Disruptive days call for an inside-out approach

May 21, 2018
business-as-usual_dead-endThe next big thing is here even if it is hard to see. It’s Internet again, this time with the real world added to people and organisations already in place. That process is often called Internet of Things – IoT where the “T” refers to the physical world. And this time the impact on society, organisations and people will be even bigger than what Internet had last time since the real world most often is missing from the processes we try to digitalise today. The stock exchanges went through its digital transformation years ago since documents traded was digitalised, brokers on the floor was replaced by systems and money flows freely in cyber space. The remaining connection to the real world includes the companies themselves and some individuals still trading as well as the distance between the computers with the trading systems and the robot trader agents.

We started digitalise in the fifties but it is only when a process is fully digital the benefits appear. And most processes touch the real world why IoT is required to complete most of the digital transformation. When a process is digital, end to end, we can harvest, but more importantly we can add turbo functionality like artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision to them and make many times better gains in speed, cost, efficiency and quality. The impact of that can easily be a drastic change in an entire industry (like when selling books left the book store era) and will for sure eliminate a lot of white and blue-collar jobs.

We are just in the beginning of this fundamental change of rules and games which probably will go on for the next 20 years or so. And who the winners will be on the other side is hard to tell but I believe there are some things that will characterise the good candidates:

Entrepreneurs with open minds, good ideas and fantastic ability to execute together with the resources needed can build from a clean piece of paper and skip all legacy related challenges. Most will fail but some of the winners will absolutely come from this category either on their own but more often as part of a bigger organisation. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Financial muscles enables clever investments and some of the winners will be clever and lucky enough to buy themselves a winner’s position. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Some organisations of today will master this entire race – yes it’s like 10 marathon races back to back and even if you are in the lead after race number eight you can easily fail completely. Think Netscape… Ability to change is always a matter of people and processes. A winner in this long race will have to secure solid processes and a well unified and motivated team throughout the entire race even though the distance and where the goal is remain unclear. Constantly changing processes and people during the race, in worst case even bringing in external leaders and people, will not create the ability required. No, a well working team with solid leadership and the core competences over time can make it. Such team can react to news, changes, threats and opportunities in a much better way than others. And they will learn while going thus know things others don’t know. Systematic innovation is an organisational ability required to tackle very complex challenges. Motivation, inspiration, engagement, care, love, trust, health, experience, ethics, well-being and fighting spirit are things that will be found in the companies that made the digital transformation successfully. And they will have strong brands with attributes that todays youngsters will appreciate.

Established organisations who want to master the digital transformation well has to start their journey immediately and rapidly get beyond strategies, plans, innovation managers, Powerpoint and Excel. Among the first things I suggest needs to be in place are very strong support from executive management, activities to inspire, engage and include staff, rapid prototyping capabilities in place and establishment of new relationships with a host of new companies and people who each master something that might be of great importance onwards.

It is already difficult for companies to master their own domains these days and with challenges coming from everywhere, a much wider view is required. And even more challenging: the golden rule of “asking the customers” – the outside-in approach – becomes obsolete when technology provides completely new opportunities. Like when internet came last time we’re now entering yet another era where inside-out is the name of the game.

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From Smart to Great Cities

November 22, 2017
most-beautiful-cities-barcelona-cr-gettyMost cities have jumped on the Smart City train and it is considered an important and good thing to do by virtually everyone. But it is unclear who drives that train, where it is going and when it will arrive. I prefer talking about Great Cities since that is something we all understand, can argue about and contribute to. A Great City to me is a safe, sustainable and efficient city where people are healthy and happy. A place I would like to live in, work in and visit. It takes systematic and continuous innovation to become and stay a Great City, and systematic innovation requires infrastructure and scalable platforms to be in place.

It is obvious that technology is a key tool to continuously make our cities better especially in terms of efficiency, sustainability, safety/security and convenience. These are the key deliverables of IoT so no wonder IoT is hot today. By connecting the physical world to the Internet of people and organisations already in place, IoT enables us to make processes completely digital thus more efficient and ready for “turbo effects” from things like Machine Learning. This drives digital transformation and the impact on people, businesses and cities will be as big as when internet arrived.

But this is not enough to make cities great. It is still primarily human beings living, working and visiting the cities why “core platforms” like decent infrastructure, healthcare, social care and education for all is required. So is an environment where people feel safe and can breathe fresh air, drink fresh water and enjoy their human rights. And not the least enjoy nature, art, design, good food and time with people they love and care for.

With my definition of Smart Cities as Great Cities I unfortunately can’t think of any. Many make progress on the technical side but when it comes to “core platforms” there is a lot more to wish for. The “core platform” we have in Sweden is relatively good which I believe attracts talent and explains some of the quite successful startup community we have, but we have ways to go.


