Satya Sharma, Ph.D., MBA
Dr. Satya Sharma came to Stony Brook University as the Executive Director of CEWIT and a faculty member of Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2003. Before joining Stony Brook, Dr. Sharma was Senior Vice President at Symbol Technologies from 1995 to 2003, overseeing various divisions of the company including World-Wide Operations, Mobile Computing & Wireless Engineering, and Quality & Process Improvements. Prior to his tenure at Symbol, he was Director of AT&T Power Systems and an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Sharma has managed technology, led product development, managed marketing and financial functions, led operations and taken a leadership role in organizational transformation. He led Lucent Technologies to win the Deming Prize in 1994, making it the first and still the only American manufacturing company to have this honor. While leading Symbol’s Mobile Computing & Wireless Engineering, the company won the National Medal of Technology in 2000. Dr. Sharma also led Lucent and Symbol to win the Shingo Prize in 1992 and 2003 respectively. Dr. Sharma has more than 70 technical publications and conducts research in a wide variety of disciplines including wireless and mobile computing, quality management, and materials science. He holds a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from University of Pennsylvania and an MBA degree from Ohio State University.
Innovation has fueled the economic growth throughout the history of mankind. Probably the most revolutionary change in the early history of mankind occurred when man discovered fire and invented the wheel. The birth of some of the world’s greatest civilizations of India, China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome were the results of innovative minds that spanned the art and technology of those days. This revolution has continued since then, from the development of the alphabet to the invention of the printing press, from telephone and radio to wireless and cybernetics, from computer to internet, and gene research to bioinformatics. The revolution brought about by the breakthrough innovations of those times has reshaped economic, social, cultural, and political boundaries.
Innovation is a valuable lens through which to examine a nation’s history and national character. During World War II, US Government sponsored research led to the atomic bomb, microwave radar, electronic computers, jet aircraft, and antibiotics. Government sponsored research also led to biotechnology, personal computers, and information economy.
Perhaps the biggest innovations in our time have come from the information technology and the associated industry. Major thrust to the IT revolution was provided around 1975 with Intel’s announcement of its microprocessor. In the 1980’s, a little company called Microsoft pioneered the age of personal computing moving the productivity resource to the desktop. In the 90’s , the age of networked computing was pioneered by Cisco so that productivity could be shared and multiplied by the number of users on a network leading to the ultimate resource: the World Wide Web. Now as we lay the foundation for the 21st century, we enter the age of mobility. The age of mobility is where all the productivity resources docked at our desks, and information locked in our network closets, will be unleashed in to the palm of every individual’s hand. Some have now argued that information technology is no longer a transformational technology providing a strategic advantage to any company.
Nicholas Carr of Harvard Business Review wrote more than a decade ago that Information Technology doesn’t matter by pointing out that IT has become ubiquitous and therefore its strategic importance has gone away. His theme was that just as all former transformational technologies like telephone, electricity, etc. became common and their advantages became available to all industries, so too, as IT has become ubiquitous no company can gain acompetitive advantage from its use. He argues that while IT has become necessary infrastructural technology, it is not a strategic competitive advantage. However, IT is still not a mature technology and we expect the rapid advances of the last several decades to continue and increase thousand folds in many fields.
Back in 1903, Nobel Laureate Albert Michelson made the following observation, “The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.”
In 1932, Albert Einstein observed, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to shatter at will.” And as late as 2007, Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft observed, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, observed in Info World magazine in 1995, “I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” The sci-fi writer Bruce Sterling wrote in the New York Times in 2007 that, “Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite The Iliad.”
Thus it is wrong to conclude that all the IT spurred business transformations that are going to happen have already happened and that IT is no longer a competitive advantage. We are only at the beginning of the IT revolution.
Transformation to an internet based economy will continue. IT will continue to create new and highly profitable businesses that we have not even imagined. Computational chemistry and biology, grid computing tying far flung supply chains, and even e-commerce, etc. are at the beginning of their creation.
According to the UN’s ITU, the estimated number of internet users worldwide reached 3.17 billion in the year 2015, an eight fold increase since the year 2000. The estimated number of cellphone subscriptions worldwide reached 7.2 billion. Given that the world population is at 7 billion, there are more mobile gadgets in the world than people and they are increasing seven times faster than people. New markets will continue to be created by IT. Smart Grid will create a new market to reach $21 billion in the next few years. And with all this newly created information, people need a place to store it. Some research and consulting companies claim that data is growing in enterprise storage at 50% per year.
