Archive for the ‘Ideation / Innovation’ Category

Is Apple Cooling or Transitioning to a Techno-Luxury House of Brands?

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Blog graphicThe recent announcement that Apple is acquiring Beats Electronics for its streaming audio and electronics capabilities has caused consternation on Wall Street in terms of whether this is an indication that Apple’s renowned ability to innovate in-house is cooling and that the company is beginning to stall.

Most of the attention around the Beats acquisition has focused on its streaming capability and whether it offers as good a service as Spotify or Pandora. The potential that this joint team brings for developing future offerings in the broader entertainment landscape, including video, should not be ignored.

Other key benefits for Apple include Beats’ wealth of aggregate knowledge of the entertainment, music and electronics industries, as well as its connection with the youth culture – something that many other companies seek to emulate. Beats is considered to be a relatively strong U.S. brand with a youth flavor and one that, when attached to Apple and its global market presence and subscriber base, could infuse a stronger linkage with their younger purchasers, further extending their cool image and status.

At the heart of this transaction, however, is the issue of “the innovation divide”, where larger process driven companies are not always as flexible and in tune with the rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands that startups seem to easily tap into. This is why we have seen Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and Oculus. as well as Google acquiring Nest.

The real challenge faced when executing such acquisitions is being able to blend the cultures and mindsets of the new company with the dominant corporate culture that prevails. This may seem easy but the reality is that the founders and creative thought leaders who drive the acquired company usually leave fairly quickly. What can Apple do to prevent this happening and also create a mechanism and process for future acquisition and expansion going forward? The key may be keeping them as independent operations and brands supported by the power of the Apple global logistics, branding and design machine.

Are there other reasons that Apple should be considering this broader transformation? At the recent DLD NYC Conference, Scott Galloway identified that technology is a terrible business to be in because: “If you don’t reinvent it every year, your stock gets hammered”. He stated that “you want to be in a business that leads with your heart not your head, as it results in irrational wants and needs which in turn lead to larger margins”; he believes that the investment community has recognized this, giving Cartier as an example of having a larger market cap than Deutsche Telecom. Galloway identified that “the best neighborhood in the world is luxury” and although, in his opinion, Apple is the best house brand in the world, it’s in a bad neighborhood which can be a “terrible stock strategy”. He believes that Apple needs to transition its business into the luxury neighborhood in order to become a great iconic luxury brand and, in so doing, become the first trillion dollar market cap company. There seems to be strong evidence that Apple has already initiated this transformation with the appointments of Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and Paul DeNeve, former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, into key positions within its organization.

The possibility is that the acquisition of Beats could be Apple’s fledgling step to creating not just a single luxury brand but a house of brands, similar to LVMH, with multiple appeal points for a broader global audience, rather than limiting their offering to a single brand or a single technology. The creation of a new techno-luxury house of brands supports Apple’s quest to become the first trillion dollar market cap company, and the company’s transformative strategy indicates a return to its historic reputation for unpredictability!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

The Trap of the Better Mousetrap

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

5G Press ConferenceThe “better mousetrap syndrome” is where a basic, cheap, functional and familiar product is reinvented with something that does the same thing, but is potentially better and costs more. It’s a recognized trap for product designers and companies, and yet it still occurs.

Here are two examples of this syndrome that I recently experienced:

1. I was assisting an associate respond to a request for tactical marketing support for a new product from a relatively established company entering the fiercely competitive mobile space. The more we discussed this the more it became apparent that this company had a solution but didn’t really know the problem they were trying to solve. Their solution provided certain advantages /benefits but they hadn’t found out if these were something that their mainstream customers really needed or wanted.

Having been actively involved with a startup that offers a new technology solution to an age old problem, I have spent much time exploring the benefits of minimum viable products and the use of business model frameworks to best test and define customer needs and value propositions. It is therefore mind blowing to see that companies don’t learn from this process before rushing blindly into product development, market extensions or new products; or more significantly, close their ears when being informed about the folly they are about to commit.

