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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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This November, I’ll keynote the National Automatic Merchandising Association Coffee Tea & Water Show. I did a little promo video teaser about the event during my visit to Walt Disney World last week. Give it a watch!

NAMA also issued a press release about my talk.

Chicago – Jim Carroll, futurist and innovation expert, will kick off NAMA’s Coffee Tea and Water show (CTW) as the keynote speaker. Carroll will lead the at the opening session on Monday, Nov. 6, at 12:45 pm.

Carroll inspires organizations to reframe the opportunity for innovation in the context of significant, transformative change. He is a worldwide authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business model disruption in a period of economic uncertainty and the necessity for fast-paced innovation.

Carroll can offer deep insights into the cutting edge trends of our time, including:

• Autonomous vehicle technology
• Sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT)
• 3D printing
• Virtual reality
• Artificial intelligence
• Block chain and virtual cash
• Machine learning and robotics
• Crowd-thinking
• Next generation R&D

“Jim’s keynote address will help CTW attendees understand the impact of innovation and disruption on their businesses and explore the possibilities the Internet of Things brings for growth,” said Rori Ferensic, NAMA’s director of education in a press statement. “Audience members will gain the tools required to stay relevant in today’s changing business landscape. We’re delighted to welcome Jim to CTW.”

Carroll is also an author, with books including Surviving the Information Age; The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Fast; Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast and What I Learned From Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward Thinking Innovation.

People interested in attending CTW can register today at https://www.coffeeteaandwater.org/registration-details/. Look for early bird rates and special group rates for operators. The early bird rates end Oct. 2. Attendees can also register for the WIN Boot Camp as part of their initial event registration.

We’re in the era of ‘connected energy,’ and everything is set to change in pretty dramatic fashion.

That will be the essence of my message when I speak to several hundred energy and water utility executives when I keynote the annual SAP Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, California. It’s great to spend some time with SAP again — I did about a dozen keynotes for them from 2003 to 2007, back in my “What I Learned From Frogs In Texas” days!


The session description reads:

“The future belongs to those who are fast! That’s the mantra of futurist Jim Carroll — and no where has this become a reality faster than in the world of utilities. There is no doubt that the next phase of the world of energy involves the convergence of a variety of trends, each of which is significant on their own, but combined, provide an opportunity for massive disruption — and opportunity. The era of massive hyper-connectivity at an industrial, commercial and residential level as a result of the acceleration of the Internet of things. The rapid advancement of energy science, particularly with battery storage, alternative energy sources and other leading edge technologies. Business model disruption through the fast arrival of technologies that support personal and local energy energy microgrids through backyard wind, solar, biomass and other forms of energy generation. New demand and infrastructure requirements arising from such significant trends as smart cities, self-driving cars and intelligent highway infrastructure. And then there are simple light poles — which are now becoming ‘fitbits for cities’ with embedded environmental sensors, car-charging technologies, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and traffic management technologies! But wait — there’s more! At M.I.T. they are even in the midst of research as to how to grow solar cells from plants! That’s why no less than the Edison Energy Institute has stated that going forward, ““The threats posed to the electric utility industry from disruptive forces, particularly distributed resources, have serious long-term implications for the traditional electric utility business model and investor opportunities.”

The challenges and opportunity in the energy sector are real, and it’s captured pretty accurately in that summary. Need a hint of what is going on? Simply take a look at what is happening with battery storage technology.

Quite simply, we are in a situation in which a centuries old business model – the centralized production of power, distributed one-way through a relatively unintelligent system — is set to change in so many ways.

I’ve spoken at numerous energy conferences through the years, including the global Accenture Energy & Utilities Industry conference. Just a few months ago, I spoke privately to the nuclear division of one of the countries largest energy utilities, literally with 20 nuclear engineers in the room. And a few years back, I was engaged by the CEO of PG&E to do a video on what happens if grassroots power production and micro-grids lead to the disruption of the industry.

 

Stay tuned: I’m sure I’ll have a lot to post, including an overview of why light poles are a harbinger of what’s to come with our connected future!

I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

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.

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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.

 

Tomorrow morning, I’ll keynote Drive 17 — it’s a conference for credit union executives around the topic of the future of lending. Particularly, automative lending. This is similar to a keynote I did in January of this year for the American Financial Services Association — same topic and issues, except for banking executives.

