Windward Solutions
Solutions on the leading edge

Background


In the early 90's I was working in information technology at HP and was prototyping the early OMG standards in Smalltalk. The prototype included a set of distributed desktop applications that made sharing and collaborating on a network really natural. At the same time there was a guy in the news riding his 1000-lb, internet-enabled bicycle across the US. "Who else would ever want to do that?", I wondered, "But substitute a sailboat sailing around the US and I bet there would be a line of volunteers."

So I hatched up a proposal to Dave Packard that HP should fund such an activity as PR for our nascent distributed desktops. "HP doesn't do PR", was his terse reply but he softened it by offering my team a day trip to the research lab and vessel at MBARI in Monterey. There, a broadband internet link between the ship and the scientists ashore literally allowed them to drive the submersibles from their offices.

That level of satellite technology is now reasonably priced for the recreational boater. The Open Source Software movement has demonstrated that collocation is not essential for quality software development. Using technologies like Hadoop and Mahout, the real computing muscle lives far away from its users in a data center and is accessed remotely anyway. Now seems like a good time to move the client really far out of his traditional venues. Don't like sailing but have a cabin in Montana? Same message.

I did a fun project in 2009 adapting Second Life virtual reality to build a collaborative environment where network marketing distributors could do business on a virtual corporate campus like, yet wholly unlike, the real ones at Google or HP. You can see I've always had the sailing idea in the back of my mind. IBM had an office in SL that was manned by real sales professionals where customers could walk through a virtual data center and see simulations of airflow and heat management in an IBM rack system simulation. Similar technology is currently being used at virtual trade shows, conferences and events. Its only a matter of time.
Now I have a contract with Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN) to architect their Health Provider Directory services. MiHIN itself is a distributed organization, exploiting the current state of the art in virtual telepresence, and all its members work remotely much of the time. This allows MiHIN to manage a flexible workforce; retaining the best people, reducing fixed costs and adding agility to their mission.

The Health Provider Directory will be a repository of information about all of the doctors, nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists in the state that enables the parties in health information exchange to be known and trusted with this sensitive information. As a mobile worker with dreams of global telecommuting, I have a vested interest in building this technology that will allow my personal health information to be as mobile as I want to be while retaining my privacy.