Don’t just follow the Innovation, watch out for the aftershock

As technology continues to evolve and the realisation that those pesky unicorns are not so easy to find, most organisations are now starting to embark on a digital journey to embrace what the tech companies have been doing for years.  You can see this manifested in numerous industries where more announcements are being made at technology events like CES than the traditional venues.  One recent example is the automotive industry where in 2017 more Innovation was announced at CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) than their traditional venue of the Motor Show.  These disruptive vanilla applications will certainly ripple across the whole ecosystem so it is important to not just “look down” at the specific Innovation but also look laterally for the “aftershock”. If we look at a few examples it will become apparent how any Innovation can disrupt all industries.

Transport – This may be a way away however just think if there were autonomous cars driving around 24×7; why would you ever buy a car (it is also believed that children being born now may never learn to drive).  If you then think laterally at the aftershock there would be a knock-on into how you insure yourself, why would you need a garage in your house or even a drive, cities wouldn’t need car parks.  What effect would this also have on the logistics businesses if these vehicles could also deliver shopping or purchases?

Self Help – The wearable market is expected to be worth $34.6 Billion by 2020, so imagine what could happen if everyone became proactive to health rather than relying on the traditional reactive Doctors surgery?  Health insurance would change, hospitals and doctors would certainly change, a new product line of self testing and DNA would emerge plus the whole pharma industry would shift into preventative medicine.  Also 200 million consumer virtual reality head-mounted displays are predicted to be sold worldwide by 2020 so this will cause disruptions right cross industries from Health, to Training, Gaming etc.

UI – What will be the interface of the future? I have already mentioned above about VR however what about AR (Augmented Reality), Voice and Touch.  The Qwerty keyboard has been around since the 1870s so maybe a change is due.  What would this do to the world if interaction with a computer was no longer by a keyboard?

As you can see from the few examples above its not just the individual Innovations which will cause disruptions but also the aftershock, so look up, look around and suddenly the opportunities will be plenty.

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Fail Fast but have an exit plan just in case you don’t

In our data and regulatory driven world Innovation may be an essential element to disrupt the marketplace however how many failures should you expect before you find that unicorn and how do you account for these failures?

As more and more products migrate to the internet with SAAS and Cloud offerings becoming the fastest way to Innovate and “test and learn” one of the most important considerations in addition to does the proposition “work” is how do you exit (even if it is a success). As most Cloud offerings use proprietary software its not always in the interest of the supplier to make the breakup easy with the hope that you persist with the trial and continue your adoption however depending on your industry the extraction and preservation of the data or transactions history is probably the biggest consideration to a swift exit.

Therefore in addition to considering your success criteria in 2017 why not add another step and plan your exit from day 1. Most products allow you to extract a certain level of data however if your usage exceeds the basic; a retrospective archive is extremely problematic once you pass this threshold. Knowing how you will exit will not only help you if you “fail fast” but it will help drive your operational support procedures if the Innovation is a success as you will always have the sufficient level of data to exit in the future.

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Innovation over the last 10 years

For nearly 10 years I have been sharing my technology & Innovation observations through my blog.  To offer a retrospective over this period is not only interesting but can shape where the industry will go in the future and to support this I have compiled a list of the annual 10 technology trends produced by Gartner over this timeline. It is good to keep in your mind that the observations and trends are cutting edge rather than adoptive and most companies will lag a few cycles behind so the immediate future can be gleaned from the last few years and the most up to date trends will not reach consideration for a few years to come.

At the beginning “back in 2007” it was evident that the trend was Infrastructural and encouraged the move from traditional Data Centre hosting models to ones which involved Cloud computing, automation and design that was web enabled with collaboration and mobile in mind.    We then entered a  period which was more transactional (which is where most companies will be now) which exploited the previous advances in technology and saw the evolution of Business Intelligence to Advanced Analytics and visualisation, the use of Big Data and where all development was device agnostic and ready for the web.

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Even though Technology is moving at a tremendous pace I think the next 2 cycles will be extremely exciting.  I think initially we will have another infrastructural period where Cloud Technologies evolve into a hybrid state; we will understand more about how to exploit the data from connected devices and the internet of things including how to store it.  We will see advances in Artificial Intelligence and will start to hear about the first real time distributed ledger platforms being used.    Then comes the interesting stuff; the next period will show that we finally have the right technology in place to start exploiting all these new advances so Distributed Ledger applications will be common place, Augmented and Virtual Reality will come of age and start to become communication channels in their own right.  Machine Learning will also start to become intertwined in everything we do and appear everywhere from your home to your Car and even the workplace.

This last set of observations may seem a long way away however just look how far we have come in the last 10 years and remember Broadband is only just over 15 years old so in ten years anything could be possible.  We all just need to embrace the change and enjoy the ride.

Innovation is also about what you don’t do

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When Innovation is mentioned it always makes you think of disruptive or incremental change which then drives sales or increases consumption however one thing that is rarely accepted as Innovative is the removal of services or technology.  Most companies tend to keep their head in the sand with this and pay the extra costs to support an aging offering rather than to cannibalise their existing product lines for the good of everyone.  However sometimes having the power of your convictions for the greater good of the market not only increases customer perception but also allows for additional innovation. A glass half full is always better than one half empty.

There are numerous types of removal which are necessary ranging from the need to move the Industry forward, new standards set with counteract your products future and following a failed innovation.

