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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)

Every industry in the world today finds itself in the midst of dramatic change, as mobile smartphone technology comes to change business models, consumer behaviour, and entire professions.

No where is this more evident today than what is happening in the world of healthcare, wellness and fitness, as a flood of new apps and technologies emerge that will forever change this world.

Back in late September, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2012 Chronic Disease Fund annual conference in Dallas, Texas. Here’s a video clip in which I’m talking about the significance of the change that is occurring … compelling to watch!

As for me? I just bought a FitBit this morning — it would be fascinating to see how much territory I cover during one single keynote!

I keep advising my personal trainer that she needs to get an iPhone. She shrugs, noting that there is a queue in the family for the next mobile upgrade, and her 14 year old daughter might have more of a claim in the line than she does.

Hogwash! There is an absolute revolution going on involving the “consumerization of fitness and wellness” — and this super long blog post will put into perspective why. And maybe this will help to sort out some of her family politics over the ‘next phone.’ The fact is, the very nature of the future fitness opportunity is changing ….

Update: After I wrote this blog post, Adweek ran the article, “Nike+ Officially Turns Your Workout Into a Video Game” – you want to read it.

Here’s the main gist of this post — In May and June, I spoke at a tremendous number of corporate, association and private events; it was a busy couple of months, and hence the lack of regular postings to the blog.

Three of these were events related to the issue of corporate wellness programs.

It was the perfect timing for such a keynote; through the last year and I half, I’ve been following what I believe to be a fairly aggressive personal fitness regime, with the help of my personal trainer, as well as personally exploring the wealth of new fitness and wellness mobile applications that are flooding the market.

The entire premise of my keynote? At this moment in time, we are witnessing the perfect confluence of several major trends:

  • the first signs of the reality of the massive scope of the health care crisis (both disease, lifestyle and funding related) as baby boomers begin to flood the health care system with requirements for extra care
  • a renewed and significant focus on “preventative” health care concepts” ;
  • structural change aimed at wellness programs so that people work harder to avoid or reduce the impact of lifestyle disease;
  • and the rapid emergence of new technologies — many involving the smartphones that have become a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle – that can motivate consumers to do so much more with their personal fitness and wellness.

Why a keynote on wellness? Because companies are recognizing there is a big opportunity to be innovative with managing healthcare costs through a proactive approach that involves wellness. It’s a good example of the deep, transformative thinking that is occurring with many organizations in the healthcare system worldwide . Organizations are moving beyond the endless political debate, and are instead, putting in place practical, innovative programs that can help organizations manage healthcare costs, and employees can actively work at improving their overall health and fitness.

Let’s consider the trends which are all coming together.

1. It’s crisis time!

Throughout the western worldwide, the obesity, diabetes and lifestyle health care crisis is really making itself felt with massive demands being placed on the system. The future is stark ; if something is not done, we will continue to see:

  • a continued rapid increase in lifestyle disease, resulting in even more massive future demands on the system
  • a bigger demographic challenge – more boomers placing demand on the system, with fewer workers to support the massive uptick in spending that results
  • a resultant massive supply / demand imbalance
  • and an expectation gap likely to increase scope of challenge : a trend I wrote about in my “Trending in 2011: 10 Major Trends to Start Thinking About Now.” It’s worth a read — check the first big trend in the list.

Clearly, something needs to be done. Hence, a lot of innovative thinking!

2. A massive shift to preventative medical concepts

Given that the Western world has such a big problem, it’s also fascinating to note that there is a huge amount of innovation occurring in the health care system now – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the raging (and now seemingly pointless) political debate occurring in the US.

What is happening is this: we are in the midst of a long term trend in which “preventative medical care” will come to exceed what we spend on “reactive medical care.” Preventative care takes many forms, from genetic testing (to determine what conditions people are likely to develop in their lifetime) to wellness and other preventative programs. Simply put, let’s fix people before they are sick, rather than treating them after they’ve developed a condition.

We’ve got a heck of a long way to go with this trend: according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, “a mere 3% of spending goes towards prevention of chronic disease among industrialized countries.”

