Blast From Past – NCR Room 504

With the recent news of the Walmart Innovation Lab 415-C soliciting new tech ideas, I thought it would be useful to look back at one of the original Star Labs.

From March 22, 2002

Technology Spotlight — NCR Room 504

In these days of busted budgets and deferred deployments, it was a real treat while at the ATMIA show in Florida, to be invited to the rumored-to-exist-to-date “Room 504”. This is name NCR gives to the private display of futuristic technology concepts. I personally applaud NCR for this fantastic commitment to the future in this time of budget scrutiny. I know other companies such as Intel and others have their own scenario labs and I count myself very fortunate to have been given a peek into NCRs.

What is Room 504?

It is the brand name for NCR’s Future Concepts. It is NOT the location or room number (tell that to the elevator operator in NCRs Dundee Scotland Headquarters!).

The idea was introduced to customers back in 1998 by NCR’s “Self Service Strategic Solutions” team, who have been instrumental in the develoment and introduction of many future concepts and ideas.

SSSS monitors the key indicators which highlight potential changes which will impact business; they then build concepts which demonstrate possible future senarios. Keeping a close eye on “disruptive technologies” and how they influence new business models is key to a company being a core participant.

The feedback and knowledge gained from these concepts influence the design and development of NCR’s new solutions.

Back to the Show!

Mark Grossi, Chief Technology Officer from the NCR Financial Solutions Division (out of Dundee, Scotland) and Neal Schwartz, Vice President Convenience TouchPoints, NCR Financial Solutions Division (USA) were the hosts in Florida.

I actually have had some dealings with Mark and the Dundee group prior to this when I was gathering reseach, comments and perspective from various Association members regarding Biometrics and specifically Facial Recognition. I had a presentation at a conference in London in February where I presented on this subject. Mark and Group were very helpful and encouraging towards my presentation and I consider myself very fortunate for the opportunity to work with them on this subject. I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank Tim Peterson and Dan Palczynski of NCR as well. The presentation is accessible at http://www.kiosks.org/smi.

In the photo is Morrison Reyner, Mark Grossi and Bob Sutherland by the way.
In the photo is Morrison Reyner, Mark Grossi and Bob Sutherland by the way.

Before we started there was the inevitable NDA to sign. Once that was out of the way my NCR Room 504 tour was led by Mike McNamara with Mark and Bob Sutherland (all from Dundee). In the photo is Morrison Reyner, Mark Grossi and Bob Sutherland by the way.

The most interesting concept that I took home just happened to be the very first one and that was the idea of “prestaging transactions”. I like that concept!

(Note: I cannot describe precisely what I saw as that would be in violation of my agreement and the consequences at the very least would be that Mark and company could not buy me beer! It’s actually much more serious than that of course).

ncr-28
Somewhat younger Keefner and Grossi

Anyway back to the tour — they took my picture at the first “point”, which always makes anyone nervous. I decided to even the match a bit and whipped out my Palm Pilot with my hand carefully obscuring what could be 802.11x transceiver. Mark smiled and squinted a bit trying to eyeball my palm. Mission accomplished I revealed I didn’t have a transceiver. Tech war in Florida! Count me in…

Seriously though, other concepts which got lodged in my brain were “object computing and communcation”. All types of objects. My own longtime favorite of personalization was not lost on this crowd as they had pushed the envelope in that regard. One bit of very good advice from Mark is to learn to leave preconceptions at the door. Harder to do than it sounds take it from me.

All of which also communicates some very basic concepts that all of us are aware of. One, is never put all of your eggs in one basket. Another is that Consumer Trends and Consumer Behavior is something that must be constantly evaluated and tracked. Don’t make people wait. Handle all types of media.

Some people will wonder if looking ahead to the future makes perfect sense. I used to work geophysics for Litton Resources back in the 70s and we had our own specially funded “Star Wars Group” in the UK that looked ahead. Exxon, Shell and Chevron were our big clients (and that’s pretty big…). Back then experts were predicting that the world’s oil reserves would be completely depleted by 1995. That didn’t happen because we found new ways to find oil. I noticed BP Chairman Sir John Browne talking about the tremendous new reserves in deepwater Gulf of Mexico just the other day. Like it or not, technology advances occur and make tremendous economic impact. If Exxon and Shell had restricted themselves to West Texas, yes we would’ve run out. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

I really want to thank the guys (and gals) from Dundee and NCR Financial Division in general for the opportunity that they extended to me.

Note: The concepts on display at Florida were a very small segment of the concepts that SSSS has developed (I will guess I was exposed to at best one of ten).

And to close, just to introduce the SSSS team I do have one picture of the main team in Florida cutting up for the camera. “Freedom” for customers to conduct transactions and to manage their information safely and more effectively is a concept which any company serving customers can appreciate….

THANKS NCR!

ncr-29