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.


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.



How valuable is your data?


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.

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.

Rise of the Machines

Even though technology changes at exponential rates there are numerous innovations which have catapulted technology forward and new ways of working have emerged, just think where we would be if we hadn’t embraced Broadband, the iPhone, the iPad or an app store culture?  We are now however just about to enter a new era and everything could change again.  Over the last few years we have all started to get used to intelligent personal assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now, however these are very reactive to the user i.e. unless you mobile is near you and you press the button you cannot use them.  One product which is currently only available in the US is the Amazon Echo which is starting to change this concept to one of an always on device.  The Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device which responds to the name “Alexa”; the device constantly listens for the “Wake word”  and the device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real time information. It can also control several smart devices and home automation.  On a recent Gartner webinar it was shared that By 2018, 30% of Our Interactions with Technology Will Be through “Conversations” with Smart Machines and by 2020, 10% of households in mature markets will have at least five connected home devices; all will use biometric interfaces (10.5 Billion Internet of Things Will Be Used at Home and Spending Will Reach $348B by 2020) so these devices will be key to the success for all IOT devices and especially home automation.  When these devices become mainstream in the home and cars no longer will we need any devices and everything could be done through voice commands.  In addition to the Echo numerous companies from Facebook to CNN are looking at BOT technology to use voice commands.  CNN are using Bots to tailor topics that are sent to you, scroll through carousels of different news stories and to ask for a specific summaries of a story, e-commerce sites like Spring have shopping concierges and Facebook is testing its artificially intelligent secretary, called M, within its Messenger app in the US which uses a combination of human labour and machine learning to complete tasks for you. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants, and make travel arrangements. At Microsoft’s annual build conference Nadella said “Human language is the new user interface, Bots are like apps and digital assistants are like meta apps, or the new browsers.  It was also announced that there were plans to integrate Bots into Skype.

In China, 600m people already use messaging app WeChat every month to hail taxis, book doctor’s appointments, and pay utility bills. Western consumers are different to the Chinese, partly because we are far more used to the app ecosystem – but texting is a deeply-embedded mobile habit in the West as well, so chatting with a bot should feel natural.

A new paradigm shift is just around the corner, so hold on and enjoy the ride




Mobile Innovation drives Innovation


For Innovations to be successful in addition to them being desirable they also need to be affordable and interact with existing ecosystems.  Just look at the original iPad; tablets and touch screens were not new but when you added the App Store and the interoperability with the iPhone it became a resounding success.  Since the introduction of the Smartphone and constant refresh cycle battles between manufacturers the number of Innovations being seen is immense with major changes emerging every other year. The difference with the Smartphone market to others is its massive global penetration and hence any new Innovations suddenly get scale and can drive down the price point for any new technology which suddenly makes it reusable in other form factors.  Just look at the recent announcements at CES and in the press this year.  We have seen flexible displays, thermal cameras, earthquake tracking and the removal of headphone jacks to name but a few.  In isolation these seem interesting however to be successful in Innovation you need to look past the obvious and look at the second generation use of any new invention.  Most Mobile Innovations end up commercially viable due to their scale and in the enterprise, so just looking at the above you can see numerous uses outside of the mobile arena.

When you are looking at innovation in addition to deciding if you “play to win” or have a strategy of being a “fast follower” you also need to look past the obvious and suddenly a multitude of possibilities will arise and rather than just following the crowd suddenly you could become a disrupter.