“Chicago developed as an attractive market for data centers for the same reason it became a hub for railroads: its central location. Much of the fiber optic cable the internet runs on was laid along railroad tracks, and Chicago acted as the connector between east and west. Plus, the city has reliable electricity and isn’t at risk for the hurricanes or earthquakes that threaten the coasts.”
“There are 47 data center locations in Illinois.” Datacenters.com
“Chicago’s position as a hub for connectivity also is demonstrated in the data center at 350 E. Cermak Road. Besides servers that companies have located there, the facility houses major telecommunications carriers, such as Sprint and Verizon, and other networks.”
“Argonne’s high-performance computers provide […] the ability to model and simulate complex, dynamic systems that would be too expensive or impractical for experimentation. Argonne is home to a wide variety of computing systems, including some of the most powerful high-performance computers in the world.”
While working in Europe last month a peer asked me about Chicago’s tech environment during our lunch break. I managed to assemble some thoughts and, off the top of my head, I proudly shared these few ones:
- much of the country’s internet traffic is running through the Chicago area
- some of the world’s largest data centers are also located here around
- home of two of the most prestigious National Labs: Fermilab and Argonne
- Argonne is building one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world
- one of Chicago’s 20+ start-up incubators, 1871, has become the world’s #1
- and there is plenty of good talent coming out of prestigious universities
Photograph courtesy of 1871.
My workmate’s curiosity was somehow satisfied. He claimed to be impressed and we then changed topics. A month has gone by since and, interestingly enough, when listening to the local programming of NPR, National Public Radio, someone was talking about Chicago also being the best city in the world… which I wished I would have been able to add to the above list.
“Chicago is, in fact, the best city in the world right now, according to results from a new survey. Time Out said Chicago topped its global index of the most exciting cities for the second consecutive year (when considering the) town’s affordability, culture, food, drink, happiness, neighborhoods, livability, pride and friendliness.”
Chicagoland does not ony have an impressive research and technology pedigree, the city has a reputation for affordable quality of life. However, that would just be a tone-deaf statement if, at the time of writing this, one had chosen to simply ignore the city’s challenged safety record in the most underprivileged communities.
Nokia’s CTC, Chicago Technology Center, is based in Naperville. It takes about one hour drive to get there from downtown Chicago and 30 minutes from O’Hare Airport.
Those ETAs (estimated arrival times) apply to good traffic conditions. When accounting for Chicago’s snowy winter wonderland and summer’s ‘construction season.’ it typically takes quite a bit more driving time to get anywhere, which makes the local railway system a better option.
In any case Naperville is consistently ranked as “the best city to raise a family.”
“Niche unveiled its annual ‘Best Cities to Raise a Family in America’ and ‘Best Cities to Live in America’ for 2018, and Naperville achieved the No. 1 and No 2 respectively. Naperville also came out on top in the lists of ‘Cities with the Best Public Schools in America’ and ‘Safest Cities in America.’
Still thinking of further expanding my earlier list, here are is another compelling fact:
- the Midwest compares to California not only in population size, but also in the number of patents, which makes Illinois (Chicago and Naperville are located in that state) jointly with Minnesota, Ohio and Michigan, be an R&D powerhouse.
In the area of computer science, the Midwest’s three National Labs feature the following leading edge research:
- computational and decision science at Ames.
- high performing, extreme-scale / exabyte computing at Argonne (noted above)
- quantum information systems in partnership with AT&T and the California Institute of Technology at Fermi.
“The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) is home to some of the world’s fastest supercomputers dedicated to research on projects of national and global importance.”
It also makes sense to share these noteworthy research items:
- new Army Research and University of Chicago collaboration facility
- Fermilab’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) research proposal with Google to develop a co-design center addressing quantum computing systems.
- new Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.
Whenever tech is the subject, FAAMG always comes to mind: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google (Alphabet being Google’s parent company.) FAAMG is just the combined acronym for these company’s stocks.
