The Government seems to be thinking the right way. Phrases like ‘strategy is showing/ delivering’ don’t normally roll off the tongues of digital tsars. Also creating a data and API repository which other public sector units can use is quite a forward step. @MTBracken
In general the UK is now emerging as a strong innovation hub. The narrative of 3-5 years ago, which was all about ‘needing to move to Silicon Valley’ has gone away, as local and US investors have stepped up to build businesses here. As would be expected, the UK leads in areas such as FinTech. With a recent track record of successful European start ups, from Spotify, to Skype, to Raspberry Pi, there is also a ripple effect as senior members from successful start ups step out to create their own businesses. There are now some nine clusters of tech across the UK, including Cambridge, Portsmouth and Birmingham, driven by talent, cost of living, and telecoms infrastructure, amongst others. @ashleyhi
At the other end of the scale, GE are positioning Predix as the OS of the industrial internet. And Marco Innunziata, Chief Economist pointed out that allowing windmills in windfarms to ‘talk to each other’, allow wind farms to reduce the costs by a factor of 6. @marcoannunziata.
One of the interesting challenges of the IOT is the blurring of blue-collar and white-collar work. This is another potential disruption and a cultural challenge. In fact Innunziata describes GE as a ‘part industrial’ and ‘part software’ company, with significant presence in the Silicon Valley.
There is still a big question mark around reaching millennials and the next generation of employees/ customers. On the one hand this is a natural order. One way or the other you will be hiring the next generation over the next 5 years. But to consider this the panacea for changing your corporate culture is misleading. How quickly will the 21 year old you hire become a part of the orthodoxy? Will he or she really understand the subsequent generation – somebody who might be 15 today? Creating an open culture in the longer term needs more than hiring a few young people. @jooteoh.
In a fast changing and unpredictable world, the value of simulations rises, and with the computing power and data at our disposal, it is now much more feasible to run simulations for all the situations which may not be easy to replicate in real life (plane evacuation on water, for example), or logistically impossible (a thousand repetitions of the plane evacuating in water with varying conditions). In the language of innovation, simulations is a very useful way of creating fast-fail models without having to repeat all of them in reality. @simudyne
A new and welcome way of thinking about diversity emerged when Belinda Parmar played up (rather than down) gender stereotypes. This goes with my personal belief that we need to celebrate inequality and use it, rather than trying to create a synthetic equality. Men and women are differently wired. People from different continents and cultures think differently. This is why diversity adds value. If we were all the same, then an all male all asian team would be no different from an ethnically diverse, gender balanced one. So the argument about women’s rights – for equal opportunities – starts to diverge from the argument about the need for gender diversity, in some ways. Belinda’s axis of empathisers vs systemisers, and building more empathy in the workplace, was an interesting one and worth thinking about. @belindaparmar.
