Meet the Cool Idea! Award Judges: Amanda Williams

The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.

This will be Amanda’s first year on the Cool Idea! Award judge panel.

Next in our Cool Idea! Award judge series is Amanda Williams. Currently, she spearheads intelligent packaging programs at Jabil—a global manufacturing company. Before joining Jabil, Amanda founded multiple startups in consumer electronics and manufacturing logistics and has worked at tech companies like Xerox PARC, Adobe, Intel, and Microsoft.

What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
Seeing lots of cool ideas!

Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I went to graduate school for information and computer science, but also received some training in ethnography and anthropology while I was there and I use it daily.

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
I was talking with the president of a design firm about one of his employees, and he said “He’s a great designer because he argues well. He argues a lot, but it’s never to win or to prove that he is right. He argues because that’s how you make the product better.” I thought it was a really smart insight, and it has informed what I look for when I’m hiring, and how to judge and handle conflict when managing a team. Continue reading

Automotive Tech Takes the Wheel at CES 2017

EYE ON INNOVATION

Take a stroll through CES 2017 and you might think you accidentally entered an auto show. As cars become venues for the latest tech, they’ve turned into centerpieces at the world’s largest consumer electronics showcase.

This year, auto manufacturers captivated attendees with demos of self-driving cars, high-performance electric vehicles, and even holographic dashboard displays. Here’s what caught our attention at the show.

The HoloActive Touch system uses reflections to produce a holographic interface.

BMW Makes Holographic Displays a Reality
Seeing new tech from BMW has become somewhat of a tradition at CES. This year was no different. Attendees were introduced to the HoloActive Touch system. It’s a free-floating, holographic display not unlike something you’d find in a “Star Wars” film. The user interface enables drivers to control the car’s functions without making physical contact with the vehicle.

A camera installed in the dashboard detects users’ movements and registers the position of their fingertips. When a fingertip makes contact with the virtual surface, a pulse is emitted and the function is activated. BMW has yet to announce a release date for the new dashboard concept, but its current gesture-controlled system will do for now. Continue reading

The New Automotive Disrupters: Tech Giants

The automotive industry has stood as the life blood of American manufacturing for decades. It is the heart of the Detroit economy and in recent years has faced many challenges, but some of the greatest challenges have just begun. Tech giants such as Google, Apple and Tesla, to name a few, are poised to drive new levels of competition. It’s fair to say these companies qualify as a Big Bang disruption that is a major industry change instigated by non-traditional players in the market.

Most of us still think of the automobile primarily as a tool to bring us from point A to point B, but cars and trucks have become so more than just transportation. Many modern cars are a fully connected infotainment system that just happen to be on four wheels. The automobile has become a mobile conglomerate of computer and technology devices — a true command center supporting the driver with much more than just driving.

Another way to look at this shift is with the electronic device industry. A decade ago, the handheld GPS was a very common and useful tool. Today, GPS navigation is almost an afterthought on your smartphone since it’s as simple as downloading a user-friendly app. This is just one of many seismic digital shifts in the past 10 years.

However, while the technology-based companies leading the electronic infiltration into the automotive world certainly have the computing chops, the knowledge, depth and infrastructure that comes with manufacturing electronic components for the automotive industry is still developing. These tech giants must acclimate to model years and multi-year platforms compared to frequent software updates — two fundamentally different ideologies colliding.

Continue reading