Fidelity Center For Applied Technology

Yesterday I received a tour of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, a.k.a. FCAT, and my review is F’n-A!.  FCAT was formed about 10 years ago with a mandate to transform business through technology.   I don’t know if they’ve been able to deliver on that, but I can say that it’s the coolest lab I’ve seen in a long time.

When you first walk in, you realize something is different.  Almost every wall is a display.  It’s as if you walked into the Situation Room…I was half expecting to see Wolf Blitzer and John King around each corner.

On a giant wall screen in the main lobby, you see a map of the world with every Fidelity facility.  You touch a facility and you see data about what is going on there; for example for call centers you see customer support metrics. If I were CEO of a large corporation, I would definitely have a “data” room like this to meet in.

Another area I was blown away by was the user interface labs which are typical focus group rooms (i.e. fancy conference rooms abutted with a control room and separated by a one-way mirror.  But in the labs they have a bunch of cameras which allow them to, for example, track where testers are looking on a webpage.  Elsewhere on the tour they have a bank of giant plasma screens showing web sessions with overlays of where people are looking.  

In another lab they had one of those 10 grand tables.  I didn’t get to fire it up and play with it, but I’m already scheming on how to get back in and do that.  Elsewhere they had set up something that looked like a full-size chalkboard on wheels except the “board” was made of a giant piece of 5/8″ thick glass and they had RFIDs on the corners to create a giant multi-touch screen.

I was impressed that FCAT was not just looking into data visualization and manipulation, but also at social networking and communities.  The facility is the kind of lab that startups fantasize about.  I think FCAT should rent the place out so smaller firms can leverage their investments, but somehow I doubt that will happen.

In the meantime, you can check out this virtual tour.