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And while I was away…

September 1, 2016 Leave a comment
My last post, about Blockchain, Bitcoins and Trust Machines, must have pulled a Rip Van Winkle stunt on me because I just blinked and here I am, almost 5 months later and what’s more, the world seems to have gone a little bonkers.
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The BREXIT vote happened (yes it did), and The Donald may well be on his way to the Whitehouse (heaven help us all). On the tech front, AI is making a strong play for headlines post “big data” and IoT trends of last year, and Apple got hit by a hefty 13BN tax bill by the EU, while Mark Zuckerberg got downright local in Lagos, Nigeria. However, it was not all bad news because the Rio Olympics seemingly surpassed all expectations (at least for the Brits), and apparently went very well – Zika or no.
In any case, sporadic flashes of hazy memory seem to indicate I may have been extremely busy, especially judging by my last Salesforce blog post (something about turning experts into trusted advisors). If so, that may well account for the memory lapse – I’ll just have to be more careful next time.
That said, it’s nice to post again on this blog and I look forward to sharing more thoughts on key topics of interest, such as my next post which will be about IP and tech startups, so watch this space…

Governing the Internet of Things.

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment
In light of increasing coverage about the so called “Internet of Things” (IoT), it is not surprising that sovereign governments are paying attention and introducing initiatives to try understand and take advantage of / benefit from the immense promise of the IoT. Despite the hype, it is probably too early to worry about how to govern such a potential game changer, or is it?


According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, the Internet of Things is hovering at the peak of inflated expectations, with a horizon of some 5 – 10 years before reaching the “plateau of productivity” as an established technology, so still fairly early days as yet, it would seem. However, that is not sufficient reason to avoid discussing governance options and implications for what is arguably the most significant technology development since the dawn of the Internet itself. To this end, I attended a recent keynote seminar on policy and technology priorities for IoT (see agenda here), and below are some of the key points I took away from the event:


1. No trillion IoT devices anytime soon –  According to Ovum’s Chief Analyst the popular vision of ‘a Trillion IoT devices’ will not appear overnight, for the simple reason that it is difficult, and will take some time, to deploy all those devices in all manner of places that they need to be.


2. What data avalanche? – Although a lot of data will be generated by the IoT, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the proportion of meaningful information will depend on the cost to generate, store and extract useful information from the petabytes of noise – there is a lot of scope for data compression. For example, the vast majority of data from say environment sensing IoT devices will likely be highly repetitive and suitable for optimisation.


3. Regulatory implications – OFCOM, the UK’s Data regulator, identified the four themes as most relevant for the future development of  IoT, i.e.: 1. Data privacy (including authorisation schemes); 2. Network security & resilience (suitable for low end devices); 3. Spectrum (e.g. opening up 700Mhz band and other high / low frequency bands for IoT); and 4. Numbering & Addressing (need to ensure there is enough numbers & addresses in the future for IoT).


4. Standards and interoperability – these remain key to a workable, global Internet of Everything (IoE) particularly because of need for data availability, interoperability (at device and data level), and support for dynamic networks and business models.


5. Legal implications – again the key concern is data privacy. According to Philip James (Law Firm Partner at Sheridans), in describing the chatter between IoT devices: “hyper-connected collection and usage of data is a bit like passive smoking – not everyone is aware of it”.


In context of the above observations, it may be easy to ignore the elephant in the room, i.e. how to manage unintended consequences from something as intangible as the future promise of IoT? What will happen if and when the IoT becomes semi-autonomous and self reliant, or is that science fiction?


Well, I wouldn’t be so sure, because it all boils down to trust: trust between devices; trust in data integrity; and trust in underlying networks and connectivity. However, this is not something the Internet of today can provide easily, therefore some interesting ideas have started percolating around scalable trust and integrity. For example, Gurvinder Ahluwalia (IBM’s CTO for IoT and Cloud Computing) described a scenario using hitherto disruptive and notorious technologies (i.e. Blockchain and BitTorrent, of Bitcoin and Pirate Bay fame respectively), to create a self trusting environment for what he calls “democratic devices”.


The implications are astounding and much closer to the science fiction I mentioned previously. However, it is real enough when you consider that it requires a scalable, trustworthy, distributed system to verify, coordinate, and share access to the ‘Things’ on the IoT, and that key components and prototypes of such a system already exist today. This, in my opinion, is why sovereign governments are sitting up and taking notice, as should all private individuals around the world.


