In the first in an occasional series, Callaghan Innovation national technology network Manager for ICT Jonathan Miller gives some insight into his background, his role at Callaghan Innovation, and the big thing to look for in the near future of disruptive technology.
Who are you and what are you doing here?
I’m Jonathan Miller, Callaghan Innovation national technology network Manager for ICT.
I got my chops as an electronics engineer at F&P Healthcare, then while on my OE, joined a tech start-up in Cambridge in the UK. OK, in between, I might have been a “Flight Attendant” for the London Eye for a couple of months too! Then upon my return to NZ did a bit of a career side-step to get into the field of tech transfer and commercialisation. This eventually lead to my role at Callaghan Innovation.
What’s the best part about your job?
I love traversing the worlds of science, technology and business. My best days are work are when there are ideas flying between scientists or technologists who are at the top of their game, and entrepreneurs who are making a big play.
Can you talk about a couple of the technologies you have seen coming through in New Zealand that could change the world?
Think about the recent Ashley Madison scandal and the iCloud celebrity photo leakage (I hasten to add that obviously I don’t have direct experience of either of these!). These hacking incidents point to a fundamental problem – the inability for users to help themselves once they upload their information onto the Internet. Underlying this problem, is a serious gap in security – the lack of control over the users’ own data. The Universities of Waikato, Auckland, and Unitec are working on STRATUS, a 6 year, $NZ 12 million project attempting to address this. This research will empower users with the ability to know what happened to their data, and who has accessed it. At the same time, users will have the ability to execute a “remote kill switch”, removing access to their information spread over the internet. They will also be having their own keys to their data, and authorise appropriate people to view them, or not at all. It is game changing research.
The other day I met a researcher at the University of Auckland who is an expert in Persuasive Technology. Persuasive Technology merges psychology and computer science, and explores how software can cause humans to behave in certain ways. For example, he told me about an interesting project where a PhD student is writing a mod for the popular action role playing computer game Skyrim. In Skyrim, the player runs around a medieval world beating up on other dudes with a sword. The mod enables you to improve your character’s stamina in the Skyrim world, by exercising in the actual world. The game interfaces with wearable fitness devices in order to achieve this. Computer games that help you get fit!
What do you see as the biggest opportunities and threats to NZ businesses from technology in the next five years?
Disruption from innovative business models enabled by new technology.
Failing to perceive the critical nature of cyber security technology leading to compromised business models.
Being super-fast at realising how to implement technology in new business models. An example is the opportunity with “deep learning” (a type of artificial intelligence). Deep learning makes it possible for computers to gain human-level insight from data not seen by the computer before (e.g. detecting a rare cancerous tumor that previously could only be diagnosed by an expert surgeon). Companies that can adopt technology platforms like this quickly could find themselves with a very strong competitive advantage.