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The BBC gave me a call to chat about what is really going on with the Internet of Things (populalrly known as IoT) … and ended up running a great summary of our conversation.

The article captures the essence of my thinking that it is very early days yet with IoT. We’re at the starting gate in building the most complex machine ever built, and we’ve got a lot to learn in terms of architecture, security, and its’ role.

Read more about those issues here and here. I’ve been speaking about IoT for over 20 years : a good example is here. And even here, where I talk about the changing role of light bulbs in the era of IOt.

Give the article a read, and see if you agree.

 


The Brain Inside Our Homes
BBC, October 2017

The most humble of objects can join the connected world, thanks to what is known as the Internet of Things – the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Smart bathroom scales can log weight and body mass index, then feed the data back to a Fitbit wearable for action; networked dog collars can track a pet wherever it roams, help with training and even detect pain; Amazon’s checkout-free Go stores will allow shoppers to fill their bags and leave the store without queuing or even touching their wallet.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates the world will spend $295 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) systems and devices by 2020.

Yet, according to futurist Jim Carroll, the concept is still in its infancy.

Engineer and futurist Roy Amara observed that people tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate it in the long run. Similarly, Carroll believes that when it comes to the Internet of Things, the world is still in the era of inflated expectations that precedes a crash and is followed by more gradual adoption and global dominance.

It’s like it’s 1994 or 1995 and the worldwide web has just arrived – we know that something big is happening here,” he says. “But there were lots of early experiments with websites and e-commerce. A lot failed. A lot were silly. And it took time to mature and figure out business models.

The Internet of Things presents important challenges around security and privacy, which organisations are only beginning to explore. Many manufacturers are still shipping devices with default passwords and user IDs, leaving them ripe for hackers. Privacy legislation has yet to catch up to a world where a single household can emit thousands of data points every day – unconsciously sharing everything from the layout of an infant’s bedroom to the contents of their refrigerator.

Experts agree it is still too early to identify which of the myriad IoT businesses will become the new Amazon, PayPal or eBay. No one can predict which will face the fate of dotcom bubble victims such as Pets.com or Boo.com, or prove, like the various virtual currencies that preceded Bitcoin, ideas ahead of their time. Yet some industries are clearly ripe for disruption.

By 2020, over-60s will outnumber under-fives around the world. By 2050, there will be two billion people aged over 60 worldwide. In an ageing world, cost-effective elderly care is critical. From wearables that track vital signs through to emergency response systems, virtual assistants and perhaps even internal smart devices swallowed like pills, the Internet of Things will help the elderly live in their own homes, with dignity, for longer. Google and Novartis are developing a smart contact lens for diabetics that won’t just correct vision but will track blood sugar; even the humble floor is getting smart, with systems to detect falls – and ultimately, perhaps, prevent them.

I talk to healthcare groups about virtualisation, remote blood pressure cuffs, diabetes monitoring and more,” Carroll says. “We can rethink the concept of care and re-engineer senior care. We can architect a world where seniors are in their own homes and connected by these devices.”

If climate change is the single biggest threat our planet faces, then the smart grid is key to the European Union’s battle against it. By 2020, almost 72% of EU consumers will have an electricity smart meter, part of a smart grid rollout that could slash the union’s carbon emissions by as much as 9%. By saving energy on operations, helping consumers monitor their usage and even feeding stored solar energy back into the grid, smart meters reduce a household’s carbon footprint. Networked to IoT devices elsewhere in the home, such as thermostats, lighting controllers, refrigerators and washing machines, they will cut emissions even further.

Globally, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – that’s over 1.3 billion tonnes every year. For food businesses, IoT technology can help cut waste, whether by monitoring perishables on their journey from farm to store or identifying patterns that cause food to end up in the rubbish bin. In the home, smart refrigerators can warn when food is approaching its use-by date, send real-time information on their contents to a shopper in the supermarket to avoid double-buying – and, of course, remind consumers when to stock up on milk.

The Internet of Things is central to the worldwide Smart Cities movement, which itself links closely to global climate action goals. “We can give internet connectivity to all kinds of devices,” Carroll says. “Like a light pole. We can stick in environmental sensors and turn it into a FitBit for the city. We can put charging stations in it, for charging electric vehicles with credit card transactions. It might become part of an intelligent highway solution, where it’s monitoring traffic, interacting with cars, fining drivers using high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

In California, the city of San Diego is upgrading some of its streetlights to install 3,200 sensors, transforming them into a connected digital network. The anonymised data should help monitor traffic, pollution and carbon emissions, identify crimes and assist first responders, and even help visitors find a parking place.