2. During a 2009 visit to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona the following astute observations were made about the mobile business by a colleague from outside the industry:

  • There’s a tendency to start with a technology and build it into a product, instead of starting with consumer behavior insight and creating a product to serve it.
  • This industry tends to approach development in a sequential manner: firstly, system and network decisions are made to accommodate long infrastructure lead times. Then devices and user interfaces are developed, next applications and services are developed and, finally, a consumer proposition is made – but this is often late in the development cycle when critical decisions have already been made.

These perceptive observations returned to me as I attended a press conference at this year’s MWC in Barcelona, when the EU sponsored initiative to create 5G was announced. At this same conference, and indeed over the past 12 months, I have heard and read nothing but moans and groans about the sorry business situation of mobile operators as voice revenues decline, data volumes increase and over the top providers piggy back on their networks, providing the messaging services that consumers want instead of operator provided expensive text and picture messaging services.

Has this industry learned nothing over the last 6 years? The OTT and software startups see the need to create a product and are, in the main, testing and refining their product and pivoting in accordance with lessons learned from consumers. The mobile industry, on the other hand, seems hell bent on creating a better mouse trap without checking that it’s something that the customer wants or, more importantly, is willing to pay for.

There are mechanisms that can bring consumer understanding to the forefront of the product development process; there are also business model frameworks that force holistic thinking about the solution, value proposition, and customer experience across all the business touch points. In some cases they are freely available and in others they are proprietary, but they are there for companies to explore. In today’s connected world, solutions shouldn’t be continually created for no known problem or for no identified customer need.

To learn more about effective approaches to more successful product development, contact us at info@keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

International CES 2014: A tipping point for the Internet of Things?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
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Cisco’s shopping cart

As predicted, the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show simply overflowed with examples of IoT finally becoming a marketplace reality – from the connected home to the connected automobile to digital health – as well as large companies vying for the opportunity to merge cloud and mobile technologies with sensors and MEMS technology.

In his keynote presentation John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, predicted that “2014 would be the transformational pivot point for IoT” and that the total cost benefit going forward could be as high as $19 trillion for both public and private sectors. He foresees retail, for example, gaining at least $1.5 trillion in benefits from the implementation of smart shopping carts that both assist and track customers.

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FootLogger demo

The pace, scale and potential impact of IoT emergence has drawn attention from multiple interested parties associated with policy and regulations. During a panel discussion on this subject, FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen encouraged governments to better understand the effects and benefits of innovation on society, and to assess whether existing laws or regulations in the market place can right any potential threats. Adam Thierer, senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, warned against the “precautionary principle” model which curtails innovation until it can be proven to not be a serious threat to society. He sees the EU as following this worldview in its approach to privacy and IoT, and he strongly endorses the principle of “permissionless innovation” fostered by the U.S. which deems that experimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted by default. In reality, evolution of IoT will most likely be a combination of all three due to the explosive growth and diversity of the technology globally.

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FashionTEQ notification ring

In another session on MEMS and sensor fusion, Mike Luna, CTO of Jawbone, pointed out that technology on its own is not the key to success. Luna believes that the real challenge for companies such as Jawbone, Nike and Fitbit with their new wearable products will be ensuring that they seamlessly fit into consumers’ everyday lives. Key to this is making sure that they do not adversely react with bodily or external substances, so that they can just be worn and forgotten. Only then can consistent and reliable data be obtained from them and used in such areas as health, sports or general lifestyle enhancement. These new wearables not only communicate with smartphones but with one another and, according to Luna, are in effect creating the Internet of Me, where they become hubs for connection and exchange of data. For wearable technology to really take off I believe that people need to feel socially comfortable with it, and I was interested to see the large number of European, Asian and American companies pursuing the fashion vector for wearables, whether it was notification jewelry such as pendants and rings, or watches that blended style with technology.

