Posts Tagged ‘Digital Life’

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 Power of Six in a World of Digital Change

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Power of 6 finalFor the last six years I’ve been examining and commentating on Digital Life Renaissance 2.0, the term that my partner, Steve Benton, and I coined to describe the world as we saw it emerging in late 2008, following our escape from corporate life to become independent analysts, advisors and entrepreneurs.

There’s probably never a good time to start a journey in life like this and, looking back with hindsight, this was probably the worst time we could have chosen! 2008 was the start of the global meltdown and, as a consequence, everyone was narrowing their focus on how to survive over the next 3 months. It didn’t matter whether you were a corporate CEO or employee, uncertainty and fear were a daily reality back then.

One of the most significant theories of networking is that everything is connected and that we’re only ever six connections away from someone or something. I was recently invited to DLD (Digital-Life-Design), an interesting “invite-only” conference in New York. This conference was initiated ten years ago by Yossi Vardi, a legendry Israeli entrepreneur, and managed by Steffi Czerny of the Hubert Burda Media Company; it has become a must-attend preamble to the Davos World Economic Forum. This year, DLD crossed the Atlantic for the first time, offering a high profile speaker and attendee list, and the conference covered an eclectic assortment of digital life topics from economics, monetization, media, brands, music, arts, to Internet of Things, neuroscience and consciousness.

After six years as an independent analyst examining the world of Digital Renaissance, I’ve clocked up well over 20,000 hours of knowledge and expertise in the area; I was therefore amazed to discover at the DLD conference two weeks ago that, as much time as I’ve invested here, I’ve only been skimming the surface of the phenomenal change that’s occurring. This was the first time that I’ve witnessed the real breadth of this change so succinctly exposed and exquisitely showcased as work in rapid progress.

The overwhelming impression that I came away with from the DLD conference is that there is not one aspect of the life that we’re living today that is not, has not or will not be touched by the digital force that’s consuming human thinking. The opportunities and possibilities have never been greater, and the urgency for us to understand and harness this knowledge is paramount.

So what is the “power of six” beyond my six years of learning and the six degrees of separation? “The Power of Six” was the theme of one of the DLD conference sessions that focused on the power of reductionism, to simplify and clarify in times of chaos. It’s the ability, as Hemmingway advised other writers, to “boil it down” and “know what to leave out”; the six word tag line of advertising that captures the essence of an idea. It’s translating this to Twitter where, if you can’t express your idea in a tweet, then you really don’t have an idea. In other words, with such rapid change occurring, it’s vital to simplify in order to help people grasp and understand what’s going on.

The power of six also refers to the persistently interruptive world that we have created with social media, email, messaging and online marketing that consumes our lives. Today, six seconds is often all the time you have to grab someone’s interest, and the six images that convey a broader story and context around those six words could well be critical to your success. The ability of the human brain to interpret and absorb images in order to comprehend the whole is greater than with words alone. Additionally, these images will probably be delivered on a screen of six inches or less, confirming that this really is a digital mobile world.

At the DLD conference, Scott Kurnit, CEO of Keep Holdings, identified that it took thirty seven attempts for him to repeat his message before his company finally embraced mobile, as opposed to relying on digital and web-only mechanisms for change. To me, this is “six to the power of six plus one”. In other words, I believe that persistence is the true key to success, particularly when faced with the evangelical task of converting people to a mobile mindset, and this has become my goal and the prime focus of my company, KeySo Global.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC.

2014: The Year of Digital Renaissance?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Digi Renaissance firework 2013As fireworks fill the skies tonight and 2013 comes to a close, it seems a good time to reflect on the current state of the telecoms and ICT industries, and what has changed in the last five years. Having just participated in the 2013 ITU Telecom World Conference in Bangkok, this gave me the opportunity to assess whether the Digital Renaissance that we at KeySo Global have being predicting has in fact transpired.

