The Digitisation of a nation and the birth of a cashless society

Much has been written over the years about the digital transformation of governmental and health services in the UK and US however very little disruptive change has been seen.  Whereas over the last 8 years India has made leaps and bounds with its governmental vision “To empower residents of India with a unique identity and a digital platform to authenticate anytime, anywhere” .  Did you realise that over 1.1 Billion Indian residents have now been issued with an Aadhaar number (ID Number) which contains the owners demographic information and is protected by their biometric information? (and not just a single fingerprint but Ten Fingerprints, Two Iris Scans, and Facial Photograph).

This Aadhaar number was also only the first phase of their India Stack project whose mission is to create APIs that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilise an unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.  Since the Aadhaar introduction an aggressive delivery schedule has ensued and the following platforms also now exist.

  • In 2011 the Aadhaar Payments Bridge & Aadhar Enabled Payments System was launched which uses Aadhaar number as a central key for electronically channelising the Government benefits and subsidies.
  • In 2012 eKYC was launched to allow businesses to perform Know Your Customer verification process digitally using Biometric or Mobile OTP.
  • In 2015 eSign launched as an open API to facilitate an Aadhaar holder to digitally sign a document
  • In 2016 a Unified Payments Interface launched to revolutionise digital payments in India
  • In 2016 DigitalLocker was launched as a secure dedicated personal electronic space for storing the documents of resident Indian citizens. The storage space of 1GB is linked to the Unique Identification Authority of India (Aadhaar number) of the user, which can be utilised for storing personal documents like University certificates, Permanent account number (PAN) cards, voter id cards, the URIs of the e-documents issued by various Government departments.  Over 5 Million users already access this service.

In addition to India Stack project the government also banned (Nov 2016) the country’s largest currency bills to try to stem the flow of counterfeit money and to take aim at terrorist organisations that rely on unaccounted-for cash. It is also expected to help the government clean up a system that has relied on cash to pay bribes and to avoid taxes. This ban on large bills is very likely to hasten India’s transition away from cash as about 78 percent of all transactions in India are made by cash, compared with 20 percent to 25 percent in the United States, Britain and other countries (according to a report by Google India and the Boston Consulting Group).

The above now places India in a perfect position to embrace digisation as once you have subscribed to the above no longer does a Regulated entity, Bank, Payment or Wallet provider need you to provide your identity and Digilocker has been an accepted location of proof for even your driving license with police to negate your need to carry it.

Currently Smartphone penetration is only 28% in India and all of the current digital payment systems work on 2G to ensure that India Stack is embraced by the masses no matter what mobile handset they have.  However with the emergence of companies like PayTM (Pay Through Mobile)  Launched 2010 (2015 saw Investment from Alibaba and its Launch in Canada in 2017) you can see this quickly increasing to 100% especially as this is an enabler for all transactions to be made using biometrics through a mobile device and negate the need to carry cash.

It is predicted that Sweden could become the first cashless society by 2030 but could this crown be stolen by India? just think what advances could be possible when 100% of future generations are 100% digital?


Augmented Reality becomes a reality


Even though there has been a tremendous amount of hype around Augmented and Virtual Reality a real useable application for the masses has yet to emerge (excluding games).  This month however Visa brought us a glimmer of hope that AR could be used for purchases when it showcased its Proof of Concept with House Of Holland .  The concept of using mobiles to purchase items is not new and has been used via QR codes for years.  Back in 2011 Tesco Homeplus in South Korea launched a Virtual Shop where commuters could order groceries via a QR Code in the subway and the same year eBay opened a pop up shop in London (following similar schemes run by Amazon, House of Fraser and even Marks & Spencer) to encourage shoppers to view physical items and then order them via their handsets to prevent the need for tills or for the items to be carried home.

The Visa POC however has taken this concept one step further and for this demo partnered with Blippar to allow attendees of a fashion show to use advanced image recognition to identify garments they liked via  their mobile camera when seen on the runway and then purchase via the app.  The Blippar app can now “recognise” and provide more information on more than half a billion everyday objects ranging from a type of flower to an airport.  This type of identification and payment technology could offer numerous possibilities and not just in the consumer shopping space but across the whole supply chain.  How long could it be before we stop filling in forms and can just identify an item we want to buy or insure?

Digital Hoarding is the biggest blocker to change

Digital Hoarders

Every month new predictions are made by technology analyst companies however most assume that everyone has a preference to use Laptops for more complex website transactions.  Even though this is technically true I do raise the provocation that this is only the case because Mobile Applications currently do not need to fill that gap and most non millennials are happy to live in a world where the main reason to have a laptop is to support their Digital Hoarding addiction (also known as e-hoarding and surprisingly has its own Wikipedia page).  Prior to the advent of streaming and cloud storage the only way to access your library of Music, Pictures and  Videos on the go was to digitise them and store them on your laptop hard drive however this has created a situation where everyone has terabytes of storage and the majority of the Music and Videos that are held so dear are never accessed again.  This habit however has created a real barrier to the removal of the laptop and created a blocker to Innovation.