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Multiple eyewear options

Rival eyewear products were also abundant at this year’s CES, some incorporating cameras that stream everyday life or automatically take pictures to create an individual’s video blog. Others focused on the industrial space, creating safety glasses with video streaming capability that can be used for training, diagnostic or quality assurance purposes, for example on a production line when a video recording of the process could prove useful. Add to this the increased use of augmented reality, as seen in Googles Glass, and the production and education environment of the future looks very different.

Judging by the technologies on display at this year’s CES, the future is closer than most of us realize. Conference speaker Rob Nail, CEO and Associate Founder of Singularity University, warned, however, that humans are not educated to cope with the exponential technology growth curve that we are currently experiencing. Worse still, he presented evidence that we have limited capability to forecast it. The good news is that, when we finally accept what’s happening, we apparently adapt very quickly! Over the next year it will be interesting to see if the Internet of Everything turns out to be the fundamental tipping point that keynote speaker John Chambers predicts, or if it’s merely one of many on the accelerating exponential technology curve referenced above.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Has Google Seeded the Future of Mobile?

Monday, February 10th, 2014

This past week’s news was dominated by Apple struggling to fulfill Wall Street’s expectations, Samsung’s proposal to reinvent itself as a software company and, the coup de grace, Google selling Motorola to Lenovo. All of these events reveal an industry in transition.

Smartphones, as we know, have transformed the mobile experience for consumers but have hardly changed since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. They have become faster, bigger and have more sensors but they remain square, slim screens that in developed markets cost around $400. In this scenario Samsung and Apple have thrived, sucking out 90% of the industry profitability.

ARA Motorola projectClearly, the future for smartphones lies in the emerging markets where the next 2 to 3 billion devices will be sold and the price point will be closer to $100. So will these two giants still dominate or will Chinese players such as Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad and an army of white label manufacturers take over this space? Is the smartphone/mobile industry about to enter the commoditization phase?

Against this background it was interesting to see that Google is holding on to the Advanced Technology team that is developing the Ara endoskeleton phone design system, which was revealed late last year. Also revealed was a partnership with Phonebloks with the intent of creating an ecosystem of hardware developers to work with the software developers that support Android. The initial offerings will probably not be successful but the following should be taken into consideration:  for the past few years chip manufacturers have been producing ever more capable systems on chip designs, two examples being Qualcomm’s Snapdragon that dominates the smartphone space and Intel’s Edison for the M2M and Internet of Things space. With the advent of 3D manufacturing and ever more capable components, the concept of a spine that acts as a connector may be the catalyst for a fundamental rethink of devices.

Eco-mobIt is no coincidence that ZTE presented a concept design, Eco-Mobius, at CES 2014 that uses a sliding track enabling users to assemble and disassemble screens, core processors, memory, camera and battery; here the concept of “customize your own device” seems to coincide with a growing interest in wearables. The future may well see the fusion of these two trends with fashion styling enabling devices to fit seamlessly into peoples’ lives.

Discussions around the Internet of Things, Internet of Everything and the Internet of Me are all about the future pervasiveness of mobile connectivity across multiple industries as well as the “always on” digital world we live in. These modular architecture concepts that Google and ZTE are experimenting with will help facilitate this. But, more importantly, since Google excels at building ecosystems, if they succeed in creating an ecosystem of hardware developers to fuse with software companies, the future of mobile will see a complete change. Google may well have seeded the future direction of the industry in a way that only a few of us have foreseen.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Can Innovation Survive in the Telecoms World?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

From an innovation perspective, I have always been convinced that “the language we use defines the horizons of our imagination” and so it struck a chord with me when I read in a recent ITU document that “voice calls are no longer the preferred communication mechanism between people”.

This phraseology implies peril for the telecoms industry and a golden opportunity for the internet world. Voice is, however, still the preferred mechanism of human communication but voice calls via a fixed or mobile telephone system are now not the only option available.

This glass half full, myopic misperception leads me to suggest that the business models of telcos are overly focused on the delivery of “coms”. While this has been a highly successful strategy throughout the 20th century, it is rapidly running out of steam as the internet world and telecoms collide to create the new mobile cloud world of today.

