The CTO Perspective – Episode 3 The NRF

Today’s episode is about Retail. Recorded from New York where the National Retail Federation conference takes place. This episode is my take on the innovations and technologies that have been showcased.

A lot of traditional players but with new technologies to help clients create new customer experiences, new players with applications build on new technologies and some really cool stuff.

All these elements will be addressed and at the end of the podcast, Kees Jacobs (@K_Jacobs) will give his very well articulated summary of the conference.

Even if you are not in the retail business, do listen since there are definitely learnings for all other industries as well

The CTO Perspective – Episode 2 Enterprise Architecture

In this Podcast I have a great conversation with Stephen Brown, CTO at Capgemini Sweden. Stephen is a re-joiner of Capgemini, after spending time at the client’s side. One of the main reasons to come back to Capgemini again, is the growing need Stephen sees in the field of Enterprise Architecture.

In this podcast you will hear Stephen’s view on why Enterprise Architecture is gaining momentum (again) in the market place and why in particular it is required in order to become an innovative competitive player in the market.

My favourite quote from this episode is “Your ICT landscape is the reflection of the business funding”. In other words, don’t blame the IT department, but have a look in how you can set your priorities towards a great future !

The CTO perspective; 2017 episode 1

A long time wish comes into reality. The start of a Podcast serie on the trends and impact of technology. Hope you like it, if you have suggestions of comments, please let me know.

Today’s episode is a short warm up for 2017. A perspective on the trends we saw emerge in 2016 and will potentially really impact 2017. Some trends discussed: Blockchain, AI, Botsm Converged Reality and more important the power of mashing it all up !

Redefined reality: Our God-complex realized

We are standing on the brink of a new reality. For some 200,000 years, all our energy has been focused on influencing the physical world around us. We built campfires to warm our caves, we farmed vegetables to nourish us and we built massive cities and infrastructure to make our lives more comfortable. All of this has taken place solely in the physical domain. This is about to change. The breakneck speed of technological developments in recent decades has enabled us to open up a whole new domain of reality: Virtual Reality (VR). Yet, while VR (and its little brother, Augmented Reality or AR) have succeeded in capturing our attention, its applications so far are rather limited. Sure, we can use VR/AR to play games and ride roller coasters, but that’s relatively lame compared to its true potential. It is my firm belief that VR will turn out to be one of the technological pillars on which we will build the future.

Together with two other exciting new developments, 3D-scanning and plug-in API’s, VR and AR technologies will completely redefine our view on reality and what’s ‘the truth’ in the form of “Converged Reality.”

“Hold on, back it up,” I hear you say. “Redefine reality? This guy’s spent a little too much time drinking cheap airplane wine at high altitudes, hasn’t he?”

Well, no, I haven’t. Allow me to explain.

When you look at technological developments happening across the world, the scope and scale is simply staggering, along with the pace at which we’re advancing our technological capabilities. One of these technologies is 3D-scanning. While 3D-printing is undeniably a part of the physical realm, 3D-scanning allows us to enter the virtual realm. World-renowned DJ Armin van Buuren has already experimented with it live on tour (see this fun video). The ability to Skype with a 3D-hologram rather than a two dimensional moving photograph may be interesting, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. It would be a vast underestimation of the 3D-scanning potential if we would only focus on 3D communication.

If we combine the potential of 3D-scanning with another rapidly advancing technology, plug-in API’s, it becomes much more interesting. Plug-in API’s allow us to use the functionality of one app (say, a payment processing module such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet) within another app, without needing the app to be downloaded on our phone or tablet. By sharing code, functionality can be shared among apps to form a web of applications. A mega-app, if you will. Add voice recognition technology such as Siri, Cortana or Google Now and a new version of Google Glass (or similar) and we have a very powerful piece of technology in our hands (or on our heads).

So, what will this mean for us? With every technological advancement, Luddites and early adopters alike have equally exaggerated visions of how the new technology will destroy/improve our lives. They envision a future where we’ll either be harvested by machines The Matrix-style, or an early retirement for all with robot butlers 24/7 at our disposal. But the truth is, we are notoriously bad at predicting the impact of technological advancements. This sentiment has been expressed in “Amara’s law”: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. Despite the red warning flag, I will give it a shot, without assigning a definite timeframe to my predictions.

