Archive for April, 2012

Numbers offer more opportunities than realized

April 30, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized
Google Analytics Hacks

I’ve talked before about the growing science of analytics, where companies are using data to make better decisions faster, throughout their organizations. Analytics is going beyond traditional sources into the realm of text.

Analytics naturally came about as a result of today’s prolific generation of electronic data. The amount of numerical information created every day is staggering.

I have seen statistics that claim all of us are generating more than 2 million emails per second, and a similar quantity of tweets on Twitter. Then there are the electronic documents that are created and published from so many sources. Google processes dozens of petabytes of information per day — that’s millions of gigabytes.

Of course all of the text data that is being generated isn’t publicly available, but where it is, organizations are looking to exploit it to extract the useful business intelligence that may be buried within. The approaches being explored go beyond numerical analytics or information searching and retrieval, to add in academic-sounding techniques like artificial intelligence, natural language processing and semantic analysis. It’s definitely cutting edge, but traditional companies are using it.

For example the refrigeration and cooking appliance company Sub-Zero/Wolf Appliance is mining their massive text databases to cut the time it takes to identify and address product defects. They are sifting through their customer service data, inventory information, and warranty claims to help determine trends in product quality issues. Using these approaches the company has claimed to cut the time required to identify quality problems by more than 50 percent. More importantly product failures have been reduced, and of course this is yielding improved customer satisfaction.

A company called is using text analytics to extract data from resumes received online and match it with key data provided by prospective employers.

One global consumer products company is using the approach to look through online responses to new marketing campaigns. Text analytics is being used here to quickly sort through volumes of customer comments and discussions to organize and better understand consumer sentiments, and to provide better direction for future marketing efforts.

These are just a few examples, but applications such as these reduce resource requirements, along with administration costs.

Applications of text analytics to extracting hidden market insights are poised for significant growth. Business insights gained from mining social networks or online media has the potential to yield guidance to market research, provide competitive intelligence, or even illuminate perceived brand reputation or corporate image.

As with numerical analytics, the key to using some of the text data that is being generated is to get guidance for making better decisions, and for making them quicker and more efficiently. It may not be hard to understand the general usefulness of extracting information from text, but imagining where it might be applied specifically in your business is what might make a difference.

It isn’t just about the numbers anymore. There could be hidden treasure in your text.



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Want to quicken innovation? Rapid prototyping helps you see it and touch it!

April 20, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized
Mercedes-Benz C111 Prototype / Mercedes-Benz F...

Innovators, whether part of a large organization or simply an individual inventor, are struggling with two things right now as they travel on their innovation journey — time and money.

As I recently said in my weekly newspaper column, many have created more than enough ideas to move forward, but have a hard time getting support and/or resources behind their ideas to actually advance them through to commercial successes. One way to help generate excitement for an idea is to make it a reality with a prototype.

Often when we help inventors advance their ideas and get an invention ready for the marketplace, we relate it to connecting an electrical circuit with multiple components, connected in the right order, allowing the energy to flow and do useful work. The energy of innovation requires what we call “completing the Circuit of Innovation.” This includes both a market roadmap, a holistic intellectual asset strategy that goes beyond simply getting a patent, and constructing prototypes to demonstrate how the invention comes to life.

Over the years, the need to quickly and inexpensively create prototypes has grown significantly, especially for true ground-breaking innovation. It is hard to influence leaders, key stakeholders and investors about a disruptive idea if it cannot be seen, touched or felt.

We have resources like the Fab Lab right here at Fox Valley Technical College Campus to help with this challenge. Fab Lab is an abbreviation for a fabrication laboratory and is home to readily available industrial-grade fabrication and electronics tools. The lab can be used to help advance an inventor’s early stage prototyping for product innovation and development by allowing them to more easily design, fabricate and test prototypes of their inventions without investing unnecessarily is expensive specialized equipment.

There are also other ways to rapidly prototype inventions using new techniques and systems. For example, a scale model of a part or assembly can be virtually constructed using 3D computer-aided design. It is even possible to take this design from the virtual world into the physical one using 3D printing technology. Even overnight, these technologies can sometimes produce prototypes that have production-quality working parts.

Another disruptive method for modeling being explored is called “smart sand.” This rapid prototyping tool has been developed by the Distributed Robotics Laboratory at MIT’s Computer Science department. An object is immersed in a special group of small, sand-size particles. These tiny cubes relay location information to each other of how they are connected to the surface of the submerged object. From this data, a map of the topology of the object can be created and the object can then be replicated. This is still a rudimentary and developing technology, but with improvements and smaller particle size the technique might one day yield an inexpensive in-house object modeling solution.

Regardless, if you want to save time and money, and generate enthusiasm, go beyond just descriptions and business plans. Computer design and rapid prototyping should be a necessary part of your innovation arsenal. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the capability or expertise in-house — there are many outside resources that are readily available.

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A little espresso in your dashboard!

April 19, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Uncategorized


No driver ever wants to nod off on those long drives, and now a French company has come up with a handy take-along device that allows you to whip up a shot of hot espresso as you travel. The company, French Handpresso, have invented and launched the Handpresso Auto E.S.E., an espresso machine built specifically for use in automobiles. It’s part of a growing trend in the Food and Beverage industry that is seeing new innovations designed to help consumers get their quick coffee fix wherever they happen to be.

The Handpresso fits in a standard cup holder and runs electronically via any 12V cigarette lighter. Perhaps a passenger should be the one designated to add the water and coffee pod. But a driver could easily prepare the water receptacle and pod ahead of the trip, just for safety’s sake.The espresso brews in two minutes, and the device beeps when the beverage is ready to drink.The video below gives you an idea of how Handpresso Auto works:
(Notice the driver pulls over!)

The device sells for about $200, and is currently available in Europe.

Stinky Sewer Solution: Old Coffee Grounds

April 5, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation

A box of coffee grounds in background with cof...Coffee grounds have been proven useful for new innovations in robot hands, biofuel engines for cars, warm sports clothing, and as printer ink. And now the latest: a team from The City College of New York has come up with a way to make an effective carbon filter out of coffee grounds that will soak up noxious sewer gases.

The grounds are an effective filter for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas, which smells like rotten eggs and can be dangerous. This is good news for those who work with sewage systems. Some workers have even died from overexposure to H2S as a result.

Why do old coffee grounds work so well as an odor filter? It’s the caffeine. It turns out that caffeine contains nitrogen, which can capture airborne sulfur. Most typical carbon-based sulfur filters require additives like ammonia, but the coffee grounds don’t need any such boost.

The filters are made by baking a slurry of coffee grounds, water, and zinc chloride at 1500 degrees, creating nitrogen-lined holes in the carbon particles ideal for trapping H2S. The New York team’s research could result in a commercially-available eco-friendly H2S filter.

Check out this paper on the research recently published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

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