The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

2015 – a year of service innovation

crystalball.gifI believe that 2015 will be reflected on as a year of real service innovation. All those technological trends of the past decade are going to come to roost in the services of organizations in every industry. Establishments that view services as someone else’s problem will be left in the dust by those that realize the technologies of IoT, automation and analytics are causing change into the expectations of business value by the services that surround them. New services will spring into existence enabled by the flexibility of solutions like 3D printing, SDN, OpenStack and software defined anything (SDx). This post will try to justify that prediction, in a number of ways.

 

The US (NSF, White House) and EU governments recognize that there is a transformation taking place with services and are looking to see how governments can invest in service innovation. They know that the models and techniques used previously are not up to the task and are looking to shift those efforts to take advantage of the abundance of information technology capabilities that now exist and improve the understanding and capability in the services space.

 

The wearable devices we’ve seen to date have remained relatively stand-alone, providing a bit of interaction and information. As the services that consume that information advance, we’ll see a 3rd generation of wearable devices that interact with their environment, to provide a more proactive set of capabilities. This will be part of a shift in the Internet of Things that will stand up from its current crawling position to (at least) toddle along moving close to an Internet of Everything (and Anything), focusing on an enabled environment.

This will shift business resources away from process workers to a more automated environment consuming more and a different kind of analytics, moving to a human-augmented automation approach in many areas (rather than the other way around). Those interested should invest in the book, The Second Machine Age. These approaches will provide greater insight and transparency to customer actions as well as intent, enabling businesses to proactively provide services.

 

For the consumer the move to services that enable a digital life will continue and accelerate. Using the techniques described above, continuous monitoring and assistance will become a possibility. There will be concerns expressed about this monitoring moving from optional to required, in order to receive certain kinds of services. Similarly, the concerns about autonomous cars will shift from an ‘are they safe’ footing to ‘should they be compulsory’ discussion. Although we’ll not see mandatory automation/tracking… in 2015, the discussion and concerns will move from pockets of zealots into the mainstream, impacting everything from healthcare services to insurance…

 

No discussion of the future is complete without some mention of security and privacy. As enterprises move workloads to the cloud, enterprise-level security needs to follow. Most organizations do not have their processes at this level of maturity so security and privacy will bloom into an even larger service industry, since help will be needed. Although cloud computing helps address the issues of limited energy and resources, security and privacy protection services will become a critical concern in the forefront of business in 2015. The same will be true at the micro level as embedded devices leak more behavior information into the environment and the need for their protection becomes clearer.

 

The services for manufacturing and product production will undergo a shift in 2015 as well. Mass production will still be king, but personalized manufacturing will shake up planning in the global economy. According to Gartner, sales of 3D printers will double each year between 2015 and 2018, and exceed sales of more than 2 million. This will trickle down into transportation, logistics and industries other than manufacturing. We’ll see the products become platforms for further customization. Much like you’ve been able to have Coke or M&Ms personalized for a while now, it will be possible for a greater percentage of products (both physical and services). With the additional of sensors, greater connectivity and computing, these personalized platforms will further expand the momentum for intelligent services. These custom platforms will allow greater consumer engagement, with the producer as well as with the other consumers of the product.

 

In the predictive and analytic space the solutions will shift to enable greater flexibility in engineering the attention of service desk personnel as well as the people who call in. Next generation BPO/call centers will rely on greater levels of automation and less on low cost workers. That shift will not take place in 2015, but the products targeted at this shift will become more prevalent this year. These capabilities will move into other business processes as well, enabling them (HR, Finance…) to become systems of action for the enterprise, shifting to address business goals while at the same time providing greater insight and transparency about shifts in usage and consumption.  

 

The final area I wanted to mention was that the interfaces into these services will change too. We will see a reemergence of augmented reality. Virtual reality research received a great deal of attention in the 1980s, but didn't take off due to the expensive hardware, poor sensing, and display capabilities. All of these limits have now been largely addressed and the ubiquitous mobile device (we all carry) makes it a natural for our always on world. Juniper Research states that annual revenues from mobile augmented reality (AR) services and applications will reach $1.2 billion by 2015, moving beyond the demonstration devices by Google and others onto the edge of mainstream.

 

One aspect of this services shift that needs to be considered is the difference between the desired objectives and the unintended consequences that result. This will be a rapidly changing space, so an iterative approach that starts small and works up will be required. Joining organizations like ISSIP and moinitoring the success (and failures) of others will also be a good investment in 2015.

Computer Science Education Week

education2.pngThe National Science Foundation (NSF) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) kicked off Computer Science Education Week earlier this week with an event in Washington, D.C., celebrating new commitments and partnerships among the Federal government, school districts, nonprofits, foundations, private industry, and others that will expand access to, and student learning in, computer science in the K12 space.

 

If we think the millennials are digital natives, this next wave will embrace IoT and other computing advances to a whole new level.

 

It always makes me wonder how the future of services is being embraced within our educational systems and what we should do about it.

