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Predicting the (near) Future

December 22, 2015 Leave a comment
The future is always tricky to predict and, in keeping with Star Wars season, the dark side is always there to cloud everything. But as we all know in IT the ‘Cloud’ can be pretty cool, except of course when it leaks. Last month saw the final edition of Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo 2015 in Barcelona, and I was fortunate to attend (courtesy of my Business Unit) and bear witness to some amazing predictions about the road ahead for our beloved / beleageured IT industry.
 
Judging from the target audience, and the number of people in attendance, it is safe to say that the future is at best unpredictable, and at worst unknowable, but Gartner’s Analysts gave it a good go; making bold statements about the state of things to be, within the next 5 years or so. The following are some key messages, observations and predictions which I took away from the event.
 
1. CIOs are keen to see exactly what lies ahead.
Obviously. However, it does confirm to my mind that the future is highly mutable, especially given the amount of change to be navigated on the journey towards digital transformation. I say ‘towards’ because, from all indications, there is likely no real end-point or destination to the journey of digital transformation. The changes (and challenges / opportunities) just keep coming thick and fast, and at an increasing pace. For example, by 2017, Gartner predicts that 50% of IT spending will be outside of IT, it currently stands at 42% today, therefore CIOs must shift their approach from command and control style management to leading via influence and collaboration.
 
2. Algorithmic business is the future of digital business
A market for algorithms (i.e. snippets of code with value) will emerge where organizations and individuals will be able to: licence, exchange, sell and/or give away algorithms – Hmmm, now where have we seen or heard something like that before? Anyway, as a result, many organisations will need an ‘owner’ for Algorithms (e.g. Chief Data Officer) who’s job it’ll be to create an inventory of their algorithms, classify it (i.e. private or “core biz” and public “non-core biz” value), and oversee / govern its use.
 
3. The next level of Smart Machines
In the impending “Post App” era, which is likely to be ushered in by algorithms, people will rely on new virtual digital assistants, (i.e. imagine Siri or Cortana on steroids) to conduct transactions on their behalf. According to Gartner, “By 2020, smart agent services will follow at least 10% of people to wherever they are, providing them with services they want and need via whatever technology is available.” Also, the relationship between machines and people will initially be cooperative, then co-dependant, and ultimately competitive, as machines start to vie for the same limited resources as people.
 
4. Platforms are the way forward (and it is bimodal all the way)
A great platform will help organisations add and remove capability ‘like velcro’. It will need to incorporate Mode 2 capability in order to: fail fast on projects / cloud / on-demand / data and insight. Organisations will start to build innovation competency, e.g. via innovation labs, in order to push the Mode 2 envelope. Platform thinking will be applied at all layers (including: delivery, talent, leadership and business model) and not just on the technology / infrastructure layer.
 
5. Adaptive, People Centric Security
The role of Chief Security Officer role will change and good security roles will become more expansive and mission critical. In future, everyone gets hacked, even you, and if not then you’re probably not important. Security roles will need to act more like intelligence officers instead of policemen. Security investment models will shift from predominantly prevention based to prevention and detection capabilities, as more new and unpredictable threats become manifest. Also organisations will look to deploy People Centric Security measures (PCS) in order to cover all bases.
 
6. The holy grail of business moments and programmable business models
The economics of connections (from increased density of connections and creation of value between: business / people / things) will become evident especially when organsiations focus on delivering business moments to delight their customers. Firms will start to capitalise on their platforms to enable C2C interactions (i.e. customer-2-customer interactions) and allow people and things to create their own value. It will be the dawn of programmable business models 
 
7. The Digital Mesh and the role of wearables and IoT
One of the big winners in the near future will be the ‘digital mesh’, amplified by the explosion of wearables and IoT devices (and their interactions) in the digital mesh environment. Gartner predicts a huge market for wearables (e.g. 500M units sold in 2020 alone – for just a few particular items). Furthermore, barriers to entry will be lower and prices will fall as a result of increased competition, along with: more Apps, better APIs and improved power.
 
The above are just a few of the trends and observations I got from the event, but I hasten to add that it will be impossible to reflect over 4 days of pure content in these highlight notes, and that other equally notable trends and topics such as: IoT Architecture, Talent Acquisition and CIO/CTO Agendas, only receive honourable mentions. However, I noticed that topics such as Blockchain were not fully explored as might be expected at an event of this nature. Perhaps next year will see it covered in more depth – just my prediction.
In summary, the above are not necessarily earth shattering predictions, but taken together they point the way forward to a very different experience of technology; one that is perhaps more in line with hitherto far-fetched predictions of the Singularity, as humans become more immersed and enmeshed with machines. Forget the Post-App era, this could be the beginning of a distinctly recognisable post human era. However, as with all predictions only time will tell, and in this case, lets see where we are this time next year. I hope you have a happy holiday / festive season wherever you are.
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Big Dating: Bringing real data to the dating game.