3D Printing and prototyping is ready for primetime. With the price of 3-d printers falling to £1000-£2000, and the consumables – a roll of low cost filament which allows you print small components at under a £1 running cost, it will be increasingly possible for hardware and product prototyping to become faster, cheaper and more diy, thereby speeding up the pace of innovation. With more companies getting into specific usages around 3D scanning, this will also open up new opportunities for modelling of people, places, and things. It took about a minute for me to get a 3D scan of myself, standing on a rotating base. @3dify @ultimaker
Christie’s is a classic old world business but Steven Murphy’s session was a wonderful illustration of how businesses can evolve quite smoothly into a digital culture without having to rip the guts out of the operations. I also felt they did a great job of making the brand younger and more accessible. The results were clear – art is now democratic, global, collaborative and digital, and Christies is still at the centre of it. @christiesinc
Also fascinating was the Honest By session with Bruno Pieters. It may be a glimpse of the future, but to build a business that does not start with the objective of profit maximisation takes a very specific type of person. If trust is the new currency of the digital age, then Honest By will never fall short of working capital. #brunopieters
The PerfectPitch session was very instructive, not least, in the way crowds think. 3 Startups pitched their business, not just to the on-stage dragons, but to the audience, in a live crowdfunding model. The audience used an app to commit notional sums in real time, for each of the businesses, based on their funding need, business idea, model, and overall story. This may be a London bias, given the high leaning towards media and media studies, but I found it amazing that a room full of innovation people, were more interested in funding a magazine subscription model (Readbug) than a healthcare innovation (Pocket Anatomy). The magazine subscription model – similar to Spotify, where you pay a fixed subscription per month for unlimited access to a number of magazines is one that I personally would all but opt out of immediately. In the world of Flipboard and Zite, and about a zillion others, and trying to build a model around paid content (talk to Newscorp about this one), you would have to work very hard to convince me. On the other hand as the healthcare space opens up, an app that captures the human anatomy and allows doctors to give patients a much more visual and recordable explanation of their problem, one that can be saved for later is such a good idea. Even if the initial idea doesn’t work, there is a lot of room for flipping this business to something that does work. I would be in there in a flash. The third business was Podpoint, who do the charging stations for electric vehicles, once again, a clear growth area if it can be done well. I had to leave before this one finished.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Awabot – the little robots ambling around the rooms, talking to people. Awabots are operated by humans using controls, but provide an eye level screen for conversation. So you can actually see & talk to the other person behind the robot. Interesting idea, though in it’s infancy and a lot will depend on the dexterity of mechanical operations, and hopefully the addition of more AI into the interface. Meanwhile this little French start up is looking to make friends with you. @awabot
Overall, 2 great days spent and lot’s of ideas sparked. Got to sit in a Tesla and meet some likeminded people. I missed a couple of good sessions – half of Alberto Prado’s (Philips) session and Ron Williams (Simplest). Some of the things I didn’t see were mobile payments – spreading like wildfire as we speak, true healthcare service innovation, and perhaps the kind of 10X thinking that Larry Page keeps talking about. Something for the next year perhaps @ftlivedigital?
As always for me it’s not just about what I hear from the speakers, or speak with fellow attendees, it’s the thoughts and sparks it creates in my head that is the real takeaway of the event. After all, innovation can’t stop after the conference is over – the real work starts now!
(I had the privilege of speaking about IOT at the Oxford Technology and Media forum yesterday. What follows is the gist of my session and some thoughts from the panel discussion)
The tech industry is often guilty of pushing technology solutions to consumer without focusing on the benefits, the emotions and simplicity. Invariably, businesses that get it, do better at selling tech to consumers. Apple are clearly the masters at it, but UK customers will know that after many years of ‘interactive television’ discussions, what customers bought were ‘sky plus’ and ‘red button services’. (The technology didn’t actually deliver on the promise, but that’s a different story).
So we come to the Internet of Things and I believe, we’ve swung to a different end of the pendulum. We’ve created a pithy, catchy phrase, something that everybody can relate to and not be daunted by the jargon. I would personally have preferred the internet of stuff (stuff is cooler than things). But the internet of things means (pardon the expression) bugger-all when it comes to actually buying, implementing or solving something.
Maybe I’m being harsh. It’s a catch-all word conveying a general wave of technologies much like “digital convergence” in the broadcast and comms space. But it’s a very loaded phrase and masks many layers of complexity that haven’t yet been resolved to the point where they can be implemented. Or even understood by the consumer.
The IOT includes communication between machines, between people and machines, and also between people and people via machines. It includes wearables, and all manners of sensors, and an ever increasing ocean of data, an implicit assumption of an economically viable, reliable and available network. And so far, very few standards.
After all, we’re all spoilt by the Internet – in the world of standards driven browsers, we only had to worry about the browser environment. The most complex questions in the early days of the web included ‘web safe’ colours. And later, pushing the limits of HTML. You never had to think about the OS, the device (are you viewing the website on a Dell or IBM laptop?) You didn’t have to think about whether the user was sitting or standing or walking around. And all you had to know was a URL, and the internet would find the website from over 50 million computers in a fraction of a second. Even transactions and ecommerce are now taken for granted.