But what is happening is an acceleration of the trends that take us to a world of preventative healthcare. Consider the trend line with genomic medicine:

  • it took $3 billion to sequence the first human genome
  • by 2009, that was down to $100,000
  • it’s now under $10,000
  • and it is estimated by the end of 2012, $1,000

Give it a few years, and you’ll be able to go out and buy a $5 genomic sequencing machine at Radio Shack! That might seem like a joke, and it is. But the significance of a cost curve such as this is that it accelerates a significant shift in spending.

It isn’t occurring with genomic medicine — its happening everywhere throughout the world of healthcare. Last year, when I keynoted one of the largest seniors care conferences in the US, I noted the same type of focus on preventative thinking was becoming routine:

  • “Identifying dementia early can cut the cost of care by nearly 30 percent … routine screening that identified patients with early signs of dementia helped cut average healthcare costs by nearly $2,000 per patient in the first year, often by eliminating money spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Early diagnosis can cut Alzheimer’s costs, Reuters Health E-Line, July 2010

The health and wellness theme fits into this agenda as well, which have undergone very much a sea-change in the last, in terms of perception, importance and approach:

  • “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
  • Employers determined to contain medical costs must focus on creating a culture that supports healthy behaviors. If they can do that, they can enhance not only their bottom lines but also transform the lives of their workers. 28 April 2012, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week
  • “In businesses across the nation, workplace wellness has morphed from a “nice-to-have” fringe benefit to a “must-have” cost-containment strategy.” 23 April 2012, GlobeNewswire
  • “64 percent of employers surveyed indicated that wellness initiatives are among the top three most effective tactics for controlling health care costs” 2012 Annual Plan Design Survey, National Business Group on Health

Studies show that for every $1 spent on a wellness program, medical expenses fall by at least $3.

Part 3: Time for some more aggressive action!

What is interesting is that in corporate organizations throughout the Western world, wellness programs are rapidly shifting : they’re going from a “nice-to-have” type of program, to a “we really need to see some results!” approach. Consider the trends; certainly many more organizations are putting such programs in place:

  • A recent study by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice found about 60 percent of the companies surveyed have wellness programs, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. Companies encourage wellness, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 22 April 2012

But not only are more organizations adopting wellness programs: they are working to put in place structures, methodologies and measurement technologies that can help to ensure that employees are benefitting from such programs:

  • One of the fastest-growing categories of new insurance includes significant penalties for those who don’t participate or backslide on targets – penalties that may include deductible spikes or loss of health-savings accounts. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011
  • A national survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health found that 80 percent plan to offer financial rewards for health in 2012, up from 54 percent this year. Workers’ wellness can turn a profit Insurers offer incentives for health and penalize workers who can’t meet goals, The Denver Post , 25 December 2011

And this is where tech comes along at the perfect time!

4. In comes technology – and the new consumerization of health care!

Technology is going to provide for more creative disruption in the world of healthcare than we’ve ever seen. Simply put, it changes everything.

  • “Imagine a far more extreme transformation, in which advances in IT, biology and engineering allow us to move much of health care out of hospitals, clinics and doctors offices, and into our everyday lives.” Our high-tech health care future, New York Times, 10 Nov 2011

The Withings Wi-FI Body Scale measures weight, BMI and fat mass, and transmits the info to a password protected site. I’ve got one and love it. They sell them at the Apple Store!

Cast your mind out 5 years or more, and we will see significant change in everything we do in the world of health care:

  • “…. you’ll be sitting in front of a big multitouch screen actually watching what’s going on in your body in a very intuitive, fun kind of animation. When you leave, the doctor will download prescriptions and treatments onto your cellphone – which not only remind you, but encourage you to follow the medicine’s or other lifestyle procedures. [You’ll see] a periodic video message from the doctor to encourage you if you’re doing well or maybe to encourage you if you’re not. It’ll be continuous care rather than the episodic, periodic care that occurs today.” Better living with technology, The Boston Globe, 21 November 2011

Extend that type of thinking, and we are headed to a future in which we literally have a dashboard for the human body…..

