Tagbriefing

An emerging tech briefing for busy executives: The Imaginary Unit

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The Imaginary Unit

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Patrick Tanguay and I have teamed up to create a new product that is aimed squarely at helping extremely busy executives:

A monthly briefing that distills a month’s worth of our informational throughput into an easy-to-skim format. It puts the most relevant discussions around emerging technology we see into context. For those executives that need to know at some detail what’s going on in this field, but have very little time to follow the discussions themselves. Who need to make well-informed decisions without missing a beat. This is what we will try to help with.

It’s an experiment for us. We believe there is a very small number of people who fit that profile, but that they will tremendously gain from this kind of offering. It’s quick, and it’s a condensed, light version of the kind of input you’d get if you hired either one of us for a longer, in-depth project.

Needless to say, all of us will continue to share our content in various forms online and in talks, usually for free, in all the usual places. I think of this executive briefing as the other side of the proverbial coin – where we sit down and go the extra mile to distill it all for use by a different demographic, and for a completely different context, than usual.

If you think this is for you, or have someone in your company for who it might be the right thing, why don’t you send them over to The Imaginary Unit.

Tectonic Shifts #03: Cloud Computing

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Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

Cloud Computing can make your company’s life easier by allowing you to focus on building your service/product rather than mucking around with IT infrastructure – at least that’s the main motivator for embracing the Cloud. By renting on-demand computing power rather than owning server hardware, you can now access and pay processing power on demand at every level of the technology stack. On the most basic level it means virtualized server power (of course all of this still runs very much on physical infrastructure). The key term to remember is “as a Service”, as in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Plaform (PaaS) and Application/Software (SaaS). That moment when you check your Gmail account from your phone, or share a photo on Dropbox? You’re using Cloud services right there.

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Tectonic Shifts #02: Social

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Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

Social – short for Social Media, and a key part of the holy trinity of Social/Mobile/Location-based services – is what happens when users connect: They connect around topics & interest, around products, on platforms, between platforms. It’s ubiquitous conversations as popularized by the Cluetrain Manifesto (2000), and as such maybe one of the oldest (internet-based) tech trends that we still see evolving. Social includes, but goes way beyond platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, and has impacts on everything from customer relations and marketing to business models & business strategy to customer service and product design.

Numbers/impact

Social is a development of such ridiculous size that quantifying it wouldn’t get us very far. A few pointers as to just how big anyway just for good measure:

  • 74% of adults use social networking sites (Pew Internet 2014)
  • 70% of citizens in Iceland actively use social media, 57% in the UK, 35% in Germany, 64% in Taiwan, 46% in China… (Statista 2014)
  • Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Facebook are als considered “billion dollar companies”.

More important than these numbers is the central role that Social Media has been playing for the last 10-15 years. Used almost synonymously with “the internet”, Social has been the key driver behind the massive user empowerment as well as a whole new way that groups can coordinate online to affect change – politically or in campaigns of more consumption-oriented nature.

What does this mean for society & industries?

Social touches practically all areas of an organization. Marketing & communications, sure. But also customer relationship management and customer service; strategy; product design; product development; internal processes; market research; and many more.

Products and services that smartly leverage Social have a much higher chance to succeed. Those designed without at least consideration for Social are bound to fail in the market. This doesn’t mean everything has to have a Facebook Like button on it, of course. However, not leveraging Social should be a very conscious decisions. There’s almost no internet or media related product that don’t have potential for a Social layer of some sort or another.

Social Media as well as product design with Social elements has been around for more than a decade. It’s a mature field. Don’t do it with amateurs, work with professionals – there’s a whole industry out there. However, be aware that really embracing Social will almost certainly lead to a bias towards more openness and more intense engagement with stakeholder groups inside and outside the organization. Again, set up the infrastructure and team to make and maintain the transition smoothly.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

Every. Single. One.

The most obvious and direct impact was most certainly seen around communications/marketing, publishing, music & video, as well as campaigning & politics.

If you think your organization or industry isn’t impacted, think again – you’re very likely missing something.

