Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The smart customer needs you to innovate, integrate and incorporate

Look around you right now. How many inanimate objects do you see? Each of them serves a purpose or did at some point. But they're just dumb things with no intelligence or superpowers. Well, that's the way it use to be until everything became smart. What's that you hold in your hand? The next digital assistant?

Today, I attended New Zealand's CIO Summit where Sandra Ng (IDC, Group Vice President - ICT Practice Asia Pacific), opened the summit by talking about the importance of Leading in 3D to drive digital transformation to scale. She spoke about the importance of leading in three key areas: Innovation, Integration and Incorporation.

Sandra spoke of businesses rethinking how their solutions are integrated into human experiences. Take lift manufacturer Schindler Group, for example. After use, a lift would typically return to the ground floor while awaiting the next request with no intelligence about where it could best be utilised. Schindler's Transit Management System now provides, among other things, the "smart lift" that knows where it needs to be and when. With integration to the building tenants' calendar, the lift is able to predict when someone will need to leave the building to get to a meeting. Just push the button, and ping! No more waiting for the lift!

Perceived experiences are one of the strongest influences in customer purchasing decisions. Will this product or service really make my life better? Take the Huggies TweetPee prototype as an example. A wearable device with a moisture sensor is attached to a diaper, sending messages to inform parents that it's time for a change. Affordable sensors like this provide comfort and health benefits for the infant and the ability for a caregiver to respond on demand.

So much for making objects smart when we are presented with traditional organisations, the likes of government departments. Siim Sikkut (Digital Policy Advisor - Government Office of Estonia) spoke of building a digital society of e-residence. The Estonian government set out to transform how it engages with its citizens through the use of technology. In Estonia, it doesn't matter who you are, young or old, everyone uses online services to the same level.

Simple things save time and improve experiences and often they are the most obvious. Estonia has a rule of 'once only'. If the Estonian government already has the information, why should it ask for this information again just because you find yourself dealing with a different department. Siim went on to say that his government aimed to recycle information and systems wherever it seemed logical. Open standards play a significant role to ensure that they recycle the experience of experts from around the globe.

Today's world seems to lend itself to small but powerful tweaks. While sensors are affordable and efficient, cost effective changes can be made to business models and processes to help improve the lives of the people we serve. As Paul Keesing put it, "We think we know how customers should be served but we don't."
In the quest to understand the customer better, the digital business will innovate, integrate, and incorporate products and services into the smart worlds of the modern consumer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bioscientists find ways to store data using the DNA of common household bacteria

There is nothing worse than not having enough space on your mobile phone to store holiday photos and videos. We are forced to delete old data to clear room for the new. As we try to find the 'trash' icon, moments pass as we are lost in time. If only we had another gigabyte! Maybe you do, have you checked the fridge lately?
In every refrigerator there is a bacteria feeding frenzy. The household refrigerator is a great breeding ground for bacteria like Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli. This bacteria often causes food poisoning when ingested due to food contamination.

In 2014, Engineer and Neuroscientist, John Hewitt reported that scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were able to store 700 terabytes of data on a single gram of E. coli DNA. That's the same as the amount of data stored on a tower of 14,000 Blu-ray discs. In the future, your data may even be encrypted and stored within your personal DNA.

In their research paper entitled The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things, EMC says "Like the physical universe, the digital universe is large - by 2020 containing nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. It is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 the digital universe - the data we create and copy annually - will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes."

Traditional forms of data storage are no longer going to be sustainable. Today's hard drives are slow, unreliable and consume vast amounts of electricity. Enterprise storage requires redundancy leading to multiple copies of the same data, requiring further duplication as it is backed up. The cost of storing data has the potential to increase exponentially.

Over the past couple of decades, individuals have been forced to consider their carbon footprint and its effect on the world around us. While we're changing our behaviour in regard to greenhouse emissions, we hardly give thought to our resource hungry digital addiction and its effect on global emissions. Most of this is invisible to us as it is in the 'cloud', out of sight and out of mind. The ability to store data on DNA, will significantly disrupt the way that we store information and help us to address the issue of global emissions as we move into the future of innovative, sustainable data storage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nanomechanics and wearable devices contribute to life beyond 100 years

The convergence of health and smart technology are not only changing the way we think about healthcare, but also the future of life as we know it. By 2028, it is expected that one in three people will live beyond 100 years. Not only will driverless cars be the norm but people with locked-in syndrome will be able to drive these vehicles by using their thoughts to provide instructions. They will be able to control their world. The average person will be a 34 year old Indian male.

Over the last couple of days, I have attended the 2015 Healthcare Congress where the importance of technology has been discussed by the majority of speakers.

Futurist and keynote speaker, Craig Rispin, talked about the massive amounts of money being invested into health sciences by leading technology companies, Apple and Google. Some of the more obvious developments in these areas are wearable devices such as the Apple Watch, but what's more surprising is what is happening behind the scenes.

Google X is a semi-secret facility being run by Google to make technological advancements. One such advancement is to baseline the human body, to create a picture of what a healthy human body should be. Never before has there been an example of a perfect human body that can act as a reference point. Comparisons can then be made to aid in the early detection of illness. This will enable future intervention at the onset of disease.

Another research project undertaken by Google is the Google Contact Lens. This lens allows tear fluid to seep into the lens where it can then measure the body's blood sugar levels. Technology like this will allow us to have a better understanding of diseases like diabetes. Not only will we be able to know if medical assistance is required, but when this information is linked to other data sources like food and exercise, the patient will be able to make lifestyle decisions affecting their personal wellbeing.