In 2009 the world was reeling from 12 months of global financial turbulence and anxiety levels were high. WiMAX was causing angst for U.S. carriers and the iPhone was forcing the rethinking of how Wi-Fi and cellular could effectively inter-operate. Data congestion on overloaded 3G networks designed for voice was reaching critical levels as operators adjusted to the realities of YouTube video upload and downloads. The European markets and technology suppliers were firmly in control of the industry, with Nokia the dominant handset supplier controlling 38% of the 1.1 billion phones sold that year. Apple, on the other hand, was gaining credibility and achieved a respectable 2%. ICT was the main theme of the conference as cellular held center stage with 67% market penetration, having enabled 4.6 billion people globally to have access to personal communication capability. In 2009 the prime discussion, therefore, was around internet connection and the role that mobile could play here.

graphic oneFast forward to the 2013 conference in Asia and the global economy, having experienced five years of unprecedented instability, is still in a volatile state where virtually every treasured economic rulebook has been proven ineffective in controlling a 24/7 interconnected digital world. This has been facilitated in part due to cellular penetration reaching 96% and 6.8 billon people having access to cellular – 3.5 billion of whom are in the Asia Pacific region. More significantly, the number of people now online has increased from 26% to 39%. The single biggest contributor to this has been mobile broadband access which has grown from below 10% in 2009 to 30% penetration this year. This growth is closely tied to smartphone growth as well as the availability of lower cost data packages.  In 2009 smartphonesgraphic 2 accounted for approximately 10% of handset shipments, whereas in the 3rd quarter of 2013 smartphones totaled 250 million units, over 55% of total phone shipments that quarter. The biggest loser in this dramatic shift in emphasis towards smartphones and operating systems has been Nokia, but others such as Sony Ericsson, Kyocera, Sharp, Rim, HTC and Motorola have been damaged along the way, to greater or lesser degrees, by the shift to an Android world.

In conclusion, we are living in a far more connected world than we were five years ago. However, the extent to which the interconnection of this increasingly complex human digital and physical world is understood is limited and the ripple effects of these technologies on industry structures have only just started to appear. Telecoms and ICT are certainly not immune to these, as we have seen, but within the next five years we will see the boundary industries of automotive, medical, retail, utilities and manufacturing become increasingly subject to the transformative effects of the mobile internet.

Of greater interest will be the unanticipated consequences that will undoubtedly emerge from the mobile internet and Internet of Things blending with big data analytics, and the unavoidable impact this will have on digital life and behaviors. As an increasingly urbanized planet adopts these technologies to facilitate ever smarter cities, the opportunities for ICT to make a difference to societies are colossal – but the question is how to bring the people along with these changes, and instill trust in them that technology will be used for good and that ethical government will prevail? Clearly, the recent Snowden revelations on the NSA and other agencies have given everyone pause for thought.

As we enter 2014, it is clear that the Digital Renaissance is technically well underway but the structural and behavioral implications are only just beginning to emerge and, when they do surface, I suspect that the predominant challenges we face will be societal. In shaping the future of this brave new world we need to engage its citizens, understand their needs and manage the “Faustian bargain” that will be a fine balance between a surveillance state and the right to privacy. None of these challenges are unsurmountable but they are ones that will need careful monitoring, open conversations and perseverance on the part of governments, industry and citizens around the globe.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

The Entrepreneur’s Paradox

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

The macro picture

Most people associated with business strategy and the challenges of cultivating innovation are familiar with a classic business book by Clayton Christensen called “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. In this seminal work, Christensen examines the impact of new technology on existing industry incumbents and the dilemma that they face in sustaining current business at the same time as embracing disruptive technology.

A recent business magazine article identified that the pace of disruption was accelerating as multiple technologies come together and as innovators constantly try to leverage these technologies for new goods and services. In most cases, the implementations fail but these failures have a significant benefit as they enhance the collective learning of both the innovators and the customers with each new product cycle. This learning aspect for customers is critical because they are becoming familiar with new experiences and technology. Consequently, when the right combination of experience and technologies is eventually created, the market is more receptive as customers are already familiar with it, meaning that the concept goes viral faster and becomes disruptive more rapidly.

In past blogs I have talked about the concept of “boundary blurring” between industries as the impact of combined ICT technologies changes the value propositions and business models of industries such as banking, health, retail and automotive. We have also described a phenomena we call “digital life” which is the osmosis-like process of digital technology absorption into people’s everyday lives. Most individuals do not recognize the degree to which they have adapted to the new technologies around them. However, the stage is set for the emergence of viral disruption in multiple industries in the next couple of years as entrepreneurs, small startups and companies within ICT see the opportunity to apply these new technologies.

