Jan 21

smart-pill-technology-marketThe Consumer Electronics Show this month has led to lots of press on the internet of things, where every gadget and device is connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data.

Samsung’s Chief Executive pledged that every single piece of Samsung hardware will be connected to the internet within five years, including TVs and domestic appliances. This is very much science fact, not science fiction, and while many will yell is there no privacy left in this world, I would like to suggest my top 3, the first of which I presented for the first time back in 2008:

1. The kitchen – imagine if you are on a controlled diet and you decide to break the rules and cook a ready-meal in the microwave followed by sticky-toffee pudding. Your fridge sensors notice what has been removed from the freezer compartment and the microwave tells your fridge you are about to cook that high-fat, sugar-and-salt meal. The microwave declines your request. You are the system administrator of your kitchen, so you override the microwave and instruct it to cook the food. Your microwave obeys, but it then notifies the fridge, which as the central processing unit of the kitchen sends a note to your doctor and your insurance company, and now you are no longer insured.

2. Fruit & Vegetables – coming from a background of food, I always wondered why my father had to keep a box of fruit that was always bruised or damaged to one side. With RFID chips on the cartons plus tighter planning with transportation schedules, more fruit makes it to its destination intact and bad apples cannot influence the rest of the crate.

3. The health pill – my favourite of the three, which is a tiny pill that you take weekly that monitors your wellbeing and sends a weekly status check to your doctor over wifi via a traffic light system. If it displays green you continue as normal; amber and you are sent a text message asking you to make an appointment; if the doctor receives a red signal, you are called within the hour. Preventative action can save the health services millions and technology must be used to help facilitate change.

I am all for the internet of things because the possibilities are endless, I just think they could have found a more interesting name for it.

Jan 05

Maslow_2014_revised.jpgThe Christmas holidays are just about at an end and people are turning their attentions to the new year and their work. Gifts have been exchanged, clementines and chocolate devoured and the gyms have started their annual marketing campaigns to entice more of us to exercise, if only for two weeks in January.

As the new year rolls in we have other matters to deal with – new terms and skills, even new anxieties. The future of work may well mean no CVs, no performance reviews, no permanence. Business Intelligence might easily be shared in real time via wearable devices, mobile certainly could dominate everything and many business services crowdsourced.

Topping the LinkedIn hottest skills list last year was ‘Statistical Analysis and Data Mining’ and the most popular coding language was ‘Python.’ All of this was new to the average person and business.

The standout thing for me was the sudden loss of time yet it became even more important to assign time to networking, speaking to and meeting important customers and key influencers in our lives. The image above right made me chuckle – I enjoyed my Business Administration classes back in the 80s the most, and no class was complete without Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but last year we added 3 new rows to life’s necessities.

The biggest change of all this year will be ‘FORO’ – the fear of running out, and so our briefcases and satchels will need to include even more cables and devices.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

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Apr 05

When asked “How will the future look?” I replied “Differently.” How different I am not entirely sure, but I can confidently say a few things.

  1. The future will include an increasing amount of measurement, ie. using data to crunch our business information. The more we know about our customers, the more we can target them with products they need and want. Why try and sell a lawn mower to a lady who lives on the 10th floor of an apartment block? A scatter-gun approach of marketing to thousands in the hope that five people buy is history. The future market segment is “One.” One person. One set of preferences.
  2. In future, customers will help set strategy arm-in-arm with CEOs. Technology allows us to be better listeners and social media especially is redefining the way business interacts with both customers and employees.
  3. The future is up to me. I will assemble my own degree from the thousands of excellent courses available, most of them free of charge. I will learn when I want, on the device I choose. I will learn on my iPhone on the train to work, on an iPad in the evening and on the laptop at the weekend. Each will know exactly where I left off and at which point to pick up.
  4. In future I will have more control. When I my car breaks down, I will access the ‘Parts’ section of my car’s website, download a new component, print it on my 3D printer, and fit it by watching and listening to instructions. In 60 minutes I am on the road.
  5. Almost everything in future will be connected. When I brush my teeth twice a day for two minutes, my toothbrush will know. I will be given recognition and offered an ‘m-voucher’ via my mobile for toothpaste the moment I walk into a supermarket – my reward is a free tube of toothpaste by a leading brand and a discount towards my next dental check due in 4 weeks.

People will not allow technology to watch us all day, every day, but these things are happening. It will be interesting to see how they play out.

Oct 10

Technology is headlining so much of the evolution we are seeing in business, but for the consumer, digital has changed things even more drastically. Our phone is the passport to almost everything, yet even this device will disappear into our clothing and our cars as technologies such as Microsoft’s PixelSense come to the fore.

The phone is not just what keeps us in touch, it gives us the truth. Advertisers can no longer hide. Just a few years ago, the only way to differentiate between brands of television, sportswear or fast-moving consumer goods was to fall for the adverts coming at us from all angles (and I do like ‘Mad Men’). Today, you get the real views of millions of people and the opinions of those closest to you by turning to one of the social tools on your handheld. A recent survey said that 14% of customers trust advertisers, whereas 78% trust their peer reviews – which is why TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Amazon and eBay are so powerful. The meaningful data that we can access at the touch of a button means a product whose message is overhyped can be exposed within moments and ridiculed to a joke in an afternoon in tweetland.

Jun 24

In the spirit of the European Championships, my headline represents a football scoreline. Yes, technology has edged ahead in the customer service stakes. Here are two examples.

As my picture shows, the Heathrow car park-to-terminal electric pod is in full swing. It is wonderful. Park your car, go to pod A or B and follow the simplest of instructions to transport yourself to the terminal in exactly 5 minutes. No waiting for buses or queues and every detail has been accounted for in the interaction with the passenger.

