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.
The thought of changing ones perception and entering a Virtual or Augmented Reality is not new. However over the last few years the technology has advanced to where the price point is now within everyone’s grasp. Back in June 2016 I wrote about AR so this time I will provide some insights into VR.
Virtual Reality as we know it today originated from Science fiction and its first reference is believed to have come from the 1935 short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” by Stanley G Weinbaum where he described a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences, including smell and touch. Since then there have been numerous products which have lead us to today and I imagine everyone has used something that tried to enhance reality (Back in 1939 View-Master stereoscopes were introduced) or seen a Program that glorified the Technology (In 1974 the Holodeck made its debut on Star Trek. ). In its infancy VR mainly resided in the gaming community however recently it has fragmented into multi price point options accessible by all.
At the low end we are seeing headsets which range from Cardboard to Googles Latest Daydream View where Apps can be downloaded onto your phone and the phone used as the viewing platform. Just search VR on the Apple or Google App stores and see the options; they are not just games.
At the high end however even more Innovation is being seen. With the likes of the HTC Vive and the Oculus Gear or Rift suddenly enterprise grade headsets are appearing that can solve enterprise problems. Applications are now being created where the headsets can be used for immersive, education, engineering and medical procedures. In the Business environment you just need to forget the gaming angle and suddenly the possibilities are endless. Any Digital process which can be changed in real time could be viewed via a headset and changed in seconds to enable Agile development. Think of the Marketing opportunities and how the sales process could start before the final product is finished. As the technology matures over the next few years and its price point moves to a consumable item everyone will be embracing Reality 2.0.
As the urge to hoard becomes less and everyone becomes more comfortable using web services in the cloud to run applications and store data how confident are you as to where your data is and could it be viewed without your knowledge? Financial Services have always worried about which jurisdiction the hosting servers came under and whether they were covered under regulation plus enterprises are now beginning to ensure that there is data governance and ownership for all their data. However how often should you review this?
This week the European Court of Justice has ruled that the 15 year old deal between the US and Europe (The Safe Harbour Agreement) was invalid meaning that many Businesses will now be scrambling around to put replacement measures in place to ensure that correct privacy rights are in place plus asking “did we ever use a service that was covered by Safe Harbour in the last 15 years?”
Interestingly, the ruling was not brought about by a Business but an Austrian law student against Facebook following the Snowden NSA surveillance revelations. Does anyone really know when they download an App from Apple or Androids App Store where this data is being stored? Do organisations know where the live and DR servers are located for every cloud provider, hosting company or SAAS product just in case privacy laws change? Should we? As more and more technology moves to the cloud maybe providers will offer transparency as to where data is being stored so choices can be made however as IT becomes a Global commodity there certainly will not be data centres in ever jurisdiction on the planet any time soon so in the meantime just keep a note where you kept that data as you may need to review it sooner or later.
As Moore’s law continues to drive a faster pace of change where new Innovations are seen every year or two the big question is “what is happening to all these unloved devices? most are probably sitting idle in drawers or cabinets especially as security concerns cause a resistance to pass on and replacement cost reductions verses trade-in makes the disposal unrealistic. However if we want to continue at this rapid pace of change its everyone duty to try and prevent the expiration of the planets natural resources by either buying less often or ensuring mitigating actions offset the behaviour. Over the last few years it has become second nature to add Innovation clauses to contracts and the introduction of WEEE has aided with the disposal process, however there are many other ways which we can help and many companies are looking at more Innovative ways to not only save the planet but also costs.
Some examples where change is being made by technology companies ranges from the unnoticed (Did you realise that companies like Dell are using sustainable materials for packaging? Dell is actually using bamboo to package their PCs) to the very obvious (Apple has installed 55,000 solar panels tracking the course of the sun to power its data centre in Maiden, North Carolina and Microsoft spent US$60 million to turn its 500-acre headquarters into a smart campus to achieve energy saving). In addition to the known IBM is even leveraging spare computing power to work on humanitarian causes so next time you are thinking about Innovation consider the whole supply chain as there are many more avenues than just the retail segment.
Over the last few years we have all embraced the World Wide Web and in turn had to change our engrained beliefs about sharing our personal information. At first it was just your name, address and email details to enable you to buy things, then with the advent of Social we all started to share a bit more of our soul (hopefully only to select groups) with pictures and views. Even though in the back of everyone’s mind still lurked security concerns due to the long list of hacking scandals, the hope that from going from simple short passwords to longer complex ones would secure your data effectively. However at the end of the day if you were compromised, usually updating your password and getting a new credit card would suffice.
With recent advances in technology though and the constant need to digitise is this all about to change?
In the last month alone we have seen Barclays launching a Cloud Based Document Management System so you can store copies of all your important documents like your driving licence and passport. Apple released the iPhone 5S with a fingerprint scanner and a new start-up called Nymi announced an authentication device which uses your own unique cardiac rhythm. Even Nissan announced it was working on a smart watch that monitors you and the car and would eventually capture your heartbeat and brainwaves. In addition to these Microsoft has also launched a Healthvault to enable you to organise your family’s health information.