They all have been growing their workforce in Chicago, though Apple’s focus was placed on their flagship store.
Amazon is looking into building its second corporate headquarters. Apple is planning to build a second corporate campus. Chicago is seeking to be the location of choice for both.
“Amazon announced just over a year ago its desire to create a second headquarters campus, saying the company planned to create up to 50,000 high-paying jobs in about 8 million square feet of buildings […] and was back in Chicago last month to take another look at a South Loop site along the river, as the e-commerce giant narrows its search.”
Apple’s new flagship store in Chicago.
“Apple is planning to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a $350 billion commitment to the U.S.”
“Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded with an enthusiastic and unequivocal “Yes” when asked whether Chicago would enter the heated competition for whatever kind of campus that Apple wants to build to augment its headquarters in Cupertino, California.”
“Chicago is likely to play up the strength of its technical talent pool and its relatively low cost of living.”
When thinking of the fact that “digital transformation” projects happen to be on every CEO’s must-do list, a quick look at who is who in the Chicago metropolitan area reveals a fairly diversified economy. That is basically a fertile ground for tech.
Thirty seven of the global Fortune 500’s multinational corporations are claiming Chicago as their HQ. On that list, the are names such as Motorola Solutions, Boeing and CDW. But, to get a better picture of the local tech scene, there is a need for going further to include Accenture’s Chicagoan origins and home base. Ditto for Motorola Mobility, which was the result of splitting former Motorola into two companies.
Motorola Mobility was part of Google until sold to Lenovo four years ago. That business is centered on the “Moto” phones. The home device portfolio went to Arris.
In this context, it also makes perfect sense to position Nokia’s mark as follows. Chicago’s former Navteq (Navigation Technologies Corporation) had grown as the largest and leading provider of mapping and navigation technologies. The company was purchased by Nokia in 2007.
Five years later, what had become a Nokia business unit branded as “Here” was acquired by Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Nokia had also bought former Novarra in 2010. The company was based in Itasca, another Chicagoland suburb. They focused on web-based technologies and services, and BMW acquired that business in 2014 as well. BMW Technology Group is based in downtown Chicago.
Nokia acquired Motorola Solution’s wireless network infrastructure business (Arlignton Heights campus) in 2011 and, more recently, 100% of Alcatel-Lucent (ALU,) which includes Bell Labs. ALU’s purchase was completed in 2016 (Naperville campus.) We have consolidated Chicagoland’s locations since and are all now based at the Naperville facility, which has been rebranded as Nokia CTC, Chicago Technology Center.
Nokia CTC. 1900 Lucent Lane. Naperville, IL 60563. United States.
Discussing Nokia CTC also deserves a few more insights by connecting the following dots. Chicago’s history takes us all the way back to the late 1800s and the ground breaking technology innovations that came from the Western Electric Company out of its flagship Howthorne Works facility.
Encyclopedia of Chicago – Western Electric Co
Western Electric ended up owning 50% of Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs.) The other half was with AT&T. In 1915, the Western Electric Company became a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T.
Let’s fast forward to 1995 when AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies, Bell Labs Innovations. Lucent was all set as an independent company and the successor of Western Electric. France’s Alcatel and Lucent merged in 2006 and together became Alcatel-Lucent (ALU.) As noted above, ALU was bought out by Nokia in 2016.
Whether we focus on Nokia’s 2016 acquisition to tell the story or, better yet, go all the way back to Western Electric’s foundation in 1869, the fact is that those of us working at the Nokia Chicago Technology Center get to enjoy a daily reminder of our legendary origins.
That happens on our way to our offices when taking a peek at a rather unassuming yet memorable museum set up by volunteers. We celebrated our campus’ 50th anniversary a couple of years ago. 700 employees joined Bell Labs’ new Indian Hill (former campus name) facility in August of 1966. Naperville’s community transformed from a largely rural environment to a leading edge technology center. Note that Nabisco (Mondelez) and Amoco Chemicals (BP) also set up shop there around that time.
