Monday, December 5, 2016

Future of Robotics Summit: December 1, 2016 at Microsoft NERD

The MassTLC Future of Robotics Summit brought together nearly 200 attendees to hear firsthand about the latest research coming out of our world class research institutions and explore opportunities for commercialization, partnerships, go to market strategies and the impact robotics has on the future of how we work, live, and play.

 Tom Hopcroft kicks off the summit to nearly 200 attendees

Research Topics ranged from Surgical Robotics and Next Generation Soft Wearable Robots to TeleRobots and Automated Vehicles

Specific Researcher and topics were:
·         Chris Amato, Northeastern University - Multi-Robot Coordination with Uncertainty and Limited Communication
·         Harry Asada, MIT MechE - You can possess extra arms, legs, and fingers
·         Andrew Bennet, Olin College - Robot Applications and Activities in the Field
·         Whitney Crooks, Tufts University – Tufts Robotic Research
·         Gregory Fischer, Worcester Polytech Institute – Medical Robotics Research
·         Rod Grupen, University of Massachusetts Amherst - Robots that Believe
·         Robert Howe, Harvard University - Robotic hands and tactical sensing
·         Tomas Lozano-Perez, MIT/CSAIL -  Autonomous mobile manipulation in the presence of uncertainty
·         Roberto Tron, Boston University - Vision-based control and localization in multi-agent systems
·         Conor Walsh, Harvard University - Next Generation Soft Wearable Robots
·         Peter Whitney, Northeastern University - TeleRobot
·         Holly Yanco, University of Massachusetts Lowell - Human-robot interaction for assistive technology, disaster response, bystanders, and humanoids
·         Shlomo Zilberstein, University of Massachusetts Amherst - Transfer of Control in Semi-Autonomous Vehicles

Chris Amato, Northeastern University, discusses his Cooperative Beer Delivery System
Networking breaks included student demonstration tables from Northeasthern University, the University of MA/Lowell, Tufts University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
A Path to Commercialization and Parntering Opportunities panel was moderated by Mark Smithers from Boston Engineering and panelists included:
  • Vinit Nijhawan, Boston University
  • Vicki Barbur, The MITRE Corporation
  • Andy Levine, Harvard Licensing IP
  • Steve Paschall, MassRobotics Innovation Hub

Path to Commercialization and Partnering Opportunities Panel

Veda Ferlazzo Clark, Manufacturing Initiatives, and Business Development SVP for MassDevelopment, describes the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Program & Grant

And final panel discussing Finding Your Perfect Match: Startups and Established Manufacturers, kept the attention of many as Peter Russo from MassMEP spoke about how to create a network of local supply chain vendors/manufacturers and the pros of keeping it local.  He then moderated a fireside chat between David Askey, Entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Ascend Robotics and Bill Laursen, Vice President of Sales and Strategy at Coglin Companies.
David Akskey discusses what startups need
Special thanks to our sponsors of the event, Amazon Robotics, Brandeis University and Symbotic!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Measuring the Customer Journey : A CMO Peer Group Discussion - November 1st, 2016

Customers go through a journey from understanding your brand to researching problems, solutions, purchasing, retention and ultimately advocacy.  Marketing has a role to play in almost all of these stages. With a finite amount of people, money and time, how do you know how much to invest in each stage?  What measurements can you use to determine the right amount of investment?  While simple funnel metrics are interesting, they really only focus on the middle part of the journey. In this CMO roundtable,  Bryan Semple, CMO at SmartBear Software led the group in a discussion of how to measure each stage of the journey.  Although we didn’t get to every stage, the discussion around 3 different stages resulted in key takeaways for the group:

1. Engagement and awareness.  Although it was admitted that measuring awareness is nearly impossible the key takeaways are: referrals are the most important metric, keep your PR analytics tool and add GA measurements to length of visit, brand terms, etc.  Also, read this article from Avinash Kaushik, “Brand Measurement: Analytics & Metrics for Branding Campaigns.” It’s a few years old but still very relevant.  

2. Adoption/Retention/Cross-sell/Expansion:   The metric on this one is easier – what % of your customers have XX number of products.  And in theory we should be able to figure out cross-selling but the crowd agreed, mining this data is not always easy. 

3. Advocacy:  Everyone agreed there is an allure to advocacy and that having these trusted relationships are gold.  However, they’re not easy and they can’t be manufactured using a tool or software.  It’s an area where teams are adding time, attention and additional resources.  Folks agreed that community is a way to cultivate your advocates and then get them out of there one by one. No tools or tricks will work unless you have a brand where people are willing to put on your t-shirt!

A few other resources for you: Clay Christianson’s HBR article “Jobs to Be Done” (maybe it’s no longer about personas). And to recite Avinash, remember, Engagement is not a metric, its an excuse!

Our next meeting is going to be held December 14th just prior to heading to the MassTLC CXO holiday party.  More to follow but mark your calendars! 