And it is starting to happen now — with a flood of new mobile and other healthcare technologies that help consumers to take more of an active role in their level of wellness and fitness. Consider the current trends:

  • 78% of consumers are interested in mobile health wellness fitness solutions
  • medical fitness 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
  • sports, fitness and wellness apps will grow from 154 million downloads in 2010 to 908 million by 2016
  • the number of wearable wireless “gadgets” will grow from 8 million to 72 million over the same period

I’m using a number of mobile wellness and fitness apps — for example, MapMyWalk, which I use to track the pace and timing of the five mile — or more — walk that I do while at home or travelling. I’ve also got a Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale — which tracks weight, BMI and body-fat mass, transmitting those details to a personally-password protected Web site. Utilize such technology, and all of a sudden you’ve got the opportunity to be more involved in your own well being.

Or, as I commented in New York at the keynote the impact of consumer fitness, wellness and healthcare technologies is that  “...they increase how often individuals think about their health…”

And clearly, it’s a pretty big trend:

  •  “500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, will be using health/fitness apps by 2015. Healthcare in your hands
International Herald Tribune, March 2011

The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor works with your iPhone. It’s an example of the start of the trend I call “bio-connectivity.”

It isn’t just consumers who are rapidly adopting such technology — so are doctors and other professionals throughout the healthcare system.

  • By the end of the year 90 percent of physicians will have smart phones. Health apps soon will get an incubator, The San Francisco Chronicle, 11 April 2011

We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the innovations that will occur here. I’ve been suggesting that one of the biggest trends to sweep the world of healthcare and medicine will be that of ‘bio-connectivity,’ a phrase I coined well over a decade ago. Consider this post which I wrote before keynoting the World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Congress in Washington.

Bio-connectivity provides huge opportunity for innovation in the space of healthcare. The same company – Withings — has brought out the Withings iPhone Blood Pressure Monitor — seen on the right. All of a sudden, someone working to manage their blood pressure doesn’t need to rely on pencils and paper to track their progress — it’s automatically captured through the smartphone which is becoming an integral, everyday part of their life.

Not only that, but they can transmit their blood pressure readings and charts to their doctor or other health care provider via email. This provides for the virtualization of healthcare ; no longer are hospital or doctor visits restricted to actual physical locations known as hospitals or doctors offices — instead, it becomes a part of the global Internet. If you think about what is happening here: there is a change in the centuries old relationship between doctor and patient!

Did you know that researchers have already figured out how to make an ultra-thin heart monitor that goes on like a tattoo? Talk about a trend that is going to drive a lot of change!

Link all of these trends together, and the simple fact is this: we are going to witness more change in the world of healthcare, wellness and fitness in the next five years, than we have seen in the previous one hundred years.

And if you follow that path down the road of wellness and fitness — the very nature of fitness is changing. Ten years out, most folks going to the gym will have a smartphone attached to their hip, and will be working with their trainer on a regimen that includes this type of personal fitness tracking.

Sure, it sounds odd, but ten years ago, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or many other of today’s life changing technologies.

My personal trainer really needs to get an iPhone!

I recently found myself at 37,000 feet on a flight from San Francisco to Toronto, Skyping with my son who is at university. After a brief “can you hear me now” exchange, the call signal adjusted itself and the quality of the video call became crystal clear. Say goodbye to one of the last bastions of refuge from the interconnected world.

A typical day in the typical life of a typical cell phone customer!

Internet access on flights isn’t new; several carriers have featured the service for a number of years and I’ve been using the Internet “up in the air” for some time. What became evident to me on that recent flight, however, is the continuing improvement in the quality and speed of the connection. And that’s a trend for bandwidth overall, whether by satellite (as is the case on planes), cable/phone lines or wireless devices.

According to research firm IDC, Internet traffic will grow 32% per year from 2010 to 2015. We currently send about 46 terabits per second, and that should grow to more than 200 terabits per second by 2015. Cisco suggests total annual Internet traffic will grow to 966 exabytes by 2015.