The micro picture

Against this macro picture that I have been sharing through my consultancy work over the past 5 years, I have witnessed several opportunities for businesses to cross boundaries and create disruptive new products, services and business models. Together with a partner, I am now in the process of creating a new startup that applies hardware and software technology, systems thinking and creativity to an industry ripe for disruptive innovation. In developing this venture, however, I have stumbled across what I call the “entrepreneur’s paradox” which is the corollary to the innovator’s dilemma.

The paradox occurs because of the above mentioned macro aspects necessary to create ripe market opportunities: the customers are ready, the industry has old and established business models and market perspectives, and mobile and technology startup companies are winning early adopters.

To enter this industry it requires considerable time and investment to develop the product and value proposition. It also requires the exposure of the idea/product to investors, customers and potential partners in order to test the idea and to prove it can create a sustainable business model. Angel and VC investors are notorious for not signing confidentiality agreements in early stage discussions.  In other words, it requires putting the idea out into the public domain, which is the nub of the paradox, because it works against the other desirable attribute of a tech startup – namely, a patented product or idea.

In order to submit a provisional or full patent filing, and claim “first to file” status, it requires no prior public disclosure. So how do you know that what you are filing justifies the cost in terms of being able to create a viable business? And how do you know that the time you spend developing your invention isn’t going to be preempted by someone else fast-cycling a product concept with target customers? The paradox here is: should you file first or seek customer feedback first by creating a prototype product but, in the process, run the risk of the idea being stolen or preempted?

There is no simple resolution to this but as cycles of technology, learning and consumer adoption accelerate, they are bound to challenge the fine balance between the need and desirability for patents versus the finite market opportunity that may exist and needs to be proven. Not an easy decision to make!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Digital Awareness – a Critical Component for Success

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

A key pillar of our work at KeySo Global is the belief that digital technology has significantly impacted and changed the digital lives of every one of us, and that systems and business models are consequently having to adapt to meet multiple stakeholders’ expectations.

Business models are dynamic and unique, and are a reflection of historic development, management personalities, economic and business environments, customer and channel requirements as well as resource, assets and technology. As much as humans like stability, no business model stays the same, no matter how perfect it seems at the time.  In their 2001 book entitled “How Digital Is Your Business” Adrian Slywotzky and David Morrison compared the brilliance of the Dell business model with competitors like HP, Compaq and, at that time, struggling Apple. Dell spent limited amounts on R&D, leveraged a choice board for consumers to design their own PC, and outsourced manufacturing to Taiwan and distribution logistics to FedEx; this was seen as a virtue at the time when compared with HP, Compaq and Apple. Technology and a successful business model don’t guarantee success if a company doesn’t keep up with consumer need changes or fails to innovate. The focus that Apple placed on user experience changed the game; in recent news we’ve seen how Dell’s business model is now struggling to compete against the growth of smartphones, tablets and cloud services – particularly those of Apple.

Being aware and responding to developments around you is a significant and important part of senior management responsibility. We strongly advocate the interaction with external resources that will bring a different perspective to a business. Utilizing “thought leaders” or tools that allow the current situation to be viewed from a different vantage point can greatly strengthen a company’s thinking and focus. As the saying goes “no single event makes a trend” but the search, listing and assembly of data from multiple sources can enable companies to recognize emerging patterns and opportunities, particularly in complementary industries where competitive shifts in business models could be applicable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve observed in the news a number of noteworthy events that will, I’m sure, impact multiple industries. I’ve listed these below, together with what I believe are the broader implications for business.

Recent news events:

  • Online clothes shopping hit 10% of U.S. sales.
  • Macy’s overall sales increased by 11.7% and their online sales increased by 48.9%.
  • H&M and Inditex – European fashion retailers – are reported tochange their in-store clothing range every two weeks.
  • 15% of shopping malls will close in the U.S. over the next five years.
  • Amazon’s fourth-quarter sales were down but their margins increased.
  • Netflix develops streamed original content (House of Cards) targeted at “cord cutters” abandoning cable and satellite TV.
  • Traditional Procter & Gamble partners with crowd sourcing venture capitalists “Circle Up” for new ideas and innovation.
  • BSkyB in the U.K. introduces advertising based on localized demographics and TV program choice.