Thanks to Bryan and SmartBear for hosting and to DemandBase for sponsoring MassTLC’s sales and marketing community!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Manufacturing Rocket Pitch for Solutions – October 26

The MassTLC/MassRobotics/MassMEP team under the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund Program grant, funded by MassDevelopment, held our first “Manufacturing Rocket Pitch for Solutions” on 26 October 2016 at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub.

Our goal:  to help robotics, IoT and hardware start-ups and scale-ups grow and commercialize their products by connecting them with the local manufacturers and supply chain – turning great ideas into great products Made in Massachusetts.

Our panel of experts with over 100 years of experience between them included:

·         Bill Sullivan, FLEXcon

·         Mark Smithers, Boston Engineering Corporation

·         Marty Petraitis, Segue Manufacturing

·         Craig Bovaird, Reliance Engineering and LSR Engineering

·         Rich Breault, Lightspeed Manufacturing

Peter Russo from MassMEP moderated the panel – each panelist offered tips to startups about what they should know about manufacturing and discussed critical best practices.  Advice included:  Validate your product, understand what you are good at and find others for support in other areas, listen to the voice of the customer, look for loyal partners, don’t expect to make a profit on the first units sold…
Startup presentations by Phil Caruso (MiniMole), Sam Godin (Riptide) and Rory MacKean (Franklin Robotics) included discussion on manufacturing challenges.

Figure 1  Phil Caruso, Sam Godin, Rory MacKean, Peter Russo
Mini-Mole Robotic Floor Sweeper is a patent pending automatic hard floor cleaner that is smaller than any other automatic floor cleaner on the market. Named Innovative Technology of the Year in Consumer Tech at the 19th Annual MassTLC Leadership Awards, mini mole is 1” tall and 4” wide and gets under virtually all household furniture to remove accumulated dust, fur and other debris that collects under objects in the home.  It’s unique upward-looking object sensor and small size allow it to focus on cleaning areas that are difficult or impossible to reach manually or with any other automatic floor cleaner. 

Figure 3 Rich offers PCB Advice to Phil

Figure 2    Phil offers a MiniMole demonstration for the panel

Riptide Autonomous Solutions focuses on Unmanned Maritime Vehicle (UMV) development and production. This includes Autonomous Undersea Vehicles (AUV), Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV), and Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV). Riptide is a small business entity poised for rapid growth and expansion focusing on the US Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA), and research institutions.

Figure 5 Marty takes a closer look at Unmanned Maritime Vehicle

Figure 4 Sam getting advice from Craig


The team at Franklin Robotics is developing a robot that weeds home gardens. We have designed a solar powered, autonomous, self-sufficient robot named Tertill. It lives in the garden, and every day it charges itself in the sunlight, patrols the garden, avoids plants and obstacles, damages pre-emergent weeds before they surface, and cuts down post-emergent weeds. Friendliness and simplicity are designed in: setup requires only a fence around the garden, and small plastic collars around seedlings; no wires or beacons are necessary, there's no programming of any kind, and chemicals are no longer needed for weed control.

Figure 7 Marty Needs a closer look

Figure 6 Rory describes the Tertill's Challenge to the panel
There was lively and informative discussion between all startups and manufacturers.  A special thanks to Peter Russo from MassMEP and our expert panel for their donated time and expertise!
And to our Host:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Advancing the Way Students Learn Through the Use of Technology

By George Moore, Chief Technology Officer, Cengage Learning
Massachusetts is home to more than one hundred higher education institutions.  There are 35 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area alone.  Every day, I am reminded of the importance of lifelong learning.  Along with better employment opportunities and greater access to financial resources, education instills confidence and a sense of accomplishment in people.
While the significance of continuing education cannot be understated, neither can the need for learning materials to evolve to meet students where they are in their education and life journey.   
Digitizing learning materials is about much more than turning a traditional print textbook into an ebook, or programming true or false questions.  While the ease and speed of content delivery has improved, the heart of the education transformation is in how students interact with learning material.  And further, how that interaction impacts outcomes.

Through the use of technology, students can experience an education environment that is personalized to their individual needs.  There is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to delivering the most effective learning methods.  Technology has allowed for data analysis that shows individual learning paths and progress, which triggers content that is tailored to abilities.

Through data analysis, digital learning platforms figure out what each individual knows and provides real-time recommendations on what to study next. This approach represents a new student-centric model of digital innovation for the education industry. 

This technology can provide students with feedback and personalized study plans that supplement the classroom experience.  Instructors can be alerted immediately when a student begins to struggle with a concept or falls behind in class. This allows for early intervention and a better likelihood of the student finding their way back on track.  

From an instructor’s standpoint, technology has enabled the creation of customized courses comprised of original work, Open Education Resources (OER) and published content.  This is what instructors tell us they need to build the most meaningful courses for their students.  While professors used to get one piece of content, a textbook, we now give them hundreds of thousands of pieces of content that they can move around.  