If we ignore the music and video conundrum as these are easily replaced even if you have to buy them again or use a streaming service the only problem needed to be solved to remove laptops is how do you back up your photos in case the cloud providers loose them.  If we can finally solve this in a way that the consumer would be happy with and eventually break the cycle; laptops could be retired from the majority of homes and we would see a marked shift in technology predications for the Mobile/Tablet world which would ripple through everything we do and touch.  This new era would force websites to be more responsive and have usable apps for every facet of their interactions and in turn radically change the way consumers interact with technology.

Therefore back up those photos, embrace mobile, dump the laptop  and enjoy the ride.

Don’t just think about Gen Z what about Workplace G+1

workplaceAs technology continues to advance at a pace, conversations around the different generations always lead to the conclusion that different operating environments are needed in the workplace to satisfy the different expectations especially as it is projected that Millennials will be the largest demographic by 2025 and 61% of current employees expect to work beyond 65.

However before we all start adopting standing desks and conducting our business on mobile devices consideration needs to be given to the workplace mix and what the organisations generation of tomorrow (G+1) will look like i.e. %Gen X, Y, Z etc.  Millennials may become the largest demographic in the next 10 years however will this be across all industries?  As governments globally decide that the pension burden is too large to fund and push out retirement dates as far as politically possible will there suddenly be a spike in ageing workers with completely different needs which have never have been experienced before?  Will their requirement be an increased need for comfy ergonomic chairs, large screens etc. rather than standing desks and bean bags?  Although I am sure technology will start to address this issue we must accept that we are now entering a period where one configuration will not satisfy everyone and variable technology stacks and furniture will be needed in the workplace.  Workforce planning will become as essential as technology planning in the future to ensure organisations are successful.

Form Factor will be the next Customer Battleground

Over the last few years every enterprise has become obsessed with becoming Digital albeit the majority of IT systems are already digital. Most digital endeavors are really ecommerce teams looking at App development rather than digitising paper processes or redesigning the Domain Architecture landscapes to monopolise on technological advances based on the organisations strategy and vision. Although the rise of App Stores is Innovative they are only a new Customer engagement medium due to the evolution of mobile technologies and limitations of web browsers.

Customers are a fickle breed so just creating an App because you haven’t got one isn’t a good enough reason if you aren’t prepared to research the target audience and do it right. With the advent of Web2.0 everything an organisation does it visible and commentable. In this world sometimes it is better to wait and do something right than to launch too soon and have your client base realise you do not understand their needs. Plus they will certainly tell everyone else if they do not agree and you get it wrong.

In the past the decision was easy, mobile or tablet App (Single Size). There wasn’t any need to have variant flavors of interface or operating system as the offering was just an extension of the existing browser experience. However this has now started to change and as different form factors emerge just rendering the screen in a different way with some ad removal will not cut the mustard. This technological revolution will certainly expose the teams who are creating apps with no overlay onto a strategy or Customer Product Roadmaps.

These Form Factor Changes will force all enterprises to revisit their Customer personas and encourage everyone to consider li fecycle mapping before any development commences. This will ensure that any work is targeted at the right customer, at the right time of life with the correct spending pattern, as without these characteristics mapped how can you possibly satisfy your target audience by deploying onto the correct form factor with the right amount of tone of voice and interaction.

Today you certainly need a digital strategy which covers all form factors and is closely linked with the Business and Customer Strategy. Soon the app landscape will have to include mobile, phablets, tablets, laptops, smart watches, TVs plus Google glass and that is without the new trend of wearable tech.

Form factor is going to become the next customer battleground and more customer persona intelligence will be needed. Just knowing your customers preferences and age will no longer be sufficient, knowing their life stage, financial standing and what devices they are likely to purchase is just as important if you want to offer an App they will actually use.

Form Factor

Cultural Architecture & Social Unified Comms

ArchitectAs an IT professional the one thing that you can guarantee is “change” and generally everyone is better off for it. However as more and more systems move to the cloud, the number of solutions available for use is expanding exponentially and as a result the organisational culture is becoming an essential component when making decisions.

The days when the IT department could choose a product, implement it and hope the business would use it has certainly gone. IT has traditionally tried to define its strategy through Domain Architecture which is still relevant for most bespoke systems however with regard to collaborative and cloud environments cultural acceptance is just as important.

Within the enterprise there are so many options for collaboration and social that even if a product is deployed users can still vote with their feet and start using different products which will segment the storage and regionalise collaboration rather than aiding global adoption.

A number of years ago Unified Comms was the “flavour of the month”, however this has now evolved to become Social Unified Comms as organisations now need to not only connect audio, video but now also social for a complete user experience.

