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All of us are immersed in a data cloud that envelopes us, where-ever we go and whatever we do. Rapid business model change, hyper-innovation, instant obsolesence: these are the new rules by which we must innovate.

The world's leading media and technology companies have engaged Jim as a keynote speaker for an internal or client-oriented event or meeting, including • Consumer Electronic Association CEO Summit • Transcontinental Media • British Broadcasting Corporation • CBC • CBS Radio / Infinity Broadcasting • Walt Disney Corporation • Pearson plc • Microsoft • Accpac • Ameritech • Fiber to the Home Council • Hewlett Packard • IBM • Ingram Micro • Electronics Representatives Association • Motorola • Oracle • SAP • Society of Information Management • Society of Cable Telecom Engineers • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company • Toshiba Australia • Verizon Broadband Solutions • Verizon Wireless • Ameritech • Women in Cable & Telecommunications • Telecom Risk Management Association • National Rural Telephone Cooperative • Nortel • Texas Rural Telephone Cooperative • Utility Telecom Providers Association • Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI)

(Warning: This is a geek post!)

Last weekend, I successfully moved my main Web site,, over to, running on an Ubuntu virtual server. For years, I had been running it on a Mediatemple DV server based on CentOS.

My Web site now runs on a blazingly fast infrastructure over at!

Why did I do this? Speed improvements. And then some!

Mediatemple was a great company with awesome support, but I found over time that my Web site just didn’t operate fast enough — some pages would render slowly — and it would often slow down under the weigh of a stream of a lot of oncurrent users. I’ve been using the handy tool at to test my page load times. Things were pretty slow with overall page load times and first byte times — which were always in the range of 3 or more seconds for the former, and 1 second at least for the latter.

As I understood it, the Plesk system used at this version of CentOS simply added a lot of processing overhead ; even if I had no visitors, my memory use was always at 80% plus.

So I started to look around for alternatives about six months ago. Two months ago, I discovered Linode. Great cloud service — pick your operating system, build, log into root, and away you go! Since I had a bunch of Ubuntu servers in my home at one point, I chose to go with that, since I knew how to configure most of what I needed.

And then I discovered Linode’s ‘Stackscripts” — where the user community has put together a variety of custom ‘scripts’ which will pre-intsall your operating system of choice along with your applications/configuration of choice. My blog is based on WordPress — so I needed that. But I also needed whatever I could get that would speed up the rendering of WordPress pages — some good memory cacheing, and cacheing of PHP code so that things would execute faster. And from everything I was reading, I knew I needed to have a Varnish cache.

That’s when I found Paulo Fagiani — an avid Linode fan — and his Optimized WP script. He’s put together a script that installs a Ubuntu server, and then, as he puts it, “installs a pretty, sweet and secure box with nginx + varnish + memcached + php5 fpm + mysql optimized for heavy load wordpress sites.” (I’ll note that I could have chosen a product from Mediatemple similar to Linode – but it was the Stackscripts which sold me!)

One button, and you’ve got a rip-roaring infrastructure that just flies!

It took me a few months, though, to get things right — this is a part time hobby after all. If I’ve got time to kill in an airport, and no pressing client demands, I’ll fire up Terminal and ssh into my Linode. If it’s later in the day and I’m at home in front of the TV on the couch and need to relax — I’ll fire up Terminal and ssh …. (I was just joking with a friend as to how we both suffer from this weird way of relaxing by working away as root on some box somewhere…)

And it took some help – Paolo was magical in how he walked me through various issues. My good friend Akshat Choudhary over at BlogVault.Net — a fabulous WordPress backup service — also patiently provided me some guidance.

And so I went live last Saturday AM, just before going out to do some yard work.

IT”S A BIG CHANGE. I’m getting page load times of <2s for most of my main pages, and first byte load times of .2ms or less. I’m getting hit rates of 99% on my APC cache (for WordPress page cacheing) and 50% for Memcache (which caches everything else – I’ve got to figure out how to improve that.)