Digital implications for your business:

  • smartphones and tablets have changed consumer behavior patterns i.e. online couch shopping and mobile price comparison
  • traditional T.V. advertising is losing its effectiveness
  • the digital consumer expects broader and more frequently refreshed product lines
  • digital business models enable diverse competitive offerings
  • traditional business models now embrace crowd sourcing and funding

If they haven’t already done so, these implications and others like them are likely to impact your business model. My message here is that you need to become aware of digital change and be prepared to do something about it. Have you checked to see if neighboring industries and competitors are already responding to the urgent need to adapt? The big question is – are you? Are you ready to take the first steps towards adopting a digital strategy, one that will strengthen your competitive position in today’s digital marketplace?

We at KeySo Global can help. To discuss how you can structure a digital strategy innovation session, contact us at info@keysoglobal.com or visit our website www.keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President KeySo Global

Could TomTom Provide the Roadmap to Success for Apple?

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Article first published as Could TomTom Provide the Roadmap to Success for Apple? on Technorati.

Much has been written about Apple’s $135 billion in cash and the desire of some shareholders to see part of it returned. Technology companies that thrive in their heyday often face the challenges of a post-glory period when their product ceases to appeal or the market has moved on. Nokia and Blackberry (formally RIM) are recent examples of this, and Motorola is another within the mobile space.

At times such as this, a company’s cash reserve is the only thing that allows for continued investment in R&D; it enables them to try to hit the next product cycle and provides coverage for a cash flow shortfall should the company no longer have the volume to generate profits. Having cash on the balance sheet also provides a company with the opportunity to invest, through acquisition, in new technology and intellectual property to ensure enhanced offerings.

In the case of Apple, the recent debacle over the new Apple Maps app on their iPhone 5 emphasizes the fact that when they’re looking to create a new experience, Apple is better off using in-house software. Dutch navigation company, TomTom, which provides the map software for Apple, has recently been reported to be struggling as its hardware sales begin to falter. For the last couple of years the company has focused on selling their map software but they haven’t had the financial resources necessary to successfully compete against the deep pockets of Google or Nokia (Navteq).

TomTom could, however, be an ideal acquisition candidate for Apple. Within their portfolio they could provide the inspirational innovation to blend hardware capabilities with location, content (iTunes) and contextual information to create new and engaging consumer experiences that enhance the digital life of the consumer. In reality, this mapping capability is already within the portfolio of Google and Microsoft, their main rivals in the operating system space.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Is Higher Education Set to Cross the Digital Frontier?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Change usually only occurs when competing forces conspire to cause it or behaviors are adopted that necessitate it. Higher education and universities are ripe for change but they also have a tendency to resist it. These institutions have a long tradition of establishing prestigious courses and faculties, the cost of which in recent years has become prohibitive for the average student. The traditional model of students receiving instruction from and interacting one-on-one with learned professors has gradually given way to large over-crowded lecture halls, compulsory reading lists and standardized testing, as economics not excellence has shaped university education..

The impact that the digital age is having on everyday life is changing consumer expectations, and consequently challenging the established educational model. The widespread availability of wireless broadband, mobile devices, video lectures and online course material is facilitating the “massive online open course” (MOOC) which is accessible to large and diverse groups of students. The high cost of full-time education and the uncertainty of employment mean that many young people today are looking to work and study in parallel – and MOOC offers the ideal solution. It also supports those who are looking to supplement their existing education and skills and are more interested in gaining knowledge than qualifications.

Tablets and e-readers, according to McGraw-Hill, have the ability to transform not only the textbook and the individual educational experience but also the whole testing process. During a presentation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, McGraw-Hill described “LearnSmart”, their new adaptive technology program where a student reads a digital textbook on a tablet or e-reader and is asked a series of on-going questions that assess their understanding of what they have read. Subsequently their reading materials are adjusted according to their level of knowledge and understanding.  On this basis, a room full of students or an online group reading a text will all be receiving highly personalized and tailored instruction to help them attain the same required level of understanding. By tracking the results, answers given and also a student’s keyboard strokes it is possible to ascertain and validate their individual performance for the purposes of testing and certification.

