General

Measuring every aspect of our lives with wearables

Being an avid runner (to be honest travel has stalled my training of late) I thought the recent infographic from Freescale, the official sponsor of the Austin marathon, was pretty interesting. I know a number of people that wear Garmin or Soleus GPS watches on their runs, others that have adopted Fitbit or the many other activity tracking devices. Preferring to run with an old school stop watch I’m still very impressed with the positive changes in behavior these devices result in for many people. It’s the combination of the device, the easy access to information via phones and of course the web that make them so effective. The infographic below highlights most of the devices in this area (from GPS watches, to activity trackers, to weight scales) so I won’t try and describe each of them.

Over dinner at a recent work event I was talking to a collegue who uses a Fitbit. With daily steps targets, and ability to easily know what his activity level is at any give time he described how he would decide to add a 30 minute walk over lunch if he didn’t get in what he needed to in the morning, or extend his run after dinner at night. This combined with an improved diet allowed him to reduce his weight in a controlled and steady manner. That individual story, and the impact convenient information that fits in with peoples daily routines makes me a believer in the future of these connected activity and health monitoring devices.

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

Garmin Vivofit Application Screenshots

For me, training with Rogue Running in Austin I know I’m getting enough activity with a group that runs 50 to 90 miles a week (I’m on the lower end these days) so I haven’t had the need to track my activity. But I am getting curious about these devices will continue to evolve and work into helping people improve their performances in addition to the positive impact they are having on general health already.

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Applying some agile principles to managing marketing programs, when adding one meeting kills others

For about a year my current marketing team has instituted a practice of a “Daily Sync”, similar but not identical to the concept of a daily stand-up meeting in Agile development. Coming from an engineering management background it was more of an experiment for me to see if the benefits of stand-up meetings for development would transfer to a marketing team. I’m always willing to try something, learn from it and if necessary drop the idea if it doesn’t work. In our case our Daily meetings have gone well and resulted in fewer meetings overall. I do ask the team if the meetings are useful, and they do say they are … but since I’m the “boss” I do worry sometimes if people are just saying it because it’s me asking. Since the meetings tend to be pretty dynamic and everybody participates I’m assuming they are serving their purpose for now.

Our team is split across 4 cities in the US so we make use of video conferencing for our meetings (Skype, Google Hangouts, WebEx would all do the trick) and they’re scheduled for 30 minutes. Some days we go over what each person is doing, other days we tend to focus on one area and people bring up issues and ideas by exception.

This daily sync has ultimately sped up our decision making time, resulted in eliminating per project weekly meetings and just connected our distributed team better. By using a video conference the body language and visual queues are obvious and ability to quickly collaborate on documents to knock out any edits or ideas is great. I’m on plenty of audio conferences on a daily basis too and they just aren’t the same (of course a video conference isn’t always practical, but tools like Google Hangouts do allow you to call in a participant by phone while others are on video).

If you’re a marketing team working on multiple programs (remote or at the same office) try it out, a quick 30 minute daily sync and see if you can also get rid of all the detailed project review meetings and eliminate those never ending e-mail threads 🙂

Strategy to execution, lessons learned and mistakes along the way

On the recommendation of a colleague I recently read the The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Mark Mitchell wrote a review on this book if you’re interested). It got me to thinking about many projects I’ve worked on including launching online communities at National Instruments, to a new FPGA based software defined radio (SDR) tool, to a cloud based development environments and cloud based services for IoT devices. The online communities, with many follow-on iterations and improvements have proved extremely successful while the others have some more proving to do.

Even though these projects all went I think the projects could have been more effective, and executed more efficiently with less time and resource waste. In hindsight I and my teams would have better off by being more systematic and combining some of the points made in The Lean Startup while using a framework like the Diamond Strategy by Donald C. Hambrick and James W. Fredrickson to define our vision and fundamental assumptions.