Maybe we should learn from Max Frisch (1911-1991), the Swiss author and critic, who said: “We live in an age of reproduction. Most of what makes up our personal picture of the world we have never seen with our own eyes—or rather we have seen it with our own eyes, but not on the spot: our knowledge comes to us from a distance, we are tele-viewers, tele-hearers, tele-knowers”.

So is it time to pivot this focus? Given the colossal change that convergence has forced within a concatenated time frame, the answer should most definitely be “yes”. The challenge for the telecoms industry is to shift its mindset to focus less on the delivery of “coms” and innovatively focus on “tele”literally meaning “at a distance”.  This demands a focus on innovation that leverages the assets already in place, the layered technology developments of the last 5 years as well as the new ones that are emerging; most importantly, a focus on the evolution of global consumer and business usage needs and patterns. It means combining capabilities and services to “enable engagement over distance”. Now the question to ask is: what is it that tele-consumers and tele-enterprises really need in this 3.0 world?

As an entrepreneur, I have learned much over the past five years about the concepts and practices of lean startups, and I realize that some of the challenges they face are very often closely aligned to those of the telecoms companies: namely, having to pivot and adopt a change in strategy without changing the vision, as well as creating multiple iterations of minimum viable solutions to solve customers’ real problems. In essence, getting back to what mobile operators were doing naturally in the early days of cellular. This may require smaller out-boarded organizations but, more importantly, a return of the visionary leaders and problem solvers to replace the accountants and managers before they succumb to the same fate that awaits many startups – running out of resources!

In conclusion, the panel on innovation that I moderated at last week’s ITU Telecom World 2013 conference in Bangkok was about the need for new mindsets and a reevaluation of the telecoms landscape, chiefly because the current map and strategy no longer accurately represent a territory that has been ripped up by the convergence forces of the last five years. I have no doubt that innovation will thrive in the converged industry but the questions still remain: who will the players be and where will this innovation come from?

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Technology Scouting and the Catch 22 of Innovation

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I came across what I would call the “catch 22 of innovation” the other day while working on a project that’s tipped to disrupt an entire industry.

Every major city now has the desire to become a smart city and to use digital technologies to provide better services and products for its citizens. However, as anyone who reads the news understands, the majority of this innovation in digital technologies is coming from small startups, not from the larger more established companies. One of the services that KeySo Global provides is technology scouting to large companies and for exactly this reason; they are not innovating broadly or rapidly enough, and are beginning to recognize the urgent need to partner with smaller startups that have the technology capability to enhance their more traditional offerings.

So the “catch 22”, as we see it in this context, lies in the request for proposal (RFP) / request for quotation (RFQ) process that cities use when looking for new technologies and solutions to meet existing needs. In most RFP’s and RFQ’s there is a statement that says “we are open to new ideas and technologies that will provide services to enhance the process or reduce the cost of providing those services”. However, buried deep within the RFP, under terms and conditions, is a sentence that also states “any company proposing a solution must have been in existence for at least 3 years, provide a list of existing clients and show financial capability to support the project through its anticipated life.” How many startups do you know that can meet these criteria?

The real drawback of this is that true innovation is unlikely to come to a city near you at any time soon. Of course there are ways around this dilemma but most of these are not straight forward. The technology scouting service we provide at KeySo Global can help by offering new and innovative startups the hybrid solution of partnering with more established companies so that together they can leverage the digital components needed for a thriving smart city infrastructure.

The process of scouting, filtering, evaluating and on-boarding technologies is crucial to an organization’s future success but it can be challenging as well as time and resource consuming at a time of restricted budgets. The option that we offer is to partner with a team that has successfully performed similar roles and created transformational processes at Motorola, Sony Ericsson and TRW. We offer a unique blend of experience, insight and proven processes to achieve this outcome. Our strategic review process and implementation framework enables us to rapidly partner with clients to successfully find, evaluate, acquire and on-board innovative technologies. A significant aspect of our approach is to help the startup and the established company understand one another’s’ mindsets. We use the “two weeks analogy” to help frame the fundamental differences in perspective of the two:  two weeks to a startup can mean life or death whereas to a large company it’s just a meeting!

