In Memoriam-George Phelps, Jr.

PhelpsPHELPS Jr., George E. Born September 6, 1935 in Carthage, MO. Died March 19, 2016, Dublin, OH. Preceded in death by parents George E. Phelps and Elizabeth O’Keefe Phelps. Survived by his college sweetheart and love of his life, Helen “Sally” Phelps; children Kevin Phelps, Michael Phelps, Kate Phelps Fischer (David), and Laura Phelps Shaw (Lee); grandchildren; Samantha Fischer, Emma Phelps, John Henry Fischer, Nicholas Phelps, Olivia Shaw, James Fischer, and Will Shaw.; brother John “Pat” Phelps (Carolyn), nieces Carrie Phelps and Allison Phelps Holman (Chris), and nephew Bill Phelps (Lora). George received his BA and BS in Chemical Engineering from Rice University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. He was a proud Veteran of the U.S. Army and enjoyed a successful 35-year career with IBM in Dallas, receiving many awards and honors. He was an avid golfer, hunter and dedicated genealogist studying the Phelps/O’Keefe families of Carthage. George was a man of integrity and a great role model of personal and professional success. He will be lovingly remembered as the rock of our family, always encouraging the best in all of us. He will be missed for his intelligence, curiosity, patience, kindness and humor. Arrangements by Schoedinger Funeral Services, Columbus, OH, and Knells Mortuary, Carthage, MO. Funeral at St Anne’s Catholic Church, Carthage, MO at 10 am, Wednesday, March 23, 2016 with burial at Park Cemetery immediately following. Memorials can be sent to The Phelps House, c/o Carthage Historic Preservation, PO Box 375, Carthage, MO 64836. Please visit to send messages of support to this family.

Published in Dallas Morning News on Mar. 22, 2016 – See more at:

IBM Quietly Built World’s Largest Digital Agency

citiFor two years running, IBM’s Interactive Experience (iX) division has been named the largest digital-agency network in the world by trade publication Ad Age.

IBM iX boasts more than 10,000 employees who work on creative, digital, and analytics for clients including Nestle, Visa, L.L.Bean, and Air Canada. Not settled there, the unit acquired three digital advertising and design companies in the space of a week last month, bringing its number of studios across the world to 30.

Ad Age pinned IBM iX’s revenues at $1.9 billion last year, but Paul Papas, iX’s global leader, tells Business Insider that that’s an “understated number.” IBM doesn’t break out revenues for the division in its financial reports.

‘Minority Report’ meets ‘Moneyball’

So how did an IT company overtake the advertising-agency holding groups to build the top global digital agency?

Papas says that it all started a little over eight years ago with the launch of the iPhone and the dawn of the smartphone era.

Papas said:

It’s changed the body of human expectation, so now we all have the expectation as consumers, or when we are doing business, that everything can be as elegant as the most elegant experience I have on my phone. We actually formed iX with the premise around this mantra that the last best experience anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.

Clients are realizing that they not only have to raise the game for their consumer products, but that they also have to provide those same consumer-grade experiences to their business partners and employees. And that realization was the genesis of iX, according to Papas.

IBM iX’s work with the Toronto Raptors basketball team is a good example of the way the agency creates experiences for the entire business.

What began as a fan-experience project, using IBM’s cognitive-computing platform Watson and touchscreen technology, transformed the way the Raptors do player management.

As the video below shows, the team and staff can stand around a touchscreen table to analyze all the different player statistics in real time — including stats for the opposition — and slide different avatars around the screen to each other to look at different scenarios.

“Think ‘Minority Report’ meets ‘Moneyball,'” Papas said.

The Raptors are also using Watson and the touchscreen design — known as IBM Sports Insights Central — to navigate salary concerns, contract expirations, and social sentiment.

Unlike the competition, iX isn’t trying to ‘bolt on digital’

IBM is not alone in recognizing the business requirements for digital transformation agencies. France-based advertising-agency holding group Publicis Groupe, for example, bought US-based digital-marketing consultancy Sapient for $3.7 billion in 2014, creating what it called the “largest and most advanced” platform focused exclusively on digital transformation.