Of course, such numbers can become meaningless without interpretation, so let’s just say we will be able to send the equivalent of a million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with 20 million pages — every second. Each year, we’ll send information equivalent to twice the number of words spoken by all humankind since the beginning of time. Whoa.

As our demands on the system grow, technologies behind the scenes will emerge to support huge transmissions of capacity. A recent IBM press release, for example, noted the company has developed “the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer one trillion bits — one terabit — of information per second, the equivalent of downloading 500 high-definition movies.”

Someday, we’ll have this type of bandwidth in our homes and on our mobile devices. Which brings me to accountants and wireless companies. Given the reality of these trends, why do wireless companies use a business model that deploys thousands of accountants at a cost of millions of dollars to track individual bits of information and charge customers every time they go over a usage cap? I seem to be in a perpetual state of war with my wireless/Internet service provider. Our family has four iPhones — and we spend a substantial sum of money to support our data-driven lifestyle as well as a high-speed Internet connection. Every time we make some small change that involves an incremental adjustment in bandwidth, the fee goes up.

The approach of these companies seems to be that in a world of continuous bandwidth growth, they should track each and every byte. Couldn’t they save a ton of money if they just offered a simple flat-fee service that recognizes the reality of our times? They’d eliminate a bunch of sophisticated IT systems, the staff who supports them, the marketing staff who dreams up complex campaigns that revolve around bit-tracking, and the support staff who has to clean up the mess after the inevitable showdown with the customer when things (usually) go wrong.

Here’s the conundrum in a nutshell: Internet usage and capacity will continue to grow at an exponential pace. But the industry that handles the flow of data sees tracking individual bits as a critical part of the business plan. I’d say this is one of those industries where you really question the value of the accounting mind-set, don’t you think?

This article ran last week after I did a talk for one of the world’s leading heart research / hospital institutions, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Health care is the most complex issue that our society faces in our time. We really need some big and bold and very innovative thinking to deal with the scope of the challenges.

Health care’s best bet: technology
Ottawa Citizen, May 16, 2012 

AT&T is developing clothing with built-in sensors that monitor blood pressure, perspiration rates and other health indicators. One smartphone app tracks every mouthful of food you eat. Another links to a device that monitors blood glucose levels in diabetic children as they sleep, and notifies parents through an alarm if they spike in the night.

As Jim Carroll would say, this is real stuff. This isn’t science fiction.

Carroll, a 53-year-old resident of Mississauga, is one of the world’s leading futurists. And as he told a room full of nurses at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute last week, technology is driving rapid changes in the way we treat the sick and care for our own health.

That’s a good thing, he said, given the health-care challenges we face. Chronic disease caused by poor lifestyles is driving massive future demands on the system. Society won’t be able to afford nursing home care for all the boomers who will need it. The number of people with Alzheimers and dementia is rising exponentially.

And because longevity is increasing — a baby girl born today can expect to live to 100, Carroll said — the elderly will need costly care for more years than in the past.

“Health care is the most complex issue that our society faces in our time,” said Carroll. “We really need some big and bold and very innovative thinking to deal with the scope of the challenges.”

Fortunately, there’s lots of that going on, it seems, largely driven by lightening-fast advances in technology. The cost of mapping the human genome has fallen from $3 million to $10,000 and is expected to fall to just $1,000 by year’s end.

“Five years out,” Carroll said, “we’ll be able to buy genomic sequencing machines for $5 at Circuit City. This is a staggering transformation.” That means increasingly, doctors will be able to shift from treating illnesses to preventing them, Carroll said.

Another key trend is “pervasive connectivity” — the notion that everything we own will be able to plug into everything else. In health care, that’s called bioconnectivity, Carroll said. And among other things, it can be used to monitor patients from afar.

One example is Medcottage, a 12-by-24-foot modular building that offers an alternative to institutional care for the sick or elderly in their family’s back yard. The unit provides round-the-clock medical monitoring while giving occupants some privacy and independence.

Ottawa’s heart institute already is using technology to monitor the health of about 150 elderly patients in their homes. Patients use the devices to record their blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels, then plug them into their phones to download the information to the hospital.