Contact us  for more information and to find out how we can help accelerate innovation.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

 

BlackBerry and JC Penney: Two Giants That Have Lost Their Way?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

What do BlackBerry and JC Penney have in common? Possibly more than you might realize.

1. Both missed the shift in their industry.

2. Both changed leadership.

3. Both implemented radical change.

4. Both achieved less than impressive results after this change.

5. Both implemented change following agitation from Wall Street – even though Main Street reacted neutrally or negatively to the change.

JC Penney even went as far as to hire the retail guru from Apple, Ron Johnson, as its new CEO to turn the company around but, in so doing, the needs of the customer were ignored. The introduction of tablets at point of sale, a relaxed dress code for the sales staff and the removal of coupons and store cash registers confused the target shopper – a very different shopper to the one found at the Apple store. The application of technology in this case was not the issue. The crucial question overlooked was whether the benefits of that technology outweighed the resistance to adopting it; in the case of JC Penney they did not. Not only was there resistance from the customer but Ron Johnson failed to gain the collaboration of staff and management, which proved to be a critical mistake.

Sales of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system based products – the Z10 and the Q10, and most recently the Q5 – are down as BlackBerry has lost significant market share to Apple, with its sleek and easy to use operating system and beautifully designed product. It was BlackBerry’s misconception that its superior new operating system and good design would enable it to reclaim its former position in the market. The reality was that BlackBerry started as a technology but developed into an experience. In the early 21st century the device became widely known as a “CrackBerry”, referring to the excessive and obsessive email-checking by its owners, for both business and personal use. The technology was convenient and secure and, most importantly, BlackBerry had become a trusted household name.

BlackBerry’s demise, however, was not just related to the fact that the operating system did not evolve; it put too much focus on the consumer and lost sight of its valued customer base, the corporate IT customer, whose growing desire was to access both their corporate digital networks and their social media networks on the same device, but this was ignored by BlackBerry. The infamous “BlackBerry outage” was the final straw and violated the trust that former loyal consumers had in the BlackBerry experience. RIM, as it was, was an engineering company that had no idea how to continue to design experiences and now, as “BlackBerry”, does not have the marketing knowledge or clout to rebuild consumer trust in the brand.

Both companies tried to emulate Apple in a classic “best practices” way but failed to understand that the Apple store and its devices were designs that embodied feelings and experiences, and created by a man with exceptional vision; someone who posed questions such as “how do we reinvent the store?” and “how do we do things differently on a phone?” Steve Jobs never just produced a “me too” product.

So, what’s the walk away? Wall Street hates failure but, more than that, it’s terrified of change. Both however are essential for innovation and creativity which are cornerstones of modern day business success. Wall Street’s demands for continuity of performance can ultimately result in giants being brought to their knees. What’s more dangerous is that when Wall Street sees these giants falling they demand a change of leadership. This new leadership is then faced with the challenges of innovating and risk taking to enhance performance when, in reality, all Wall Street wants is to preserve the status quo. JC Penny and RIM, as well as Motorola and Nokia, are prime examples of this. Apple looks as if it is unassailable at this point of time but calls by Wall Street activists to withdraw cash from the company will ultimately weaken its ability to take the risks that are necessary to sustain it going forward.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Can Small Innovators Take Center Stage at CES?

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

I’ve just returned from Las Vegas where, as an analyst, I attended the largest International Consumer Electronics Show ever. Having walked not only the 1.92 million square feet, or 37 football fields, of exhibition space but also the 1.6 miles between the Venetian and the LVH Convention Center every day, it quickly became apparent that it was going to be impossible for me to get to see all of the 3,250 exhibitors with their 20,000 new products.

