Are we addicted to “Digital”?

Posted on : 28-02-2017 | By : john.vincent | In : Cloud, Data, Innovation, IoT, Uncategorized

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There’s no getting away from it. The speed of technology advancement is now a major factor in changing how we interact with the world around us. For the first time, it seems that innovation in technology is being applied across every industry to drive innovation, increase efficiency and open new market possibilities, whilst in our daily lives we rely more and more on a connected existence. This is seen in areas such as the increase in wearable tech and the Internet of Things.

But what is the impact on business and society of this technology revolution regarding human interaction?

Firstly, let’s get the “Digital” word out on the table. Like cloud before it, the industry seems to have adopted a label on which we can pin everything related to advancement in technology. Whilst technically relating to web, mobile, apps etc. it seems every organisation has a “digital agenda”, likely a Chief Digital Officer and often a whole department in which some sort of alchemy takes place to create digital “stuff”. Meanwhile, service providers and consultancies sharpen their marketing pencils to ensure we are all enticed by their “digital capabilities”. Did I miss the big analogue computing cut-over in the last few years?

What “digital” does do (I guess) is position the narrative away from just technology to a business led focus, which is a good thing.

So how is technology changing the way that we interact on a human level? Before we move on to the question of technology dependence, let’s look at some other applications.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a big theme today. We’ve discussed the growth of AI here before and the impact on future jobs. However, one of the areas relating social interaction which is interesting, is the development of emotionally intelligent AI software. This is most evident in call centres where some workers can now receive coaching from software in real-time which analyses their conversations with customers. During the call the software can recommend changes such as with style, pace, warning about the emotional state of the customer etc.

Clever stuff, and whilst replacing call centre agents with robots is still something that many predict is a way off (if at all) it does offer an insight into the way that humans and AI might interact in the future. By developing AI to understand mental states from facial expressions, vocal nuances, body posture and gesture software can make decisions such as adapting the way that navigational systems might work depending on the drivers mental condition (for example, lost or confused) or picking the right moment to sell something based on emotional state. The latter does, however, raise wider ethical issues.

So what about the increase in digital dependency and the social impacts? Anyone who has been in close proximity to “millennial gatherings” will have witnessed the sight of them sitting together, head bowed, thumbs moving at a speed akin to Bradley Coopers character in Limitless punctuated by the odd murmuring, comment or interjection. Seems once we drop in a bit of digital tech and a few apps we stifle the art of conversation.

In 2014 a programmer called Kevin Holesh developed an app called Moment which measures the time that a user is interacting with a screen (it doesn’t count time on phone calls). The results interesting, with 88% of those that downloaded the app using their phone for more than an hour a day, with the average being three hours. Indeed, over a 24 hour period, the average user checked their phone 39 times. By comparison, just 6 years earlier in 2008 (before the widespread use of smartphones) people spent just 18 minutes a day on their phone.

It’s the impact on students and the next generation that has raised a few alarm bells. Patricia Greenfield, distinguished professor of psychology and director of the UCLA Children’s Digital Media Center in a recent study found that college students felt closest (or “bonded”) to their friends when they discussed face to face and most distant from them when they text-messaged. However, the students still most often communicated by text.

“Being able to understand the feelings of other people is extremely important to society,” Greenfield said. “I think we can all see a reduction in that.”

Technology is changing everything about how we interact with each other, how we arrange our lives, what we eat, where and how we travel, how we find a partner, how we exercise etc… It is what makes up the rich fabric of the digitised society and will certainly continue to evolve at a pace. Humans, however, may be going the other way.

A Few Thoughts on IoT and its Adoption

Posted on : 11-05-2016 | By : Maria Motyka | In : Innovation, IoT

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The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is becoming an increasingly growing topic both within and outside corporate environments. As Internet is becoming not only widely available, but even considered a right (as it enables citizens to enjoy their right to expression and opinion, among other basic human rights), the ground is being set for the world of connected devices.

Contrary to common belief, concept is not new (if you are old enough, you’ll remember the story of programmers connecting to Coke machines over the internet in the 1980s to check whether they were stocked before deciding to make the trip down a few floors…) – the term IoT was first used by Kevin Ashton, co-founder of the Auto-ID Centre at MIT in 1999, in a presentation he made to Procter & Gamble.

Perhaps the best quote on the topic of IoT is one he made in an article for the RFID journal:

“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best”.