June 1, 2015 Leave a comment

The online dating industry has grown from strength to strength and is estimated to be valued in excess of £2Billion, globally. However, the future growth may hinge on how data and new technologies can be leveraged to improve user experience and matching outcomes. Some key questions: Does having more data about potential partners really make any difference in finding the right match? What are key emerging trends that will affect the evolution of online dating?

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There are literally thousands of online dating sites worldwide, including over 1400 sites in the UK alone where online dating accounts for 25% of all new relationships. As might be expected, there are many types of players and business models in the industry, including online behemoths such as eHarmony or Match.com; mobile players like Tinder or Hinge; and increasingly niche specialists that match users based on specific demographic factors e.g. age / income / ethnicity / religion / location / sexuality etc.

Regardless of player size, business model or target user groups, a quick web trawl reveals some salient observations about the current and future state of online dating, as follows:

  • Mobile dating on the rise – A key trend is the increasing use of mobile Apps for online dating – so the major players are refocusing efforts to improve the multi-channel experience for their users.
  • A question of trust – Online dating services typically require user data for matching potential partners, but this can be greatly impaired by inaccurate data. Users often exaggerate personal attributes, or lie outright, in order to attract potential partners. Providers seek additional data (e.g. from retail, social media, entertainment and online sources) to augment data accuracy. However, there are privacy implications here that will need addressing.
  • User behaviours – Some provider prefer to base matches on actual user behaviours. The idea being that people often say one thing then do the opposite, and this is not unusual with online dating where user reactions to proposed matches can often reveal their true preferences regardless of what is stated on their profiles.
  • Matching algorithms are far from perfect – In fact, some view matching algorithms as just “smoke and mirrors”, and that dating sites succeed simply by providing a larger pool of potential partners. Furthermore, human matching is a bi-directional proposition because, unlike Amazon recommends, your supposedly perfect match may not be all that into you.
  • The eternal shop window – General attitude to online dating has become more positive, and the number of people using dating apps is growing faster than all other apps combined. However, these also foster the notion that online dating encourages, or at least facilitates, perpetual window shopping for potential matches, even for those people in committed relationships.

It is clear from the above that although data and technology will continue to be crucial in the evolution of online dating, the continued success and growth of the industry will depend very much on how well it can handle complex human behaviours, motivations and inconsistencies.

Matching algorithms aside, there’s still significant opportunity and scope for complex human behaviour modelling, and improved dynamic/predictive analytics, to cater for users’ changing preferences, circumstances and motivations. These must all be in place in order for the claims and predictions of everlasting happiness via online dating can be tested or verified. Perhaps, if Romeo and Juliet had access to such computer enabled insight theirs may not have been such a tragic love story!

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Sources:

Internet of Things = Internet of Trust

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment
That was one of several key observation from yesterday’s event at the BCS Chartered institute of IT. Others include a warning about Internet of fake Things as well as the critical role that you, the user, must play in order to ensure Things don’t get out of hand, so to speak. Read on to find out more…

IoT1

The sold out event started with an overview of Cisco’s initiatives and activities around the Internet of Things (IoT), which were vividly described by Sarah Eccleston, (IoT Director at Cisco). Covering everything from cows to ice cream, health monitoring to supermarket supply chain optimisation, she painted a picture of a future with IoT which is already starting to happen right now.
This was followed by a note of caution from Martin Lee, (Cisco threat intelligence), who warned that ungoverned, exponential growth of IoT devices and services could lead, among other things, to an “Internet of Fake Things”. According to him, now is the time to steer IoT development toward a safe and stable direction for the benefit of all.

Antonis Patrikios, (Director at FieldFisher), spoke about the legal aspects of IoT and privacy, as well as the need to ensure that IoT works for the benefit of people. He described IoT as the “Internet of Trust” because that is what will be needed to enhance user experience and address key legal challenges such as user privacy and the fact that “IoT is global, but the law is not”.

Finally, the University College London (UCL) provided a glimpse of real IoT projects developed by UCL post graduate students using Microsoft technology. They described realistic usage scenarios and demonstrated the ability to organise groups of Things, controlled via a “Captain” device, to support multiple uses of the same Things (or groups thereof). E.g. the same Captain device in a hospital room full of Things could service the use cases of multiple stakeholders, including the: doctor, patient, family members, building security and hospital administrators.

In the end, all speakers seemed to agree that the combination of IoT and Big Data will be THE game changer in the next wave of computing. There was a certain buzz in the air, as attendees and speakers discussed the possibilities and challenges posed by IoT. One show of hands survey indicated that attendees thought the Internet of Things was at least as significant as, if not more so than, the advent of the original Internet. It was also felt that user education, (e.g. by the IoT service providers, “Thing makers” and their collaborators), would be key to the success and acceptance of IoT by the general public – people are genuinely concerned about their privacy, personal safety and security.