The recent release of the Apple iPhone 7 showed this with the removal of the headphone socket where the media focussed on the loss rather than the benefits which were due to the increased space being available inside the body of the Mobile Phone.  The headphone jack has surprisingly been around since 1964 so maybe it was overdue for removal. However sometimes its better to move the market rather than sweat technology way beyond its useful life.  Just think of the auto industry, the engines and designs are constantly refreshed which are not that visible but how long was it before the cassette player was changed to the CD, the FM radio to DAB and manual controls or dials to touch screen and LED.

Some change can also just be cultural and cost nothing however even this can perceptionally move the dial.  In the UK to receive fixed line broadband you have to pay a line rental charge which is never mentioned in the cost of broadband.  This year Vodafone is advertising that it has abolished the line rental where in effect it has just increased the Broadband cost by the cost of the line rental, so even though it costs nothing,  more transparency is can also be seen as innovative.

In this new digital era Innovation should cover everything from Automation to Eradication  as by only doing both will you leverage the greatest economies of scale.

Cashless does not always need to be high tech

In the first world economy, we tend to automatically think high tech when we try to solve any problem and with regards to a cashless society (ignoring contactless cards)  we always start talking about Apple or Android pay via a smartphone as being the way forward.  Over the summer I visited a brand new theme park (Land of Legends Aqua) in Southern Turkey and was pleasantly surprised at its use of technology and the simplicity it offered. The theme park will eventually be vast and currently only the Aqua park is finished however it is totally cashless which is good for a waterpark and enables you to lock away all of your valuables when you arrive.  As you enter the park you are given a wristband (nothing special and the throwaway type you have at a festival) however it contains the technology which allows you to swipe in/out of the park, charge up with funds and pay for anything you need plus if you require a locker you just swipe the wristband on the reader of a flat screen monitor in the locker area, select you need a locker from the options on display and you are then allocated locker which will automatically open for your use.   The use of this throwaway technology reduces all the stress of damage and as it is attached to your wrist the issue of theft is removed.  Over the summer similar types of technology (albeit ones that actually debit your bank account) were also announced in other part of the world.

The RioCard was announced with its waterproof Celego Contactless wristband and its Celego Contactless Sticker both embedded with a contactless chip from Gemalto and certified by Visa and MasterCard enabling all the secure functionalities of traditional contactless EMV cards (Contactless transit cards were first adopted by RioCard in Rio de Janeiro in 2003 and they are now a part of daily life for millions of users) and in Greece a  PayBand (which is a first for the Mediterranean island nation) which uses the Optelio Contactless MicroTag, which is easily inserted in the wristband’s slot by consumers, and is linked to the user’s existing payment card.

Over the last few years there has been lots of talk around Smartphone payment applications and smart watches however will we now see a new era where the banks start offering alternatives to the standard debit card which will not only make peoples lives easier but also reduce fraud if our cards are around our wrists. Imagine if this could also be used in conjunction with Nymi Band technology which uses biometric authentication events as this would prevent others using it if it was lost or stolen.

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Electric 2.0

Over the last decade the acceptance of electric vehicles and solar power has gone from scepticism to approval by the consumer.  In part this has been due to the vision of Elon Musk and Tesla.  10 years ago Elon detailed his initial plan and last month he announced his updated Part Deux.  The original plan consisted of creating a low volume car which would necessarily be expensive, use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price and then using that money to create an affordable high volume car whilst providing Solar power (this has been evidenced by the evolution through the Roadster, Model S, Model X and the forthcoming Model 3).   The plan now is to create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage, expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments which will include a future compact SUV and pickup truck, develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning and enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it through the sharing economy.  Interestingly this next plan does not seem that unachievable and as the rest of the world wakes up to the global acceptance of electric cars will it actually take 10 years to come to fruition? In the last month alone Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the world’s first all-electric big rig truck prototype, Solar Impulse 2 completed its epic round-the-world journey, powered only by the sun’s energy, luxury carmaker Porsche says it is creating 1,400 jobs to develop its electric car – the Mission E and Tesla and Solar City agreed to a $2.6 billion merger.  These announcements will incrementally improve the whole adoption of electric vehicles and in tandem disruptive advances in battery technology are been seem using Graphene over lithium-based batteries where charge time is being reduced to just seconds compared to the minutes or hours.  These innovations have the power to change a number of supply chains over the next decade which will not only transform the way we live our lives but disrupt numerous Business lines so is it time for everyone to draw up their 10 year plans in response to this exciting period of change.

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How valuable is your data?

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Over the last decade social media and collaborative platforms have not only become popular for the masses they have also been seen as an easy win for corporates to extend market share and maintain relevance. It all started in 2006 when Google purchased You Tube and continued with further major purchases like Facebook buying Instagram and Whats App, Twitter buying Vine and Microsoft purchasing Skype, Yammer and this year LinkedIn for $26 Billion. From the consumer point of view it shows exactly how valuable our data is to corporate’s and indicates how important it is to ensure that our privacy settings are correct as no one can guess who will purchase the platforms in the future (especially as most people have dormant personal data littered across the internet). However from the corporate perspective there are 2 benefits for making a purchase. The first is to secure a pre-built user base to whom you can sell and the second is to hopefully obtain a platform that will continue to grow and innovate. The problem with most Social platforms is that it’s very hard to know if you are buying dormant users and what percentage of the data is correct. The interesting thing about the Microsoft purchase of LinkedIn (which apparently was also wanted by Sales force) is that this data source is one of the few which is believed to be accurate due to it being continuously updated with Career, Education, Training and content preferences.