Is the future augmented?

For many years now there have been numerous product launches which offer a new take on reality.  Virtual reality is still very niche and very appropriate to gaming however augmented reality has always been the distant cousin with no real user case until now.  As consumer grade technology has improved most new devices possess the power to offer a very good AR experience, just look at Pokemon go.  However, if we look at credible uses for the masses numerous companies are now targeting the consumer and you could completely decorate / refurbish your house if you wanted.  Amazon and Ikea have apps to which preview items for sale and you can view them in the proposed location with a mobile device; even Dulux has created a paint visualiser to enable you to see how rooms could look different with different wall finishes.  Google and Apple are even offering platforms for people to create Apps using AR.

So what about the enterprise?  Usage is certainly not far off especially as tablets are common place in the office so the time to dabble with POV/POCs is nearly here.  Especially if the technology can move from 2D to 3D recognition and new form factor technology like glasses become mainstream.

So where could it be used?  AR overlays digital data onto the real world so anywhere which dangerous is ideal, in the training environment, like the consumer space in Building Design, Refurbishments, Marketing.   How about linking insurance quotes to object placement apps like above?  You can even see it leveraging some of the translation services offered by google or object identification for people with disabilities like Seeing AI from Microsoft.

So get those thinking caps on as when you link AR to AI you have a very powerful proposition.

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The Future is Connected

One of the best indicators for organisations into future trends and disruption is to follow all the usual suspects i.e. product launches, trade shows, conferences, press releases etc but then consider what isn’t being said. Most innovations launch with enough pomp and ceremony to hook the early adopters, however, to become truly mainstream most innovations need to interact with an ecosystem and as most venture capitalists will attest, unicorns usually have pivoted numerous times since the original funding rounds.

One of the best trade shows of the year is CES (Consumer Electronics Show) held every January in Las Vegas and this year did not disappoint. In addition to the normal incremental product launches this year was all about the Smart Home rising and the products announced would satisfy any home need, Samsung even announced that by 2020 all their products from TVs to Washing machines would be “smart”. The home products showcased ranged from Smart Fridges, Washing machines, Thermostats, Cameras, Alarms, Deadlocks,Showers, Wall Plugs, Baby Monitors, Garage door sensors, light switches and even garden hose watering systems.

If you consider my provocation to consider the things that are not mentioned how will all these products work together in the truly smart home as you certainly wouldn’t want a separate app for each. The voice assistants are starting to fill this gap (Amazon with the Echo, Google with the Home Mini etc) they are still closed systems that do not cover everything. Also, the elephant in the room is how exactly will these be connected to the internet? Most people have a reasonable WIFI speed however if you divide your download speed (MBPS) by all the connected products above you wouldn’t have any bandwidth left to watch your favourite program on Netflix let alone surf the internet. Theoretically you can connect 200+ devices to a Wi-Fi router however that doesn’t take in account that you are connected through a single home internet connection and manufacturers seem to recommend between 15-40 connections at most which would not last long in a family home once you take away all the mobiles, tablets and smart TVs. Therefore until Router technology improves or different consumer grade options become available for households to easily create mesh networks it may be a few years before we can rush out to completely kit out our homes which is lucky because there still isn’t an standard which says what blockchain the devices will connect through or even what crypto currency you would need to replenish your fridge.

When these Innovations do eventually land however (could be in next 10 years) the disruption / opportunity will ripple through every sector and will affect Insurance, Retail, Banking, Utility provision, to name but a few. The future will be connected so get ready.

The Incentivised Web

Since the inception of the world wide web a gradual trend of collaborative
consumption has arisen. Before the emergence of Social; compute could be
shared with good causes like the SETI institute / medical research and there
were limited online forums but once broadband arrived in the UK in 2000
social sites accelerated collaboration through the sharing of social / personal
information (we will see in the future if this was a good idea), peer to peer
networks, crowdfunding and expert networks/forums etc.