Under load testing with the Ubuntu ab command, the site stands up extremely well. So I’m thrilled.

Next project? I’m going to play around with a WordPress PHPFog site over at — which promises to do what I’ve got now, but a hugely optimized infrastructure that strips away the last bit of overhead from use of PHP.

So now you know what one of the world’s leading futurists does to relax. But it’s not just that — I’m out speaking to organizations on leading edge trends. In many cases, this involves observations on the impact and evolution of technology. I’ve been a geek for 30 years – I started out with a Radio Shack Model III 30 years ago. I’ve always been deep into the core of systems and technology.

You can’t talk about the cloud, if you don’t play in the cloud!

The Canadian Society of Association Executives “Association Magazine” has just released their latest edition, which included my article with the title above.

You can grab the PDF of the article at the right on the image. Note that it is English and French.

The article is based on the blog post I wrote back in November last year, shortly after my keynote for the 2011 T. Rowe Price Investment Symposium, where I played into the theme in a big way.

You can read that post here, although the PDF of the article expands on the concepts in a bit more detail.

I’m finding a huge degree of interest in this theme as a speaking topic; actually, quite a few recent keynotes are being entirely built around the theme, since it is such a significant transformative trend.

Essentially, industries used to control their destiny. They could drive the pace of innovation.

That’s not true anymore, and as I have described on stage in the last few weeks to companies in the insurance, banking, credit union, agricultural and other industries — “What happens to you when the pace of innovation begins to occur at the same speed that Apple innovates. Because that is pretty well what is beginning to happen now.”

Read the article. Think about what is happening here.

The future belongs to those who are fast!


Trend: The Future of Energy
April 11th, 2012

I’ve recently been the opening keynote speaker for two major energy events, with talks that focused on the future trends that will impact the energy industry, primarily from the perspective of energy utilities.

The first was for Accenture’s International Utilities and Energy Conference 2012 held in San Francisco, with a global audience from over 35 countries.

The second was for Enercom 2012, Canada’s leading energy conference held in Toronto, which featured a similar senior level audience from across Canada.

Both keynotes took a look at some of the key trends which will provide accelerating opportunity to provide for a more efficient energy grid, more rapid adoption of alternative energy sources, and respond to changing energy consumer profiles, among other trends.

One of my key messages? Opportunities for innovation are increasing because of a rapid acceleration in the velocity of knowledge.

So what are some of the issues I focused upon? I framed both talks in terms of the insight I’ve developed into “what world class innovators do that others don’t do.” Here are just a few of my key points:

1. World class innovators keep the goal in sight despite pushback

To a degree, it’s a bit tough to keep an innovative spirit in the utility industry today, as a number of trends seem to work against the need for continuous new thinking:

  • in many areas of the world, there is a massive pushback on solar / wind / alternative energy sources by the public, for a variety of reasons (which some might conclude is driven by an overstimulated by “Internet-fact” driven NIMBYism)
  • political turmoil over the incentive structure around alternative energy projects
  • well publicized major failures around the same (call it The Solyndra Effect)
  • growing public and government skepticism over the pace of change

Consider the latter point. In some areas of the US, there is significant pushback against the implementation of smart meter technology — 47 cities and counties have adopted resolutions opposing smart meters for various reasons. At the other extreme, there are some areas where people are impatient with the pace of adoption of alternative technologies. In Boulder Colorado,  there is a citizen inspired initiative to take over local power generation because of a belief that Xcel Energy is not moving fast enough with green and smart energy tech!

How can you win in an environment in which there are such dramatically different views? Keep focused on the goal! The International Energy Authority suggests that energy demand will grow worldwide by 35% between 2010 and 2035; in the US, by 22% alone. Globally, Shell suggests energy demand will grow 60% in developed countries by 2040.

Clearly there has to be a continued effort to focus on the need to continue to develop and implement alternative energy sources. There is a need for continual, relentless innovation!