Adapted from Hambrick, D. C., & Fredrickson, J. W. (2001). Are you sure you have a strategy? Academy of Management Executive, 19 (4), 51–62. (Source: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/management-principles-v1.0/s09-06-formulating-organizational-and.html)

In the case of the LabVIEW DSP Design Module, targeted at FPGA synthesis for SDR applications we were able to successfully achieve real time LTE up-link and down-links with a high level graphical development and design capture tool. There were many lessons learned but early on one of the turning points was when we put the tool in front of real communications engineers. Their feedback resulted in significant changes to the graphical model for design capture and also helped us define what a minimum viable product needs to really be (quality of results, number of MIMO channels, wireless standards to support) before we could exposed to the tool to more people. You can see a demo in this video.

In other projects, ironically in some of my cloud based research projects which lend themselves to broader exposure and experimentation, we did more internal thinking and definition without validating key needs with prospects as we could have. This is more than likely because the “cloud” was so different from standard products we were used to, which if I think about it should have had us talking to real world prospects even sooner!

Taking an idea from a concept and vision, to implementing it and iterating on it is a real challenge whatever the market and application. In today’s fast paced and dynamic nature, most of us would be better off articulating that vision, our assumptions and doing what we can to validate them with a real customer and prospect. It’s always a challenge to resist the temptation to wait and deliver what “we” think is the ideal solution, but that delay and lack of input increases the risk we’ll miss the mark on functionality and time to market.

Accessing Ettus USRP hardware in LabVIEW

We recently posted a pre-release version of a driver that allows you to use LabVIEW to interface with Ettus Research USRP hardware. This is an important milestone on the way to full support of Ettus Research hardware in LabVIEW. We’re looking for people that will be part of our early access program for the driver, to help provide feedback and also guide our priorities for Software Define Radi0 (SDR). If you are interested please visit the page, try out the driver and share your feedback on the site: http://decibel.ni.com/content/docs/DOC-14531

Try it out and let me know what you think

It’s been an interesting week for Silverlight given the coverage and interpretation of Bob Muglia’s comments on HTML 5 at the Microsoft PDC and the subsequent re-framing from Bob Muglia and also Scott Guthrie. So hot on the heals of all the Silverlight/HTML5 hoopla we’re releasing the LabVIEW Web UI Builder, a Silverlight based graphical programming editor that creates Silverlight user interfaces! It’ll be “officially” released on Monday but is live today. You can see some previews of the types of applications you can create here and on the UI Builder page.

Heartrate Rate Monitor Sample

Windmill Monitor Simulation Sample

You can try the UI Builder out today, I really do mean today, since it’s a web hosted development environment. You can try its full functionality using your browser, even store your files on-line, for  …. well as long as you want to for now. I know our teams would love to hear your feedback so feel free to comment on this post or use the feedback link in the product itself. Now that the UI Builder t is ready for use I hope to be able to post more about what our teams have been working on, and also try to comment on some of the challenges we faced developing the UI Builder and some of the trade-offs we’ve made.

Features in Silverlight 4 that are useful for the LabVIEW Web UI Builder

Siliverlight 4 has a few features Chris highlighted during the Silverlight 4 launch keynote that I wanted to expand on as well as a few others that he didn’t demo that we’re trying out. We may not make use of all of them in the LabVIEW UI Builder but they do present some interesting possibilities. One features I wanted to write about today is the Out of Browser feature and ability to run trusted applications. The Web UI Builder is browser hosted and we have gotten some requests for is to be able to install the application locally. With the Out of Browser feature people could connect to the server, “install” the application on their machine (including desktop and start menu shortcuts) and be able to develop off-line.

The other feature related to running out of browser is “trusted applications”. One of the nice things with Siliverlight is the security it brings with sandboxing. This does however mean saving files to the hard drive in locations like the My Documents folder isn’t possible. With Siliverlight 3 this means that files are saved to what ends up being some obscure location on the hard-drive that you really can’t control. With Siliverlight 4 by giving permissions to an application like the UI Builder to run as a trusted application you can save to your local drive in your My Documents folder more freely. This let you logically organize any projects you create with the UI Builder and also to zip a directory up and share it with others.