Nokia CTC, Chicago Technology Center. Showcase (above) and Demo Center (below)
Today, Nokia’s impact in Chicago’s tech scene is centered on the work that we do in Naperville. That involves teams from a broad cross-section of the corporation, namely: Bell Labs (BL,) Chief Operations Office (COO,) Nokia Software Group (NSW,) IP & Optical Networking (ION,) Mobility Networks (MN,) Fixed Networks (FN,) Global Services, as well as NokiaEDU, our training resource.
Nokia CTC research on Advanced Decision Support Systems is showcased at global venues such as Mobile World Congress and at Nokia HQ’s Customer Experience Center.
Nokia CTC is also home base for our Technology Leadership Council (TLC,) a grass-roots and all volunteer organization, which I am a steering committee member of. There are quite a few things in the making right now, such as our annual Human Factors Engineering conference, Nokia HFE18, and more updates will follow for anyone interested.
As usual, welcoming feedback and input as a comment on this blog and/or over LinkedIn’s messaging… or in person if we happen to cross paths.
Argonne National Laboratory. Advanced Computing. https://www.anl.gov/advanced-computing Accessed 20 October 2018.
Baker, Suzanne. Naperville named 2018’s best city to rise a family. Chicago Tribune, Naperville Sun, 7 March 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/naperville-sun/news/ct-nvs-naperville-niche-number-one-st-0309-20180307-story.html Accessed 20 October 2018.
Cole, Craig. Why Does BMW have a technology office in Chicago? Autoguide.com, 21 July 2017. https://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2017/07/why-does-bmw-have-a-technology-office-in-chicago-.html Accessed 21 October 2018.
Day, Thomas. For Chicago’s tech scene, the mission is most definitely not accomplished. Crain’s Chicago Business, Opinion Section, 16 October 2018, https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/chicagos-tech-scene-mission-most-definitely-not-accomplished Accessed 20 October 2018
Fermilab. Quantum Information Systems. http://computing.fnal.gov/quantum-information-systems/ Accessed 20 October 2018.
Fisher Amber. Here Are Illinois’ Fortune 500 Companies. Chicago Patch, 29 May 2018. https://patch.com/illinois/chicago/here-are-illinois-fortune-500-companies Accessed 21 October 2018.
Gingold, Don. 50 years ago: Naperville’s population boom. The Summer Place, 20 October 2016. http://www.summerplacetheatre.org/News/50-years-ago-napervilles-population-boom Accessed 21 October 2018.
Inside HPC. Argonne Steps up to the Exascale Computing Project, 31 August 2017. https://insidehpc.com/2017/08/argonne-steps-exascale-computing-project/ Accessed 20 October 2018.
Liedtke, Michael. Apple to build 2nd campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge. Chicago Sun Times, 17 January 2018. https://chicago.suntimes.com/business/apple-second-headquarters-tax-overhaul-offshore-cash/ Accessed 30 October 2018.
Marotti, Ally. With and insatiable demand for data centers, some are worried that Illinois can’t keep up. Chicago Tribune, 19 July 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-chicago-data-centers-20180709-story.html Accessed 20 October 2018.
Marotty, Ally, and Ori, Ryan. Amazon was back in Chicago last month, as its search for HQ2 narrows. Chicago Tribune, 26 September 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-amazon-hq2-chicago-visit-20180926-story.html Accessed 30 October 2018.
Meadows, Jonah. Chicago rated ‘best city in the world’ for 2nd straight year. Chicago Patch, 30 January 2018. https://patch.com/illinois/chicago/chicago-rated-best-city-world-2nd-straight-year Accessed 30 October 2018.
Molina, Brett. What the FAANG is happening to tech stocks? USA Today, 9 June 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/06/09/tech-stocks-fang-dead-long-live-faamg/385200001/ Accessed 20 October 2018.