 2. World class innovators aren’t afraid of thinking boldly

We live in a period of time that involves massive, sweeping transformations, and thinking longer term is always critical. I pointed out that Exxon Mobil believes that one out of every two cars will be either hybrids or some other alternative-fuel vehicle by 2040 – up from just 1% today. Clearly there is going to be a lot of innovation with the energy grid and everything that helps to generate power around in order to keep up with such a massive shift.

Big ideas lead to big opportunities – I spoke about the Gemasolar plant outside Villanueva del Ray in southern Spain – the world’s first  24 hour solar power plant. It involves a unique molton-salt heat storage system that solves one of the key problems with alternative energy : how to storage generated power so that it can be used at off peak periods. The slide from my deck tells it all: this was a big, bold project.

3. World class innovators ride rapidly accelerating science

That’s what the video clip above was from. In Canada, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Waterlook recently brought together a group of experts touching on every aspect of the energy industry. They issued the The Equinox Blueprint, with one of the key points being that we are going to see “.….extremely rapid advances in battery storage, enhanced geothermal, advanced nuclear, off-grid power and smart urbanization….

The MIT project I refer to in the video clip above? It involves “…organic photovoltaics … solar cells which are sprayed or painted onto surfaces.”

Cool stuff!

4. World class innovators ride generational acceleration

There are huge opportunities to drive efficiency in the global energy grid by shifting demand — the oft-cited example being if consumers use their dishwashers during off-peak hours when demand is lower and generation costs are reduced, we have a smarter system.

The challenge is that efforts to encourage this type of activity through smart meters has not met with great acceptance. But I pointed out that is simply a transitional issue, as the current generation of iPhone-weaned Gen-Connect individuals comes to buy their own homes — and bring their different technology-based lifestyle to the energy grid.

I pointed out that we are quickly going to witness four key trends come together:

  • energy costs continue to increase, continuing to drive the need for consumers to change their energy usage behaviour
  • system connectivity accelerates in the global energy grid, particularly with the consumerization of energy technology, as witnessed by the Nest LearningThermostat
  • the current “App generation” buys houses and installs such devices
  • and the incentive structure around power consumption matures with this generation

Think about it: this is the XBOX generation! They’ve grown up in a world of instant rewards for activity. In Call of Duty, you get a series of continual rewards based on actions. The same type of thing will happen with power consumption — if you use the technology that surrounds your personal energy infrastructure, you’ll get a cost reduction.

This generation will take advantage of Nest thermostats to a huge degree. They’re daily activities with simple activties such as dishwashers and dryers is changing :

  • Imagine your washing machine sending you a text when it’s time to move your clothes to the dryer…” Connect Home Appliances, PC Magazine,April 2011

Smart appliances are emerging faster than ever before as Moore’s law comes to the industry:

  • Whirlpool recently announced it will be producing 1 million smart-grid compatible clothes dryers by the of 2011” Total home control. Residential Design & Build,September 2010

These are appliances which are linked to the intelligence in the smart-grid, and which will automatically schedule themselves to run when rates are lowest, according to a defined set of consumer preferences.

In other words, consumer behaviour and interaction with the rapid emergence of smart grid technology is going to accelerate faster opportunities for efficiency in the grid.

The key message for global energy utilities? The future belongs to those who are fast!

Mashable just ran a post, “9 Bold Predictions for the Digital World of 2020“.

I’m quoted in point 5 – Virtual Hospitals”.

9 Bold Predictions for the Digital World of 2020

Here’s what I said: “By 2020, if not before, most industries – health care, agriculture, financial – will have found that they have been transformed by the velocity of Moore’s law. Mobility, wireless, pervasive connectivity – everywhere we look, we see that the big trend for the next eight years is that technology will drive the pace of innovation in every single industry.

Credit cards will be replaced by smartphone transactions systems; auto insurance will be forever changed through GPS-based monitoring devices that reward good driving performance; hospitals will become virtual through the extension of bio-connectivity, involving remote medical monitoring and management.

The big trend is that as tech comes to change industries, change in those industries will occur faster than ever before. The winners will have been those who understand this reality, and adjust their innovation engine to keep up with this new speed of change.”