We have now however entered a new phase of the Internet with the
incentivised web where you can be paid for interacting on the web. You can
self-publish books (The Martian sold 23 million copies with movie revenues of
$228.4 million), monitise Blogging/VLogging (top bloggers can make £15 million
per year). Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger has even joined a startup using
blockchain distributed ledger technology to democratise the encyclopedia by
creating a new site called Everipedia where contributors will be rewarded with
a digital token that also acts as a share of the platform.
Even in 2017 the rise of Bitcoin has spawned Cryptocurrency mining pools
where anyone can mine bitcoins with a % share of a cryptocurrency in return,
although this is already being exploited by cyber criminals were bitcoin mining
malware is being injected into sites and was recently found in a free Starbucks
Wi-Fi.

We may therefore now be entering a period where we are all incentivised for
using the internet rather than allowing freemium applications to sell our own
data. So think twice before giving away your data and ensure your anti virus
software is up to date

Internet

Will Messaging Apps be all you need?

Since the Edward Snowden revelations back in 2013 the popularity of messaging apps has gone from strength to strength especially since most now include end to end encryption.  Recently however some of the larger players have started to make changes which could alter the way we interact with our mobiles forever.  In the western cultures the messaging app is predominately used for messaging, sharing photos, audio/video communication and more recently sending friend’s money.  Some have also started to add Artificial Intelligence/chatbots like Facebook Messenger and Google Allo to make them stickier.

However in places like China and Japan (WeChat /Line)  messaging apps additionally allow you to play video games, shop (eCommerce sites) and use digital wallets which negates your need to leave the app ecosystem at all.  These apps are so popular that WeChat boasts 963 million monthly active users and 600 million active WeChat mobile payment users.  This may be only half of the active users stated by facebook globally however WeChat is little known outside of China until now.

In March 2017  WeChat announced It was looking to launch an office in the U.K. and another European country, alongside its existing presence in Italy.

In April 2017 a London-based FinTech firm (Tramonex) based out of Smithfield, said it had entered into an agreement to integrate its payments infrastructure with WeChat Pay to take advantage of the soaring numbers of Chinese tourists visiting the UK.

This month BNP Paribas announced it was introducing WeChat Pay to retailers in France and subsequently across Europe, providing an opportunity for merchants to streamline the shopping experience for the 7.4 million Chinese tourists who visit the continent each year.

On 9th November 2017 Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings (the owner of WeChat) announced it was acquiring a 12 percent stake in the US social media network Snapchat whose investment would enable Tencent to explore cooperation opportunities with the company on mobile games publishing and newsfeed.

Over the last few years very little change has been seen across the social media / eCommerce landscape however this may just be about to all change and I cannot imagine players like Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook etc will take it lying down.

A Glimpse of tomorrows tech

Even though technology appears to be getting more complicated, more expensive and refreshed more often this generally ensures that it is enjoyed by everyone much sooner.  The big problem is that unless the new  component parts are mass produced in sufficient numbers to reduce the price point it stays out of reach for the masses.  However when the  marquee players like Apple, Google, Samsung etc. introduce new innovations they tend to enter product ecosystems much sooner.  2017 has been a very interesting year for technology and in this update I thought I would share a few of the innovations which I predict that when they enter the mass market will disrupt the technology we use at home and in work.

Facial Recognition – The iPhone X will introduce Facial Identification via their True depth camera which uses 30k light sensors projected on the face to create an encrypted  facial map to aid authentication instantly on the device

Real Time Translation – Google’s Pixel Bud headphones will  bring real-time translation with Google Translate. Just touch and hold the right earbud to activate the Google Assistant on your Pixel 2 mobile and the in built speaker will translate what you say.  There are 40 languages available today.

Cameras – The new high end smartphones now have near SLR quality dual cameras that can record in 4k and have x10 zoom for photos and x6 zoom for video

Virtual Reality – Both Google and Facebook via Oculus are making great strides in Augmented and Virtual reality.  Oculus is offering a standalone headset in early 2018 for just $199 which will bring the price point to a consumable level.

Charging – The new high end smartphones are all offering wireless charging

Stylus – Samsung and Apple are both offering more options with regards to stylus/pens/Spens where they are starting to be more pen like rather than the size of a piece of chalk

Voice Controlled Smart Speakers – This year Amazon, Google and Apple very soon are all bringing out various sizes of “always on” smart speakers for the home.

If you just consider the above elements these could easy be incorporated into anything that requires authentication, video conferences, home security plus removing the wires on every device we use, so sit back as everything we use today is about to change for the better and good riddance to all those cables.