Risks & opportunities

Opportunities:

  • Social creates a lot of data points both explicitly (conversations, items shared, etc.) and implicitly (usage data). This means lots of intelligence on user behavior and desires, in other words: market research.
  • New services and products: Social data and the structure associated with it allows for new business models and product ideas.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Social opens new channels and ways to engage with stakeholders (clients, customers, users, current and potential employees, collaborators, media, etc.)

 

Risks:

  • Privacy implications are huge. Don’t be a creep.
  • Implementely haphazardly or bluntly, or without giving the project the necessary love, Social engagement can backfire and create bad publicity at large scale.
  • High costs as processes, team structures and infrastructure need to be adapted, and are likely to be in flux for a longer time.
  • Lots of snake oil out there. Proceed with care.

Resources, key players, links

  • There are too many players, agencies, platforms to name here.
  • Facebook’s own business backgrounders are quite useful.
  • Otherwise, check what’s already out there in terms of networks and tools.

 

To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.

Tectonic Shifts #01: The Internet of Things (IoT)

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Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

What happens when you connect everything to the internet? The umbrella term Internet of Things (IoT) describes a wide range of technologies and applications ranging from sensor-packed, connected homes (Smart Home) to Wearables (connected fitness bands, smart watches) to networked factories or logistics centers (M2M, or machine-to-machine communications). The field is split between consumer-focused products on one hand and large-scale industrial applications on the other. While the estimates about market sizes and impact differ dramatically, everyone agrees that it’s huge, and growing fast. No matter which industry your company is in, this is not a topic to be ignored.

Numbers/impact

The exact estimates on the size of the market differ dramatically depending on who does the estimation and on how the market is defined. The one thing all parties agree on is that the market volume and impact are huge, fast growing and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg yet.

 

Some of the ball park figures often quoted in the industry and their sources:

  • USD 14.4 trillion value created between 2013 and 2022 (Cisco)
  • From 2 billion connected objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020 (Intel)
  • IoT market USD 7.1 trillion by 2020 (IDC)
  • More than 50 billion connected devices by 2020 (Ericsson)
  • “it will dwarf any other market” (Freescale & ARM)
  • “potential economic impact of the Internet of Things to be $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion per year by 2025” (McKinsey)

What does this mean for society & industries?

For the industries involved – which might very well be almost all industries to some degree – the growing role of the IoT means

  • large potential for innovation
  • access to new data-driven business models as new services can be built around user data and responsive devices
  • the software side of hardware and consumer devices becomes more relevant as hardware and software merge into new services and products

 

For the society at large, a utopian view of the IoT would assume…

  • a more responsive environment;
  • empowering technologies like connected systems and tools to allow seniors to live autonomously longer;
  • increasingly computer/robot driven economic growth;

 

A more dystopian view would instead assume…

  • large-scale security issues due to increasingly networked devices without sufficient emphasis on security and safety;
  • a control (rather than empowering) infrastructure controlled by large conglomerates or governments that fosters compliance and consumption over citizen participation;
  • ubiquitous surveillance through connected devices that spy on their users;

 

In other words, privacy and participation become a salient design and product issue.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

The IoT and its implications on the availability of data from ubiquitous sensors have impact across most industries. Most directly impacted:

  • design and product development companies since new categories of products become possible;
  • manufacturing and logistics companies (from automotive and aerospace to cargo transport firms) as sensors allow for real-time tracking and predictive maintenance of factories, production lines and logistics networks;
  • consumer electronics companies as the internet and connectedness becomes a default for consumer devices;

Risks & opportunities

Risks:

  • privacy and security implications are key concerns in connected, data-intense services and products;
  • standards wars and incompatibility between proprietary solutions;
  • data ownership can be tricky;

 

Opportunities:

  • new business models and product categories;
  • products and services aren’t “done” when they’re shipped, as the connection and customer relationship stays relevant over time (software updates, etc.)
  • potential cost savings in industrial settings thanks to real-time information (predictive maintenance, real-time tracking, etc.)

Resources, key players, links

The big players are Cisco, Bosch, Intel, IBM. There is an unusually wide range of other large corporates, SMEs, startups and independent players. Really, the IoT is one of the few fields in which everyone dabbles.

A note

With ThingsCon, I co-founded a conference that focuses heavily on IoT and the new hardware industry. The next ThingsCon will take place in May 2015.

 

To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.