The digital and online world is reshaping our cognitive capabilities and, according to some experts, using the Internet to search for information is causing us to “externalize” our memories rather than having to use them to process and store information. While enhancing our logical capabilities, the online world is also hindering our ability to develop the skills of empathy – an emotion that has apparently shown a decline in young people. Empathy is learned over time through social interaction and by reading others’ facial expressions, so if face time is replaced with Facebook time, the implications for enhanced interpersonal skills and moral decision-making could be significant.

One of the advantages of a traditional university education is that it enables young people to interact and develop social skills. In a recent article about Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City,  it was pointed out that an average C-student attending Johns Hopkins University in the early 1960s – which he was – could be transformed into a social and political star through the interactions, experiential learning and networking skills that are an integral part of a four-year residential education. With increased applications for MOOC courses, the new digital educational environment needs to be reconsidered and other options need to be examined. These could include the utilization of enhanced virtual reality conference facilities that enable virtual face-to-face experiences and networking opportunities that supplement real-world social interactions.

Whatever happens, the shape of education and learning from pre-school through to university and beyond is likely to change dramatically over the next five years as the pace of technological progress continues to accelerate and people adopt it more readily into their lives.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com

Consumer Electronic Trends to Watch – Live Report from CES in Las Vegas

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Shawn DuBravac,  Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) identified in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas yesterday four critical trends that will shape the future of the consumer electronics industry.

The Post Smartphone Era

Penetration of smartphones in the U.S. has surpassed the 52% mark but more significantly tablets have doubled their penetration in just 12 months, moving from 22% to 44%. In today’s digital world where multiple devices are commonplace in every household, these effectively act as hubs. They are mechanisms for accessing additional technologies, from door locks to health and fitness applications, and act as “second screens” for controlling security, domestic appliances, cars and TV’s. DuBravac referred to smartphones and tablets as “viewfinders into our digital lives”.

The Age of Algorithms

Prior to 2001 most information captured was analogue. With the continual reduction of cost for processing and sensors, more and more devices now have the capability to collect, communicate and share information digitally. In the U.S. there will be 350 million IP addressable devices sold in 2013 and about 1 billion worldwide. In reality, the cost curve of technology is enabling the “sensorization” of devices. The challenge in the future will be curating the enormous density of data-strings that will be generated as sensors proliferate.  Participating at this year’s CES are a record number of automotive companies, reflecting the growing interest of the industry in the role of sensors and connectivity. The fact that the Google car drove 300k miles last year and that Audi, Lexus, Ford and several others are focusing on this area of technology is an indication of how significant it could become. The Chairman of Continental has said that a driverless commercial solution is possible by 2025. In this age of algorithms, data is the new currency which raises ever more concern about security and privacy.

Contextual Connectivity

In recent years, the mood of the industry was captured by the advent of smart TV’s that could connect to the internet. Now the focus is on using intelligence received from sensors to make the interaction between the smart TV and the consumer more relevant and appropriate. One example is the use of cameras that monitor who is watching a program to ensure that appropriate advertising is screened when children are present; another are glass panes in store windows that display information tailored to the individual who is walking past that store, based on their smartphone details shared via social media, store card check-ins or through NFC payments.

Changing the Flow of the Story

The prevalence of “second screens” indicates that we are becoming digital omnivores who consume secondary information while watching a primary screen or previews prior to selecting a program. With household penetration of tablets and smartphones hitting 1.4 per household in the U.S. in 2012 (compared with 2.9 TV’s per household), the second screen is a real phenomenon.  In fact sales of small screen TV’s have declined 20 to 30% in the last 3 years. The concept that engagement starts on the second screen means that the paradigms for use-case scenarios are rapidly changing and need to be understood by the content providers, networks and advertisers. The story may not start on the big screen but when it reaches it the challenge is to maintain engagement and interaction on the second screen. Interestingly, sales of jumbo screen TV’s for main living spaces are on the increase in the U.S.