And in Taiwan, the engine room that fabricates many of the hardware that powers the Internet of Things, government and mayors are embracing the Smart Cities movement. The nation that manufactures the Amazon Echo smart speaker hosts an annual Smart Cities summit and is equipping its own urban centres with a low-power wide-area network tailored to the Internet of Things.

In the capital, Taipei, a network of sensors already monitors pollution – driverless buses that collect data on road conditions and traffic are undergoing trials. Local smart scooter start-up Gogoro, which operates on user-swappable batteries, just launched its first solar-powered charging station. In the southern city of Tainan, Acer has developed a smart parking app that enables users to find parking spaces quickly, as well as paying parking fees and parking tickets through a licence-plate recognition system. It was also in Taiwan that German luggage-maker Rimowa chose to launch its smart-tag system, meaning passengers on EVA Air could check in their bags via smartphone, saving time at the airport.

It’s this electronic alchemy – transforming everyday objects such as parking meters or luggage tags with the power of the network – that Carroll sees as the most life-changing element of the Internet of Things. “That’s what gets me excited,” he says. “Not any particular type of device, but how we can fundamentally transform anything so it can do so much more than we thought possible.

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Companies that don’t yet exist, will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas not yet invented, with manufacturing methodologies that have not yet been conceived. Are you ready for the new world of disruption?

That’s the reality of manufacturing today, and that will be the focus on my keynote next week when I open the Canadian Manufacturing Technology show in Toronto, Canada.

The reality of our future is found in the quote above, and in this video clip here:

The folks at Canadian MetalWorking/Canadian Fabricating and Welding, reached out to me for an advance look at some of the topics and issues I’ll cover in my talk.

 

Seek Out Opportunities for Innovation
Canadian MetalWorking, September 2017

When reinventing manufacturing, the reality is that manufacturers need to focus on new business models with agility and flexibility while quickly raising up production. If the manufacturing sector in a particular nation wants to be the leader in the industry, it must start to think like a tinkerer economy by accelerating change.

This is the view of futurist Jim Carroll, who espouses the concept that prototyping and concept development will continue to mature in the near future, all while becoming more and more important to the manufacturing sector.

He says by building flexibility into the process, manufacturing companies can bring new technologies and new generations to the market faster than ever before and seeing their profits skyrocket.

Canadian Metalworking caught up with Carroll before his opening keynote speech at CMTS 2017. Here’s what he had to say.

CM: For a small and mid-sized Canadian manufacturing companies, where should they be in terms of technology adoption during this period of Industry 4.0?

Carroll: No. 1 they need to appreciate what is happening out there and be willing to accept that things are changing at a relatively significant speed. Some high-level trends such as robotics, digital factory, and 3-D printing may not be applicable for small industries, but this does not mean that they should not be aware that these trends can affect the future of their industry. Understand what is happening out there and start small.

There are a lot of opportunities out there, for instance, if you take 3-D printing, there are a lot of contract 3-D printing facilities. Last week I was talking about a company that is positioning themselves like the Uber for 3-D printing. If you can conceive a product using your CAM software and ship them the files, they will find a 3-D printer with the [needed] capability and match you up with them so that you can do your prototype. Where 3-D printing is accelerating fairly quickly is in rapid prototyping design.

You might be a 100 person or smaller company, but you can certainly experiment with this technology to figure out what is going on, rather than thinking 3-D printing is something farfetched from science fiction, because it is not. The best thing is to think big, start small, and scale fast.

CM: Some companies are dragging their feet and are not integrating advanced technology into their operations. What sort of warning would you offer up to these manufacturing companies?

Carroll: No matter who you are or what you do, fascinating things are emerging out there regarding these significant trends. So, spend time figuring out what you can utilize today and tomorrow to turn it into an opportunity.

Will the world of manufacturing be fundamentally different in the next five or 10 years? Of course, yes, pushed by the whole issue with jobs skills.