So, where are we heading with the IoT? Following last year’s peak of the IoT hype (visible through both media and investment), 2016 is the time for a reality-check on IoT and establishing realistic expectations, according to Gartner. A full adoption IoT will be marked by the development IoT platforms and business solutions, the latter being still in an early stage of development.

Mind-blowing numbers. The numbers however suggest, that we have come a long way in terms of IoT adoption. As early as in 2008, there were already more Internet-connected things than people and it is estimated that by 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet will reach a whooping 50 billion. We can also expect $19 trillion in profits and cost savings coming from IoT over the next 9 years (CMO stats).

So, what about the practical applications of IoT now? One exciting example of IoT application is Nest, which offers Thermostat Smoke + CO Alarm and Camera devices at home. The company’s offering delivers a lot more than just a smoke detector that does not just get attention by frantically swinging a towel at it when grilling sausages 😉

For instance, you can connect to the thermostats throughout the house from a remote app, adjust them manually or, more importantly, detect whether anyone is inside the house and then regulate the device automatically. On the smoke detection side the devices “speak” (or send alerts) rather than annoyingly just emit beeps, and are aware of environmental difference and severity of event.

This is the important piece which relates directly back to Ashtons vision. Indeed, Nest has been working on a smart fridge which can use the same technology to turn up the fridge when no one is at home (as it knows the door won’t be opened).

Other practical examples are in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors. In the former, we already see sensors monitoring an individual’s vital signs such as heart rate, movement, blood pressure etc… and using this data either for personal fitness or medical analysis. There are plenty of smart, but simple, initiatives in this area.

One example of this is Hyginex. This start-up is tackling one of the biggest issues in healthcare, that of hospital acquired infections which lead to just shy of 100,000 deaths each year in the US. Of these, it is estimated that 80% are due to staff not washing hands. To combat this, Hyginex have developed a wristband which reminds them when to sanitise with special “over-bed sensors”  designating patient zones and soap and alcohol dispenser sensors interacting with the wristbands to monitor quality and duration of hygiene events. Simple and smart.

According to Soreon Research, smart wearable devices, which everyone is so hyped about, may help save 1.3 million lives by 2020.

In manufacturing, IoT has potential to radically redefine the supply chain and enable the leaders to provide more differentiated services to customers through a networked ecosystem. Ultimately this supply chain will be able to react intelligently to drive efficiency through changes in environment, circumstance, political landscape and the like. A way off maybe, but we are already seeing commercial telematics solutions delivering efficiency in fleet logistics.

Of course there are many challenges to overcome, not least being the never ending reliance on data and an increasing exposure to cyber-risk.

However, the IoT promises a very different world from that which human beings have orchestrated so far. We are getting closer and closer to its promises being delivered.

 

 

Data privacy/security – you can run but you can’t hide?

Posted on : 18-12-2015 | By : Jack.Rawden | In : Cloud, Cyber Security, Data, General News, Innovation

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Security and privacy are among some of the top themes discussed throughout 2015 and will likely remain an equally popular topic in 2016.

On one hand, consumers’ private data is increasingly being revealed through major security breaches and hacks, causing widespread outrage. On the other, in the face of terror, many are willing to voluntarily give up more and more of their privacy to be (or at least feel) more secure.

At the same time, new technologies offer solutions in healthcare, payments and entertainment, to name a few, with the potential to have a highly positive impact on the quality of our everyday lives. Their adoption however is often almost synonymous with sharing highly intimate data, raising concerns of many.

All of the above stir the data privacy/security debate. How much privacy are we willing to give up and in exchange for what?

data

Your kids’ A.I. frenemies

In many cases it’s not even just about our data and our security…

For example, the scandal over the recent V-Tech hack, exposing data of 6.4 million children and the launch of the widely boycotted A.I., Wi-Fi enabled Barbie, designed to engage in dialogue with kids and ‘treasure’ their secrets, beg the question whether we are really willing to risk not only ours, but also our children’s sensitive data being revealed, in exchange for more interactive play experience.

Data collected via high-tech toys could not only be used for commercial reasons, but also for example to identify the times you leave home to drop off your kids to school.

 

‘Terrorised’ into sharing data?

In the wake of Paris attacks, European parliament civil liberties committee dropped its opposition to EU counter-terror plan to collect air passengers’ data. Data protection watchdogs described this as “the first large-scale and indiscriminate collection of personal data in the history of the European Union”.