What becomes evident from these trends is that consumers’ rapid adoption of technology into their digital lives is changing their expectations and forcing business models to adapt accordingly. It appears that, even in the consumer industries, many large companies are being slow to respond and the bulk of innovative ideas and add-on products are being generated by hybrid start-ups.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com

Catalyst Technologies and their Global Impact

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

In this third blog we look at the implications of the catalyst technologies we identified in our last blog, and determine why they have become so important. In his book “What Technology Wants” Kevin Kelly identifies that “the ever thickening mix of existing technologies in a society create any supersaturated matrix charged with restless potential”. We have written extensively about the digital world which is the combination of technologies that are shaping our world and digital life which is the effect that these technologies are having on everyday life. Kelly again reinforces our perspective when he says that we as a society are “symbiotic with the technology” and that as fast as we invent technology, we change our behavior and become dependent upon it.

Instant Markets

The current global economic turmoil did not come about by accident, but is in fact a consequence of today’s society being able to instantly communicate and share information. In other words society has changed behaviors and has become increasingly dependent on converged technologies. The use of internet trading platforms, for example, with Twitter users virally sharing the latest snippet of information is compounding the application of sophisticated trading algorithms (flash trading). The fact that the U.S. is now leading the way in the deployment of 4G mobile Internet makes the realities of the 2008/2009 Wall Street collapse pale into insignificance as the next wave of technologies facilitate “anytime, anywhere, anyhow” trading and speculating based on viral information.

Controls Lag

More recently the global LIBOR banking scandal, on top of the Euro crisis, points to the fact that we as an international society are struggling to come to grips with and learn what control mechanisms will work in this volatile and real-time world. Compounding this is the problem that we have not yet come up with a common language to document the necessary global beliefs and values that are required to guide policy regulation, monitoring and correction of this 24/7 digitally trading world.

Inextricable Interdependence

The U.S. has struggled to interpret the current rapidly changing and unpredictable global situation, mainly because it finds it hard to accept the fundamental changes that have been occurring on its own soil. A recent Financial Times article identified that the U.S. is now significantly more interdependent on the global economy than it was 31 years ago, at the outset of the shift to Digital Renaissance 2.0.

At that time, in 1981, the U.S. was a relatively closed and self-sufficient economy as measured in terms of trade of goods (import/exports) as a percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product. U.S trade represented only 21% of GDP and was made up of 10% exports and 11% imports. By 2012 this had grown significantly to approximately 32% of GDP – exports accounted for 14% of this and imports 18% – putting the U.S. on a par with the global average as an open economy.

Consequently the U.S. belief in self-reliance and independence now needs to be replaced with the realization, not only in terms of stock market indices but also as an economic reality, that it is inextricably tied to the Euro crisis, the emergence of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the struggles in Africa.

Collaboration & Knowledge

The original Renaissance in Europe resulted in the disappearance of principalities and kingdoms, and ushered in the emergence of a nation state, which was followed during the industrial age with the emergence of overlapping market states. The question is how will the world evolve and will market states be the future societal organization? There are a number of theories about the organization of society going forward (Philip Bobbitt, David Ronfeldt, are two such theorists and this article compares their position with those of others). Regardless of which theory prevails, it is highly likely that in the world of Digital Renaissance 2.0 networking, collaboration and knowledge will be critical components of its underlying architecture. It also seems probable that global communities, digitally connected and potentially proactive, will coexist alongside and within hierarchical organizations, both in government and also in industry.

Ren 2.0 Man – Techno Artisan Craft Society

Digital Renaissance 2.0 was founded upon four enabling technologies and was exponentially accelerated by the catalyst technologies that released the restless potential of other technologies, such as cloud computing and Web 2.0. Ren 2.0 is now embracing a raft of emerging technologies, like NFC, voice recognition and kinetics, which are giving rise to business models not previously conceived. For instance 3-D printing is enabling designers / entrepreneurs to create new product concepts from digital files more rapidly and cost effectively than ever previously thought possible. Coupling this capability with global internet access and mobile commerce, Ren 2.0 now allows others to market this product concept globally.  Personalized products for the “market of one” are created by transmitting customized product specifications to printers anywhere on the planet and in close proximity to the consumer. To a large degree these hybrid technology and commerce systems facilitate the reincarnation of the craft society that got lost in the industrial age. These techno artisan craftsmen are in many respects the Digital Renaissance 2.0 men/women of the new digital era who are living, working and trading in global communities of trust, practice and purpose.