There is no shortage of employment in manufacturing. It’s just that some people don’t have the right skills. For instance, robotics company Genesis Systems, one of the largest robotics manufacturing businesses in Iowa, said to me that it is almost like the typical robotics machine operator in a factory today has to be able to do trigonometry in their heads because it has become so sophisticated.

Brute force, manual routine skills are from the older days. All jobs now require higher level skills. If you are a manufacturer, you have to appreciate what is going on and what it is going to mean regarding the skills you have and the skills you are going to need.

CM: How does the changing pace of technology in a manufacturing environment change the way that these companies maintain and improve their employees’ skills levels?

Carroll: It is generational. There are a lot of baby boomers out there that struggle with technology. Growing up with a punch card, we grew up with a unique relationship with technology. My kids that are 28 and 24 are different, having never seen the world without the Internet. These new generations that are coming to the work force think differently and act differently.

Skills Canada and Skills USA have the initiative to help young people find a career path in skilled trades. Last year I opened their global competition in Saõ Paolo, and they have [hundreds of] kids competing in 75 categories in 400,000 sq. m of space. Advanced welding was among one of the competitions. They have folks who demonstrate virtual welding, how with technology in one room and can theoretically weld from a facility 1,000 miles away. So, get involved with Skills USA or Skills Canada. In the end, it all goes back to understanding what is going on out there and appreciating the acceleration of technology to make a conscious decision to get on board.

CM: Can you provide an example of an organization that is embracing Industry 4.0 and is a good example of manufacturing’s future in North America?

Carroll: I saw this when I was at Amsted Rail in St. Louis, which offers engineered system solutions that combine castings, bearings, wheels, axles, and energy management devices. They always think about what they can do in terms upgrading their technology.

Amsted Rail is frequently bringing new employees from younger generations and set up what they call an “Xboxer,” which means that they let these mid-20s engineers play with all this new technology and figure out how to bring in this new technology into the operation.

CM: Do you feel optimistic about this state of manufacturing in North America given the examples you provided with this mid-sized companies looking at their business at a different way?

Carroll: Things like collaborative robotics, digital factory, and additive are going provide a significant transformation of what manufacturing is. The rest of the world is going to go there, and you are not going to slow down the acceleration of science and the technology. There is a choice, either you get on board, or you don’t.

CM: What technologies do you think manufacturers should be keeping a close eye on?

Carroll: Two things. 3-D printing and accelerated material science will have the most impact in manufacturing for at least the next five years.

3-D printing is moving forward at a furious pace. For instance, there is one coming along called CLIP [continuous liquid interface production], which is almost out of the Transformers movie. Seeing that type of acceleration, what took something like 14 hours before now takes about 6.5 minutes with CLIP technology. Additive is real. It has a huge role now in rapid prototyping and iterative design.

Look at aerospace. Airbus and Boeing have figured out that they can 3-D print and develop parts of planes with a structure that are 40 per cent lighter. From that perspective, companies are starting to see what they can achieve with these fascinating new materials driven by science.

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Back in 2006, I keynoted the Society of Cable Telecom Engineers at their annual conference in Tampa. At the time, YouTube was only just beginning to have an impact, and social networking was still in a nascent stage. It was January — Twitter wasn’t even around!

My job was to alert them that forthcoming trends would mean that they would be  faced with the need to accelerate the bandwidth on their networks. I spoke to the trends I predicted in my book of 1999, Light Bulbs to Yottabits, which took a look at the forthcoming world of online video.


My job, as opening keynote, was to get them in the right, innovative frame of mind to deal with an upcoming tsunami of change.

I ended up writing an article for Broadband Magazine, on my keynote theme, Are We Thinking “Fast” Enough? I recently dug the article out the other day with respect to another upcoming talk within the industry.

It still makes for good reading today, starting with the observation that “in this era in which new developments and technology are coming to the market faster than ever before, everyone must become an innovator, whether it be with new business models, skills partnerships or customer solutions.”

Some of the key points I raised are even more critical today:

  • Innovation has moved from the corporate to the collective, a trend that is causing absolutely furious rates of discovery.
  • This rate of scientific advance is such that a world of yottabits and zetabits is going to arrive faster than you might think,
  • Things are happening so fast that some industries are beginning
    to witness the end of the concept of the product life-cycle
  • Rapid innovation and technology development means that new competitors can now come into a marketplace and cause fundamental, significant and long lasting change at the drop of a hat
  • Rapidly evolving technology is resulting in an increasing shortage of critical skills

Run through that list, and ask yourself if that is your industry situation today.