Right now, my 3 teenage kids are often on the phone with their friends, apping and snapchatting and instagramming away. Sometimes, they hardly seem to notice that I’m home. Our phones and tablets, while providing a portal to those far and away, often distract us from those around us. But imagine putting all the aforementioned functionalities in a device with Google Glass functionality. Don’t like the wallpaper? Change it. Don’t like the scenery? Change it. Don’t like your wife’s new haircut? Download Beyonce’s hairdo and project it on her head. (Perhaps you shouldn’t tell her about this, though).

We can use Converged Reality to alter our interpretation of the physical reality around us and voila, suddenly, we are gods – able to create something out of nothing, a feat generally ascribed only to the divine.

The business implications are staggering, too. Of course, designers will quickly come up with whole new libraries of 3d-scanned ‘objects’ that we can use to enhance our physical environment. Gaming companies and music artists will soon find new ways of creating immersive experiences, as will the recreational sector. A weekend in Malibu will become available to a much larger audience. What about professional sports, or the educational sector? A great example is Derek Belch, who through his company STRIVR Labs, created a profitable business within one years time, by using VR to train NFL players.

The potential for a fully immersive learning experience is huge. What can such a Converged Reality mean for treating people with specific phobias, such as a fear of heights or water?

Once we cross the Rubicon towards Converged Reality, there will be no way back. It will be too convenient to reject, the potential too large to ignore. But the question is, what will it do to us on a psychological level? Already, there are voices saying that the personalized news and videos that we’re offered based on our likes and tweets are creating a bubble around us, enhancing our narcissistic tendencies. Converged Reality will only amplify this. It’ll be interesting to discuss the psychological and sociological implications of “playing God” in our personal reality in a further blog. Will it foster isolation, or break through it? Will it enrich our social lives, or erode personal contact? It’s too early to say, but it sure is exciting.

Originally published on CIO.COM: http://www.cio.com/article/3085599/virtual-reality/redefined-reality-our-god-complex-realized.html

How DIY could help User Adoption of Big Data

iu-9Big Data- is it a hype, waiting for it’s potential to fully blossom, or is it still in its infancy, sleeping until woken by the kiss of adulthood and then bursting into life?

I don’t have the exact answer to that. I do see a lot of companies building the foundations of big data platforms, hoping that they can come up with the right questions to answer, with the use of insights from data. There are definitely some good examples in the industry where companies really benefit from better insights by providing better user experience or operational efficiency.

On the other hand I still see a lot of companies struggle, still busy building new reports and thinking about their data strategy, first building a data warehouse, or already relying on the principles of creating a data lake.

One thing I definitely know is that big data is still far away from the regular business user. One could argue that big data is already all around us, in the use of applications, which leverage combinations of different kinds of data around us. For instance, the debate could be whether a company like Uber or AirBnB could be considered big data companies, aggregating data from millions of users, cabs, and house owners to provide the perfect match to the user.

But to the regular user, it is still something very unfamiliar. They are still relying on the reports, which are generated from traditional ERP systems, or with a bit of luck, from reporting tools on top of those ERP systems.

What could we do to create a breakthrough? Could the DIY movement be brought to the Big Data & Analytics area?

It has certainly worked in some other areas. For instance, the 3D printing business. Of course, 3D printing had already been invented and was in existence, but the start of the DIY 3D printing race really made it possible for this business to flourish. It’s funny to notice that it was spurred by the possibilities from crowd-funding, making it possible for the first DIY 3D print companies to start building their business.

A great documentary call ‘Print the Legend’ is available on Netflix, in case you are interested to know more.