In prior blogs we have discussed the concept of “digital agents of change” and shown how critical this role has become in today’s digital business world. In some respects we all now need to become digital agents of change for the global society, or to use the words of Mohanda Gandhi “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com

Which 3 Digital Technologies became Catalysts for Change?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

So what exactly have we recognized as being the three catalyst technologies or products that emerged in the year 2007? Below is an overview of each of these and highlighted are the main factors that we believe have influenced their evolution and subsequent relevance today.

WiMAX

WiMAX was an early 4G technology that started the move of the U.S. market to wireless broadband; it is often likened to “Wi-Fi on steroids”. The fact that Sprint and Clearwire, a startup that was supported by Google and Intel, could deliver blisteringly fast mobile Internet service forced AT&T and Verizon, the two largest U.S. carriers, to accelerate their deployment of 4G LTE. This development meant that standards needed to be agreed upon and formalized, and that network equipment manufacturers needed to accelerate production in order to provide for these large customers.

Having AT&T and Verizon focus on a single frequency (700 MHz) made it easier for device manufacturers to accelerate their development of 4G Internet products and deliver consumer-ready devices. The fact that some of these device manufacturers had been working on WiMAX devices in cooperation with semiconductor providers meant that they could accelerate products based on the WiMAX chipsets that almost 80% matched LTE.

Subsequently, both Sprint and T-Mobile have also either invested in or announced plans to build a 4G LTE network on top of their existing systems. What this means is that for the first time all four large U.S. carriers are offering mobile Internet services utilizing the same technology as the rest of the world, enabling global interoperability and roaming.

The iPhone

The second catalyst product was the iPhone which has received much acclaim for its elegant design and simple user interface. The real essence of the catalytic change that the iPhone initiated, however, was a shift in the consumer paradigm of a mobile device being used solely for communication to one that enabled interaction. The iPhone allows users to connect easily on-the-go and to share information, content, pictures and video simply and effortlessly. When it was first released, users found the interface to be so effortless that data volumes climbed exponentially and severely disrupted the AT&T network that had not been designed for large data capability! This forced AT&T, as well as other mobile operators, to rethink the entire concept of network architecture to include Wi-Fi as an offload mechanism. It also resulted in AT&T acquiring Wayport, and in the process becoming the single largest operator of Wi-F in the U.S.

Not only did the iPhone change the existing consumer paradigm and network architectures, it also broke the carrier stranglehold on its relationship with the subscriber. The iPhone was and still is provisioned via iTunes, which had previously been the domain of the mobile operator. This relationship with the subscriber, initiated at the time of purchase, was then solidified through the introduction of the app store and ultimately the iCloud. Apple effectively took the existing mobile business model, tore it up and replaced it with a hybrid that established a stronger bond with the consumer based on end-to-end user experience. The impact of the iPhone’s innovative design, end-to-end system, business model, user paradigm and elegant packaging of an everyday technology has had a tsunami-like impact on RIM, Motorola and Nokia, as well as on major mobile operators around the globe.

The Amazon Kindle

The third catalyst product that has been an instrumental agent of change is the Amazon Kindle. This device did for a 500-year-old product concept, the book, what the Walkman or iPod did for music. Best sellers are now cheaper and easier to obtain via the Kindle which provides on-the-go access to the world’s largest library/bookstore. This simple to use, low cost device made the mobile Internet transparent to the user by incorporating the cost of access into the price of the book. Amazon achieved this by creating a blanket connection relationship with AT&T for global access. The fact that the Kindle e-Reader automatically creates a relationship with Amazon means that loyal subscribers are a natural evolution. Proof that this technological revolution is affecting the literary world is evidenced by the number of large bookstores, such as Borders in the U.S., that have closed, and Barnes & Noble swiftly producing their own e-Reader, the Nook.

The iPhone and the e-Reader together have evolved into an instant-on class of device – the tablet – that satisfies the mobile consumer’s need to instantly connect, be entertained and informed. While small enough to remain portable, smartphones and tablets facilitate sharing, learning, creating and interacting using wireless broadband connectivity (3G, 4G and WiMAX) and these in turn have become indispensable parts of our everyday digital lives.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com