The Boston Globe has launched a weekly Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting ground-breaking research, and reshaping the state's economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: What is your new podcast called and who can we expect to hear on it?
Answer: The new podcast, “The Rhode Pod,” will launch on Feb. 3 at TheRhodePod.com. I’ve had the idea for awhile, and the time is right to launch it. We have a lot of innovation happening right now Rhode Island: There’s the Wexford Innovation Center, where I have an office in the CIC Providence space, and the New England Medical Innovation Center, where I am the technology partner in residence for the year. Orsted, from Denmark, is opening up a wind energy innovation center within the CIC space. Also, there’s Mass Challenge and the Newport Innovation Center, and the Digital Health Innovation Center is coming to CIC Providence. We have innovation up to our eyeballs. We need to get the word out. We’ve already recorded several interviews, including one with an entrepreneur who came to RISD, emigrated here, built a company, and sold it. And we’ll hear from the co-founder of a Jamestown company that’s figuring out what everyone is listening to in their cars around the globe. The goal is to interview interesting people who are out to make things happen.
Q: Where will you record the podcasts and who is your target audience?
A: We record our podcast primarily at the Quartz studio at CIC Providence (where the Globe has an office), and I have a home studio. The audience is truly local to global. This local innovation ecosystem has a lot of touch points around the region, country, and the globe. The podcast will be divided into two episodes per week. The first episode is Medtech Monday, in partnership with the New England Medical Innovation Center. We will bring you interesting and exciting developments in the world of Medtech. The Thursday episode will focus on other areas of business, innovation, and technology. I really want it to be a vehicle for getting the word out so people can expand their network, create partnerships, find investment opportunities, find resources, and just generally learn about what’s new and exciting. I feel information is siloed here, and we need to move out of our silos. Silos are boring.
Q: How is Rhode Island’s economy changing and what do you see as the next necessary step?
A: The Rhode Island economy of old was what I call The Crimetown Economy -- “Hey, I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy.” That world has a very limited future. I am seeing so much energy at the Wexford Innovation Center. Bright, young people are finding ways to think it, monetize it, and stay here. For example, two Brown students will be on MedTech Monday. They developed an app using the accelerometer in your phone to guide you in the process of potentially saving someone’s life with CPR. Who knew 65 percent of the medical community did not understand the proper way to do this? They did! The clinical validation will cost them $2 million. The next step in the Rhode Island economy is to find the capital sources to keep these innovators here, build their business, employ people, live life.
Q: To what extent will people use voice-controlled personal assistants like Alexa or Siri in the future?
A: This year, it is estimated that 50 percent of all searches will be done via voice and 30 percent of all searches will be on a device with no visual interface. That is a huge trend and it’s going to continue to grow. Human nature just dictates that people will follow the path of least resistance to information, but voice is so much more than just smart speakers. It is ambient computing, and it will be everywhere, any device, any interaction. Your car, your toaster, your anything will have embedded voice activation and response. I know a lot of people say, “Oh, no. Never me.” But these same people have Facebook and Instagram on their phone. It is happening, and it is going to accelerate.
Q: What does your company, AudioStrategy, do?
A: First, I offer design and programming consulting services for voice interactions on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Alexa is now HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, and voice interaction will be a very big part of our health care future. Every business really needs a strategy for voice, or are you going to let Google dictate who hears what and when? Google and Amazon have two different devices, and the companies have two different business models. How you address them independently will be key. If you think getting found online is difficult now, wait 12 months. Second, I design short-form situational audio for mobile devices to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Everything from a very responsive web interface to the audio that populates it. You can call it in-the-moment coaching.
Q: Tell us about your experience with America’s Cup racing?
A: I grew up in Worcester in a triple-decker, and until about 21 I had never heard the term “yacht club.” I first sailed on a 12-meter yacht with Baron Bich and the French team in 1979. I literally got asked off the dock to go sailing on Intrepid after jumping up to help them carry a sail. I was just looking around. I spent the summer of 1980 sailing with the French team. I drew an America’s Cup poster that I sold in local stores and in Sail magazine. It kept me fed and paid the rent that summer. I set a goal to get on a cup campaign in 1983, and I ended up on Dennis Conner’s “B” team. I pinched myself many times wondering “What the hell am I doing here?” Sailing at a high level taught me many life lessons. There are many parallels to success in sailing and business. I have met some of the best lifelong friends through sailing. You really learn what a person is made of on a moonless night, thunder squalls rolling through, 3 a.m. in the middle of the Gulf Stream on the way to Bermuda.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com