The same goes for Internet of Things (IoT). One could argue that IoT is no longer a new thing, but to many it is still a starting business. Many industrial applications are in place, but the real fun kicked in when Arduino and Raspberry Pi brought the IoT fun into the living room, making it possible to build whatever you want. Here the real statement is “the limit is your imagination”. A TED talk by one of the Arduino founders provides insight into what people are already inventing. As mentioned in one of my earlier blogs here, I spent a good part of my summer building Arduino projects with my sons aged 12 and 15 years, thereby bringing IoT and programming into their hands. Not only could they build the projects, they really started to understand the power of IoT and programming, and the different applications that would enrich their lives.  At least in their opinion…

Coming back to the Big Data world… When we think about DIY BI, we are most of the time limited to the sometimes-expensive toolkits from the industry. Not always cheap and thereby only in the hands of limited number of users, the so-called power users. I will not state that every single user could be a big data analyst; therefore the rise of a whole new profession is currently taking place. But with the power to at least witness what big data could mean and how data visualization could lead to new insights, it would be something that could grow the demand for big data from the user perspective. My sons are also not the new Internet of Things gurus, but have at least started to value the meaning of IoT, thereby also driving demand (if only we could have some IoT ‘clean your room’ project examples).

From a developer perspective, a lot is already possible. Through API’s we can connect to super computers like IBM Watson, and leveraging HTML libraries we can tap into fancy visualizations that can really enhance and enrich our applications. But you need true developer power in order to create this.

Will there be a rise of inexpensive, open-sourced toolkits that will spur the demand for big data and spur people to create their own magic? Whether that will happen, I don’t know. But you only have to look at the accelerated growth DIY brought to the 3D printing and Internet of Things space to imagine the possibilities.

As posted on Capgemini’s CTO blog

Companies Entering your Home through Hidden Data Hubs

iu-8A few days earlier, while writing this blog, people were full of excitement and anticipation for the new Apple event that was to be held on September 9th. The much anticipated release of the new iPhones (will it be smarter, faster and potentially bigger), the public release of iOS 9, and the revealing of the secrecy around Siri. Don’t know whether you tried to have Siri reveal her secret to you, I did…… but to no avail.

The most important release will probably be the new Apple TV. Rumours already gave us insights in a doubling of the price, as well as a large increase in the size of the Apple TV console.

First ideas went in the direction of a full Apple Store functionality on the TV and thereby probably a severe rival for the game consoles of Sony and Microsoft. I tested this idea with my sons who are 12 and 15 years of age. The youngest one was not convinced; he truly believes that you cannot play FIFA15 (soon to be replaced with FIFA 16) other than on a PlayStation. The older one has a more economical approach. “Dad, I would rather suffer a bit of user experience and be able to buy 10 games, rather than 1 game for the additional performance or graphics”.

Time will tell whether Apple can become a real competitor for the main play consoles, like they have become for the handheld consoles.

The real interesting topic behind the release will be the potential entry of Siri and the Internet of Things into the living room. With a bigger console, there is a big change that Siri will become part of our living room as well. Talking to the device rather then controlling it with your remote control (which was a real flaw in the current top-box). The good thing will be that we can ask much more stuff, we can control things with our voice and probably therefore will provide much more information to the machine then we did before.

This will be further strengthened by the homekit connectivity and the trend I foresee that we will connect more and more items in our daily life to the hub in our home.
Is this an issue? Not per se. But with the connectivity streamed through the hub, there is a potential for the one that controls all to get insights in our life, from which we do not yet realise the consequences.

Let’s consider: I will browse stuff through Siri, give confirmation of a purchase to Siri, pay through Siri (probably our voice will be considered a unique validation for us, therefore the way of keyless payments). Combining this with how often I switch off the light, change my temperature, etc. can give some very interesting insights.

Will this be a threat? Perhaps not with Apple, since they clearly stated that they want to have this kind of information on the device, not through their web services. A clear statement they probably made to differentiate against Google through which these kinds of services all go through their powerful services.

But Apple is not alone. Also Google’s OneHub must not be considered as a standalone product to improve our wireless capabilities in the home. This is also their hub of Internet of Things and Google Now will play a great role in it. The same goes for Amazon’s Echo. A very slick device which I even want just for the design, but a potential entry for Amazon to get insight in my daily life and connect this to their marketing machine.

This sounds a bit creepy and I am definitely not one who will predict the end of the world. It’s just that I want everybody to be aware of the potential behind it, both from the positive and the negative points.