Papas said that iX has an advantage over traditional digital agencies because it is attempting to move away from a focus on message creation and “trying to bolt on digital.” IBM, on the other hand, has a long digital heritage and it also doesn’t have the “limitations” of a traditional holding-agency model where “multiple subcompanies oftentimes compete against each other and have challenges in trying to collaborate or work with each other,” Papas said.

Meanwhile, management consultancies and “global systems integrators” like Accenture and Deloitte have also been busy buying up digital agencies in recent months.

But Papas says that, unlike iX, these companies “haven’t had a kind of history or real commitment to design and creative talent.” On the other hand, Papas says that IBM has had a digital-agency capability going back to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and a history of design “going back decades,” having taken the Stanford School of Design method and tailoring it into something it calls IBM Design Thinking. The company now has more than 1,000 designers.

“Agencies are trying to learn digital. Traditional consultancies are trying to learn creative and design. For us, we’ve built this from the ground up,” Papas added.

IBM’s partnership with Apple meant Citi got an Apple Watch app ready on launch day — and special access to Apple’s designers and engineers in Cupertino

Another way iX differs from the competition is the access it has to the wider IBM portfolio. That means that clients can tap into Watson, or IBM’s commerce platform, and weather data through the company’s recent acquisition of The Weather Co.’s product and technology business.

Coca-Cola in Japan, for example, is using Watson and weather data to predict on a daily basis how vending machines across Tokyo should be stocked and assess the most efficient marketing inventory depending on location and weather conditions.

IBM also has partnerships with other major technology companies, including Box, Twitter, and Apple.

Citibank decided a year ago that it wanted to be the first bank with an Apple Watch app. It asked IBM for help.

IBM flew Citi’s execs out to Cupertino, California, giving them unique access to Apple’s designers and engineers to help accelerate the process and ensure that the app met the Apple Watch form factor. Within 120 days, the app was ready for Apple Watch launch day on April 24.

Papas said:

When you take it in its totality, we believe we are the only player that has that end-to-end capability that cuts across digital agency, management consultancy, and systems integrator. iX has digital and design in our DNA that works across the entire C-suite, not just CMOs. It has the power of Watson and cognitive software capabilities, and we have unique partnerships. All of those add to the value proposition.

In terms of future trends iX has its eye on, Papas is particularly excited about virtual and augmented reality going mainstream this year, the growth in Internet of Things technologies and, further off, “transdermal nanotech” — skin-based wearables.

“We’re working towards a world without screens in the future. What does that mean for the design process?” Papas pondered.

Lara O’Reilly, Business Insider, 3/14/16

Google joins Facebook’s game-changing project that’s eating the $140 billion hardware market

Google DatacenterIf the hardware industry was nervous about Facebook’s game-changing Open Compute Project before, it should now be downright terrified now: Google is now finally on board.

OCP, the extraordinary project that started as a controversial idea inside Facebook about five years ago, is revolutionizing the computer hardware industry. Google’s news was announced as part of the OCP tech conference taking place in San Jose this week.

OCP is doing for hardware what Linux, Android, and many other popular products did for software: making it free and “open source.”

Anyone can take OCP’s hardware designs, change them, and contribute to them, with contract manufacturers standing by to build those pieces.

Creativity is flowing through OCP, where engineers can freely collaborate without worry about protecting their secrets. The project’s participants are  inventing new ways to build computer servers, storage, and networks that are faster and cheaper to use than the commercial counterparts from companies like HP, Dell, IBM and Cisco.

In fact, HP and Dell are already on board with OCP, creating lines of servers that comply with OCP standards. HP has also agreed to become a contract manufacturer.

But Google had been conspicuously absent from OCP, even as other big companies that run huge data centers, from Microsoft to Goldman Sachs, joined and voiced their support

Like Facebook, Google designs and builds its own hardware for its own data centers.

Even last year, Google’s legendary data center engineer, Urs Hölzle, offered a begrudging respect for the OCP project while simultaneously pooh-poohing its importance.

His take was that open source hardware was a nice idea, but the project’s designs so far were a “bit basic” and its impact would be minimal because most businesses will be using cloud computing from Google and others, instead of buying their own hardware, he told Business Insider.

He’s got a point about how companies are using clouds instead of buying computers. But that’s why OCP has been such a big deal. Cloud players aren’t buying that stuff from the classic commercial players either. They are building their own with OCP.