Fluid.IT – turning BYOD inside out, to focus on me

fluid.jpgOne of the issues with efforts like BYOD and IoT is that it can easily add more complexity for the individual. Attention is one of the scarcest resources we have and these new approaches need to demand less from users not more and more. They need to recognize the context of what’s happening and filter or even act upon it – rather than cry out for attention.

 

There is quite a bit of press related to various approaches recently to shift how email is used, but most of these efforts still remain focused on email. Frankly, email is a conduit and most of us have many of these conduits feeding into our lives. Also, it is just one of many conduits, depending on your role. What I want is a digital butler on steroids that works on any device and makes sense of your e-life, e-work and e-history. It hides the complexities of the systems and provides a unified experience around me.

 

This is exactly the kind of research some of the individuals in HP Labs and PPS showed me the other day. A tool called Fluid.IT that shifts your focus from the various sources (e-mail, CRM systems…) to focusing your attention on what you’re really like to get done – no matter where it needs to happen. With Fluid.IT you don’t need to know where your services are (after the initial setup), you just know it’s doing what you need done. This is sort of like when you put your money in the bank. You know something is happening there with it, but you don’t really care. You just want to be sure you can take it out when you need it. Fluid.IT derives the context and aggregates what is important to me, providing more about what I need and less about the plumbing of addressing that need.

 

It includes concepts like liquid-talk that facilitates collaboration in the ideal method of the receiver not just the sender and allow for both enterprise-level and individual customization. The whole approach is delivered using platform independent techniques that allow you to consume wherever and whenever you need to. It is an examples of providing a customized approach in a standard way leveraging the tools that already exist in your personal and enterprise life.

 

Are there systems where you can see this approach applied? I can see it for sales (as I mentioned with CRM) or in the healthcare provider space where you’re pulling together information from a variety of systems and would like to have situational awareness with minimal distractions. They have implemented gamification techniques to facilitate the behavioral understanding and improvement from across a range of systems.

 

I see these kinds of systems as a stake in the ground for what we’ll all be expecting in the near future for our interactions.

The fallacy of the ideal entry level job out of college

 

Sisyphus.pngI was talking with an individual this week that was looking at accepting their first ‘real’ job. They were torn between the job that was offered and the job they really wanted to have. They were also debating about the constraints this job would put on their personal life.

 

Since they have a background in the sciences I advised them to break it down. Will this job:

  1. Give them greater flexibility to do the kind of things they really want to do – than you have right now?
  2. Provide experience that would look good to future employers in the areas where they’d like to work - in the future?
  3. Allow them to develop skills they know will be valuable both now and in the future?
  4. Have a culture that you can survive and even thrive?
  5. Put food on the table – right now?

I think they were having a bit of an issue with a big decision that definitely thrust them into the real word. I told them that everyone changes jobs many times in their lives. This is only the start, not the end. My own philosophy is that after 2 years, I am part of the problem not part of the solution – so I tend to move around organizations quite a bit.

 

I also described to the person that this whole idea of a work-life balance is a ‘first world problem’. Sure it is great to talk about when you have fluid cash and time on your hands, but it gets down to the fact that there is only life. Work, leisure, personal goals - they all drain from the same pool. You can’t spend your entire life looking for greener grass, when you don’t yet even have a yard.

 

After working as long as I have, it can be enlightening to help someone with these kinds of decisions. They are the ones that will need to pick up ‘the next big thing’ and do something with it – and hopefully pay taxes along the way to support people like me once I’m gone.

 

Of course if they really get desperate they can flip a coin that usually makes the decision your subconscious has made for you a bit clearer.

 

Tags: future| Trends| Vision
Labels: Future| Trends| Vision

What should be the goal of cognitive computing?

automated decisions.pngSome organizations think that cognitive computing is about getting better answers more quickly, typically using English to form the questions. There is no doubt that there is tremendous appeal to getting the answer to question in natural language, but is that really enough. In a world of data abundance, it can be difficult to know the right question to ask.

 

Unfortunately, many times it is the questions we never knew to ask, that turn into potential big gains or losses. One of my co-workers from HP labs mentioned that:

“It is interesting to note that change detection is a core competency (and survival property) of the visual cortex; it responds quickly because it constantly compares visual input with memories of what the world should look like. Thus, as we build next-generation systems based on large amounts of rapidly changing data, you want the data to self-organize, recognize similarities, detect changes, and help you assess anomalies so that these may be investigated.”

 

In addition to systems, we need services that enable the decision maker (human or machine) to react, respond and investigate based on the context of the information available, so that the entire ecosystem learns and adapts. It could be that having the future approach focus on better questions than better answers and how to display those questions and their answers more effectively should be the goal.

 

When I talk to leaders about where the future of services is headed, this is where my thoughts tend to go and it is going to take different techniques than organizations have deployed today.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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The opinions expressed above are the personal opinions of the authors, not of HP. By using this site, you accept the Terms of Use and Rules of Participation.