In the IOT world, all these are non-standard and have to be thought from scratch. What’s the user interface of a ‘thing’? If it’s a sensor on a coffee machine vs a door, how should we access the data, how can interact with the thing? The design challenge moves from an ‘interface’ design to an experience and even environment design. Who designs the experience of walking into a retail store which is armed with iBeacons or other sensors? Design challenge will range from fitting an antenna while managing heat dissipation, to figuring out how to retail product aesthetics while adding a bunch of tech.
Service design has been a term in vogue for a few months now, but is fundamental to the creation of IOT models. We must take a design centric view and build from there. That’s the only way we’ll get around to focusing on the right problems to solve, to ensure adoption.
As with all emerging technologies, we’re in the world of ‘compound change’ – where each layer builds on previous layers, and so it creates an exponential change curve, which is near impossible for us to predict, since we’re still very used to thinking in linear terms. What is intuitive to me, is that we’ll get entirely new companies dominating the IOT space, in the way that FB, LinkedIn and Twitter dominate the social sphere, and Google and Amazon dominate the web, Apple and Samsung dominate mobile devices and Microsoft and Intel dominated the Desktop world.
Because, this will take a whole new business model. It will shift value, destroy old models and create entirely new services. Most often, we think of new tech as better ways of doing what we do today. So the ‘better’ model leads us to thinking about how our fridge will tell us when it’s out of milk. Rather than ‘different’ models – perhaps our fridge telling us which of the foods we’re storing has the earliest use-by date, so we can modify our consumption appropriately. Or other more imaginative and useful behaviours.
Undoubtedly the way in which business models will evolve will involve adding layers of services to existing and new products. The value of the service will outstrip the value of the product. You may pay more for the service of tracking your weight and the feedback on your lifestyle and diet, than you do for the weighing scale itself. In fact asset ownership models may change, with companies willing to give you the asset for free in order to lock you into the service, or simply, follow an asset leasing model, which brings down your outlay but enables longer term revenue stream for the seller. Soon we should be able to view this information and services layer explicitly and this explicit-isation of the service and information layer may be one of the biggest sources of consumer value in the IOT. This would enable us to understand better the total cost of any product (say a sweater, or a vaccuum cleaner) and make different choices on that basis. It would also align value realisation with costs – imagine a washing machine which you lease and pay per use.
Although it’s tempting to consider just the things we acquire and own, there are all those things we use, which form the asset base for service delivery, from smart meters, to hotel rooms and railway stations to rented cars. These can all also follow the same principles of creating explicit service and information layers, so that maintenance, usage, and cost and value can all be tracked more easily. Then you have natural resource and public environments – weather, floods, pollution tracking, and more.
As has been noted, it is almost impossible to talk about IOT and emerging technology of any kind without talking about data, privacy and security. I used to think, like everybody else, about a data brokerage, or info-mediary. Now I think data-brokerage should be a feature built into every product. A data brokerage module will ensure that consumers data is stored, transacted and valued in a way that is fair to both sides, and in a transparent manner. Really, you can’t ask for more than that.
Undoubtedly the IOT is a big deal. We’re talking about billions of connected devices changing the way we live our everyday lives. The transformativer potential of this can barely be imagined. I just hope we use this to solve some of the bigger problems we face – the energy crisis, caring for an ageing population, getting supplies more efficiently to the needy, across the world. And not spending too much time debating whether our kettle should gossip with our washing machine.
- Make the message the story.
- Be contextual in the positioning of your message
- Create actions in your messages – not just ‘buy’ actions
- Understand aspirations from a cross cultural perspective
- Own your communication and include direct to customer channels
- Build a strong trust bridge before sending the marketing cavalry across it