Autonomous cars not around the corner

April 26, 2017

KITT_Knight_Rider2The car industry has its challenges. From being the ultimate provider of freedom, personal transportation and quality of life it now is supposed to solve the safety and sustainability issues it created. The very complicated and expensive cars of today are not utilised enough (5,5% according to my TeliaSense app), consume too much space, cause a lot of accidents and impact our planet badly when produced, used and discarded. It’s easy to suggest public transportation as an alternative but as soon as leaving the urban areas that is falling short. Intuitively the solution would include new ways of owning and using cars, electrical engines, even more safety features and cross-industry innovation within the car eco system. And since we can’t wait 10-15 years the cars already on the road must be included at least to some degree.

With this in mind I find today’s focus on self driving cars strange. We have continuous safety improvements in new cars, they are connected and loaded with sensors and most manufacturers have electric engines in some models. Also cars on the roads are being connected using the OBD port and offered services from the car eco-systems. But autonomous cars is what the industry, media and strangely enough IT companies are talking most about. I understand that manufacturers work on self driving cars since it’s a very complex challenge which will take many years to sort out, and it will bring continuous innovation to the cars down the road. But why talking so much about it already today? The technical challenges are big but not what will determine how soon we will see self-driving cars on the road. It’s culture, law and policies!

Take a look at airplanes. They are very complicated to make and fly but self-flying planes are here or at least around the corner depending on definitions. So are we ready for choosing flights with or without pilots? And which one would be cheaper? Imagine the first autonomous car running over a person or two in US, and what the penalties will do to the car maker involved. Some people argue we will have new infrastructure for self driving cars. But with new infrastructure I guess we could be more innovative than making cars without steering wheel.

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) classification for autonomous cars has six levels, from none (Level 0) to fully automated systems (Level 5). Level 3 is a vehicle in which within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks, but must still be prepared to take control when needed. Berg Insight estimates registrations of 16,5M new Level 3 cars and 7,8M new Level 4 cars and no fully autonomous ones (Level 5) 2030.

I’m sure we can make very good but not perfect self-driving vehicles a couple of years from now but can’t see them being used on public roads for many years, unless very limited in speed. There has been some early progress when it comes to regulation here and there but I haven’t seen any progress in the field of liability yet. And I guess a generation or two of drivers will probably have to disappear from the roads before it happens.


Intelligence in the edge

September 10, 2015

ai-cropped-640x353After the Billions-of-devices-hype came even bigger numbers on the Big Data opportunity. It’s obviously so that being able to gather and analyse huge amount of data from different sources gives interesting opportunities for both good and bad guys. And the big number game always works: if airlines save 1% cost it’s a huge amount of money. Or if rescue shows up at car accidents a minute earlier on average we save many lives and loads of pain and money. If people on the planet save a minute a day on their way to work we would create mountains of time to be used for something fantastic. We have left the Billions and talk Trillions now.

Let’s come back to the view that enormous shared data power in the cloud is the only way forward. We’ve heard it before. It all started with IBM’s mighty mainframes in the core and 3270 terminals in the edge. Computing was only about central expensive machines until Apple turned it all upside down with the first personal computer. And ever since have IT managers and others had to struggle with the balance between edge and core. At 3Com we invented Ethernet and argued power to the edge. Why send data outside the office if it’s internal and only to be shared between people in the office? It’s at least not safer and what if connection to the center is lost? It has been going on like this, back and forth, Thin Clients with all power in the core was really the future for a while and most recently employees started bring their own, rarely thin, devices to work.

There is definitely a lot of economies of scale to run things from the center. But innovation often comes from the edge. That’s why we have regional and local governments for example. Culture, climate, economy, religion, desire and everything else differs from place to place, company to company, human to human.

Coming back to Big Data and IoT. First of all, IoT is most often small data, and little or no velocity, variation and all the other V’s that Big Data is supposed to deal with. Secondly, in many applications we need to make really quick decisions down there at the floor, in the edge. A home care solution which tries to identify when a person living there is about to get stroke, requires a thorough understanding of that individual, constant monitoring and learning and very rapid and correct alarms when something is about to go wrong. A retailer who need to put the new pasta somewhere need to make that decision now. With real-time support for that decision it will be a better one than without.

I believe a new wave of distributed AI applications within self-learning systems will be a really important part of the Internet of Everything. Keep an eye at companies like our THINGS member Aifloo and Imagimob, both developing AI capable edge devices for industrial, healthcare, retail and energy markets. These clever devices with their own sensors built-in, might even make it possible to avoid further integration into larger equipment to provide applications requested.


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