Like all open source projects, OCP is a give-and-take idea. You take and use all the designs, but ideally, you will also contribute to them.

So for Google’s first contribution, it’s offering designs for building greener, more energy-efficient computer racks. Data center racks are designed to hold and power many computer servers.

And there’s more where that came from. Google wants to work with the OCP community to share designs for its computer storage disks, greener computer servers, and better network management tools.

“Today’s launch is a first step in a larger effort. We think there are other areas of possible collaboration with OCP,” wrote John Zipfel, Technical Program Manager for Google in a blog post. “We look forward to new and exciting advancements to come with the OCP community.”

Julie Bort, Business Insider, 3/9/16

20 times in history people were really, really wrong about technology

FordMaking predictions about future trends in the tech industry is risky business.

While it’s not entirely possible to accurately predict how the future of technology will play out, sometimes people just miss the mark completely.

Here are the best tech predictions that have gone horribly wrong.

1876: “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — William Preece, British Post Office

1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” — president of Western Union William Orton

1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.” — president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company

1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — chairman of IBM Thomas Watson

1946: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl Zanuck

1959: “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” — US Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield

1961: “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States.” — Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner T.A.M. Craven

1966: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” — Time magazine

1977: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” — founder of Digital Equipment Corp. Ken Olsen in a speech to the World Future Society

1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” — inventor Marty Cooper

1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” — founder of 3 Com Robert Metcalfe

1996: “Apple [is] a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future.” — Time magazine

1996: “Apple’s erratic performance has given it the reputation on Wall Street of a stock a long-term investor would probably avoid.” — Fortune

1996: “Whether they stand alone or are acquired, Apple as we know it is cooked. It’s so classic. It’s so sad.” — a Forrester Research analyst quoted in the New York Times

1997:  “Apple is already dead.” — former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold

2002: “Within five years, I predict [the tablet] will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in a speech at Comdex introducing the Windows tablet PC

2003: “The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model, and it might not be successful.” — Steve Jobs interview with Rolling Stone

2004: “Two years from now, spam will be solved.” — Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum

2006: “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cellphone. My answer is, ‘Probably never.’” — New York Times journalist David Pogue

2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” — Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer

We can’t hold it against these people, evolving technology can be hard to understand. Just ask the hosts of this segment of the “Today” show talking about the Internet in 1994.

Matthew Comm,, 3/8/16

Special Health Assistance Provision (SHAP) for pre-1997 Medicare-Eligible IBM Retirees

Medicare CardFor former IBM employees who retired prior to 1997 (and eligible dependents), and for participants who are Medicare-eligible due to disability, IBM provides financial assistance toward the standard monthly premiums for Medicare Part B premiums, if the participant is enrolled in Medicare and if Medicare’s coverage is primary over Plan coverage for that participant. If you retired as a regular part-time employee, your maximum annual reimbursement is $675. There is no annual deductible and benefits are not subject to a life-time maximum.

Medicare Part B reimbursements through SHAP are available on a quarterly basis only and you must submit your claims after the quarter is completed. Claims must be received by the contract administrator no later than December 31st of the year following the year in which the Medicare Part B premium expense was incurred.

The administrator for SHAP is Acclaris, a Willis Towers Watson company ( Please contact Acclaris regarding any and all questions about SHAP benefits and payments. To request forms, go to If you do not have an account, you will need to create one.

The SHAP reimbursement is NOT taxable income.

Hilton taps IBM’s Watson supercomputer for new robotic concierge


Hilton Worldwide has teamed up with IBM to pilot “Connie,” a robot hotel concierge powered by the tech giant’s Watson supercomputer.

Connie uses Watson and the travel recommendation engine WayBlazer to tell guests about local tourist attractions, dining recommendations, as well as hotel amenities.

Related: IBM’s Watson supercomputer learns Japanese, set for robot launch

The robot is named for Hilton’s founder, Conrad Hilton, and is currently stationed near reception in the Hilton McLean in Virginia.

Connie is learning to interact with guests and respond to their questions, according to IBM, which says that the more guests interact with the robot, the more it learns.

Related: Boston Children’s Hospital battles rare diseases with Watson supercomputer

“Watson helps Connie understand and respond naturally to the needs and interests of Hilton’s guests — which is an experience that’s particularly powerful in a hospitality setting, where it can lead to deeper guest engagement,” said Rob High, chief technology officer of IBM Watson, in the company’s press release.