It’s a challenging time to be in this space, as we witness seismic changes in both the very nature of automotive ownership and the manner by which lending decisions are made. Particularly with the next generation, who are very different from their forebears:

  • they don’t have a job for life – they freelance
  • their banking is mobile – they don’t use cash
  • they don’t think long term – 25 year mortgages are a foreign concept
  • they don’t stay at hotels – they use AirbNb
  • they don’t use taxis – they Uber
  • and 1 in 10 works in the sharing economy…. and so they don;’t have the typical risk profile of an employee

The biggest challenge? They might not even buy cars, but rather will take advantage of all the opportunities that the sharing economy presents. Of course, if you are in the business of lending money for the purchase of automobiles, this can be a problem, and requires some innovative thinking.

If they do, however, buy a vehicle, the manner by which they will seek financing will be very, very different. It will be done through their mobile device; they’ll expect instant options, and instant approval. We’re talking 30 seconds here. If you can’t meet their expectations in terms of the time for the transaction, they’re gone. Which means you need to challenge yourself in terms of interface, risk assessment and more.

In my keynote tomorrow, I’ll cover these trends and more. The reality? Every credit union and financial institution today needs to comprehend the speed with which transformative change is occurring, and how they must focus on innovation as a means of turning those challenges into opportunity.

 

Half of the events I do as a futurist and innovation expert are spent at corporate leadership events. I’m frequently engaged by a CEO or other senior executive for a global Fortune 1000 company to come in and challenge their team as to how to align to a fast paced, disruptive future. After all, the reality is that speed is a new success metric.

There’s a lot of work and customization that goes into each and every talk — just last week, I met with 20 executives in the nuclear industry, and spent a lot of time updating myself as to trends in the energy and nuclear sector so that I could guide and challenge their thinking in a powerful way.

While researching and preparing, or while delivering my insight, I’ve noticed an increasing number of organizations are seeking to set their innovation energies on fire by encouraging their younger, interactive generation to explore opportunities for the digital, disruptive future through what I’ve come to call an Xbox room!

Why? Because this generation gets-it, knows how to innovate, and is the most powerful force for change in our world today. Consider the reality:

  • half of the global population is under the age of 25
  • we know they are globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and change oriented
  • and they are now now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation as they move into executive positions

With that reality, organizations are realizing they should allow this generation to light their creative energies on fire, even if they aren’t sure as to what they might do or where their efforts might go!

The idea is to set them up with an innovation facility by which they can explore and accelerate the adoption of leading digital tools throughout the organization that can accelerate innovation efforts, provide for better collaboration and so much more.

Case in point: I spent some time in St. Louis with Amsted Rail: they manufacture the ‘bogies’ which are the wheel-undercarriage assemblies found on railcars. It was a thrill for my wife and I to have a tour of their manufacturing facility before my talk to see what they are doing to realign themselves to opportunities for innovation in manufacturing.

And the tour included what they call their iLab — or, what I would call for the fun of it, an Xbox room! In this facility, they are continually examining a variety of ideas as to how to continue to move the organization forward. This includes exploring a variety of ideas and technologies, including:

  • state of the art brainstorming centres to facilitate ideas colliding from all corners of our company
  • real-time employee collaboration tools across geographically diverse sites (to promote “a collision of ideas”)
  • how to use connected SMART Boards to simultaneously write/draw/share over any application using “digital ink”
  • 3D scanning/modelling systems to enhance product R&D and quality capabilities
  • advanced tensile testing techniques for enhanced product strength & durability

I had a chance to chat with the young fellows in the Xbox room — and listen to their ideas. It’s obvious its a rocket engine for innovative thinking!

That’s but one example: the more I witness what organizations are doing to accelerate innovation, the more I discover some sort of ‘Xbox room.’ I recently keynoted a major conference on the future of trucking in Phoenix.

While on stage, I spoke about a company in Winnipeg, Canada — Bison Trucking. They’ve set up a facility to encourage younger staff to explore how to align the fast pace of technological change in trucking to opportunities for digital technologies — read an extensive blog post about their efforts in the post Trend: In Trucking, Aircraft Control Towers Are the New Offices.

There’s plenty of others – Xbox rooms seem to be springing up everywhere!