What is wrong with this you may ask?
Although all of these technologies sound fantastic and I myself would love to use them all, the big question is how much do you trust the supplier? Do you know them, do they run their own computers or outsource everything, what happened if they were compromised and your information got out? Up to now if your password was compromised you could just choose another one, but what would happen if Information like your fingerprints or cardiac rhythm which is unique to you was compromised? We worry now about having someone stealing our identity by using basic information, what would happen if they had information so personal that it would never change during your whole lifetime, once your extremely personal information is out there it can’t be altered, it is 100% you and someone else may have it?
I am sure most companies will stay ahead of the game and ensure everyone’s data is secure, however how much of your personal information would you trust with a stranger? Would you choose to be an early adopter or laggard with these advances?
Even though it is easy to say some ideas are “bad”, generally this is untrue; unsuccessful ideas are either poorly thought through, implemented incorrectly or launched at the wrong time.
Tablets are a prime example, many people will probably say that the iPad was the first successful tablet, however tablets have been around for years. The events which ensured the iPad success was not the tablet itself but the launch of the Apple App Store and advances in multi-touch technology. Prior to this tablets had a very limited use and therefore were not desireable to the masses. Innovation without desirabilty and usability will not engender mass appeal and Innovation without consumer centric strategies will not ensure continued success.
If you look throughout history there are numerous companies who have invented products which could have propelled them to stratisferic heights but failed to implement them or change their strategy to adapt to consumer demand.
- In 1975 Kodak invented the first Digital Camera however due to having a 90% market share in photographic film in the United States continued to focus on this product stream. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.
- In 1979 Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC as they had invented a GUI interface. Apple offered stock options to use this technology and it became the interface used on Apple Mac Computers, Imagine what could have happened if Xerox continued with this strategy and sold software like Microsoft?
You can even see an interesting twist emerging within the mobile market at the moment. As all operators are scrambling to purchase 4G licences to rollout out faster connection speeds most of the country still experiences patchy connections at best on 3G. This is not due to speed but location. Is the continual desire for speed more desirable that an ability to make a call or access the web on your phone??? WIFI is beginning to offer an interesting twist to this story, over the past few years more and more shops, banks, coffee shops, Pubs and now even Trains and undergrounds are offering free wifi. What would happen if wifi became more widley available than 3G? why would you have a contract with a mobile provider to make a call when you could communicate via VOIP or Video on any device for free?
The reason most large companies fail to monopolise on ideas that they already have is the reluctance to cannibalise existing successful product lines and to look at the big picture. Interestingly everyone forgets that if you cannibalise one product line in favour of another, the revenue is still received is still retained within the P&L. If a competitor does this the revenues just slip away.
To ensure that you are not sideswiped by a company who is not your competitor today you need to continue Innovating your current product lines to ensure that you are offering customers products that are both desirable and usable whilst adapting your strategy to encompass technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour and needs.
In recent years manufacturers of consumer technology have continued to accelerate their Product Development and the main players like Apple now have annual cycles for most product lines; which in turn encourages enhanced cycles in their suppliers to accommodate the changes. The big question however is whether consumers are willing and able to refresh their own purchases on an annual or bi-annual cycle or whether different purchasing models will evolve?
Like most people I was excited to hear what new products Apple was releasing at their recent keynote in addition to the iPhone 5, however was surprised to hear that my dear old iPad 1 (only 2 years old) is now considered too out of date to receive the latest IOS6 Update. Have we entered a new era where to stay current you need to refresh your technology every 2 years? It’s interesting to read that even in these austere times Apple was still able to sell 5 million iPhone 5’s in its launch weekend so is consumer behavior reaffirming this fact and that they are willing to refresh at any cost?
Apple and many other premium manufacturers always seem to offer products, which are not only functional but also are durable and desirable. This however does come at a price, which traditionally you would expect to keep for a few years to get full value of the expense.
With the increasing number of product launches from these companies will we start to see new purchasing models appear? In other sectors we have been able to trade-in our old items for years; where would the car industry be if you had to sell your car first? Also in recent years a number of start up companies have appeared where you can trade in Mobiles, CDs, DVDs, however how long will it be before the premium manufacturers start doing this routinely rather than just as special offers? I recently noticed that this trend has already begun with Apple, Dyson, and Sony all offering trade-in deals.
If a new trade-in culture for electrical consumer goods started to evolve it will benefit everyone including the planet as old devices (could even be 2 years old) would be either recycled saving the planets raw materials or refurbished and sold. These changes would probably also encourage more people to upgrade regularly as there would be an outlet for old technology at a fair price rather than just placing it in a bottom drawer where it becomes worthless and only suitable for the bin.