable technologies such as Google’s Oculus Rift.

For example as described in this Globe and Mail news article, Globacore is modernizing classic arcade games like Paperboy,

creating virtual reality versions.

“CGaaS” – Cloud Gaming as a Service, could be an ideal platform to scale this to a much larger level. For example a massive online multi-player version, with lots of cyclists all competing on the same street, where this is all computed centrally online via a Cloud service.

This would be a great gaming segment and then furthermore these virtual reality techniques could be reapplied in other areas like Healthcare.

Interactive Fiction Social Gaming

Another dimension where gaming is expanding is the intersection with narrative and fictional storytelling, such as ‘Interactive Fiction‘.

The nature of this fusion and the huge potential it represents is well expressed through this Guardian feature article: Beyond The Shoot-Em-Up. Simon Parkin describes how the gaming industry has become larger than Hollywood movies, and therefore can almost be approached in the same way, in terms of investing in plot and character, given high quality games must now be to compete with the likes of GTA V that have hugely complex narratives.

However it’s worth it, with GTA raking in $1 billion in its first week alone, a far larger sum than any movie!

In the article the author discusses how difficult the combination is, given storytelling happens in an entirely linear fashion in movies whereas with games it can be chaotic, but how important it is and hence the movie tie-in opportunities like Tomb Raider where it sets the scene for the game and they each also magnify the commercial success of the other.

Also critically the author identifies how this trend is catering for older and adult audiences, who enjoy gaming but are looking for a more intellectually challenging experience, highlighting popular but more niche approaches like Inkle and Twine.

These enable any one to easily create ‘Interactive Fiction’, the online versions of role-playing game books, such as such as Fighting Fantasy. These books had a written story line that the reader followed, but by offering the option to jump to different page numbers depending on a choice they made at certain points, could also be controlled by the reader to some degree.

With the other technology advances we have discussed this principle could evolve in all kinds of directions, and prove highly popular.

For example Kickstarter recently reported one of their popular projects was ‘Ever Jane‘, a virtual gaming world based on the novel.

Social media communities could be further added to the mix, enabling another dimension of participation for players, so the spectrum of possibilities is quite vast, and we’ll explore some of these in detail as part of this ongoing Media and Games series.

Conclusion

The value of this format to aspiring amateur entrepreneurs can be conveyed especially through their potential value to investors. Any one of these projects has the potential to become a hit both in Angry Bird scale terms but also then combined with Harry Potter scale terms as well.

The story could be as equally engaging to young readers, as compulsive it is to play on your smartphone, so consider how big they could become but yet can be funded for amounts as little as $10k through $100k.

Certainly many will be duds but that scale means when one is hit out the park, it ain’t just clearing the car park, it’s clearing the state! That kind of flip potential is extremely rare and hence a fertile area for those willing to take larger risks with smaller chunks of funds.

BYOC – Identity Policy Architecture for the Digital Economy

securekey3Earlier today I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to chair this webinar from SecureKey, on ‘BYOC’ – Bring Your Own Credentials.

With inputs from PwC and the Government of Canada, SecureKey explained how their Identity platform is enabling citizens to log on to Government e-services, via their online banking username and password.

Identity as a foundation for Digital Government – Globally

My introduction was to highlight that this is a global trend, based on open standards such as SAML and OAuth, where the USA and the UK among others are also pioneering the same principles as Canada.

Salim Hasham from PwC provides an excellent context of the surrounding Digital Government imperative, including a history of e-government to date and where online citizen services are headed.

Rita Whittle who leads the Identity program for the Government of Canada then steps through their program to date and where they envisage it headed. Rita makes the critical point that this infrastructure is central to Canada’s ambitions to become a Digital Economy leader, describing their policy governance and other key design factors that shape these online services.

Andre Boysen of SecureKey concludes with, and this leads into the key topics of our Q&A at the end, on implementation aspects. In particular the audience were keen to explore how other agencies (Provincial, Municipal) might share in this architecture approach, given other pioneers like British Columbia.

Andre explained the identity broker model their platform enables, so that apps don’t need to wire a connection for each and every identity provider,and Rita explained the beginnings of a pan-Canadian Identity credentials council for sharing best practices and credential access methods across government.

Access the webinar replay here

Ryerson RC4 – Incubating Cloud and Context Aware Computing for the Internet of Things

robot-presents2-400x250It’s really hard to believe Canada has ‘innovation gap’ woes when you check out the work of centres like the RC4 program at Ryerson University.

Last night I attended their open house and learned about what is a deep domain of expertise in what they describe as ‘Context Aware’ technologies – Sensors, smart software, and so on.

You get it of course, the ‘Internet of Things’.

What was especially impressive was both the breadth and depth of the academic research taking place, covering many of the different individual IoT domains, such as sensors, smart software, robotics, 3-D printing and so on, as well as how their projects are both creative  and also practical.

Highlights included a smart kitchen that fine-tunes your coffee for you, the popular Go Mobile app, gaming technologies and much more, and of course a smart robot who bowed to Prince Charles.

One of their sponsors the Ontario Ministry of Transport, described how they very effectively deliver practical business solutions such as ‘CAVALIS‘:

CAVALIS is an acronym for Context-Aware Vehicular and Logistics Information Systems. The project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, is a unified software framework that delivers a series of intuitive, easy-to-use and customized Traveller Information Services (TIS).

Truly a wealth of projects and innovators for Toronto to be proud of.

Thingcubator – Building IoT Commercialization capacity

So what does go wrong? How can Canada be punching at this weight but yet landing no blows? Why does Canada as a whole perform so poorly compared to their global and city peers, in terms of industrial innovation productivity, when there is such a strong engine at the core?

Well as we discussed last night if you think of the innovation process as being one part of putting young chicks “out the nest”, then Canada can be seen to be investing hugely in this first stage of hatching new chicklets, but under-funding and under-supporting the second Commercialization part, the being pushed out the nest part.

In short the tree they’re being pushed out of is huge and well stocked, but without some trainer wings, goggles and a flying jacket, it just means there is a further fall to the bottom where many of these young birds are ending up, all piled up.

For Theory of Constraints fans, it means it’s pointless pumping $$ billions into one part of the production system, giving it 100 units per hour capacity, if the next sequence in the manufacturing process can only hand a throughput of 10.

You could expand the first to 1,000 units per hour, but your overall output from the factory will only ever be 10 units, and this is Canada’s problem, i.e. the Research phase of innovation has 100 units capacity, versus the second Commercializtion stage which has only 10, so Canada’s overall performance is 10.

This positions our new Thingcubator organization. It’s role is to build this second part, increasing capacity for the ability to take these seed ideas and turn them into companies, which then grow into the billion dollar empires of tomorrow.