The passing of laws allowing the EU to collect and store our personal data in the name of terrorism prevention means irreversible changes to the extent to which we are invigilated, taking us yet another step closer to the Big Brother reality scenario.

Nevertheless, it seems like privacy becomes irrelevant to the scared masses.

The UK media is heating up the atmosphere with warnings that a UK terror attack is only a matter of time and escalating fear through falsely labelling tube fire alarm incidents ‘terrorist’ scares; the Brits are concerned with safety. According to Dr David Purves, psychologist specialising in trauma “When something dramatic happens, such as the attacks in Paris, something called the ‘availability heuristic’ kicks in”. This means that certain things, such as a terrorist attack, seem more likely than they really are. The UK national counter-terrorism security office (NACTSO) publishing official advice on how to behave in case of a terror attack, including to ‘run or hide rather than lie down and play dead’, doesn’t necessarily contribute to our sense of security.

In this context, we either chose to turn a blind eye or even support governments’ and EU institutions’ steps depriving us from our privacy. The question is whether there is an end to this? Under more severe terrorist threats, how much surveillance are we willing to agree to?

 

IT health-care?

According to Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter, Britain is on ‘the brink of a personalised healthcare revolution that could scarcely have been predicted a few years ago.’; the NHS is soon to go high-tech with new proposals announced in mid-2015. Within the next five years, UK patients are very likely to be able to use the Internet to order prescriptions or access their health records, as well as speak to their GP. Wearable healthcare devices are also going mainstream, with estimates of 70% of us using them by 2025 (IDC).

A world in which we are much more in control over our wellness by being able to constantly track and monitor the state of your health and reach the expertise of our doctor through video calling does sound idyllic.

However, healthcare digitisation also has serious data security implications. Hacked healthcare data could be used for several purposes; imagine your potential employer or insurer could use it to assess the state your health? What if a hacker could tweak your health records?

A NHS spokesman said: ‘Ensuring patient confidentiality is of upmost importance to everyone working in the NHS and the robust processes already in place to ensure that patient data is protected extends data held electronically’, but let’s be realistic – if self-driving cars and Pentagon are being hacked, wearable health & wellness devices and the NHS are far from ‘unhackable’.

Data Analytics – Big in 2013…Bigger in 2014

Posted on : 31-01-2014 | By : john.vincent | In : Data

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We didn’t produce our annual predictions this year, but as we approach the end of January we thought the topic of data analytics trends deserved some attention. So, we’ve listed the Top 5 trends in this space that we believe will be prominent, or emerge stronger, during 2014. We strongly believe that the data analytics theme and driving decisions and future strategies will be at the forefront (see our other article on moving from hype to execution).

As always, we are interested in your thoughts!

1) More emphasis on Predictive Analytics

Looking back on past performance, peer groups and trends has been the traditional way of shaping and product and service strategies. However, with the improvement in predictive analytics, both from an infrastructure perspective with products like Hadoop managing unstructured data inputs, tools and a new breed of Data Scientists, technology leaders can now work closely with the business to drive decision making.

2) The Mobile Data surge continues

Seems that consumers can’t operate now with their trusty smartphone or tablet. Indeed, it is estimated that in 2014 mobile internet traffic will overtake desktop usage. With the amount of data that consumers download (and tariff limits increasing accordingly), the possibilities of companies using this information to analyse customer behaviour and adapt accordingly is huge.

3) Wearables and the “Internet of Things” revolution

For the first time we are seeing this whole subject make its way onto the CIO agenda. In 2013 we saw some activity, with the release of watches from Samsung and Sony (and the continued speculation of iWatch in 2014), smart health monitors, telematics devices and so on. For this year, expect the pace to pick up with organisations looking at new products and how to tailor the data to differentiated service offerings (such as insurance premiums).

4) Data Visualisation – Part of Business as Usual

The ability of business users to take more control of the organisational data, drive “what if” scenarios and visualise through dashboards have really taken off in the last few years. Once the data was transported out of the rigidity and control of central IT departments through to the users for agile manipulation, products like Qlikview, Tableau, Board and the like have really taken off. We expect this to become an expected part of the end user toolkit in 2014 and also see some consolidation/acquisition in the provider market.

5) On-Demand Analytics develops further

Cloud computing made great steps in 2013, with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and other providers extending the infrastructure, product sets, security and pricing to a level that is starting to entice customers away from build to buy.  We expect a further increase in shifting from on-premise infrastructure to running data compute analytics and business intelligence in the Cloud in 2014.