Famous for its appearance on the quiz show ‘Jeopardy,’ Watson is at the heart of IBM’s efforts to expand its technology’s reach across multiple industries. The supercomputer, for example, is at the core of a new partnership between the tech giant and Under Armour. As part of a deal announced at CES earlier this year, Watson will power what IBM and Under Armour are touting as “the world’s first complete health and fitness insights app.”

Related: Watson supercomputer helps military personnel transition to civilian life

Watson’s ability to trawl vast troves of data has also been targeted at the healthcare sector via partnerships with insurance firm WellPoint and New York’s famous Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Care Center. In 2014 IBM announced an investment of more than $1 billion in its Watson Group in an attempt to boost development of cloud-based applications and services. IBM has also enhanced Watson in an attempt to speed up the pace of scientific breakthroughs.

The supercomputer is being used to help U.S. military personnel make the transition back to civilian life.

Related: IBM teams with Under Armour to create ‘Internet of athletes’

Boston Children’s Hospital is also harnessing IBM’s Watson supercomputer to help doctors identify possible options for the diagnosis and treatment of rare pediatric diseases., 3/9/16

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff extends an ‘open hand’ to laid-off IBM workers and asks for their resumes

BenioffAfter word went out last week that IBM continued its multi-year restructuring by handing pink slips to an unknown number of workers, at least one person decided to try and help: Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.

Salesforce has been growing revenue like crazy lately and he once called IBM (along with Oracle and SAP) the “dinosaurs” of the tech world. On Friday, he tweeted an open call to former IBMers and told them to apply at Salesforce.

As we previously reported, these employees were the first to be subject to IBM’s new policy that began in 2016 of reduced severance pay.  Everyone let go from IBM from now on will get one month’s of severance no matter how long the person worked at the company.

IBM declined to comment to Business Insider about the number of employees affected last week (IBM doesn’t disclose layoff information).

But it did tell us it is shedding workers in its some areas while hiring like crazy in its new, strategic growth areas, with 25,000 open positions.

Julie Bort, Business Insider, 3/6/16

Dallas Landmark Commission Preserves Big Spring

Big SpringDallas officials took a big step toward preserving something unusual in the city – and it’s not an old building. It’s a natural spring.

The city’s Landmark Commission voted Monday afternoon to give Big Spring historic designation. The spring is just a few minutes south of downtown Dallas – not many people know about it. Supporters, including Ben Sandifer, say Big Spring is one of just a few natural springs in North Texas.

“Carbon dating in 2013 resulted in an aging date dating the water to roughly 1360 AD,” Sandifier told the Landmark Commission. “It’s old and ancient water. Professional arborists suggest the large bur oak dominating the Big Spring is as old as the founding of the United States itself. Archaeology suggests the Big Spring hosted a series of Native American occupations dating back 25 centuries or more.”

The city of Dallas owns the land that includes the spring. Veletta Forsythe Lill, a former Dallas City Council member, calls the spring the city’s greatest natural resource. “For the life of the preservation movement in Dallas, we have largely confined our efforts to the built environment,” she told the commission. “It is unique to protect the unbuilt and even more unique to protect the rural wild unbuilt part of our urban context. This land’s significance in our founding is so seminal that it dictates our attention and our city’s protection.”

The application will now be forwarded to the City Plan Commission. The Dallas City Council would eventually have to sign off on the historic designation.

Eric Aasen, KERA News, 2/1/16

Famous IBM Employee Brings Baby to Conference

DelucaLisa Seacat DeLuca is among the best-known women who work for IBM. She’s a mobile software engineer and one of the company’s most prolific master inventors. She has close to 400 patents and patent applications under her belt as part of IBM’s massive patent-creation machine. She’s often on the speaker circuit, including a TED talk she gave a few years back.

She’s also a new mom.

So on the last day of the IBM Interconnect conference, the ghost day when most people have cleared out, DeLuca married her two passions together. She loaded her 5-month-old daughter into a baby carrier and went to the conference.