Rekdal, Andreas. Hey, Siri: Chicago wants in on Apple’s expansion plans. builtinchicago, 18 January 2018. https://www.builtinchicago.org/2018/01/18/hey-siri-chicago-wants-apples-expansion-plans Accessed 30 October 2018.
Tai, Yur. 1871 Ranks 1st in the world in global study of business incubators. 23 February 2018. https://blog.1871.com/1871-ranks-1st-in-the-world-in-global-study-of-business-incubators Accessed 20 October 2918.
Tekippe, Abraham. Nokia Siemens campus in Arlighton Heights sells for $28 million. Crain’s Chicago Business, 24 July 2013. https://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130724/CRED03/130729956/nokia-siemens-campus-in-arlington-heights-sells-for-28-million Accessed 21 October 2018.
The National Laboratories Director’s Council. US Department of Energy. https://nationallabs.org/our-labs/where-we-are/ Accessed on 20 October 2018
University of Chicago. UChicago and U.S. Army Research Laboratory cut ribbon on ARL Central. UChicago News, 15 November 2017. https://news.uchicago.edu/story/uchicago-and-us-army-research-laboratory-cut-ribbon-arl-central Accessed 20 October 2018.
“The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Englbart’s December 9, 1968 […] The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system called the oN-Line System or more commonly, NLS. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: windows, hypertext, graphics, efficient navigation and command input, video conferencing, the computer mouse, word processing, dynamic file linking, revisions control, and a collaborative real-time editor (collaborative work). Engelbart’s presentation was the first to publicly demonstrate all these elements in a single system. The demonstration was highly influential and spawned similar projects at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The underlying technologies influenced both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical user interface operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s.” – The Mother of All Demos, Wikipedia.
Compelling demonstrations can make all the difference when introducing emerging technologies. There is no slideware or paper substitute for the kind of revelations, quality insights, and lasting emotions that we all get when experiencing things live and first hand. On the research side, interactive demonstrations have become invaluable tools that expose and test concepts. Moreover, they prompt invaluable feedback by questioning, validating, unveiling unsuspected items as well as winning hearts and minds to further advance a cause.
Those are some of the reasons why I prioritize demo development and my research process involves activities such as field trips and ethnographic insights captured in environments like the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago and open-door showcases at renowned institutions like Fermilab. Successful science exhibits make complex topics approachable and engaging. They are carefully designed with craftsmanship pride to be perceived as astute, immersive and to appeal to our brain’s intuition and intellect.
The above graphic features quotes from Albert Einstein and Nicholas Negroponte on the left, coupled with Salvador Dalí and Arthur C. Clarke on the right. I created that poster’s first version a few years ago and became my reference framework for prototyping and demonstration since. The photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia. Here are further insights on what these quotes mean to me:
1.- DEMO OR DIE – The introduction of inventions and diffusion of innovations relies on effectively conveying clear and concise value. Interacting with engaging demonstrations can be best supported by well thought out whiteboarding sessions. This communication strategy works best when allowing dynamic conversations instead of long agendas packed with presentation monologues. Most people can talk about the many times when they were either overwhelmed, underwhelmed or just bored to death by slideware… and became suspicious of hype. Note that we all deal with an unfavorable Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio in today’s information rich environment and, therefore, compete for customers and/or users’ undivided attention. Once again, memorable hands-on demonstrations can make all the difference.
2.- GROW TO LOOK LIKE THE PORTRAIT – High tech is a fast paced industry. One can be left wondering if the technology, toolset, application and/or overall system being discussed will grow and scale as needed beyond day one. There can also be concerns around maturity levels, roadmapping options and future proofing when working with emerging technologies. Demos can be used to convey a tangible vision based on attainable end-goals. They can also be used for what-if-analysis, sunny and rainy day scenarios (which can include full lifecycle and stress tests) and plot plausible journeys to go from A to B and any steps in between. Helping everyone come to terms with what lays ahead is key to defining product strategies and planning decisions “to grow to look like the portrait.”