There are a few ways to put this into more detail, through various posts and videos on my site where I talk about this trend:

  • Major 10 year trend: The Future of Every Industry to be Controlled by Silicon Valley Innovation  
  • A report on my keynote for the 2011 T. Rowe Price Investment Symposium  
  • Video – When Silicon Valley Takes Over Your Innovation Agenda  
  • Silicon Valley Innovation Velocity Set to Dominate Every Industry 
  • Video: Healthcare 2020: Moore’s Law, Genomics and Velocity 

I was recently the keynote speaker at two major corporate events, both of which really have to seem a key theme at the heart of the “big issues” that organizations are faced with — and that is, we are in a period of time in which the very concept of ‘cash’ is being fundamentally changed, due to the impact of mobile technology.

The first event was for Visa’s 2012 Prepaid Forum in Phoenix — at which, in my keynote, I made the observation that “if you think about it, we’ve only redefined cash once in our history — when credit cards were introduced. We’re about to do it a second time as smartphones become the new credit card!”

The second event was in Las Vegas, at GlobalExchange 2012, an event held by Pollard Banknote, one of the largest printers of lottery tickets, with attendance by a large number of senior executives from throughout the global lottery industry. I made the same observation, but in this case challenging the audience to think about how the world of retail, and hence the world of lottery ticket sales, would come to be challenged through this transformation of cash.

Both event featured similar session descriptions in that the issues that both are confronting through strategic thinking are very much the same.

In the case of the VISA event (click to view)….

…and for Pollard Banknote (click to view)

This is a huge trend that is unfolding at lightening speed as a wide variety of Internet companies (Google, Facebook, PayPal and more) all position themselves in terms of the “virtual wallet”, at the same that smartphone makers (Apple, etc) , banks and credit card companies all explore the space.

Yet it is a pretty massive undertaking : as noted in the Wall Street Journal, 
November 2011, “Yankee Group analyst Nick Holland estimates it will cost $15 billion to deploy the technology that will make mobile payments ubiquitous.

As we get the second biggest disruption with cash to occur in our entire history, we can be certain there will be a huge number of business model disruptions, new competitors, existing market turmoil, new customer challenges and opportunities — and just a tremendous amount of change.

One of my observations in both keynotes is that every organization needs to get involved and get their feet wet — fast. There is so much going on so quickly that in this case — the future will truly belong to those who are fast. That means trying out a whole bunch of new ideas and innovating at top speed.

But does that mean that we are going to see someone win in this space in 2012? I doubt it — the scope of the undertaking and the infrastructure is involved is simply too big. That doesn’t mean anyone can avoid it though – because those who are making bold plays now will become big players tomorrow. Noted Thomas Kunz, Senior Vice President,  PNC Financial, when it comes to mobile payments2012 will be about a beta and expanding that beta test. It will take some time for this to become mainstream.

As a result, my key innovation mantra — THINK BIG, START SMALL, SCALE FAST — fit perfectly into the themes and stories I weaved on stage in Phoenix and Las Vegas!

The Globe & Mail had a nice summary of my 2012 future trends prediction blog.

You can grab a copy of the PDF by clicking on the image to the right. Harvey Schacter, who summarized my original blog post, is a great guy!

You might find it a good document to fire up into your email and share around, retweet or Facebook!

I’ve had a number of media interviews and followup as a result of the article. If you are interested in contacting me for these purposes, please do so.

I enjoy seeing coverage of the trends and insight that I regularly provide in my blog. I think my job continues to be to challenge people to think about their status quo; how quickly their world is changing around them in ways that they might not know; and what they need to be thinking from an innovation perspective to deal with those realities.

This synopses makes for a quick read and summary, and so it’s always a thrill to see the blog post get shared in a unique and innovative way.

Sidebar: I actually wrote a weekly column for the Globe & Mail for four years from 1998 till 2002, in which I covered leading edge technology and Internet issues. It was well liked and always generated a tremendous amount of e-mail feedback.