While some instructors have been slower to move to use technology, we’re finding that others are insatiable about how many features they want added to their digital learning solutions.  We have added feature after feature to help them meet students where they are, with the right tools, at the right time, to improve outcomes.  

Print textbooks are not going away for good any time soon.  Some subjects lend themselves better to digital adoption than others.  I go to work every day, however, with the whole-hearted belief that technology is advancing the way students learn. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Robotics CEOs Share Insights on Scaling a Hardware Business
Key Take-A-Ways from MassTLC’s Executive Dinner Series

 Posted 9/29/16 by Joyce Sidopoulos

Robotics is booming in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build and scale a robotics business. It’s a well-known fact amongst robotics CEOs that “you have to be more right when building a hardware business.” Software companies are easier to pivot. Making a mistake when building physical things can cost you the business. That’s why it’s so important for robotics company executives to learn from those who have gone before them.

A recent MassTLC Executive Dinner focused on challenges and insights of growing your robotics business. Burlington’s Tuscan Kitchen was the venue for CEOs and other c-level executives from over a dozen robotics companies, representing a diversity of stages and industres, including: Artaic, Ascend Robotics, Boston Engineering, iRobot, Locus Robotics, MassRobotics, Myomo, ORI Systems, Rethink Robotics, Riptide Solutions, SoftRobotics, and Symbotic.

The conversation was a frank, off the record, opportunity for these executives to share both ubiquitous and unique lessons learned from a diverse array of robotics applications, ranging across healthcare, marine, consumer, supply chain, defense, creative industries, and more. Variations on rapid talent acquisition across the organization, the evolution of leadership at the management and board levels, and issues unique to various types of boards and at different stages of the business were major topics of conversation. 

MassTLC believes that innovation happens at the boundaries and that getting small numbers of CEOs together from companies of different stages around key issues relating to growth and innovation further develops executive networks and sharing of insights, partners, vendors, etc. MassTLC has been convening and leading the Massachusetts Robotics Cluster for over a decade and is working on multiple levels to ensure that Massachusetts remains the global leader in the future of robotics and automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Age.

A special thanks JP Morgan for sponsoring this executive dinner.




Sunday, October 2, 2016

Interview with Gary Jackson, CEO of Codiscope and D3 Presenter

Why is 2016 the year of “Developer Driven Security” as RSA has stated?

It’s telling that it took us, as an industry, several decades just to talk about bringing security directly into software development.  It’s an important issue and am glad to see RSA recognize that the traditional security model needs to change. Overall, I think their statement is fueled by three things:
  • the lack of change we’ve seen in security practices
  • the continued presence of malicious or weak code in software released to the public, and
  • the rapidly increasing occurrence of security breaches.
Ultimately, the millions of dollars we’re spending each year on operational security products hasn’t reduced risk, so companies are looking for ways to reduce it on their own and that starts with developers.

Why are developers often leaving out security measures in the code they’re writing?

It’s certainly not intentional. Undergraduate CS programs don’t typically cover security, and most developers haven’t had more than a few hours of on-the-job training. Their current state of mind is to focus on delivering features rather than hardening their code, but most are very interested in making secure code and we are starting to see a mind-shift.

Who is usually in charge of reviewing code for security flaws or backdoors?

Often, no one. For companies who have a security resource, they usually handle the code review tools and triage findings to the development team. That process usually means that developers have to go back and make changes to code they wrote three weeks ago, or legacy code that they didn’t write at all.

For companies who don’t have a security resource, security is usually a nonexistent practice outside of IT.  We’ve talked to a lot of developers who want to step up to take on the role as a security lead, but they need resources that focus on quality and security to help them get started.  

In a continuous release environment, what is a best practice for doing a code security review?

The most effective time to perform a code security review is while the developer is writing the code. By pointing out security issues and giving devs training right away, they’re more likely to remember how to handle those situations in the future. Higher learning emphasizes a “tight feedback loop” for a reason.

There are a lot of developers who’d prefer to automate their security efforts and that can be effective too. By adding a tool into your CI process, you’re still getting the information at a time when it’s easier to fix than it would be the day before you’re scheduled to ship.

In a pre-cloud world everyone relied on boxed methods of security around their products, vs within.  Is there a fear people will get too comfortable with assuming AWS or Azure’s built-in protections will be enough for sloppy code, and if it’s not, is the liability on them?

It is absolutely not enough to assume your application is secure based on these boxed solutions. The bad guys are hacking our applications daily by taking advantage of the same exploits we’ve heard about for years. Services like AWS can’t protect you from improper configuration, malicious users, or scorned employees. With multiple attack surfaces in software we can’t possibly build a moat big enough or wide enough to keep everyone out. Look at the latest hacks at Yahoo! and LinkedIn, they’ve got unimaginably deep pockets for IT security and still haven’t been able to keep their records safe. We’ve got to be accountable for the applications we write and give our customers confidence that we’ll keep them safe.

Want to know more about Developer Driven Security? Check out Gary's Session at Data, Development, and Drive - Pushing the Throttle to Innovation on Oct 6th!