What makes a good chief innovation officer?

The role of Chief Innovation Officer, or Head of Innovation, is fast gaining traction and attention within various organisations and industries, but why is this happening now, what does it entail and who is best suited to fulfill the role? These were some of the questions I had in mind when I got an opportunity to spend the afternoon at a recent Chief Innovation Office Summit in London, UK.

CINOEU

The 2 day summit featured a host of speakers and topics related to innovation, including networking and hands-on workshops – because, after-all innovation is about deeds, not just words and ideas. The attendees list read like a who is who of Innovation leadership from new and established organisations. Some key takeaways include:

  1. The right Culture for Innovation – many more companies and individuals have recognised and are making tangible efforts to identify and address the need for innovation leadership in their industry. This will help nurture and promote desired behaviours to create and benefit from an innovation culture.
  1. Connecting people and ideas – It takes a combination of business, social and technology innovations to really make an impact – for example, a clean tech solution provider described how it’s solar power product creates income streams (business innovation) for roof owners who chose their aerodynamic solar panels (tech innovation) which can be installed without risky invasive fastenings onto rooftops. Also, they’re the biggest distributor of solar powered lamps in Africa (social innovation).
  1. Communication is key – the summit presentations provided a balanced a mix of vendors / service providers and end user organisations with real case studies to provide a fertile ground for sharing progressive thinking about innovation. Some of the presentations, innovative products, services and initiatives described or demo’ed at the event were indeed amazing to behold.
  1. Seeing is believing – For example, one of the sponsors demonstrated a 2 sided innovation approach with a workshop designed to allow participants to appreciate the need to address both external (your customers) and internal (your organisation) requirements for innovation. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of innovation efforts, in my opinion. The question of ROI, aka what’s in it for your firm, will always trump even the most innovative customer solutions.
  1. The cool tech factor – Of course, the usual collection of toys and gadgets were on display from sponsors, vendors and attendees – e.g. I even had a photo op with Google Glass at lunch, courtesy of a fellow attendee – it seems wearable computing devices are de rigeur for every tech innovation conversation these days.

In conclusion, and to answer some of my initial questions, it is obvious that more people and organisations are looking to innovate in order to survive and thrive in today’s business environment, and this event highlighted the continuous need for dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas between all stakeholder. Therefore the role of a Chief Innovation Officer is suited to someone who understands the need to nurture the culture, make connections and communicate with all stakeholders about innovation.  In Capgemini, our innovation groups understand the triple need to nurture, connect and communicate innovation across an ecosystem of partners, clients, employees, suppliers, and even competitors, in order to realise the full benefits from innovation.

Full marks out of ten for the summit organisers and I certainly look forward to participating, and perhaps even presenting, at another one of their excellent series of events.

Digital Economy and IP

January 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Over the past few months, I had several opportunities to engage in the conversation about the role of Intellectual Property (IP) in the new world of Digital, and in so doing, I’ve managed to tease out certain key questions and concerns surrounding this topic, e.g.: What challenges and opportunities does IP bring to the Digital feast? How does the ‘sharing’ economy affect established notions of IP, and how effective are current efforts to update and harmonise IP in the digital age? The answers are slowly revealing themselves, but the following observation points will hopefully highlight the way.

What is Digital?

The term “Digital” means different things to different people, (including those that consider it an extremely irritating term for something old repackaged as a new ‘buzzword’). In my opinion, the term Digital can be used to describe various new and emerging products / services / processes / user behaviours etc., that are enabled by digital technology. It works equally well in describing innovative, disruptive trends (e.g. big data and predictive analytics) and / or re-imagination of pre-existing technologies (e.g. Cloud).

How does IP figure into it?

Intellectual property is the concept and mechanism through which creators and owners of “works of the mind” may derive economic benefits from their works (e.g.: inventions, designs, works of art, and trademarks). By its very nature, IP is constantly challenged by those self same things for which it was designed – e.g. printing press, audio-visual capture, playback and distribution technologies, and even this new fangled 3D printing. The Digital world merely amplifies an age old problem which reappears with alarming regularity with each new shift or breakthrough in technology.  However, this particular incarnation also begs the question of whether the concept of IP is intrinsically flawed in a digital universe

Key Trends in society / technology / business

In any discussion on this topic (i.e. IP and the digital economy), you’ll invariably pick upon certain trends as key catalysts for change, which typically fall into any of following groups: socio-economic trends, technology trends and business trends. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and give it a try with any of the following trends e.g.: social media, aging population, real-time dynamic pricing, predictive analytics, digital transformation, 3D printing, and even “sharing economy”. Such trends are redefining how we live and do business in a digital world, but are they all merely symptoms of the same phenomenon?