That is, until the-then editor of the business section decided in the light of the crash that there would be no more future technology stories to unfold, and that tech coverage was just as good as dead!

Of course, after that, we saw the emergence of Facebook, the dominance of Google, the rise of the Apple infrastructure, iTunes and Apps and iPods, the explosion of social networking, the huge impact of Twitter, pervasive connectivity, digital lifestyles, the overthrow of government through national online networking …. and so much more.

Yup, tech was dead!

I still think that editor was one of the biggest bozos I ever met in my life! Just saying!


At the T. Rowe Price 2011 Investment Symposium in Baltimore on Friday, I listened to the technology panel that preceded my luncheon keynote.

It was a fascinating discussion as a number of their leading analysts spoke of the trends that they saw unfolding with consumer and other digital technology companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Samsung.

Name any industry - auto, health care, manufacturing, energy, banking -- and the big trend over the next five years is that Silicon Valley is coming to control the pace of innovation in the industry. And it's speeding it up!

But I thought that the crowd was hungering for a bit more — where are the next big trends, and the next big transformation opportunities that are going to unfold which are going to provide for the birth of new industries, fast growing companies, and billion-dollar market opportunities?

And so I outlined that reality: the next big areas of growth will come from the transformative change that occurs as Silicon Valley comes to drive the pace of innovation in almost every other industry. As it does so,  it will speed up the rate of innovation.

The impact of this trend is that it will also shift control from any particular industry – insurance, healthcare, banking, auto — to the technology companies. The result will be massive business model disruption as new, faster, more nimble competitors who understand technology based disruption, cast aside their slower, ingrained counterparts.

The future belongs, in other words, to those who are fast. Tech companies and tech based innovators certainly understand this! And the key issue is speed : Apple, for example, could innovate much faster with new credit card financial systems than any bank could. Google and it’s tests of automatic car navigation technology will certainly evolve faster than any auto company in Detroit, Japan or Germany could. Unless leaders in those organizations increasingly learn to focus on speed as a metric, and fast-innovation as a core capability.

Consider just a few of the trends:

  • Banks and credit companies risk losing control of their future as our mobile devices, cell phones and iPhones become credit cards
  • the energy industry and home construction is impacted as a new personal energy infrastructure management, in the form of such devices as the NEST Thermostat, provide for a significant change in the way people use energy
  • health care will be transformed by medical device connectivity and bioconnetivity — allowing hospitals and nursing homes to extend the reach of their medical professionals to an increasing number of remote locations
  • the auto industry will face trendmeondous change as an intelligent highway infrastructure emerges as the same time as intelligent, self-guiding cars and trucks become a regular part of our daily world
  • the world of insurance is upended as we head to a world of predictive insurance modelling through the use of sophisticated technologies such as on-board GPS devices which monitor driver behaviour

These are but just a few examples. I can go into any industry today and point out how Silicon Valley and technology is going to cause significant change and upheaval within the industry. I can spot the smart executives who understand the message and realize that right now is the time for aggressive innovation and big thinking.

And then in other clients, I can see this observation pass right over the heads of some of those in the audience, and realize we’ve got folks who are like deer in the headlights — the trends are blinding in their reality, but they are frozen by their inability to do anything.

I spoke about this trend in a recent keynote.

There are a whole series of related posts in which I’ve commented on the significance of this trend and the speed with which it is occurring. These are just a few.

  • Silicon Valley innovation velocity set to dominate every industry 
  • When Silicon Valley Takes Over Health Care Innovation 
  • This ghost town in New Mexico could turn into one of the most important innovation engines 
  • Reinventing the future with transformative technology
  • Silicon Valley: Is Innovation Dead? 

730AM, New Orleans, an audience of 4,500 executives. My keynote theme is “Today’s Trends – Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” I’m taking a look at the trends of Healthcare 2020 — the key trends that will provide for transformative opportunities in health care in the years to come. Trends that are unfolding today — one of them being the huge velocity behind wireless and mobile health applications, and the rapidity of changing patient / consumer behavior.