3.- EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY – Apparently unavoidable jargon and well intended technical kumbaya can become easily entangled. Complex explanations suffer from information overload. Convoluted narratives pleasing the presenter’s ego can make unclear what specific problem or pain point he/she solving, and what the sought after benefits and priorities are. When “less is more” it definitely pays to define a vantage point, zoom out, distill fundamentals and synthesize the essence. Knowing your audience and getting the job done in the clearest and most effective terms possible means striking a balance and staying away from oversimplifying or complicating matters. This is an iterative exercise that often demands more time, effort and reviews than the usual information dump. We also need to be able to step-zoom to deliver the next level of detail and to conduct deep dives… without incurring information overload. Humanizing technology, storytelling techniques and ease of information visualization are key to developing a coherent narrative.
“The meaning of a communication is defined by the Change and Affect it creates for the audience. Stories are concerned with transformation. In stories something Changes to create an emotion […] The Change has to resonate with the Audience to generate an Affect; a feeling, a reaction or an insight […] We shall consider these two defining characteristics of narrative to clarify the purpose of any communication […] Change and Affect create meaning. – “Crackle and Fizz. Essential Communication and Pitching Skills for Scientists.” – Caroline van den Brul. Imperial College Press.
4..- IT’S MAGIC – This is all about the so called X-FACTOR: an unsuspected quality making something be different and special in unequivocal terms. To be more precise, the X-FACTOR’s experience can be broken down as follows:
- SURPRISE FACTOR – this relies on managing perceptions and the discovery process, the tipping point being delivered by a timely and unsuspected clever twist and a defining punch line – the “aha” moment.
- WOW FACTOR – high impact, impressive, awe-inspiring outcome, benefits and results that can be easily understood and embraced – the “I didn’t know we could do that” and “I want to know more” moment.
- COOL FACTOR – elegant sophistication and grace, clear object of desire – the “I want that” moment, this being most demos’ ultimate Call-To-Action (CTA.)
The art and science behind the above is known as “affective design.” Techniques such as perceptual learning and emotional intelligence in design (emotional design in short) are applied in Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) to foster pleasant ease of use, drive further engagement and productive usage in the process. Widespread digitalization and the advent of wearables make HCI commonplace, which is influencing product design.
The above is a demo’s “full disclosure” chart, which breaks down what’s real and what’s not. This is needed because vaporware can be an issue of concern.
1.- PRIOR ART – In the above example, a given percentage of the demonstration system involved known technologies, some from third party partners.
2.- STATE OF THE ART – The greatest and latest features, cutting edge delivered by technologies that are available today.
3.- FUTURE ART – A sneak preview of new features and capabilities that are planned, undergoing development and/or committed, but not yet available.
4.- ART OF THE POSSIBLE – Proof of Concept illustrating experimentation results and potential, bleeding edge capabilities that are not yet committed.
By the way, vaporware is the result of positioning 3 and 4 as part of 2. Avoiding unpleasant misunderstands prompts the need for disclosing these four different maturity levels. Note that one graphic applies to a comprehensive demonstration system encompassing those four aspects and their relative weight.
One other thought, there is a difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. The first delivers improved qualities such as better performance in A/B comparison testing as an example, “A” being prior art and “B” state of the art. Most would agree on defining disruptive innovations as game changers which deliver unique capabilities that clearly supersede legacy and conventional systems. That alone renders “A” obsolete. A/B comparison testing leads to discussions on the difference between Present Mode of Operations (PMO) and Future Mode of Operations (FMO.)
“Humanists must be educated with a deep appreciation of modern science. Scientists and engineers must be steeped in humanistic learning. And all learning must be linked with a broad concern for the complex effects of technology on our evolving culture.” – Jerome B. Wiesner.