Read the full article below.

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Credit Union Magazine just ran a great article on my keynote yesterday in Las Vegas for Drive 17, the annual conference from CU Direct on trends in the automotive lending space for credit unions.

Self-driving cars, drone technology, Apple Watch, and even FaceTime.

It’s technology we see depicted in “The Jetsons,” a cartoon from 1962 that depicted the life of a futuristic family. But we’re already seeing much of the technology today, more than 40 years before the cartoon takes place in 2062.

It’s staggering to think how quickly the world around us is changing,” says innovator and futurist Jim Carroll, who addressed CU Direct’s Drive 17 Conference Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The technology in The Jetsons is just another reminder that credit unions need to innovate and not only develop new products, but also transform to keep up with the speed of change, Carroll says.

Given the fast pace of change, more than 80% of conference attendees believe their current business model will not stay the same in the next 10 years due to the significant disruption.

We need to deal with the innovation killers which hold us back from pursuing the opportunities of the future. The future is coming at us with a greater intensity and great speed,” Carroll says. “We need to think big, start small, and scale fast.

Carroll offers credit unions five strategies for successful innovation:

1. Think big

Innovators need to make big, bold decisions to be transformative. This is the only way credit unions will be able to counter the impacts that disrupters, such as fintech companies, have, Carroll says.

Think of Tesla, Carroll says, which has transformed the auto industry by manufacturing vehicles on demand and have placed their dealerships in retail shopping areas rather than in stand-alone structures. Some 400,000 people have signed up for these vehicles, he adds.

2. Presume that everything will speed up

Credit unions are not the only industry struggling with the speed of technology.

Technology is rapidly changing in vehicles, says Carroll, who believes Siri or Alexa buttons, augmented reality screens, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and payment technology embedded in the dashboard may be features in vehicles by 2020.

For credit unions, think about how biometric scans can be used at ATMs.

3. Align to Moore’s Law of innovation

This law says the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months. Technology is constantly changing and is becoming embedded in more items, such as garage doors, ceiling fans, and even grills, Carroll says.

Hyperconnectivity is becoming the rule.

Credit unions need to be aware of the expectations members have for personalization, their use of technology, and a desire for real-time support or interaction when needed.

You need to be prepared to innovate quickly,” he says.

4. Align changing business models and consumer behavior

Mobile devices have a huge influence on people’s purchasing and financing decisions. Research shows the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space in a second, and 80% would leave a store if they must wait more than five minutes to pay.

Determine ways to grab your members’ attention and provide solutions faster, in addition to providing a way for members to interact online, Carroll says.

5. Realign to the impact of generations

Recognize how younger generations live their lives. Don’t cling to a routine or process just because that’s the way your credit union has always operated.

Millennials, for example, have been weaned on technology, speed, and innovation, and are open to transformations and changes that take this into account, Carroll says.

 

One of my key themes through the years has been that “faster is the new fast” — that the biggest challenge that organizations must face is how to keep up with the high-velocity economy.

I’m now observing that in many markets and industries, the pace of change is so fast that we need to put in place a senior executive whose sole area of responsibility is ensuring that the organization can keep up with ever-increasing rates of change. Let’s say — a Chief Momentum Officer.

Organizations need to adapt to all kinds of different issues when it comes to the velocity of change: rapidly changing business models, the emergence of new competitors, ever shrinking product life-cylces, a faster pace of new product development, furious rates of technological innovation, furiously fast new trends in terms of customer interaction, the decreasing shelf-life of knowledge and the more rapid emergence of specialized skills: the list could go on!