The key to implementing any successful collaborative environment is involving the end users and documenting their requirements. Enterprise Social although similar to the Facebook experience is a completely different offering and culturally the allowed interactions need to be defined within a published user acceptance policy to ensure that the right cultural behaviours emerge from the beginning.

In addition to business requirements and organisational cultural considerations you also need to map your user base to ensure any offering is designed to appeal to the masses. Traditionally this has been done considering employee age segmentation i.e. generation X, Y, Z etc, however in recent years lifestyle mapping has also been recognised as an important factor.

The Social Unified Comms environment needs to be architected to ensure maximum global collaboration with conflicting products removed. Of course there is a shopping list of must have features that need to be included so any vanilla solution is accepted i.e device agnostic user ability (including tablets, mobiles) easy uploadable rich media content without encoding (pictures and videos), ease of use and easily customisable. The main criticism of social systems is the inability for small teams to be heard due to all the background noise of the information streams and groups.

Community Management is another “Must have” feature which needs to be considered with any social endeavour. Without individuals encouraging social interaction and creating business cases for use, social platforms wither. Direction and investment in success is always required

As Cloud and Collaborative environments continue to improve more and more focus will need to given to the end user rather than solely the product to ensure that adoption is guaranteed and the role of Cultural Architect will become ever more important to ensure successful deliveries.

Generation X: The Digital Hoarders

Even though a tremendous amount of research is available comparing the traits of the Generations and how the Millennials (Generation Y) approach work in a different way to the previous, due to their differing technological requirements and needs.  My supposition is that prior generations are already on the road to digital adoption and will soon have the same desires and requirements as Generation Y and these Interestingly fall in line with Moore’s Law* estimation of a levelling around 2020.

If we focus on the digital adoption of Generation X, many have lived through various technological evolutions but all will have experienced the evolution of Audio and Video.  i.e. When Vinyl Records migrated to cassette then CD and eventually MP3  and from Video Tape to DVR.    Over the last few decades as these technologies evolved the marketers spent a lot of money in the aesthetics of these products so having a collection was encouraged / desired.  However since the mainstream adoption of ever more powerful home PCs where the Audio and Video files could be uploaded and consumed on a multitude of portable devices this generation are now copying their collections onto their PCs (Even though they may never listen or watch these again) and then either store the originals in the loft or give them to charity. This behaviour has therefore encouraged the manufacturers to produce PCs with bigger and bigger hard drives to satisfy the consumer need i.e. Moore’s Law*.

However if we look at Generation Y they are more inclined to purchase the odd songs they like from a Music Provider like Apples iTunes and download it straight to their MP3 Player / iPhone via the cloud or subscribe to a provider like Spotify or Netflix where they can consume Music / Films to their hearts content without ever owning any products or needing the hard drive space required to accommodate a collection.

Generation X (the Hoarding Generation) are starting to realise this fact as the amount if data they need to backup is becoming increasingly unmanageable especially when most is dormant and will never be accessed ever again.  This realisation falls in line with the 2020 prediction in Moore’s Law where storage consumption may begin to slow down.

Luckily in line with this realisation is the acceleration of the provision of Cloud Storage (mainly free) by software vendors which the Generations can use to backup those memories (be they photos, videos, songs etc) which may only be accessed  once in a blue moon, require backing up and even passed onto relatives as a keepsake.  At the time of writing this, there are numerous vendors offering free cloud storage ranging from the known i.e. Microsoft with Skydrive, Apple with iCloud, Google with Google Drive to specialists like Drop Box and  In addition to these are Social Sites like Friends Reunited have realised this trend and are offering an ability to create a private memory boxes where you can store all your keepsakes (You can also create one that is shared with individuals or public), they are even offering libraries of material you might like to add.

The use of secure storage is not limited just to the personal space as recently Commonwealth Bank in Australia announced an Australian banking first, Commonwealth Bank are piloting to customers an online virtual safety deposit box – NetBank Vault.  Customers will be able to save important documents such as pay slips, contracts, scanned copies of passports/drivers licences, receipts and product warranties etc., in their online bank account, backed with the greatest online security.

As these behaviours continue these traits will also start to move in into the Enterprise space (Business environment) and all Generations will begin to rely more on open collaboration systems like Sharepoint, Enterprise Social Networks and Collaboration tools, rather than the costly storage based network drives, personal hard drives and onsite hosted email.

From a technology perspective once all the generations become digital natives this will be a pivotal moment in history as if this then drives all technology to become cloud based and upgraded in line (i.e. everyone gets the latest upgrade when its available) all future generations will all experience the same technology as the previous generations are using which will mean the differentiators between the generations will no longer be digital but cultural, tribal etc.

*Moore’s Law is based on a paper created in 1965 which predicted that Chip Performance doubles every 2 years (which in essence means every 2 years you can get a device twice as powerful for the same cost) – This has proved surprisingly accurate and is estimated to continue until at least 2020.