It’s a low-res video clip — I should have a higher quality version next week. But its worth a watch. (You need to turn the volume up!)

The statistics around mobile technology are, of course, well known, but worth repeating:

  • It took two years for Apple to sell 2 million iPhones.
  •  It took 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads!
  • It took 1 month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s!
  • It took 1 day to sell 1 million iPhone 4s
  • it’s estimated that Apple sold 5 million iPhone 4s’s in the first 4 days of release

But it’s what consumers are doing with these technologies that provide so much potential for innovation. With respect to health care, the numbers are quite staggering:

  • 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health solutions
  • medical and health care apps are 3rd fast growing category for iPhone and Android phones
  • the Apple App store now has 17,000 health care related apps
  • 60% of which are aimed at the consumer

What we have happening here is a massive trend in which people are changing their behaviours, actions, wellness, and day to day routines in which they actively manage their health circumstances through the personal digital assistants which are becoming an ingrained part of their lives.

Innovation is all about finding opportunity when business models change. The centuries old relationship between doctor and patient is changing in a massive way — driven with increased velocity by mobile and wireless technologies. This is HUGE.

This is a huge trend, and will probably provide one of the biggest areas for innovation in the world of health care out to the year 2020. I just wrote about this in a recent blog post – read “When Silicon Valley takes over health care innovation” for more.

I’ve recently done a number of very high profile talks in the health care, pharmaceutical and related industries, including opening the recent World Pharma Innovation Congress in London, England.

Just last week, I was the opening speaker for a very early start at 730AM in New Orleans for over 4,500 people at the International Foundation 57th U.S. Annual Employee Benefits Conference – always a fascinating experience to have that many people out in N.O. for an early keynote!

The organizations selected me specifically because I could give them an overview of future health care trends, without taking at look at the political issue of health care reform. After all, the real trends that will provide the real solutions to some pretty massive challenges in the world of health care will come from the world of science, hi-tech and pure research — not from an ongoing, relentless, annoying and ultimately useless amount of hot-air from politicians, regardless of their political stripe.

For New Orleans, the keynote description emphasized this : which is perhaps why so many showed up!

“Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, will share his thoughts on transformative trends that will define the road ahead in the critical area of health care. The fact is we will witness more change in health care in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 200. Hear Mr. Carroll forecast what paradigms will change as health care is transformed through the next decade, far beyond the impact of health care reform.

At events such as this one and the keynote in London, I take a look at the future of health care from the perspective of medical science, social and demographic trends, the impact of increasing velocity of knowledge and other major trends that have absolutely nothing to do with the political debate around health care reform. You can’t wish a problem into a solution — you need pure research and innovation to make things real.

And certainly one of the trends that is going to provide tremendous opportunities for innovation in the sector will come about as Silicon Valley sets its sights on health care. Years ago, a senior executive at Intel noted that “we have the potential to aim our innovation engine at the age wave challenge and change the way we do health care from a crisis- driven, assembly-line, hospital approach to a personal-driven approach, with people taking care of themselves with help from family, friends and technologies.” At the time they were speaking of health care being one of their top five sources of revenue in the years to come.

That’s why one of the biggest growth markets we are beginning to witness now is emerging as Silicon Valley and the hi-tech industry begins to get involved in the world of health care in a whole variety of different ways.

First and foremost, it’s happening in a very big way with consumer-oriented health care apps, particularly on the iPhone and Android. A recent survey indicated that:

  • 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health solutions
  • medical and health care apps are 3rd fast growing category for iPhone and Android phones
  • the Apple App store now has 17,000 health care related apps, 60% of which are aimed at the consumer

We will certainly see a huge amount of product innovation, such as the new iPhone based blood pressure monitor from Withings:

What is really significant is that with such personal medical monitoring and wellness technology, we are going to see very significant involvement by health care providers and professionals, insurers and others within the system to adapt to a new world in which a large number of patients become immersed in the world of interactive healthcare and wellness monitoring.