How will law and regulation keep up?

Not very well, I’m afraid. How can we best apply governance to emerging phenomena such as Digital? To say it is very difficult would be an understatement, considering that these changes also affect the law, and law makers, too. This is a perfect example of what city planners and business school professors consider to be a “wicked problem”. Existing rules of society and international law struggle to encompass the global reach and impact of digital technologies whereby information can spread, at the speed of light, to all corners of the world heralding the lofty dawn of unified global thought, sentiment and action, or anarchy. In order to remain relevant and useful, the concept of IP needs a major rethink and rework to align with a dynamic digital landscape. However, this is not the preserve of a few sovereign governments, and more needs to be done (at an international, collaborative level) to even begin nursing any hope of having an impact on Digital and human cultural evolution.

Digital transformation and business model innovation

In my opinion, the future of business lies in the ability to reinvent itself and take best advantage of the constantly emerging game-changing  technologies, products, services, and usage paradigms. One such avenue is via business model innovation – a technique that makes use of a simple business model canvas to articulate any business model, in a fast and dynamic way. Technology is no longer a barrier to entry, therefore the true measure of fitness must have to do with a business model’s flexibility and adaptability (for competitive advantage) in the digital universe.

In summary, and regardless of where I’ve held these conversations (e.g. at the Copyright and Technology Conference, or Digital Economy and Law Conference, and even at the BCS, Chartered Institute for IT), these same questions and concerns have become a recurring theme.

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Ps. I will look to delve into these topics at my next speaking event, on the 22nd of January 2014, and hope to provide further insight and provocative questions on digital economy and IP. Also, we’ll get to hear a speaker from one of the world’s foremost organisations at the forefront of Digital. Don’t miss it (or at least come by and say hello), if you happen to be in London on that day.

Five Myths of Digital Technology and Enterprise Transformation

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Digital technology has brought unprecedented change across all business sectors, and very few organisations can claim to be unaffected by the information age (e.g. via internet, mobile, social channels). However, this does not always translate to a need for that cause-all / cure-all catchphrase of technology or digital transformation.

Below are five commonly held myths associated with digital technology and enterprise transformation:

1 – Technology really drives the business

Only if your business is about creating and / or selling new technology, otherwise this is tantamount to placing the cart before the horse, or the tail wagging the dog – it may be possible, but not necessarily a good idea. The fact is that technology places way down the list of drivers for business change. Gartner’s Nexus of Forces which combine to impact businesses, although enabled by technology, relate mainly to changing paradigms (i.e. big data / cloud) and behaviours (i.e. social / mobility) rather than just pure technology

2 – Change technology; change your business

No, not really. Technology change is not the same thing as technology enabled change. The former relates to tools, whereas the latter is about the purpose for which said tools are used or acquired. For example, buying and using Salesforce will not automatically make yours a more customer centric organisation. Digital technology transformation is less about technology than the outcome of an architected approach to delivering fast, flexible and responsive services to customers

3 – Transform now or die!

Not all businesses will need to undergo an immediate or full blown technology change programme, as sometimes the only change required may just be around processes or service focus. A change in culture could have more significant and lasting impact in some organisations. For example, shifting from a reactive customer support environment towards proactive customer engagement will yield better results even if the tools remain the same!

4 – You need a team of tech-savvy whiz kids to transform your business

False. Most of the advantages of new digital technologies come from ability to provide fast and flexible services connected / delivered through standardised interfaces, which don’t require expert knowledge of the source system. The role of IT is fast evolving into an orchestrator and governor of the various external / internal services (including legacy systems / applications) that must work together to deliver said fast, flexible and responsive services to the internal / external customer

5 – The need for digital transformation will one day come to an end

No, no, no. There can be no real end to continuous digital evolution, especially when the rate of change is actually on the increase, no doubt spurred on by knock-on effects of fast changing technologies, user behaviours, customer expectations and competition. The ideal business lifecycle must embrace a process of continuous improvement with allowance for testing new business models, implementing changes (including technology related ones), evaluating the outcome, making further tweaks, and repeating the entire process all over. This cannot stop because as soon as an optimal solution is achieved the business environment changes again, thus necessitating another cycle

In summary, and perhaps somewhat ironically, digital technology is neither the root cause nor cure-all for many challenges facing organisations today. The need for transformation is often triggered by changing environments and / or behaviours (e.g. by customers, suppliers, partners or competitors), perhaps in combination with some innovation (technology based or otherwise), that ultimately impacts their bottom line.

