My quote of the week

The rate of adoption of some technologies and the pace of disruption is such that it is almost out of control. How can we keep up?

Three things are clearly leading the way in technology-led change: cloud computing and related services, mobile solutions and internet of things, and this is one of my favourite quotes, from Clayton Christensen, Professor at Harvard Business School, to support what is happening and to underline that we cannot ignore it:

You may hate gravity, but gravity doesn’t care. Substitute gravity with cloud computing, big data, mobility, or social.”

 

Londoners check their phones 214 times a day

checking phoneA taxi driver laughed at me as I dodged traffic to run to his vehicle, pulling behind me a small suitcase with a laptop bag that was hanging off to one side, plus one phone in each hand. “Those things have created this non-stop society,” he declared. He is right.

We are always switched on, trying to do more in less time. It makes me laugh how the red light of a Blackberry or the ringtone from an iPhone makes people suddenly jump to action, obsessively responding to the latest message. People wait at the ready the moment a plane’s wheels touch down to sigh with relief as they are happily reconnected.

Head of Ariadne Capital Julie Meyer once said society operates at 2 speeds: start-up and history. I agree, but will we ever get control of it? One major UK consultancy has banned employees from sending internal email on a Friday, but we are caught in a circle of connectivity from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

At a key client meeting this week, the chair asked for a short break. Most people just dropped their heads into their devices and emailed the entire time. One person took out an old Nokia Lumia phone, which sent the group into raptures.

FT columnist Gillian Tett recently wrote, “The challenge of the cyber revolution is that the pace of change is so fast that few pundits have good answers about how institutions – let alone societies – can adapt.” She was referring to the changing face of employment, but it applies across the board. We all just run with it. Nobody knows how to manage it appropriately.

In the end, I had to ask the taxi driver for his advice. He looked so calm, despite having to make his living driving bumper to bumper in London’s traffic. “I just handle it day by day,” he said, “one action at a time”.

A view on the latest trends

Annual Trends

I gathered a lot of useful information from my travels this summer and particularly liked a story around global trends. I have mashed some of this with my own thoughts on how technology is at the heart of change:

  1. Rising demand for resources as the world’s population grows – the large emerging markets will drive this need, and as well as staple food and clothing, they will insist on smartphones, online shopping and the fastest connectivity.
  2. A growing urban middle-class in emerging economies – this huge group of people knows what it wants and it buys the latest trends; as the generations grow up, technology will very much be a part of their day-to-day existence.
  3. The population in those economies will experience lifestyle changes – lifestyle means quality of life and this implies disposable income to buy and consume – technology sits at the centre of this movement, be it phones and gadgetry or purchasing via smartphones.
  4. More online shopping everywhere – my key message here is where in the past people went through a process before purchasing something, now we are online all the time, so in effect we are always shopping, especially via mobiles.
  5. The percentage of the world’s population that is over 60 will be a third bigger by 2050 than it is today – let’s not wait for 2050; right now, people over 60 know what they want, they purchase leisure-related goods and services like never before, and they have the cash – this demographic needs to be targeted starting now.

 I like to stay grounded, so as I lead a global project for the company looking to the future, I have started by looking back, as I think the future will be best served by a mix of old-fashioned values and people interacting, combined with the evolution and speed that technology brings.

Nowhere to hide

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.

Top 3 in Technology

The Consumer Electronics Show is the annual gadget-fest held in Las Vegas and it is taking place right now. I thought it apt to share what I believe to be the 3 key technology trends of the year. Admittedly, I could elaborate on each of these for a blog post of their own, and some may well evolve into something different, but my top 3 are the technology-related trends I believe will end up impacting our day to day lives, regardless of our industry:

1. MOBILE will be far bigger than we think.  Mobile internet devices (especially smartphones) outsell all computing devices and certainly PCs, and mobility will continue to change the dynamic of how we operate. By being better connected, it means we don’t have to be in one place, and this will influence remote working, a different type of communication and the restructuring of the traiditional office setup.

2.  This leads nicely to NFC, or NEAR-FIELD COMMUNICATION.  NFC is a short-range wireless technology that makes use of interacting electromagnetic radio fields instead of the typical direct radio transmissions used by technologies such as Bluetooth. It is meant for applications where a physical touch, or close to it, is required. NFC is planned for use in mobile phones for, among other things, payment, in conjunction with an electronic wallet. Mobile payments will cause a rethink of cash, travel and shopping. For those of us in the UK, think of an Oyster card embedded within your phone.

3. The CROWD. Sites such as Airbnb and CouchSurfing are leading the way in peer-to-peer networks, and as Rachel Botsman said in my favourite book of last year “What’s Mine is YOurs“, creative companies are using technology to redefine ownership. Why buy when we can rent, borrow and share amongst our community. Experience is far more important than ownership; for example, we don’t necessarily want to collect DVDs, we just want the experience of watching the movie, and usually, just the once. Cars is another area that will be seriously affected, with companies such as Whipcar and Zipcar helping reduce car ownership around the world. Technology is facilitating this change.

They are my top three, and no doubt many other trends will spin-off from these. Keep an eye out for news from CES and articles in all the newspapers and websites, all the main gadgets and trends will be featured there.