Innovation and time to play

On Thursday last week I had pleasure of attending a festival of local innovation and celebration of the history of IBM Hursley – a local innovation centre and research campus.

I’m writing about this for three reasons:

  1. Innovation is relevant to coaching and self-improvement, it’s the spirit of creativity and mixing / making things new, improved and better is what moves us forward
  2. IBM is big brand, interesting to see how it’s changing as a big name local to Winchester
  3. I used to work for IBM… so there’s a little self-interest here too!

The day started with a wander into Hursley labs, it was great to meet the placement year students and hear about how, at the beginnings of their career, they were learning about technology and using IOT (the Internet of things) and some pretty powerful IBM systems in their investigative work.

The student team had looked at smart ways to reduce the queue at the club house Pool table to sensing water temperatures to help manage sanitation across the campus. Very much a ‘test and learn’ approach evident to encourage quick hands-on learning in the lab.

Next we saw models of the web with data being visualised by Do-It-Yourself inventions including the ‘Brexit tweets sentiment-ometer’ 🙂 It was clear that the passion for innovation and small-scale discoveries was being encouraged.

Yes, technology is all about IOT and the cloud, but we also wanted to see some gadgets! 🙂 thankfully we weren’t dissapointed.

The ‘Inventor’ community had been very busy with Raspberry Pi’s and 3D printers, creating a ‘makers space‘ for the community to play and learn too. It was great to see IT brought to life by these quirky demos.

After lunch we went on a tour of the IOT lab… it took a while to find it. Hursley is still a maze of weird and connected zones, a bit like the crystal maze! Great to see the many applications of IOT tech, from weather detection to bus timetables!

Finally we looked at some of the Watson application driven AI, looking at face recognition and a VR tour of a space station, coupled to some fun and intriguing apps and devices. The robots we met were friendly too.

Overall it was great to see the lab transitioning from a large back-end systems and applications shop to a place with passion, agile curiosity and harnessing the power of its employees and their obvious skills and enthusiasm with technology.

I remember visiting as a youngster and seeing a chunky light-pen that you could interact with a green screen by clicking and that might be the future of computer interfaces. It’s good to see the same level of cutting-edge technology being used in a playful way to experiment and demonstrate would could be next for IT systems.

So – thanks for the tech careers inspiration IBM – I am looking forward to the next innovation event and inspiring different communities to do more innovative and creative technology work.