Hence, a need for someone who aligns all of the moving parts of the organization to high velocity change! This individual will carry a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • managing the product innovation pipeline, so that the organization has a constant supply of new, innovative products, as existing products become obsolete, marginalized, or unprofitable
  • managing the talent pipeline, so that the organization has the ability to quickly ingest all kinds of specialized new skills
  • managing the technology pipeline, so that the organization can adapt itself to constantly improving and ever-more sophisticated IT tools that will help to better manage, run, grow and transform the business
  • maintain and continually enhance brand and corporate image; as I’ve written here many times before, brands can become “tired” and irrelevant if they aren’t continually freshened and refreshed
  • ensuring that the organization is continuing to explore new areas for opportunity, and that it has the right degrees of innovation momentum
  • that the business processes and structure of the organization are fine-tuned on a continuous basis so that it can keep up with all the fast-change swirling around it
  • ensuring that a sufficient number of “experiential” programs are underway with respect to product, branding, markets, and other areas so that the overall expertise level of the organization is continually enhanced

In other words, the CMO has two key responsibilities:

  • keeping a fine tuned eye on the trends which will impact the organization in the future, and which will serve to increase the velocity that the organization is subjected to and;
  • keeping their hands on the appropriate levers throughout the organization such that it can keep evolving at the pace that these future trends will demand.

I don’t know if that makes perfect sense, but I think its a good issue to think about.

One recent client engaged me for a talk for their global team, with the keynote title “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change”. That’s a good example of how I outline the attributes for success in a world of high velocity change. With that, I focus on how organizations and leaders must incorporate four key capabilities: agility, insight, innovation and execution.


Corporate agility concept is perhaps the most critical: organizations must presume that the rate of change today is so fast that product lifecycles are collapsing, business models are relentlessly shifting, and customers are unforgiving and fleeting. To name just a few key trends!

Agility implies that we must innovate and adapt based on rapidly changing circumstances, on a continuous basis.

How do we do that? By adopting several key guiding principles that form the basis for all corporate strategy and activities going forward:

  • plan for short term longevity: No one can presume that markets, products, customers and assumptions will remain static: everything is changing instantly. Business strategies and activities must increasingly become short term oriented while fulfilling a long term mission.
  • presume lack of rigidity: Many organizations undertake plans based on key assumptions. Agile organizations do so by presuming that those key assumptions are going to change regularly over time, and so build into their plans a degree of ongoing flexibility.
  • design for flexibility : In a world of constant change, products or services must be designed in such a way that they can be quickly redesigned without massive cost and effort. Think like Google: every product and service should be a beta, with the inherent foundation being one of flexibility for future change.
  • build with extensibility: Apple understood the potential for rapid change by building into the iPod architecture the fundamental capability for other companies to develop add-on products. Think the same way : tap into the world. Let the customer, supplier, partners and others innovate on your behalf!
  • harness external creativity: In a world in which knowledge is evolving at a furious pace, no one organization can do everything. Recogize your limits, and tap into the skills, insight and capabilities of those who can do things better.
  • plan for supportability: Customers today measure you by a bar that is raised extremely high — they expect you to deliver the same degree of high-quality that they get from the best companies on the planet. They expect instant support, rapid service, and constant innovation. If you don’t provide this, they’ll simply move on to an alternative.
  • revisit with regularity: Banish complacency. Focus on change. Continually revisit your plans, assumptions, models and strategies, because the world next week is going to be different than that of today.

To me, that’s what agility is all about!

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

In the 1990’s, when e-commerce arrived on the scene, someone thought it would be a good idea to allow you to buy a coffin online.

The funeral industry fought back — after all, they had margins and business models to protect.

Of course, that failed. Today, you can buy a coffin online. (Which begs the question — if you buy it advance, what do you do with it? Stick it in the living room for now and use it as a coffee table?)

Then came Napster, and with it, outright music theft through sharing. Yet at the same time, folks experimented with business models involving the sale or licensing of music via digital music files. The music industry fought against that — they essentially fought a war against the idea of digital media.

How did their battle against the future turn out? Not well — eventually Apple came along with iTunes and a business model that worked. It took a while, but the music companies eventually figured out they had to adapt and align to the future, rather than fight it.

History has a nasty tendency of repeating itself, and legacy companies keep making the same mistakes. So it is with GM and self-driving car technology today. It seems they would rather fight the future than be a full participant in it.

GM thinks that only established car companies should be able to innovate in the self-driving car space. Is GM the new RIAA, fighting the same battle that the music industry tried to fight against digital music files?

The company is busy battling back against the disruptors and upstarts, trying to suggest only established car companies should be able to innovate in the space:

With states seizing the initiative on shaping the future of self-driving cars, General Motors is trying to persuade lawmakers across the country to approve rules that would benefit the automaker while potentially keeping its competitors off the road. ” New York Times, February 23, 2017

In other words GM is doing the same thing that the funeral and music industries did in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

How do you think this will end up?

