Executive Insights: Discussing Emerging Technologies with John “Boz” Handy Bosma

The Academy of Technology’s “Executive Insights” series provides thought leadership from executives and senior members of IBM with the goal of encouraging the exchange of ideas and information.

John “Boz” Handy Bosma
Chief Architect for Platform Innovation
Digital Growth and Commerce
Vice-President, IBM Academy of Technology

What is the Emerging Technology focus of IBM and why does it matter?

Boz:  IBM looks to the Academy of Technology (AoT) to dig deep into key technologies that affect the future of IBM, its clients, and the world. Beyond the immediate time horizon, the company always needs to have a view of where technology is headed, what gaps exist, major issues raised for business and society, and where IBM can have the greatest impact. IBM gets this from its leading experts, academia, and researchers.

There are also important ethical dimensions to consider when thinking about emerging technology issues. The AoT has a long history of working on the most pressing problems facing the world, like how to make cities smarter and more sustainable; opportunities for business workloads to incorporate weather data, which was brought to fruition through the Weather Company and related IBM offerings; increasing diversity and participation through Open Source, an area where IBM was involved in from the very beginning;  or ethical issues in AI we’ve seen recently such as cognitive bias.

IBM leads the industry in the trust dimension because the company has identified as “good tech”, and our ethics inspire trust from our clients. Just about every “Big Thing in tech” the world talks about today comes from people in the AoT diving deep years earlier from an Emerging Tech perspective. When I first heard about the Aot, that’s what most intrigued me.

What are some of the challenges in Emerging Technology and how are you solving them?

Boz:  The biggest challenge in Emerging Tech is that it’s emerging! Once the future has happened, we’re all tempted to think we knew what the future would hold, but the truth is more humbling. There are things we can know, and things we can’t. The future always has strong elements of risk and uncertainty. IBM and its clients need a clear picture of that, so they know what to do now to plan for the future.

On any Emerging Tech topic, there are many opinions. it’s a challenge to integrate the wide diversity of perspectives into a point of view IBM and its clients can act on. Though IBM puts vast resources and world-class experts to work solving these issues, resources are still finite. The company’s total R&D is a fraction of what the world invests. To get things right, then, it’s critical to develop high-quality information for people making decisions. In order to do this, we rely on the larger IBM technical community and key parts of the business where expertise resides.  You don’t have to be a deep subject matter expert to make a difference; you need to understand expertise and make your unique contribution. The AoT provides a vehicle for individuals to engage with practitioners from all around the company to make that contribution.

A major area of focus right now is how digital ecosystems and the tech that underlies them will evolve in response to the current economic challenges facing IBM clients and the world.

What is the main focus right now for Emerging Tech in the AoT?  And how can one learn more?

Boz:  As with much of the company, our main focus on many initiatives has been narrowed to the immediate and medium-range aspects of COVID-19 and related business and tech challenges faced by clients. IBM has COVID-19 and related initiatives that are beyond the scope of the AoT, but the AoT has initiatives where the main concern right now should be on these short- and medium-range issues. For example, what are the specific Emerging Tech challenges for clients who have an immediate need to move to Hybrid Cloud and digital experiences?  How can companies who no longer have an on-site workforce and no face-to-face interaction with clients adapt?  How can business resilience be improved and instrumented in the short term even as we learn more about where the current crisis is headed? These are questions IBM is looking at, and with the kind of people who are involved in the Academy we are in a position to make a difference.

People can find out more about the AoT’s COVID-19 related efforts via our COVID-19 portal.  The AoT also has a listing of all its current initiatives, and people can contact initiative leaders to learn more.  Along with our newsletter, the AoT Buzz, the Academy’s monthly Showcase Series also provides an excellent way to keep in touch.  Many of the initiatives covered have an Emerging Tech focus.

I understand you also have an unusual tech side project/hobby.

Boz: Like a lot of IBMers, I’m always tinkering. One thing I’ve been working on the past couple years is learning to joggle – that’s running and juggling. Up until the recent pandemic, I was a frequent joggler on the local trails and in local road races like the Austin Marathon. It’s a lot of fun, but my real mission was to explore how IoT, AI, and health considerations relate. Specifically, I was looking for ways to help people with movement issues re-learn how to move. For example, imagine someone has had a stroke or been in a car accident. The type of movement issues they work with are those that affect the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people all over the world. In my opinion, tech hasn’t served them as well as it could.  So I instrumented the juggling balls as a way of testing whether smart, instrumented objects could help people learn complex movements. The idea was to detect whether balls had been thrown, their flight time and therefore height, and whether they had been caught or dropped, and how many times. I then did some basic AI over the data. My idea was that if I could use smart objects to learn to run and juggle a full marathon, then similar objects might be used by people who need help learning to move.

Meet John Handy-Bosma

John “Boz” Handy-Bosma, Ph.D. is a Senior Technical Staff Member and Chief Architect for Platform Innovation in the Digital Growth and Commerce group in Cognitive Applications. Boz leads technical innovation projects for cross-IBM and client impact. He takes a keen interest in diversity and inclusion and is a frequent mentor and speaker on technical vitality topics.  He is a Master Inventor with 68 granted patents. For his contributions and technical impact, Boz received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the IBM Academy of Technology in 2019.

These are the opinions of the author and while a distinguished member of our Academy and IBM, all thoughts expressed are solely his/her own.

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