To conclude, IoT is an exciting yet scary proposition, which is set to fundamentally influence the way we interact with information and the world around us. I hope we can get it right.

Big Data, Privacy and Intellectual Property

September 29, 2013 2 comments

Big Data, cloud, social and mobility make up Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, aka super disruptors of the digital age. In a previous related post, I discussed how such forces impact the concept of intellectual property, and in this post I’ll focus on two major issues that impact and influence big data.

Big Data, Privacy, IP

Big Data, Privacy, IP

Although a lot has been written about big data and the challenge / opportunity it presents to enterprises and individuals, the sparks really start to fly whenever commercial exploitation of digital information and content (incl. big data), enters the realms of personal privacy and IP rights (IPR).

Big Data

According to a recent Forrester report , your typical firm has on average 125TB of data but only actually utilise 12% of it. This shocking statistic brings home a key attribute and challenge of big data, namely the sheer volume, velocity and variety of data that resides and travels across multiple channels / platforms within and between organisations. As a result, many organisations have turned to ever more advanced analytics and business intelligence solution (including big data and social media) to extract value from the sea of information.

Personal Privacy

Given such powerful tools, and the vast amount of replicated information across various sources, it is relatively easy to get a picture of any individual’s situation, strengths and limitations. For many organisations, such data could become “toxic” if and when they suffer any loss of control. However, personal privacy is subjective at best, and there are differing world views on whether it should be considered a constitutional or fundamental human right.

Furthermore, the explosion in speed / type / channel of interaction may have brought about a certain degree, (perhaps even an expectation or acceptance), of reduced privacy. However, although some users may be happy to share personal data in exchange for financial gain, according to a recent SSRN paper, data protection and privacy entrepreneurship may have their place, but “people should not have to pay to protect their privacy or receive coupons as compensation”, especially as this might further disadvantage the poor.

Intellectual Property

In addition to the above issues, organisations also have to deal with the drama of IP rights and how they apply to the masses of unstructured data and content. In other words, every last piece of the aforementioned 125TB of big data held within your average organisation will have some associated IPR which must be taken into consideration when collecting, storing, processing or sharing that information. According to some legal experts, companies need to think through certain fundamental legal aspects of IPR, e.g. “who owns the input data companies are using in their analysis, and who owns the output?”

If you consider all the information / content, (including employee ‘personal’ content), sloshing around in every organisation, then you might begin to perceive the scale of the problem. There may be a lucrative opportunity for information mining and analysis algorithms aimed at the computer audit and forensic investigations market.

The way forward

Below are 3 things that organisations should bear in mind when dealing with the issues and problems posed by big data, privacy and IP:

  1. Information is the lifeblood of business  – implement the right policies for big data governance. The right information, at the right time, for the right user, is the holy grail for business, and it demands capabilities in Data Science and increasingly Data Art  . 
  1. Soon it may not really matter who owns your data – Personal information is becoming another currency with which the customer can obtain value. There is a growing push to focus big data governance / controls on data usage rather than data collection. 
  1. It’s not the tool, but how you use it – technology is not really that much a differentiator, rather it is the architecture and infrastructure approach that make all the difference – e.g. Forrester’s report recommended the “Hub and Spoke” model for decentralised big data capability3

In conclusion, although it may appear that the heady combination of big data, privacy and IP could be lethal for any organisation,  we mustn’t ignore real opportunities to reap the benefits of big data insight, but first the organisation must put its house in order by adopting the right policies and principles for big data governance.

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Note: The above post is adapted from my article of the same title, which was published in the September edition of ITNow magazine,  by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT.

References:

  1. Gartner – Information and the Nexus of Forces: Delivering and Analyzing Data (26, June 2012) – Analyst: Yvonne Genovese
  2. BCS TWENTY:13 ENHANCE YOUR IT STRATEGY – Intellectual property in the era of big and open data (01-03-2013) – Jude Umeh FBCS CITP
  3. Forrester – Deliver On Big Data Potential With A Hub-And-Spoke Architecture (12, June 2013) – Analyst: Brian Hopkins
  4. SSRN – Buying and Selling Privacy: Big Data’s Different Burdens and Benefits (30-June-2013) – by Joseph Jerome (Future of Privacy Forum) – Ref: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2294996
  5. Out-law.com – Big data: privacy concerns stealing the headlines but IP issues of equal importance to businesses – Ref: http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2013/march/big-data-privacy-concerns-stealing-the-headlines-but-ip-issues-of-equal-importance-to-businesses-says-expert/
  6. BCS Edspace Blog – Big data: manage the chaos, reap the benefits – (17-May-2013) Marc Vael (International VP of ISACA) Ref: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2196
  7. Capping IT Off – Forget Data Science, Data Art is Next! – Simon Gratton Ref: http://www.capgemini.com/blog/capping-it-off/2013/07/forget-data-science-data-art-is-next