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • you should set up a digital facility with all kinds of ‘toys’ relevant to your industry, and set the creative energies of a group of young staff free to explore
  • don’t set any specific goals, objectives or deliverables on the project — simply set it free to explore!
  • explain the purpose and mission of the group to the rest of the organization, and encourage them to bring unique problems to the group

Go ahead – make an Xbox room!

 

 

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.”

Earlier this week, I spoke to several hundred executives from the trucking industry at a keynote for the Omnitracs customer conference in Phoenix. My keynote focused on the trends which are sweeping the industry, including prognostic diagnostics, the connectivity impact of the Internet of Things (#IoT), the rapid evolution of autonomous trucks and self-driving technologies, drones and the impact of bio-monitoring devices. I’ll have a full blog post on that in the next few days.

It’s a topic that I’ve been doing all over — Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles

In the meantime, the trucking industry provides a good example of how the new workplace is being transformed by technology.

Here’s what you need to know: first, do you think of trucking as a kind of unsophisticated, low-tech industry, full of a bunch of guys and gals performing boring tasks while moving down the road? Forget that — here are some simple facts:

  • the typical truck today is putting off some 3 gigabytes of data per month, and that number is increasing at a furious pace
  • the typical truck cabin contains more technology than a typical small airplane
  • in the race to self-driving vehicles, trucks will be the first to cross the finish line

A few years ago, Volvo/Mack Trucks had me in for a series of leadership and dealer meetings, where I noted that “in the world of trucking, connectivity is the new horsepower.” Given those stats above, that much is true!

And here’s a key thing: with those trends, the process of innovating in the industry has gone hi-tech. The result is that the workspace in the world of trucking is less like a grimy, dirty garage, and more like an airline control tower, at the same time that the truck cabin has come to be more like an airline cockpit.

To emphasize that point, I spoke about the folks at Bison Transport, based in Winnipeg, Canada. I’ve used them in a few talks on the future of the workplace and on the future of trucking:

“It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-somethings tracking payloads in the operations room — think of a flat airplane control tower — or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years has grown to 15 from two). There’s the “quiet room” for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.” Taking Trucking into the Future, Winnipeg Free Press, June 2014

Well, freak me out with a fork! It turns out that unknown to me, the folks from Bison Trasnport were in the room, and came up to me after my keynote. I think they were a little freaked out too!

Trevor Fridfinnson, Chief Operating Officer, Bison Transport with Keynote Speaker Jim Carroll at Omintracs 2017

Their office is at the forefront of the connectivity and technology revolution accelerating the world of trucking and transportation into the future. The folks at Trucking News covered this trend from my keynote in an article, detailed below.

Clearly, in trucking, the office space, culture and fast innovation speeds of Silicon Valley are coming in, and they are coming fast!

 


Carroll on the future during opening of Omnitracs Outlook 2017
TruckingNews.com

Futurist, trends and innovations expert Jim Carroll advised attendees to ‘think big, start small, scale fast,’ when it came to embracing technology.

Carroll said automated trucks were one of the trends that were changing the face of trucking, and questioned what would happen to the traditional driver once that occurs.

Carroll’s overall theme was that the world changes fast, has been for some time, and the trucking industry cannot get left behind.

Several factors contribute to the ever-changing world, Carroll said, including what he called the ‘era of big transformation.’

Autonomous trucks is part of that ear, according to Carroll, who declared that trucking would be the first to move to fully autonomous vehicles because it made financial sense to do so since drivers account for one third of the operational costs pie.

Servicification, the intensifying of skills training, acceleration of innovation and the impact of future generations were also factors Carroll said would contribute to how quickly the world would continue to change.

As an example of this, Carroll pointed to statistics showing that the vast majority of children aged five to six would one day have a job that today does not even exist.

Carroll said today’s truck manufactures worry not only about putting out a quality product, but also about how to best maintain that product through diagnostics and other predictive technologies.

“We are in a world in which we can determine when parts and components in a truck are going to break down,” Carroll said. “And we can bring it in for maintenance and thereby avoid the problem in advance of a truck breaking down on remote Arizona highway somewhere and thereby reduce downtime and costs.”

To further illustrate how the world and traditional workplace have experience a facelift over the years, and how the next generation will continue that trend, Carroll posted a quote from Manitoba’s Bison Transport on the screen that read: “It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-something tracking payloads in the operations room – think of a flat airplane control tower – or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years had grown to 15 from two). There’s the ‘quiet room’ for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.”

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