In recent years, internet usage in online social networking and entertainment has become the norm of American lives. The social networking site, Facebook, has now passed web giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft in user engagement. The trend is even more apparent for teenagers and young adults in college. In a report by the Pew Research Center, nearly three quarters (73%) of online teens and an equal number (72%) of young adults use social network sites.
Data is everywhere in our lives and in every area of the global economy. Companies these days generate tremendous amounts of transactional data to support businesses with their customers and suppliers and to optimize their operations. In a 2001 article published by The New York Times, author Steve Lohr commented that “Data is a vital raw material for the information economy, much as coal and iron ore were in the Industrial Revolution.” Within the so-called “Internet of Things,” sensors are being embedded in devices ranging from smartphones, automobiles, and utility meters to assembly lines, warehouses, and hospitals to capture data in real time. Hundreds of millions of users around the globe now contribute new data, generating new knowledge and collaboration on new innovations using the Internet. 15 out of 17 industry sectors in the US have more data stored per company than the Library of Congress.
We are indeed in the age of ‘big data’ which refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze. Big data can be used to create value across sectors of the global economy. According to a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute, “We are on the cusp of a tremendous wave of innovation, productivity, and growth, as well as new modes of competition and value capture – all driven by big data as consumers, companies, and economic sectors exploit its potential.” There are numerous new companies being created all over the globe in the data analytics sphere. Some of these companies will provide user behavioral information to companies in order to create new solutions and products providing competitive advantages that cannot be achieved any other way.
The only way to usher economic prosperity is to reignite the basic research that has always been the economic engine for the world wide prosperity. The Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) at Stony Brook University is a leading US research institution focusing on cutting edge research in wireless and IT (visit CEWIT.org for details). Our focus is to conduct basic research and the commercialization of the resulting technologies. The US and international economic priorities require that we bring together businesses, academia and the government to create the next generation technologies and solutions to solve the economic problems that we face today. Collaboration with industry makes a great deal of sense. Federal and many state laws now encourage research universities to cooperate. In the past 20 years, there has been a rapid rise in partnerships between academia and industry. Industry spending for academic research dollars continues to climb while the federal spending has stagnated. Commercialization of technologies for universities is becoming a means not only to provide money for research but also a tool for economic development. Universities are no longer the ivory towers of the past but are becoming a valuable instrument in creating the future of tomorrow.
Of course, there is always a time lag between the basic research and the ensuing commercial benefits arising out of the research. For example, in 2004 DARPA announced a $1 million challenge for driverless cars that can finish a 150 mile route. No one was able to win that challenge, but it led other minds to start thinking about the driverless cars leading Google to start testing driverless cars in 2012. The governments in various states are now starting to frame regulations for such cars and it is conceivable that by the year 2020 driverless cars using the latest information technology may be on roads everywhere creating a brand new industry. Information Technology induced innovations will continue to create more and more new enterprises and imaginative products and solutions.
The governments also now realize that knowledge industry creates the jobs of the future and that there is no better source of knowledge than the universities. The discipline of entrepreneurship is now becoming a part of engineering education at many universities.
CEWIT is the next generation research facility that is focusing on both the basic and applied research and works closely with industry in commercialization. The Center offers space to companies large, medium, and startup, to further close cooperation between the companies and the University.
Our 12th annual international CEWIT2015 Conference this year at the Melville Marriott Long Island in Melville, New York will again feature a diversified program including distinguished keynotes, business-centric panels, parallel big data analytics tutorials, student research poster plenaries, a 30+ exhibitor show floor and specialized B2B forums involving more than 70 companies from the US, Korea, and Israel. There will be more than 55 high profile presenters from over 15 countries in multiple parallel sessions on health technologies, medical devices, visual computing, mobile computing, cybersecurity, big data analytics, information technology and society, the internet of things, smart infrastructure, and smart energy. The conference capitalizes on interaction between the entire scope of the audience, which includes business executives, researchers, government officials, and educational professionals, in order to integrate innovation driven new technologies to enhance the US and global economies to benefit citizens everywhere.