Author Archives: nancygreco

IBM Argentina: Meeting the Innovators’ Innovator

Have you ever heard the phrase — the innovators’ innovator?  It refers to a person or group of persons that inspire people that are already viewed as innovators, to be more innovative.  And recently I came across a group of individuals in IBM Argentina, that truly inspire innovation!  To begin with, they don’t let anything get in the way of their curiosity, passion and team work. Their day jobs don’t have anything to do with the Internet of Things, directly —- but wow are they creating crazy cool stuff in their free time- in the IoT Open Lab they created. So how do they do it ?

They wanted to create a robot, but lacked space, skills, and materials.  Didn’t stop them. Their manager got them some open space, they designed and built a 3D printer, they taught themselves  robotics and electronics, they learned various software languages  to support the development boards they bought, and they learned natural language processing and computer vision —-all  on their own time !  The word got around about what they were doing — and that anyone interested could join. Volunteers came from different IBM business units and job roles. Volunteers learned new skills. And together, they designed and built a robot, Emma, literally from an idea and teamwork.

I met Emma and was amazed at her ability to interact with a human. The engineering feat here was no trivial task. First, the 3D printer to create Emma’s form, was designed and built by the team: wow! They shared the various design versions of Emma, and the challenges they overcame. And then the  programming of Emma to recognize and understand human voice, and recognize images, including human faces for recognition. They were leveraging what they could from IBM’s current capability, but adding much more to it. Emma can find you on sametime and send you a note that someone is the lobby waiting for you, for example. Looking at you, she can find you on Bluepages – quickly. Something I can’t do as quickly today even when I know who I am looking for.

But what was truly amazing – was meeting the team. The energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and openness to invite anyone to come learn new skills. And the skills they are learning — are in hot demand, just about everywhere. I loved their attitude — on let’s stop talking about IBM can could do in AI and IoT, let’s start SHOWING what we can do.  Emma is not their only project either. They showed us projects to monitor water usage, and one on determining how many people are in a building based on detecting mobile devices.

So often people complain about their jobs, not having the chance to do something really innovative. Well this team puts their energy into making things happen and not waiting for a job to give them opportunities….. they are making their opportunities.  And they are inspiring other to do the same. It is this type of grassroots, passionate pursuit that changes the world – and that is why this team of volunteers has become a symbol for me when I think of the best Innovators.

Introducing the AWESOME, and INSPIRING TEAM :

 

Agustin Spagnolo
Amelia Lourdes Balsamo
Andrés Trapanotto
Carlos Eduardo Monti
Carolina Monica De Napoli
Claudio Hernan Casillo
Diego Tabares
Emilio Gasco
Federico Ariel Carella Herrera
Federico Molinelli
Federico Pouyau
Fernando Basteiro
Germán Nicolás Gomez
Germán Santini
Giselle Balzano
Guillermo Hanula
Ivan Kuzel
Javier Pereyra
Leandro De Bueno
Leandro Ezequiel Villatoro
Leonardo Tagliabue
Lucas Castilla
Maria Cecila Bel
Martin Canteros
Martín Puppo
Natalia Carrizón
Nicolas Alejandro Gomez
Nicolas Eduardo Finamore
Nicolas Orlando Nappe
Norberto Sebastian Gonzalez
Sebastian Demetrio Bistakis

And their tremendous, supporting leadership team:

IoT Lab Sponsors:
CIC Argentina Director: Javier Szyszkowsky
Managers: Nicolas Pantuliano, Javier Morales and Nicolas Lorenzo

 

Most of the team

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San Isidro, Argentina : A Walk to Remember

When they said we were going to visit a famous graveyard in the city of Buenos Aires, where Eva Peron’s body had finally been placed, I pictured rows of headstones in a plot of land and thought … well, it’s a way to walk around and grab a breath of fresh air. As we walked around a beautiful high brick wall that surrounded the graveyard, all I could think was geez… prime real estate in the middle of the city and it’s just for the dead. Does that make sense?  My own parents are in two different locations. My dad died when I was very young, and we buried him near his childhood home. And I had not visited him for decades, having only recently remembering where it was. My mom, died over twenty years ago, but her ashes, in a very small blue green glass urn, the color of her eyes, sits in my dining room cabinet, overlooking the family dinner table, where she always loved to be…. surrounded by food and family.  So for me, the use of a land for a graveyard was …. well not practical  I guess.

But when we turned the corner and entered the graveyard, my breath was taken away. It was edge to edge mausoleums,  that stretched to the heavens with ornate figures of angels, young girls, trees, animals and many religious figures and scenes.

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Row after row, you could walk. Or sit at a bench under a tree. It was peaceful. It was quiet. As you look closely at individual mausoleums, and the design and incredible artwork …they seem to want to tell you their story. One tells you of the great pain of losing a loved one. The sorrow captured forever in stone. Another shows the great faith they have that they will be reunited with their loved ones, one day. Then there are those that are a tribute to a person, like the mausoleum of Eva Peron, who had several fresh bouquets of flowers, newly placed. And many visitors, like us, walked through row after row of these stories about people who had passed.

We talked about how times have changed,  and how so many children now move away from their childhood homes, as I did, and just aren’t near enough the family graveyards anymore to visit and pay tribute. So does it make sense to have graveyards? I look at the mausoleums, and each one in some way, stretches up to the heavens. Are they stretching towards home perhaps – where we all end up?  So maybe, these graveyards are a beacon to call us home, even once in awhile, to reflect on where we came from, and to remind us of the  stories from the people that preceded us.  And like a book, if you don’t read the preceding chapters, can you really understand the chapter you are in?  And so, if these graveyards in some way, can help us to write our own chapters , then they are worth every inch of real estate they sit on!