In an exhibition of this size, three very different methods of announcing products and demonstrating innovation have had to evolve. The first approach that flagship brands adopt is to create a “wow factor” for their product reveal to keep it top of mind. Here the product is placed center stage on massive booths, features at the center of elaborate and expensive keynotes, and is the focus of high visibility “invite only” press launches and parties, examples of which have been hitting mainline media all week.

The second method of product announcement is to facilitate one of the many closed door discussions that take place in ritzy hotel suites across Vegas; high ranking company execs are ferried back and forth to meetings by retained limos, and a bizarre and almost ritualistic protocol determines who meets with whom, according to status. Whatever the end result, these movers and shakers have a full dance card for the entire time they are in Vegas and have little or no opportunity to see the third, and in some ways most interesting, type of product exhibition.

Here an ecosystem of small domestic and international manufacturers and innovators prevails. Their products and developments are displayed in the hope that the right buyer, scout, analyst or media representative will serendipitously stumble upon them. These displays are not the fancy booths of the larger players but are instead the pop-ups you find at the Venetian or the periphery stands in the big halls of LVH through which, sore feet allowing, you sometimes wander.

So if innovation is at the heart of CES, as their press release suggests, then maybe a rethink of the conference and exhibition format is needed in order to expose this tertiary ecosystem of small innovators, and enable them to become the powerhouse of growth for tomorrow’s consumer electronics industry.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global   

For additional perspectives on this year’s CES contact me at steve.bell@keysoglobal.com or at 847-478-1633. Visit our website at www.keysoglobal.com

Five Essentials for Business Success in the Digital World

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Digital technologies are forcing an unprecedented pace of change for business. If you don’t get on board now, you risk being left behind! To determine whether your business is on track to becoming a Digital Business, you need to ask these five questions:  

 

 

  1. Do you proactively monitor the industry changes that are affecting your business?

Use web based tools to help track the impact that converged technologies are having on all aspects of your business, such as customer behaviors, new suppliers, technology trends etc. This approach will give you a holistic perspective of your industry and enable you to identify strategic options ahead of your competition.

 

  1. Do you encourage collaborative behaviors within your organization?

It is crucial that your company provides the tools and environment that enable the sharing of knowledge and information in order to tap into one of its most valuable attributes – the tacit knowledge of your employees.

 

  1. Do you regularly engage with communities external to your company? 

It is essential to adopt a digital mind set and rethink how your business can more effectively engage (interact, listen, learn and co-create) with the rapidly growing collective knowledge base outside of your company in order to understand changing customer requirements, generate new ideas and gain important feedback.

 

  1. Do you disrupt your business model?

Traditional business models, tools and methodologies do not adapt well to the opportunities and threats encountered in today’s digital world. First you need to understand how the individual elements of your existing model work together and then take full advantage of digital technologies to create a disruptive new business model – before your competition does it for you!

 

  1. Do you inspire your employees to bring innovation into the workplace?  

You need to encourage your employees to leverage the mobile and social technologies that they use in their everyday lives to generate innovative ideas that will enhance, simplify and accelerate the business processes within your company.

We at KeySo Global have developed frameworks and tools that can help you rapidly adapt to changes in the digital environment. We have assisted companies by designing and implementing development programs that produce dynamic digital strategies. Contact us at 847-478-1633 or info@keysoglobal.com  to set up an initial meeting and we’ll help you discover your digital path to success!

 

Convergence Trends and Innovation at CES 2012

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A shorter article on this subject was first published as Convergence Trends and Innovation at CES 2012 on Technorati.

The Consumer Electronics Show 2012 statistics (153,000 attendees, 34,000 international attendees, 3,100 exhibitors, 1.86 million square feet of exhibit space, and 20,000 new products) give an indication of the scale and diversity of attendance but give no color to the reality of convergence that will occur between Digital World technologies and the digital lives of consumers over the next 12 to 18 months. In the next couple of paragraphs I’ve highlighted some of the exciting convergence trends that we see emerging.