Then there is the world of bio-connectivity — a trend that will see the emergence of more sophisticated medical device technology that will let medical professional monitor their patients from afar. This is a topic that I’ve explored at length in a variety of posts on this site. Quite simply, in the years to come, the concept of a physical hospital is going to change as it goes virtual through the extension of bio-connectivity technologies and methodologies:

  • Imagine the hospital of 2020? I can 
  • The future of seniors care / assisted living: Big trends or crazy ideas? 

Silicon Valley will also play a huge role as it comes to develop real time health care predictive dashboards and other new forms of medical insight that will help the system to be better predictors of emerging health care risks and crisis situations. Big math, big computers, big analytics and health care – a match made in heaven!

  • Remember those kids who were really good at math? They own the future 

It doesn’t stop there. In the world of pharmaceuticals, the impact of Silicon Valley is going to have one of the most dramatic impacts on an industry that we have ever witnessed. For years, the sector has been busy exploring the opportunity for ‘pharmacogenetics’ — that is, how can we determine if a particular drug treatment is going to have its greatest impact on a group of people who share a common characteristic in their DNA.

This type of very specific genomic medicine has been around for years — but it is about to take off like a rocket as Moore’s law comes to have an impact. Quite simply, the cost to do what were once very expensive genetic tests are simply going to plummet.

  • Costs of DNA sequencing falling fast – look at these graphs 

I could go on ; there are dozens of examples where the impact of technology upon the health care system is going to be dramatic.

Suffice it to say, if you want to watch one of the trends that will have the most impact in the next decade, this is one of them.


From my August CAMagazine column….

You might have been to a conference recently that involved polling technology. You’re handed a little clicker that has four buttons, and on the screen at the front of the room you see a multiple-choice question. Everyone sends in a response and the results appear instantly on screen.

This instant polling technology is quite fun. Too bad this particular technology, which has been around just a few years, is already obsolete. That’s because of the impact of mobile technology, which is set to cause many other day-to-day activities to become out of date.

I often do live polling of my audience while onstage, but there’s no complicated set-up for me. I simply design a multiple-choice poll using the Poll Everywhere website. Then I ask those in attendance to take out their smartphones, iPhones andBlackBerrys and respond by sending a text message. (They can also vote by visiting a website on their smartphone, or even tweet their response.)

Of course, the number of votes that come in varies. I was onstage in front of 800 bankers in Texas and the average age must have been 60-plus. Out of that group, three managed to figure out how to send a text. Maybe they didn’t know how to send a text to someone outside their contact list. This was fascinating, because there are already new types of banks, such as South Africa-based Wizzit, in which all transactions occur via text message.

Contrast the ability of the bankers to participate in a live text-message poll to my experience when I was invited to talk to 250 students for my son’s Grade 12 class. When I ran the first text-message poll, I had about 247 responses within 60 seconds. For members of this generation, texting is like oxygen; their mobile smartphone is their view into the world. They’ll look at something like text-message-based banking and think it is a great idea.

This speaks to a huge trend: significant business model change as a result of the impact of mobile or smartphone technology. The pace of innovation in the banking sector will shift from what was once a nice, leisurely state of affairs to the hyperspeed, frenetic pace of innovation that emanates from Silicon Valley and smartphone makers. Even the credit cards in our pockets are likely to disappear because near-field communications technology will allow us to instantly pay for a purchase by simply authorizing the transaction on our smartphones. Some magic will happen that will cause the authorization to be sent to the store, gas station or other payment acceptance system.

And the trend isn’t limited to financial services — it’s happening in virtually every industry. For example, British insurance company Insure The Box will set your car up with a special type of GPS device. It will measure your acceleration, the G-force of your turns, whether you are stopping fully at traffic lights and whether you are keeping to the speed limit. If you do, you’ll get a rebate on the insurance you paid. Call it performance-based insurance. Several major North American insurance carriers plan to roll out similar technology within the year.

What happens in the world of banking, insurance and other industries when Apple and other smartphone developers determine their destiny?

Read more about that experience here: “What happens when high school students are told to text!”