Perhaps fittingly the real business impact of technology transformation comes from how it is deployed and used by the people within and outside the organisation. Each organisation must make the effort to understand its own particular situation, and to discover the right way forward. It is not an easy task, but with the right attitude and motivation from the top, it will be relatively less painful than just doing nothing.

Olympic Rights and the IP Roller Coaster – Bolt in Focus

August 13, 2012 1 comment

Last year, I wrote a post on the above topic discussing, among other things, the approach proposed by Games organisers to tackle such sharp practices as “ambush marketing” and “unfair association with the Games”. They even produced a list of restricted words and phrases (including: Olympic, Paralympic, London Games, 2012 etc) to protect brand exclusivity and sponsorship preorgatives. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when the world’s fastest 100M athlete cheekily commandeered a photographer’s camera to take pictures of the photographers, spectators and fellow athletes, a rather interesting debate was ignited in a popular photography magazine forum, mainly about copyright and ownership rights of those pictures, which were subsequently published by the photographer in his own newspaper.

Images of / from Usain Bolt, the Photographer (*see below for image sources)

Images of & from Usain Bolt, the photographer (*see below for image sources)

The forum discussion can be found here, and it includes the following key questions:

  1. Who owns the rights to the pictures taken; Is it Usain Bolt, or the Photographer (i.e. owner of the camera and memory card)?
  2. Does the fact that the camera and memory card (including photographic data) remain property of the photographer have any bearing on rights ownership to Bolt’s pictures?
  3. Should Bolt have any right to the art (or computerised data) that he created on equipment he does not own? (this one prompted comparisons with a Banksy grafitti art on someone’s wall)
  4. Does the photographer’s publication of the picture (presumably without permission) violate Bolt’s rights as ‘artiste’, or arguably as copyright owner?
  5. What about the venue / organisers rules and conditions regarding accredited photographers and their works?

All very good questions, and no doubt something a good IP lawyers can argue for and / or against, depending on who is paying the fees, but suffice it to say that the best comment, in my opinion, came from a forum member who reminded others that “copyright subsists upon the creation of the art…” and that it rightfully belongs to the individual creating the art, i.e. Usain Bolt, in this instance. Furthermore, I would add that the author of an original work, even if not the copyright owner, also has the moral right to seek redress against any objectionable use of the work.

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*Images sourced, from left to right:

Were You Inspired?

August 13, 2012 3 comments

The end of a successful London 2012 Olympics, heralds a return to reality not least for the people of London who played host to the world for two straight weeks. Numerous events, achievements and incidents occurred during the week, but a critical factor for me was the superb organisation which provide some great lessons for any business to embrace and emulate.

Sunset at the Olympic Park

Sunset at the Olympic Park

Below are four great lessons from the London 2012 Olympic Games:

  1. Never promise too much – the organisers of London 2012 did not promise more than they could deliver. In fact, the closing ceremony performance at the Beijing 2008 Games gave little hint of what was to come as the Olympic flag was handed over to London Mayor, Boris Johnson
  2. Wow them with your opener – The opening ceremony for London 2012 was a real eye opener for people on just what the Games could deliver, and they did not disappoint.
  3. Deliver the goods – The most important part of the Olympics are the games, and London 2012 successfully delivered in terms of: organisation, audience participation (apart from early issues with rare tickets vs. empty seats), television coverage (the BBC coverage was outstanding), and a remarkable medal haul for the host nation.
  4. Be gracious in your exit – The games concluded with a music laden closing ceremony, and the Olympic flag was passed with some aplomb to Brazil, the next host nation which also gave a taste of what to expect in Rio de Janeiro come 2016. Even the departure experience at Heathrow Airport was something to write home about.

“Successful”, “fantastic”, “enjoyable”, “brilliant” were some of the descriptive words used by athletes, volunteers, organisers and spectators at these last Games, and those are words that any business should like to hear coming from their clients, customers, employees and partners.