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Very interesting article and application of crowd sourcing to tackle a major social issue.
To your second question, I agree that there is a need of continued collaboration between the winning teams/projects and HHS to take promising ideas to market. Whether it’s encouraging winners to start a company (and perhaps provide support doing so) or developing agreement that HHS will take over the project (with potential compensation). I have doubt about the $10,000 prize: it’s not enough to achieve any significant progress, and there’s not much control on the use of this cash prize. Providing access to other resources (labs, developer time…) may prove more helpful.
I admire the transparency and the efforts made by HHS to share their processes and documents publicly to make it easier to set up such initiatives.
Transposing this approach to other federal agencies would be quite interesting, but judging from the obstacles HHS had to overcome to release relatively not sensitive data, it may be difficult for other agencies to follow that path.

On November 15, 2018, Julien commented on LittleBits: Open Innovation Fueled by Open Imagination :

This is a great concept and I love the idea that it creates an interest in technology for kids, while also fostering creativity.
I think your first question is very relevant and is almost a philosophical debate around aesthetics and utility. In the case of LittleBits, I would argue that the creation aspect of it is limited by the need to reach functionality. Because in the end, you are still trying to build something that “works” so you are building towards something.
Another thing I am curious about is the “granularity” of the bits. There’ a delicate balance where you want your bits to be small (or basic) enough to let people assemble them the way they want, but sometimes big enough that you don’t have to assemble hundreds of parts to assemble a basic function (like get a LED to blink). This choice could also have a large impact on what you can achieve with the blocks and what you aim for: education for kids or innovation for adults.
Fascinating initiative in any case, will definitely follow them.

Great article and overview of how the construction industry is (slowly) changing.
Your comment about “acquiring talents” left me wondering what impact this will have on existing staff. How much money and effort would it take to train engineers and technicians modelling “traditional buildings” to allow them to model “3D printable” buildings. Further, how is this addressed by schools and universities, to adapt to a shift in skill demand?
Also, the construction industry is very regulated by construction codes and buildings are heavily audited/inspected during and after construction. Are codes evolving in light of the new technologies that are emerging?

On November 15, 2018, Julien commented on The ugliest bridge in the world. 3D printing in Acciona… :

Great read, thanks for sharing this. It is indeed a very ugly bridge!
This article left me with a number of questions. One of them relates to materials and the ability of 3D printing to handle steel reinforcement for example, versus concrete. It links to your comment about safety and the perception we may have as users. Beyond the aesthetics, the fact that the bridge is all white somehow makes me wonder if it’s just plain concrete. And then if it is just one big piece, I’d very much worry about aging and micro-cracks (because no room for compression/dilatation if it’s just a block) that would decrease structural integrity.
Another question I had was about team dynamics when including machines in the mix. What impact does this have on architects and designers’ work? New means of building may mean new ways of designing. It goes beyond technical issues, to impact teams and organizations and how they reorganize work around this new trend. Perhaps this explains the ugly design of the bridge you mention in the article. Very interested to see what the next Acciona creation will look like!

On November 15, 2018, Julien commented on Future of Flight: Autonomous Aircraft? :

Great article, thanks for sharing these interesting insights. I am convinced about the benefits brought by ADS-B systems in terms of safety. The applications towards autonomous flight seem less realistic to me. While I believe that advanced AI can compute an optimal trajectory to avoid collision, or to plan for take off or landing (which are the main critical phases that still need to be done manually by a pilot), I am skeptical that a machine could act on the plane controls to follow that trajectory. Mostly because it is not just about the speed and steering wheel like in an autonomous car. In 3D (as opposed to cars) there are uncertainties related to turbulences, inclination of the plane, etc. And as you point out, machines are only trained with “successful scenarios” so they don’t really know what a mistake look like, or how to deal with an unexpected response from the plane. Would it be possible to train the machines with real pilots, on simulators, to improve the level of training?
Finally, I would be curious to see how significant the impact on plane manufacturers would be (impact on design especially) and if autonomous planes would impose particular constraints on airports, airlines and other stakeholders, especially in terms of accountability.

Interesting article about a great company! I had no idea Schneider was so proactive about digitization of their clients, thanks for sharing.
The use of AI and machine learning in the manufacturing space is always tricky because OEMs like Schneider can enable companies to collect data, but ultimately the end-user (SE’s client) is in a better position to leverage the data and optimize their asset management. At the same time, SE may have more data because they sell to a large number of clients that may share their data with them.
In terms of offer, is SE going to just collect and supply the data to customers, or will they also take care of the analytics/ recommendations part? In the latter case, they would have to worry about the integration of their product with the IT systems of clients, which is often a very intricate issue and tremendously different from one organization to the next. More generally, I’d be interested to see how SE explains and sells their “digital services” to potential clients.
Finally, given the great variability of clients and industries served by SE, I doubt that a “one-size fits all” approach to digitization would work: even in the chemicals industry, there are many sub-segments that display a lot of variability as you point out. Is SE going to develop specific digital products for each of these or are they going to go for a “case by case” approach (in which case it may be more difficult to sell than a well-packaged product or service offering).