On the return journey from my trip, at the terminal in Dubai in the middle of the night, I approached a very quiet Emirates check-in area with no other people around. I checked myself in, printed my boarding card then my luggage tag, weighed my bag, saw it shuffle back and forth as its weight was verified, and finally watched it disappear down the conveyor belt. I marvelled at how easy this was. In fact, I came home and shared how excellent the customer service experience was and yet there was not a human being in sight. I even created a slide for my presentation around this story. This is technology at its best and the place we are heading.

Was I pleased with my experiences because there were no other people around? I don’t think so. I was satisfied because they were easy, I didn’t have to wait and there was no negotiation involved. In a world where there is too much to absorb in too little time, this is what we look for in our daily interactions. What does this mean for us humans? We really have to find other ways to add value.

Mar 30

I spent the last couple of weeks travelling to Johannesburg and Dubai, meeting my team, talking to clients and helping with deals for some of our exciting prospects.

As ever, I learned some new things – particularly how de rigueur it is to carry several mobile phones. I had to chuckle, people in restaurants obsessively checking all their phones to see if anybody had called or sent a text message – it was most entertaining.  I was asked – and frowned at condescendingly once – why I didn’t possess a Blackberry and only carry an iPhone, as if I were a handbag without a Chanel label.

So, in response, how about we all become i-people with an i-life, devoting ourselves to one company who sponsor our existence? We could live in an i-house or i-pad (get it?), drive a shared or borrowed i-car (recall collaborative consumption), wear an i–suit with our devices embedded into the fabric, have an i-pet and even an i-wife. No, I will not discuss this last one, it will only lead me into trouble!

Throughout my travels the best thing of all was still meeting new people face to face, finding a connection and common talking points and discussing future alliances and partnerships. However cool these devices might be, I don’t ever wish my telephone to be a status symbol; it is a facilitation device, a communications tool, not a pair of Jimmy Choo’s! Forgive my dwelling on fashion, but my apprenticeship was at Versace and I do like a nice suit.

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May 03

I have mentioned some of these sites before, such as NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar and Swap, in previous posts, but this is a trend that must be taken seriously. Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers have shared an extremely insightful view of how we are moving towards a world of sharing and renting, as opposed to owning (‘What’s Mine is Yours’ – well worth reading). It is changing a mind-set started in the 1950s of hyper-consumerism, where all our ills were swept under the carpet with just another purchase. So the old community activities and sharing were quietly eased out of the picture as we focused on number one (me, me, me). Technology is facilitating change and allowing cool sites such as ZipCar, Freecycle, thredUP, Ecomodo, Landshare and CouchSurfing to bring together people with a specific need (ie. somewhere to stay during a trip overseas) with those that have something to share (ie. a spare couch for travellers). What is most pleasing is that hard working people who gave up their leisure time and hobbies so that they could afford bigger houses and cars are now utilising the benefits of technology to claw back some of that valuable time. Back in the depression of the 1930s, President Roosevelt in the US shut down the country’s banks for a week, and many stores and practitioners were paid not in cash, but in home-grown groceries, batteries, oil and tobacco. Whilst we may not be heading back to the 30s, technology is helping to drive new thinking, where we don’t need to own a physical CD to listen to music, don’t want the DVD but want the movie; in other words, we want not the physical goods but the experience. Here is another, very relevant, quote from Bill McKibben, from his book Deep Economy: “For most of human history, the two birds ‘More’ and ‘Better’ roosted on the same branch. You could toss one stone and hope to hit them both. Now you’ve got the stone of your own life, or your own society, gripped in your hand, you have to choose between. It’s More or Better.” I like that.

Jan 06

The annual gadget extravaganza is under way in Las Vegas and thousands are there to digest the announcements. I read, and like, the term “intelligence of things” from the event, and manufacturers are upgrading their products with technologies such as GPS, internet and bluetooth to inject connectivity and new life into them.  “Everything connected” appears to be the trend and connectivity will spread beyond computer-related devices to everyday products such as meat thermometers and toasters. Hardware will be worthless without the app.

Dec 23

Here are my three closing thoughts for 2010:

1. As we transition to the cloud, I am seeing an increase in the US of sites that cater to borrowing, such as NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar and SnapGoods. Will we move away from ownership and borrow everything? Quite possibly – and if we no longer collect books, music and movies, it will also free up shelf space too.

2. Social media was headline news all year. Will this evolve into Social TV, with billions of TVs connected to the internet and allow you to run live commentaries with your acquaintances? Will we ever be left alone again? We need to get used to a life where others are looking in.

3. Finally, and most importantly, research at Princeton University discovered that £47,000 is the level of income beyond which there is no improvement in emotional well-being. How interesting. Could this figure be the perfect balance between challenge, satisfaction and a stress-free day?

Whatever does or doesn’t materialise, we must get accustomed to change. It is taking place whether we like it or not. Personally, I enjoy it.

Dec 03

I have no idea how tomorrow’s devices will shape up, but I do know they are taking over the world and most of us will be online for longer. There are 1.8 billion internet users (half of them from just 5 countries), Tencent in China is the largest social network with 637m users, the ramp-up time for new products in this space is setting new records (28 days to sell the first million iPads), Oprah has 4.5m Twitter followers, commerce and shopping is now on your handheld device, and Steve Jobs (genius) remains king of the jungle! Are you a part of the Facebook/Apps/Google revolution – is your company and product fast/easy/fun – if not, you are standing still, and may well get left behind.

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