“In business and economics, innovation is the catalyst to growth […] In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitiveness […] research findings highlight the complementary role of organizational culture enabling organizations to translate innovative activity into tangible performance improvements […] Innovation is the key element in providing aggressive top-line growth and increasing bottom-line results.” – Wikipedia.
“Product development within the telecommunications industry has traditionally followed rigorous standards for stability, protocol adherence and quality. While this model worked well in the past, it inevitably led to long product cycles, a slow pace of development and reliance on proprietary or specialist hardware […] In October 2012, an industry specifications group, “Network Functions Virtualization”, published a white paper […] discussing NFV as a network architecture using IT technologies to virtualize entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that may be connected, or chained, to create communication services.” – Wikipedia.
Left: Ted East. Right: Jose de Francisco. Location: Alcatel-Lucent’s Naperville Auditorium.
Our NFV Innovation Day was held this past Thursday. I would first like to congratulate everyone involved: participants, speakers, and the team of volunteers at the company’s Technology Leadership Council (TLC) who made it happen with support from Alcatel-University, company Communications teams, Real Estate and IT support.
This was an internal daylong event designed for Alcatel-Lucent’s own cloud computing community. The agenda featured 15 speakers addressing 3 modules: demystifying NFV, portfolio readiness and future direction, as well as an engaging live demonstration on Lean NFV Ops delivered by the Cloud Innovation Center on stage.
What was originally planned as a campus initiative to brief teams on what transpired at Mobile World Congress, quickly became a far more ambitious undertaking involving speakers from worldwide locations and a global webcast. All definitely worth the effort as feedback received is very positive and encouraging. The better news is that there are more TLC “Innovation Days” on other emerging technologies in the works already.
Making the Lean NFV Ops video. Location: Mobile World Congress, Barcelona.
By the way, speaking of Barcelona’s MWC, thanks to Darlene Cetrulo we will be making a video on the Lean NFV Ops demo available. This is just a quick note to let you know that it is ready and will be shared soon. Stay tuned : )
Left: Jose de Francisco. Center: Carla Cico. Right: Ted East. Location: NFV Experience Room at the Cloud Innovation Center.
Leading to NFV Innovation Day, we also had a good meeting with Carla Cico, member of Alcatel-Lucent’s Board of Directors. The company’s Board involves 11 Directors, all independent with the only exception of Michel Combes, CEO. My understanding is that Carla started her career with Italtel and was CEO of Brasil Telecom. International Business and Forbes featured her among the top 100 most powerful women.
We gathered with her in the Showcase area, a good place to illustrate what’s changing in the telecommunications industry to begin with. The bulk of the discussion took place at CIC’s NFV Experience Room since the interactive Lean NFV Ops demo invites the conversation and helps visualize complex topics.
Left: Bhaskar Gorti. Center: Naperville Auditorium. Right: Michel Combes.
Back to the NFV Innovation Day, Michel Combes, CEO, and Bhaskar Gorti, IP Platforms President, delivered the opening remarks for the morning and afternoon sessions respectively.
The event featured a “dream team” of NFV speakers who did an excellent job without exception. Though, it should be noted that there is plenty of cloud talent and good work going on in the company. For that reason, when working on the agenda our planning team came to the conclusion that we were scratching the surface.
Nonetheless, NFV Innovation Day delivered insightful content coming from a broad and well balanced cross-section of the business, coupled with Bell Labs ingenuity in the areas of analytics and autonomics (machine learning) for NFV. This approach now delivers opportunities for following up and conducting deep dives as needed.
Left: Phil Tilley, Jose de Francisco. Center: Cassidy Shield, Betsy Covell. Right: Anne Lee.
Last but not least, TLC is a boundariless Alcatel-Lucent community fostering knowledge networks across the business. TLC focuses on activities involving technology sharing to drive heightened innovativeness.