The world of the unseen is providing new opportunities as we aspire to know more about our bodies. By unseen, I mean what is beneath our skin, but I am also referring to the fascinating world of nanotechnologies.

Dr. Michelle Dickinson of the Nanomechanical Testing Laboratory at The University of Auckland, provided insight into research that involves nanoparticles that aren't visible to the human eye. Research centres around the world are looking for ways to replace needle vaccinations with inhaled medicine for respiratory diseases such as the flu, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

In the future, it is predicted nanotechnology will be used as a tool to gain near real-time insight into what is happening in the human body. With the ability to inhale or snort nanoparticles, information about diseases will be collected as particles use the blood system to traverse the human body.

Today, young people appear to have less regard for privacy, yet the amount of personal information being shared is set to increase. The above examples of research enable the ability to gather masses of personal data. Humans are participating in what is nothing but a 'Data Tsunami'. We want to be able to collect data so that we can understand the world around us. However, data that stands on its own has little value. When this data is shared, however, it can be analysed to help identify trends that will lead to further investment and medical advancement. It will be interesting, therefore, to see how this data is managed and controlled.

It's time to rethink the term 'midlife crisis'. As technology is helping to advance healthcare, life expectancy will also increase. If you thought you were running out of time to achieve all that you want, it might be time to think about bigger goals and achievements. It sounds like you may have more time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today I'm blogging from the 2015 Healthcare Congress

Over the next couple of days I will be blogging and tweeting from New Zealand's 2015 Healthcare Congress which is being held in Auckland.

Why the Healthcare Congress? As you can imagine, technology has a significant role to play in the wellbeing of people.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"3 Years is a decade" says NASA's Soderstrom to a crowd of 500 top Chief Information Officers

In his presentation at the New Zealand CIO Summit, Tom Soderstrom (IT Chief Technology Officer, NASA Jet Propulsion Labs) talked about how quickly technology is changing. He shared a thought provoking statement "3 years is a decade in IT years."

Tom compared the difference in the way technology is used between a freshman and a senior college student (American education system). An example, is that the senior student used Facebook as a freshman but the freshmen of today may choose not to use Facebook. The attention span for a technology platform is on the rapid decline.

This creates a challenge for the corporate world. If you intend to deploy a technology within a duration of 3 years, by 'go live' you'll be no better off than you are today. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Failing to keep up with technology creates risk. An employee tries to email a large file to a customer. Your email service prohibits this usage by enforcing a size limitation. A few clicks and the employee is sharing the file using Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or some other "we'll give you 50GB of what your company won't provide" service.

Let's not ask if your corporate data is in someone else's cloud. The fact is, you know it is. Why? Maybe you were too busy working with HR on a policy full of disciplinary consequences while all this was going on.

My concern is that most companies I know of are more than just an "IT decade" behind. But it doesn't have to be this way. One of the most compelling reasons for considering cloud based technology is that it often provides a rapid path to deployment. Corporate offerings of Dropbox, Google Drive and others, address concerns around security, ownership and governance.

In the presentation prior to Tom, Jacki Johnson (CEO of IAG's New Zealand business) talked about the level of work that most people fail to ever get to, that of ‘strategic leadership’. It’s the place where you have 80% of the fact base with 20% being gut and intuition. People will not know if you have made the right decision for 3 - 5 years. This is pretty scary when strategic leadership intercepts with accelerated change.

If we are going to step up to the plate of strategic leadership, we must learn how to use the facts along with our gut and intuition. We must predict technological outcomes in line with rapidly changing customer demographics and workplaces of the future. We need to ensure that corporate governance enables the rapid adoption of new technology.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Keeping up with customers' changing appetites and what they like is the greatest challenge

Jacki Johnson - CEO IAG
Yesterday, while at the New Zealand CIO Summit, I had the privilege of listening to Jacki Johnson (CEO of IAG's New Zealand business) talking about the challenges that businesses and leadership are facing in a modern digital world. One of the things that always excites me, is when I hear people talking about customer centricity. Jacki is one of those people.

Businesses are encountering significant challenges due to disruptive technology and rapidly changing customer demographics. Today's threat is about being out-competed by younger, more nimble companies if we don't think about the customer. Small business has the ability to leapfrog big business.

Jacki shared a story about a trip she made to the slums of Dharavi, India (where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed). This story is confronting as it highlights how smaller companies who are customer focused can take our place. Jacki met with a lady who had started up a small enterprise, cooking food for local businesses out of her 3m x 3m home. She had a single hotplate, provided by World Vision.

The only technology the lady had (other than a hotplate) was a mobile phone. An essential piece of equipment for order taking.

Through a translator the lady was asked what her biggest challenge was. Jacki's group expected her answer to be along the lines of needing more hotplates. However she responded by saying, "I don't know how I'm going to keep up with my customers' changing appetite and what they like."

Her response surprised the group of visitors because of how customer focused she was. Upon further questioning, she revealed that her customers were wanting Asian cuisine and she only knew how to cook Indian food. She was listening to her customers and knew how she needed to adapt.

According to IDG, over 80% of money spent on Information Technology projects is now marketing related. Over the two days of the conference, many of the presenters talked about the need for Information Departments to work on building better relationships across the business with a deliberate focus on customer outcomes. I feel that there may be a gap between these new relationships and IT professionals' ability to have strong interpersonal relations at the best of times.

Jacki said something I hope I will never forget while working with technology, "We are analog humans living in a digital world."

Keeping this at the front of our minds will help us to build relationships with customers, vendors and people within the business without expecting programmed responses or outcomes. It will help us to hold onto the joy of unpredictable surprises. After all, business is about people, not technology.

If IT is to deliver excellence to the business, we need to be focused on better customer outcomes.

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