My Winter of Discontent 2011: NASA CTOs at CES

CIOs need to remember that people in their organizations – their customers — are all consumers.  CIOs shouldn’t be content in their ability to rule their world as expectations of consumers continue to creep into the workplace.  The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) gives us an opportunity to peek into the future and see what potential expectations may visit the workplace.

When I went last year, it was just before I was in the market for a new car.  I stood in the middle of the convention center floor with my mouth hanging open.  After a few months, my husband got an index card and asked me for my “requirements” for the new vehicle.  The first thing I said was … Windows 7 … and if not that, all the technology I can get — cheap. 

I decided not to go this year but I subscribed to the email list for the NASA CTOs and they are at the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 right now.  You have to love these guys – they are pretty chatty, observant, and opinionated – in a positive way, of course – my inbox runneth over.  But, the constant “ding-ding-ding” of my Smartphone just makes my heart go pitter-patter.  (Actually, I heard more from them this year than last year because there were SO many connected people at the venue last year it made my cellular communication a wee bit erratic)

Moving beyond the typical pronouncements and opinions about premature release of technology, less than stellar capabilities, and other disappointments there are some common themes that are emerging from this group of techno-illuminati.  Things are changing at a faster pace; everything is connected; and standards are slow to emerge. 

Here is just a taste of the consumer issues that need to drive CIO (crazy) strategic planning this year:

Cars with wi-fi hotspot technology – If folks start getting this in their car, you better figure out how to get it (securely) in all the right places in the workplace.  Little things mean a lot.  At NASA/Goddard our new professionals were ecstatic to have the capability at a nice shady outside pavilion; at NASA/HQ, I’m personally tickled pink that there is connectivity in the parking garage; and at NASA/Johnson, they have a cozy little spot in their cafeteria. 

A telescope that lets you see thousands of years into the past – It is also reported to have a database of over 4000 celestial bodies.  Of course this would have to get the attention of any NASA CIO.   Maybe not much excitement when compared with a Hubble Telescope which can see over 13 billion years, but it makes you wonder where the technology is heading.

Woo-hoo for the potential of cloud delivered content – This will give consumers the ability to get to data independent of the device.  Content owners will get the shakes about intellectual property rights and CIOs will get the willies about information security.  Relative to what multimedia companies are facing, I feel very hopeful that the financial potential will drive some breakthroughs in the management of this content.  That’s good news for today’s CIOs who are exploring ways to manage content in the cloud. 

A thought comes to mind from J.F. Cummings How to Rule the World: Lessons in Conquest for the Modern Prince, a satirical yet strangely instructive book that can give CIOs insight into why handwringing discontent needs to yield to proactive rapid strategic planning.  In a chapter where there is a discussion of how to thwart science and technology’s effectiveness in the “Your subject nation-state”, the reader is reminded, in a tongue-in-cheek way that “Your goal is to turn a nation-state of proactive thinkers into a band of agitated, anxiety-ridden reactionaries”. 

So, as winter ends and the hope of spring begins, IT leaders can close their mouths, dry their tears and begin to plan for this new world before they are reduced to becoming bewildered and reactive subjects of a modern princess.

Linda Cureton, NASA CIO

6 thoughts on “My Winter of Discontent 2011: NASA CTOs at CES”

  1. I love all your post. Speaks many things, various topics in a single text. Lost, the only thing I can say is: calm Linda. It is complicated anyway. And … love modern Princess, though.

  2. Greetings, I just wanted to comment and say that I was really impressed with your blog. Keep up the good work! You are a really talented writer and it shows –

  3. Hi Linda, thanks for the post. I always enjoy reading your articles, particularly the ones about new and upcoming technology. I read your bio on the site and noticed the line 'a strong advocate for the practical application of technology'.

    I've just released an augmented reality application for trying on fashion accessories before you buy online. I think it's a pretty practical use of technology!

    I am in the middle of writing a press release and I was wondering how I could find out what projects NASA have run in the past which has eventuated in this sort of technology emerging for consumer use. The technology uses the Viola-Jones Haar-cascade algorithm, the Canny algorithm and the Lucas-Kanade algorithm for face, image and motion detection.

    If anyone here reading this article could provide knowledge I would be very grateful. The augmented reality app is called the .

  4. Well, thought it was time to introduce myself, been reading so much about this place I thought best to signup and participate and helpout if I can.
    So..hello and I hope to learn and help others out..peace

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