Icons, Security and Narcissism - a pretty normal week then?

Since there was to be no-one around, the “start the week” was cancelled. Anyway, I had to be in London, so it was there I went!! 

The reason was to meet with BMW about the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Programme ( http://www.technologyprogramme... ). The meeting was requested by BERR who have been trying to get BMW to launch part of their worldwide Mini E programme in the UK. The original discussion had been back in October, and BMW had quoted a “decision date” of early December to ensure the cars came to the UK. We could not launch and close our competition fast enough, so a variety of unclosed conversations were had between people not really allowed to have them. We were trying to balance the fairly understandable desire to have the iconic Mini programme located in the UK with the needs of other potential participants – who needed more time to develop their ideas and consortia. We had published details of the competition the preceding Friday rather than waiting until January 5th and it was nice to see that the BMW folk – 3 Government Affairs people, including one who had flown especially from Germany that morning – all had printouts of the flyer!! The first half of the meeting, I played bad cop to Ashley Roberts good cop, explaining the mechanisms of an Innovation Platform, the need for inclusivity and widespread involvement. It appears that BMW may have been bluffing on their decision date, or it had slipped, because they found the current timings, with an initial decision being made in early February and money available in April, to be a good fit with their plans. Having got this far, Ashley and I swapped roles and he attempted to gain concessions from BMW. They gave one immediately – that a team from Cowley would go to Munich to learn the electric technology and be able to support the demonstrator programme in the UK. They also are intending to increase their UK sourcing for other components, so we expressed Lord Drayson’s interest in reinforcing the electrical components supply chain and the parallel £10m competition in that area. They had not realised that we held “consortium building workshops” or put potential collaborators in touch with one another and request more information. All in all, a good meeting. Which set me up for the next one.... 

The walk from 1 Vic St to the Home Office is a short one, so I got there in plenty of time. I was following up an invitation from Sebastian Conran to take part on the Design and Technology Alliance - http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk... . Brian McCarthy had also been talking to the Home Office but networking had been more effective. The first planned meeting had been cancelled when one the Home Office types had crocked his back, but I was still expecting an introductory meeting. Imagine my surprise when Joe McGeeham of Toshiba turned up in the waiting room saying that he was coming to the same meeting. At this point, a comment by Fearless Leader the preceding Friday that Kester was expecting to me to meet up with David Godber surfaced from the bowels of my memory and I realised that this might be a working meeting. It was!! 

The Design and Technology Alliance has been going since August 2007 – see the press release. It has had some meetings. In them, it has broken down its challenges into 5 areas. The first one they are tackling is “hot products” - things that people like to steal – and they held a workshop in May. They haven’t done much since and questions are being asked. Today’s meeting was because they to run a “competition” to address the area and had got a format but no real challenge. During discussions, we developed the idea that we could use the camera in the phone to use a simple face recognition algorithm that would lock the phone out for not recognised faces (you could probably cheat with phenotypes or pictures, but that’s a level of organisation that this sort of criminal doesn’t have!). With fairly simple applications for Mac OS for the iPhone, Windows Mobile and Symbian you could cover 90+% of the market. The idea is to run the competition for the development of these applications (separately or together) and make them free from a government website for a short period and then allow market forces to set a price. The second generation products would be out in 3-6 months tops anyway. This would be coupled with an attempt to make security fashionable (if you can make people like the Prius, you can make anything trendy). The Design Council had costed the competition at £250k so, since we are trying to work more closely with them, we are giving half. It will launch in January, either with Brown or Smith, close at the end of February, get a professional upgrade in March and be available for free download in April. We will use our routes into the innovative ICT and Creative Industries markets and DC will use their complementary links. DC do all the heavy lifting but was needed a contact point – Paul Lewis volunteered. No really, he did actually volunteer!! 

Getting home on a train mostly filled with people on holiday and returning from their Christmas shopping was a bit soul destroying, but I survived. 

Tuesday was a Swindon day, with lots of tidying up to do, the second half of my performance review with Fearless Leader (he wore civvies for it so I knew I had gotten away with 2008!) and the meeting to review progress with the Emerging Technologies piece, which is getting less embarrassing by the day. 

Although Wednesday was nominally a holiday, I spent a good chunk of it reading improved strategies, answering e-mails I had been avoiding and exploring twitter. I am beginning to get the hang of tweet-stalking to find people you want to communicate with, or who might be doing interesting things, knowing when to openly tweet and when to direct message and more about twitpics and twitblogs. I have to admit that I am now abandoning some people I follow as I am growing a suspicion that tweeting is an advanced form of technologically enabled narcissism, but I sill keep finding neat links and new ideas, so will persevere. I note that we are growing as a band of Tweeters within the Technology Strategy Board, so if nothing more we have an additional internal communications method which actually works on a Treo!! 

Christmas presents included a towel ( http://www.royal-plus.de/dna/ for those of a certain age and sense of humour) and several OGWT DVDs – I bet a certain dad-rock fan I know would love to borrow them!! - and more ties , although nothing as distasteful as Cyrus’s

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