Two key points come from this:

  • GM deserves to fail with these efforts. You don’t innovate through legal action on innovation.  Where’s the CEO on this? What type of message does this send to the organization on its innovation efforts? Is it so far behind in the race that it believes the only way it can win is by sending in the lawyers?
  • the lesson for anyone else is this: disruption, the future and business model change happens. Deal with it through innovation and aligning yourself to the future, rather than trying to protect the status quo
    there should be a lesson for anyone

The funny thing about the future is this: it happens, whether you like it or not. It’s better for you to participate in it rather than fighting it.

#GMFAIL

In my keynotes, I often talk about how the rate of change — whether with business models, product life cycles, the rapid emergence of new competitors, business model disruption, skills and knowledge and more!  — is speeding up. With such change, there’s a lot of uncertainty within many industries as to what to do next: a senior executive of one client commented to me from his perspective, “….entities are engaged in survival tactics because they don’t know what to do next ….”

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Here’s a simple reality: Innovation is all about adapting to the future — and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster.

Given that, innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future — it should be about thriving.

At a recent keynote to senior executives, I outlined some truths as to the future:

  • It’s incredibly fast: Product life cycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
  • It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations — boomers — have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect — today’s 35 and under — will never think of change management issue. They just change.
  • It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. Rapid prototyping, 3D printing and the maker community mean that a product can go from conception to reality in a matter of weeks – if not days. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
  • It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with two realities: the rapid emergence of new technologies, and the sudden adoption of old-hat ideas. If you want to understand what comes next, study Gartner’s concept of “hype-cycles”
  • It’s being defined by renegades and rebels: Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When a real innovator can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you, whether you like it or not
  • It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers and partners business better?
  • It involves intensity: 80% of the revenue from the typical video game is earned within 4 to 5 days of release. That’s becoming the norm in many industries — although not in days, but perhaps months. Companies are discovering their new reality involves short, sharp shocks of revenue, followed by a need to constantly re-asses and reinvent. We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast paced markets, we need fast paced business capabilities!
  • It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke, back in 2003,  about a futuristic GoogleCar, and an era in which Silicon Valley would become the new centre of the automotive universe. With self-driving cars and other efforts, its not a joke anymore. Every industry is witnessing similar levels of disruption and acceleration. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particular when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
  • It involves innovation intensity: With rapid change, everyone in an organization must innovate. Some years ago, I appeared on a the CNBC Business of Innovation show. It featured a lot of “innovation elitists” who seemed to indicate that only special people can “do” innovation. Wrong : thriving in the future has a leadership that involves everyone in innovation. No idea is too dumb, no opportunity is too small. In an era of fast change, organizations must be relentlessly innovative, and that requires drawing on the skills and creativity of everyone
  • It comes from experiential capital: With a fast future, you must learn and relearn. Corporate equity isn’t just money: it’s the cumulative experience and knowledge of the team. Yeas ago, Verizon took a lot of abuse from analysts for its’ big fiber optic bet, yet here’s what I see: the CEO stating that the cost of installing fiber dropped 30% in 2005, and that there was a further reduction of 15-20% by  2006. By the end of end of 2006, they expected it to cost 1/2 that of 2005. The more they do, the better they get. That’s experiential capital, and that’s an invaluable asset.

The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.

Interested in a keynote on the future of the automotive/trucking industry? Read this!

This January, I’ll keynote the American Financial Services Association 21st annual Vehicle Finance Conference & Expo in New Orleans.

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The event draws some heavy hitters who will share their insight into what comes next, including the CIO for Toyota Financial Services, the President & CEO of TD Auto Finance U.S., the Executive Vice President for Ford Motor Credit Company, among others.

I’ll take a deep look at what is happening with the automotive world in the future — the reality and evolution of self-driving, autonomous vehicle technology, intelligent and smart highway infrastructure, the evolution to prognostic, self-diagnosing vehicles, the sharing economy and new business models, the acceleration of connectivity and innovation in the automotive sector, and the implications of all this on the future of automotive lending!

It should be fun!

This is one of many keynotes I’ve done in and around this sector. It involves a lot of deep research on the latest trends and initiatives, as well as comprehensive discussions with the client and industry insiders.

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