There are some very positive lessons coming from these devices where other business can take advantage from:

  1. A great UI will overcome other hurdles. It is the design and ease of use from these devices for which we will forgive a lot!
  2. Provide a breadth of services. It is no longer a standalone, one function device, it has possibilities in a lot of different areas
  3. Combined services provide more ease to the consumer
  4. Ease of integration will do the rest.

Who the winner is in this race and who provides the best answer to the consumer, I really don’t know. That is a new field where business can learn from, but perhaps as a partner I also can tap in, I am sure of that!

Listen to my podcast recorded as Episode 3 in the ‘Data and the Hunch’ series, brought to you by Capgemini Expert Connect.

Interested in discussing more? Follow me on Twitter @fwammes

Having a great IoT summer

iotRecently a Dutch newspaper reported that the government is starting a study on enabling new technology companies (like AirBnB) in the Dutch market. After the initial uproar when housing companies hired Private Investigators to look for people who had illegally rented out their apartments (more on this in my other blog), the government is beginning to understand that rather than fight these new developments, a better approach would be to guide and enable them. They now consider it as a potential for growth of employment, rather than a destruction of existing businesses.
Perhaps now the government can also give a new boost to technical education which from my own experience is still of poor quality. One of my sons is now going to high school and in a school of 2000 students they have 2 computer rooms, and are doing a pilot with iPad education with only a few classes. After some questions, they were honest enough to tell me that it was not the equipment, but that the teachers were not able to deal with the new developments.

Therefore I decided that this summer holiday is going to be a programming holiday for the kids. Whether they want it or not, we are going to connect every doorknob, light-switch, toilet-flush and any other object to the internet. The Arduino starter kit is in the house and additional equipment in order. If you want to get some more inspiration on what to connect to the internet, please have a look at the brilliant TED speech of one of the Arduino founders, Massimo Banzi.
A great talk, which in my opinion is a tribute to the DIY community that is drastically changing the society we live in. The best remark from Massimo is somewhere in the middle of the presentation, where very subtly he refers to the fact that some ideas will probably rise from the DIY community and will be brought to mass success by one or two players. In my opinion, the one with the best user experience.

Are we already at that turning point with regards to IoT, or will it still remain in the hands of my children who hopefully after the summer holidays will switch all their career aspirations to become the best techies in the world?
I think we have already crossed that point, but a lot of businesses (some industries have already seen the light) don’t yet understand what the monetization potential of IoT is all about. For these companies, here are two simple rules that could really change their perspective on IoT.

1. Machine Data is internal data being wasted: A lot of things or machines within the company can already be measured, but nobody is acting on this data. This is a potential goldmine that can give you insight into waste, production optimization, set-up reduction time, logistic movements, etc.
The bigger issue is how to connect the technical perspective to the business process insight. Information technology + Business Analysis = Business Technology. By investigating the kind of machine data being produced, we can look in what the potential insights are. Big Data is not only data from external sources and the web, it can also be delivered by the tools you have already installed. Take this as a potential start in your IoT monetization journey.

2. CRM delivers 25% insights in what your customer is doing; IoT can deliver the other 75%: A very interesting insight from our former CTO, Andy Mulholland, who has published several pieces of work from his research into IoT technology and its business use. He stated that if the industry has so massively invested in CRM projects only to gather 25% of the insights from the customer, imagine the potential if we can get the other 75% through connected people and devices.
And he is totally right. With sensor technology we can track our customers, gain more insight into what is leading to a purchase rather than the purchase alone. We can get insight into the use of the product after the purchase, thereby offering additional services over the web or through an app. We can create additional loyalty by combining the data from the product into mashed services which enables the user to share data, and optimize his or her life (think of Nike and Health).

Just thinking of how we can tap into the real usage and behavior of your customers and how IoT can enable this will help you come up with some great ideas.

Just two simple questions and approaches, but in my opinion a way for every company to start leveraging the power of IoT.

So, besides the doorbell, doorknob and toilet-flush, I will ask my children to try and come up with cool ideas on how their or their friends’ lives will change if they can leverage the information they already posses (option 1) or if they can gain insights they don’t have right now into personal behaviour (option 2).
Curious to see what surprising ideas will come…

*Image source: pcmag.com

As published on Capgemini’s CTO blog