AI will be a great leveler

Over the last few years as technology has become increasingly cheaper, faster and accessible by all through the cloud, Artificial Intelligence has never been far from the headlines.  When you think of AI you probably think of Robots and the Terminator films or maybe autonomous vehicles however it is much wider than this.  Today AI is incorporated in no end of devices and already it is showing up in game development, autonomous vehicles, chatbots, robo-advisors, digital assistants (Alexa, Siri, Cortana etc) to name but a few.  The overall research goal of artificial intelligence is to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner. The general problem of simulating (or creating) intelligence has been broken down into sub-problems and these include topics like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.  ML (Machine Learning) is also fast becoming the litmus test of forward thinking companies although adoption is currently low outside of the technology sector and there are few large scale deployments.

Today most data science is completed by actuaries and in house data analysis teams where the past is studied to predict the future.  However in this changing world this is no longer just the answer as AI can make predictions in Real time and looking into the past will not predict the behaviour expected from events like Brexit, Global Warning, tensions with North Korea, immigration increases etc as they have never happened before.  Also as wider data sets available to all are leveraged non-traditional players will start to enter the market.  Also just think if somebody created an app store to sell algorithms to solve problems across all industries which did just this.  The only differentiator would be the incumbents own data sets.

There are hundreds of applications for AI which will improve service, create efficiencies, reduce cost and provide competitive advantage and at the moment incumbents are best placed to leverage the widely available data sets merged with their own. However numerous non-traditional players are using technology to create or crowdsource big data sets of their own and IDC (International Data Corporation) forecasts worldwide revenues for Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems will reach $12.5 billion in 2017 and raise to $46 billion by 2021. So it may only be a decade before AI becomes fully mainstream so everyone will need to embed Machine Learning at the core of their business to ensure they are best placed to take advantage of in future.

FinTech as an Ideation Source

The Financial Services industry continues to be fueled by the FinTech’s influence and these newcomers are providing a renewed experience which is being embraced by their tech savvy customers.  However, in this fast-changing environment of regulation and technology, these disrupters can provide a valuable source of Ideation and insight into the potential changes which will eventually become mainstream.  Most Fintechs try to disrupt a niche area within a market to get a foothold. However, the incumbents already have the existing relationships so even though people may dabble it takes a brave person to fully commit to the unknown. So having a “Disruption Radar” will provide an enterprise with a valuable pipeline for consideration to turn the incumbent into a disrupter.  If for example you were asked about Challenger Banks you would probably mention Metro, Monzo, ATOM, Starling or maybe even Revolut, however after this you may start to struggle.  After searching the internet I managed to come across 54 challengers that were either in existence or will be soon

Abacus; Amicus; APS Financial; Atom Bank; Axis Bank UK; Babb; Bank of Lambeth; BFC; British Business Bank; Cambridge & Counties Bank; Charter Savings Bank; CivilisedBank; ClearBank; Coconut (formerly Monizo); Community Savings Bank Association (CSBA); Coombs Bank; Copernicus Bank; DiPocket; Contis Group; FairFX; FCMB UK; Ffrees; Fidor Bank: Hampden & Co; Hampshire Community Bank; Hampshire Trust Bank; Iam Bank; ICBC UK; Lintel Bank; Loot; Masthaven; Metro Bank; Monese; Monzo (formerly Mondo); OakNorth; OneSavings Bank; Paragon Bank; Pockit; Private and Commercial Finance Group (PCFG); Redwood Bank; Revolut; Secco Aura; Shawbrook Bank; Soldo; Starling Bank; Tandem; Templewood Bank; Thinkmoney; Tide; The Services Family; Together Money; Ummah Finance; Union Bank of India (UK) Limited; Wyelands Bank

From this list I then chose a random selection to try and define what their unique USP was from their websites and came up with the following.

Login using face and voice recognition, 24×7 support, interest prediction, instant loans for DDs falling following day, Blockchain, community savings, SME business Banking, Bankers Oath, Account Opened in 3 minutes, Account opened in 2 minutes, No frills, Multicurrency Payments, Safe and Friendly Mobile Banking, Bank for people who live on their phones, Apple Store for Banking,  Banking for generation Snapchat, Physical Stores open 7 days a week, Instant credit card and cheque book, Intelligent notifications, P2P Payments.