The results have been impressive, said Heather Sherrard, the heart institute’s vice-president of clinical services. “The group that gets the home monitoring has anywhere between a 30 and 40 per cent reduction in the amount of times they have to come back to the hospital,” she said. Thanks to the remote devices, “we can see them every day and tweak them.”

The heart institute also uses automated phone calls to check up on patients who’ve had a heart attack. “You can’t financially afford to call everybody,” said Sherrard. “So the system does all the calling, it gives them a series of questions we know are based on evidence, and that allows us to just go ahead and deal with the 10 per cent who are the problem.”

One thing the hospital discovered is that about 40 per cent of patients were substituting Tylenol for their prescribed Aspirin, because they liked Tylenol more. But unlike Tylenol, Aspirin is an anticoagulant, which helps reduce the risk of another attack. “When you’ve had a heart attack, you cannot substitute Tylenol for Aspirin,” Sherrard said.

Canada still has a long way to go to catch up with the United States when it comes to innovative health-care thinking, Carroll said. He credited insurance companies with driving much of the innovation south of the border.

“I get insurance companies that are actively talking about rolling out wellness apps to employee groups,” he said. “It’s not going to happen in Canada, because they don’t control what we spend.”

That’s part of the debate we need to have in Canada, Carroll said. “We all love the Canadian system in terms of the structure and the fact that we don’t become bankrupt if we have a serious medical condition.

“But given the rapid rate of change and opportunity that is happening, we need to somehow figure out how to speed up innovation in the context of health care. Instead of just talking about wait times, we need to think really big.”

 

Here’s the text for a keynote I’m doing in Calgary tomorrow at noon for a group of IT executives.

Lots to think about here – the future belongs to those who are fast!

———–

“The new business model for everyone will increasingly use speed as a metric, and fast-innovation is a core capability”

Certainly the last forty years have seen technology play a huge impact on business.

Name any industry – auto, health care, manufacturing, energy, banking — and it’s clear that we are witnessing a fundamental and distinct shift of the innovation agenda to one which is driven by the speed of Silicon Valley, and by a generation of people in the computing world who think fundamentally differently about the source of innovation in an industry.

As this occurs, we will see massive business model disruption as new, faster, more nimble competitors who understand technology based disruption, cast aside their slower, ingrained counterparts who are stuck with old, ingrained ideas.

The future belongs, in other words, to those who are fast. Tech companies and tech based innovators certainly understand that logic. Their entire DNA is bound up in the ability to move fast.

That’s why financial organizations are finding themselves plunged into a whirlwind of change as our mobile devices become our credit cards. As slow-to-change insurance companies find that driver-performance oriented insurance policies, linked to in-dash GPS monitoring technologies, wreak havoc on old-line insurance assumptions. As the world of health care adjusts to the reality of a less than $1,000 genomic sequence machine — something that would have cost over $1 million just ten years ago, leading us much quicker to a world of personalized medicine. And an oil and gas industry which is witnessing hyper-innovation in terms of extraction techniques, driven by deep data analysis and other capabilities, which are leading to year over year yield increases which were unmanageable years ago.

The new business model for everyone will increasingly use speed as a metric, and fast-innovation is a core capability.

That’s why you should join iON Secured Networks and Check Point Security Technologies, as we bring you the unique insight of Jim Carroll, who has emerged as one of the world’s leading international futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that ranges from Northrop Grumman to Rockwell Collins; the SouthWest Gas Association to RGA Reinsurance; the Walt Disney Organization to NASA. Jim has had the opportunity to study what world-class innovators have been doing to keep up with a world in which the future belongs to the fast. He will share with us the new role of leading edge technologies involving cloud networks, agile computing, just-in-time development and other key strategies that will help organizations to deploy the right technologies at the right time for the right purpose — a strategy that will be increasingly important as all industries come to innovate at the speed of Silicon Valley.

(Warning: This is a geek post!)

Last weekend, I successfully moved my main Web site, www.jimcarroll.com, over to Linode.com, 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 Linode.com!

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 GtMetrix.com 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 www.phpfog.com — 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!


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