An immersive experience like the SCC, can really have a profound effect on you in ways you did not expect. It can change your point of view, attitude or even the way you think because you get to experience something in a way that you never have before.  So a parting note to myself — time to go visit Dad.

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San Isidro Argentina : Work hard … Play Hard

Our program manager had told us at the beginning we would work hard, and we are, but we would also PLAY hard —– and we are… the Argentina way. That means lots of great food, learning to Tango, listening to Argentinian music (and American) and… riding horses at a ranch !!!  Giddy up and yee haaa!

Sunday Lunch at Puerto Madero

Lunch and a Tango show at the ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A part of immersing yourself into a culture,  is seeing the cities and the capital. We toured the city of Buenos Aires seeing the Pink House, Plaza Congresso, Plaza Lavalle, Palermo, and the neighborhood of Boca to name just a few.

Plaza Congreso

Boca Neighborhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what about the people of Buenos Aires ? What are they like?  Well the first thing that struck me — is their greeting! Everyone is greeted with a “ cheek hug,” where you lean in, shake hands and touch cheeks. Sometimes even a kiss on the cheek. I have cheek hugged the mayor, the governor, countless city personnel, interpreters, business men and women, children in the Cava ( social housing) and my Argentina IBM colleagues.  On  a daily basis. There is something about a cheek hug, that genuinely says welcome to my home, my country. I’m from New York —where  a cheek hug to someone you just met,  could easily get you into some serious trouble.

But what really struck me, is after reading about all the turbulence Argentina has been through the past decades, financially and politically, and the tremendous strain they are still under to transform themselves back to the prosperity they once knew …. through it all …. and they have been through a lot, they have not forgotten their compassion for each other.  You are reminded of it every day, in every greeting, to every person, no matter what class they are from .    ” Allo … “cheek hug.”  Commo es ta?  ”

One thing I will always remember about Argentina is the warmth … not the climate, but the warmth they genuinely  have for each other. I am going to try and spread that warmth back home and start my own  ” cheek hug” movement, even if I have to blog about it from the police station, where  I may have been arrested for unusual behavior for a New Yorker.

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Smarter City San Isidro : Day 5

Wow, it is day 5 already. What have we been up to, and where has the time gone? For the past 3 days since the kickoff we have been conducting in depth interviews across a multitude of disciplines to understand the problem details, scope and background. We have talked to electrical engineers, facility engineers, billing, urban planners, educators, and policy makers. We have toured the municipal hospital to see how it could be a pilot for some of the energy conservation and renewable energy actions that are being suggested.  We have compiled a large amount of data to help us understand the technical, financial and societal implications of moving San Isidro towards a leader in reduced energy consumption. The leaders we met are very passionate about finding cleaner sources of energy while reducing consumption, to lessen the impact on the environment. It is not a trivial task but they are determined, and uniteing across organizations to do it! We have been impressed and inspired with what they have researched so far — and their commitment to push forward.

Our task is to formulate actionable recommendations that will live up to San Isidro’s motto, “ we are different.”  So no business as usual recommendations – what can really give San Isidro the capability to pilot and learn, and then replicate the pilot into a large scale deployment of generating and concurrently reducing energy consumption? A part of energy conservation is making sure the equipment using energy, like air conditioning units, are working properly. As an experiment while we are here, we are attaching listening devices to the air conditioners, to create machine learning models that will recognize when a machine is acting abnormally, and notify a technician immediately of the fail. We needed to attach our “stethoscope” to the air conditioners, so Anne, myself and a small team of engineers, and our translator, made our way to the roof top units. We were not expecting to have to crawl through a window to reach the roof – but with a little help, a little push and a little catch – we were on the roof !

Over the window and onto the roof

Getting the devices ready for installation

We had to install hot spots to send the data to the cloud – and with 86 degree weather and full sun on the roof — we became hot spots too. And after fixing a network bandwidth issue, data was flowing ! Great teamwork !

On the roof of the hospital during installation    L to R: me, German Santini, Sustainability Specialist with IBM, Walter Occhiuzzi, Consultant to the Energy and Public Spaces Under Secretariat, Lucas O. Tinta, Technology Innovation Director at the Modernization Secretariat

 

 

And now the magic begins. No, not the analysis of the data and insights we get. Something more. Eight strangers becoming one unit, something far more than just a team. When you are immersed together in the same environment, tackling a tough problem in a limited amount of time – you have to depend on each other for the survival of the project. That heightens your awareness of each other’s skills and strengths, and heightens your own awareness of how to contribute. I am working with a very talented team and I have to bring my  “A” game to the table…and at the same time I am learning a lot about different approaches in getting needed information from an organization, defining and scoping a problem and brainstorming to solve it.

And living with each other day after day, you know what other magic occurs? Friendships!!

All that, and it’s only day 5.  Stay tuned.

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Smarter City Challenge San Isidro Argentina !

In a few hours I will board a plane and join my awesome team in San Isidro to take on a city’s challenge around energy- how best to produce it, use it and conserve it. I have never been this far south, and I am so excited and a bit nervous about the adventure ahead . So I am packed, finally, but surely have forgotten something. And just tickled to enter and submerge into a culture as electric as Argentina. I’m picturing the tango !! I have done my preparation- armed with my cultural profile and helpful hints about the local life, culture and ways of working.  I ‘m looking forward to getting to know even more about this country, this city — and the problems we can hopefully help them to resolve.  Hey team —- see you soon !

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