Interactive Gestures in the Living Room

TV’s seem to be getting bigger and thinner with brighter 3D Hi Def capability that in some cases requires no glasses. If you can see beyond the existing concept of the TV, you realize that the center of the living room is becoming internet connected and consequently smarter in its ability to offer a variety of interactive services to augment viewing. This increased smartness requires new paradigms for interaction with other devices and sources of information, media and preferences. Thisrequirement to share is being enhanced by the increasing use of Wi-Fi Direct in multiple devices finding their way on to the living room couch. Interestingly, the world of gaming has provided the consumer electronics industry with new perspectives of how to interact with couch surfers and their devices via gestures. Think iPhone type scrolling, pinching point and zoom capability but with hand gestures to enable scrolling through TV guides to select, explore and expand videos or TV programs.

Digital Interactive Cockpits

One really interesting demonstration was a see-through LCD TV where you could see a static bowl of fruit behind the screen as TV/video images appeared on the screen. Where could this innovation lead?  Ford, Mercedes and Kia were showing the way in which new display technology and processing power will enhance the dashboard. Although it was not found at this year’s CES, the concept of a clear LCD windscreen can’t be that far off! This coupled with gesture capability being demonstrated by Mercedes and other enhanced augmented display technologies, will revolutionize the way vehicles are controlled. The real challenge that the automotive industry faces is adapting the rapid cycle of development of ICT technology into their traditional 7 year product development cycles.

Connected Medicine

The medical world is also on the verge of experiencing the power of connectivity in the form of devices, apps and cloud solutions that monitor everything from diet to diabetes to heart rate with full ECG capability built into phones. Again, the rapid pace of technology development is struggling against bureaucratic approval processes and the ability of the existing health care industry to adjust procedures and personnel to adapt and handle the opportunities that these new solutions deliver. Imagine a scenario where monitoring devices are given away to people for free as part of their health plan, with the revenue being generated from the monitoring services. The opportunity to reduce hospital visits and enhance health regimes that elevate overall health levels benefits everyone but requires structural and procedure shifts to accommodate the change.

Device Proliferation Drives Differentiation

The explosion in smartphone and tablet devices with common operating systems (Android & IOS) and brilliant high resolution screen technologies and interfaces have enabled much of the convergence technology above. Sony, for example, demonstrated their new 2 screen tablet that closes like a clam shell and which has an on screen keyboard. As usual CES did not disappoint with multiple devices being announced that continue a trend of increased thinness, lighter weight, solid state memory, and more powerful processors than were in PC’s only a year or so ago. These are seemingly available from an ever increasing number of Chinese and Asian vendors, undoubtedly increasing price pressure as they all struggle to differentiate themselves.

Differentiation is difficult but a small (Fujitsu & Toshiba) number of vendors at the show are producing waterproof phones and tablets. Equally, vendors are exploring the space between tablets and smartphone’s in the 5 inch screen category. Samsung was hyping the note with their “S Pen” where artists drew caricatures on the screen that were then printed and displayed. The introduction of natural interfaces such as drawing, voice recognition, touch and gesture will most definitely enhance our ability to better utilize the devices and incorporate them in to our lives.

Dolby & Video Chat

From a technology perspective, 5.1 Dolby quality sound was demonstrated by Qualcomm who emphasize that the processing power of their chipsets now enable HD sound processed from 5 microphones on the device. Amateur video will never be the same again! Equally, the use of 5 microphones also means that noise cancelling and filtering will in the future allow much clearer video chat in areas of high ambient noise.

Redefining Human Interactivity

This is just a snapshot of some of the convergence trends and innovative thinking on display at this year’s CES, prompted by the availability and accessibility of a wide variety of new Digital Life technologies. As one final thought for consideration, Ericsson demonstrated how the human body can be used as a conductor for transferring data from one device to another. With one touch of your smartphone, you can transfer the video that you just took directly onto your TV. With the advent of the Internet of Things, the concept of the human body as a node within the net and a transfer mechanism for data means the Digital World is fast becoming the truly interactive place we knew it would be!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

www.keysoglobal.com