While she was there, a man in his late 50s approached her to berate her for bringing her baby to a professional conference, she told Business Insider. He told her that having her baby there was a “security issue,” reports fellow IBMer Anna Seacat, who was so annoyed about the incident that she wrote a LinkedIn post about it. (Both women reached out and shared the story with me, too.)

Yes, the man’s comments were rude and out of line. And it was annoying that he somehow felt compelled (and entitled) to share his unsolicited opinion with a stranger. But what I liked about this story is this: DeLuca describes herself as #motherworking not a #workingmother.

“I’m a mom first, a technologist second, #motherworking not #workingmother #lifeisshort,” she wrote on an Instagram post that featured a picture of her daughter. But the question I have is, who says you have to rank the different parts of yourself like that? A cranky older man without the grace to keep his sarcasm to himself?

Whether you’re a mother or a father, you can be a professional, a hard worker, and lots of other things — a cook, a maker, a student, a sibling, a spouse…Or to put it another way: If the world really has to choose between procreation and work — and if work is supposed to win — then the human experience wouldn’t be long for this world, would it?

So bring your kids to work sometimes, just as you bring your work home. And if someone feels the need to tell you you’re wrong, smile and tell the person, “Life is short.”

Julie Bort, Business Insider, 3/2/16

IBM Sues Groupon over 1990s Patents Related to Prodigy

IBM software engineer Jeremy Greenberg, 23, sketches out a patent he has pending at the company's headquarter's in Research Triangle Park, NC. (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM is pushing big Internet companies to pay patent licensing fees in part because IBM invented the Prodigy service, a precursor to the modern Web.

Yesterday, Big Blue filed a lawsuit (PDF) against Groupon, saying the company has infringed four IBM patents, including patents 5,796,967 and 7,072,849. Each of those relates to the Prodigy service. IBM inventors working on Prodigy “developed novel methods for presenting applications and advertisements,” and “the technological innovations embodied in these patents are fundamental to the efficient communication of Internet content,” according to the company.

The Prodigy patents were filed in 1993 and 1996, but they have “priority dates” stretching back to 1988. That’s because they’re based on “divisional” and “continuation” patent applications, which were abandoned but first filed in that year.

The ‘567 patent describes a system that presents “interactive applications (such as home, local, goods, etc.) on a computer network,” using a monitor, a “first partition” (a webpage), and a “second partition” with command functions (like a menu bar).

The wording of the complaint, filed in federal court in Delaware, is extremely similar to a lawsuit that IBM filed last year against Priceline, Kayak, and OpenTable. That ongoing litigation involves the same four patents.

“[D]espite IBM’s repeated attempts to negotiate, Groupon refuses to take a license but continues to use IBM’s property,” IBM lawyers write.

As to the other allegations, US Patent No. 5,961,601 describes preserving “state” information between a client and server. US Patent No. 7,631,346, filed in 2005, is the most recent patent. It describes advances in “single-sign-on technology,” which allows users to connect to online services “by requiring only one authorization operation during a particular user session.”

The infringement accusations for the ‘346 “single-sign-on” patent say that Groupon infringes because it has an option to sign in using Facebook. That’s an extremely common sign-in option for apps today, suggesting that IBM believes a vast swath of mobile apps infringe its patents.

IBM says it informed Groupon that it was infringing the ‘967, ‘849, and ‘346 patents as early as 2011. As for the ‘601 patent, IBM says that Groupon should have been on notice of that once Priceline got sued last year.

“Over the past three years, IBM has attempted to conclude a fair and reasonable patent license agreement with Groupon,” an IBM spokesperson told Ars via email. “Our intent is to reach a fair conclusion under which Groupon acknowledges its obligation and compensates IBM for the use of IBM’s patented technology.”

Groupon didn’t respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time IBM has sought patent licensing fees from an Internet giant. In 2013, Big Blue sent a patent demand letter to Twitter on the verge of Twitter’s IPO. Twitter paid $36 million to IBM to resolve that dispute, which included an outright purchase of 900 IBM patents.

Back in 2006, IBM sued Amazon in the patent hotspot of the Eastern District of Texas over business method patents the company said were foundational to online commerce. The case settled the following year.

IBM aggressively patents the technologies it creates, and for the last 23 years the company has acquired more US patents each year than any other company. Last year, IBM acquired 7,355 US patents.

Joe Mullin,, 3/3/16