Archive for the ‘VIP’ Category

Evolution of Hardware

February 18, 2019

hardware

FountainBlue’s February 8 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Evolution of Hardware’. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at Maxim. Below are notes from the conversation. 

The executives in this month’s roundtable represented decades of experience across many industry sectors – from semiconductor to healthcare, from telecommunications to networking, from automotive to manufacturing. They also represented the technical, product, management, research and marketing side of the business.

There was general agreement that hardware innovations have taken place across decades and across industries, creating an infrastructure and a foundation upon which software and integrated solutions can be built. But hardware innovations are continuing to happen, ensuring that we have the Power to make things work, that we can Communicate with others, that we have Sensors to detect what’s happening in our environment, and that we build Connections between people and things.

The Digital Age rests on the premise that this hardware foundation is solid, pervasive, reliable, expandable, and inclusive.  

Our executives in attendance were all clearly bullish on the hardware innovation opportunities ahead and agreed on the following:

  • We went from a world dependent on the right materials, and more materials. Then the emphasis became focused on control of the hardware. Then the integration of hardware and software. And now the integration of software and hardware with the cloud.
  • Hardware and software are generally integrated, and will become more so.
  • Technologies and solutions have applications across teams, across companies, across industries. Therefore, leveraging past successes might help address current challenges.
  • Complex systems will become even more so, and these systems will be integrated into other complex systems.
  • Customers are tending to stay within specific niches, yet they need partners to tackle specific elements of project challenges. When they secure that partner, they expect end-to-end, reliable, integrated hardware/software solutions.
  • Forward-thinking companies are still investing in hardware innovations. The current mindset which touts the digital and dismisses the foundational hardware and integration will soon evolve a more balanced, more considered viewpoint… once small, unexpected hardware failures cause unexpected impact.
  • In order to foster larger adoption of hardware, we need to collaborate on building our local infrastructure. Cities and counties don’t generally have the budget or talent to create that foundational infrastructure which would lead to better telecommunications, better digital access – enabling everyone living within cities to be more connected, more informed, more empowered.

Below is their advice on how to develop innovative hardware:

  • Find ways to deliver the personalized solutions customers want in a way that’s extensible and scalable and cost-productive to deliver.
  • Define technologies and processes which would make it easier to integrate hardware and software as part of the customer deliverables.
  • Balance having a versatile and elegant design addressing practical questions (can it be done, is there a demand for it) and efficient delivery and customized service.

Below are thoughts on the hardware opportunities ahead.

  • There will always be a need for more power – smaller, more reliable, less heat-emitting, more cost-effective, etc. But the power must also not give off too much heat or noise. Perhaps materials beyond copper would make the power source more sustainable.
  • It’s harder to innovate hardware for the healthcare and automotive industries because lives are at stake and policies need to be obeyed. But when these hardware innovations work, the need is great, the market is large.
  • Hearables, wearables, IoT devices will be prominent both at work and at work.  
  • Software will be integrated with hardware for customized solutions deliver real-time results, leveraging AI, ML and IoT. 
  • There are huge material science opportunities – around power generation, storage and distribution, around temperature and voltage management.
  • Packaging hardware elements will see many advances and many opportunities.
  • Customers will continue to demand personalized solutions which require customized hardware solutions, with embedded software. Forward-thinking companies will elegantly design solutions which are both versatile and practical, both personalized and scalable.

The bottom line is that hardware goes well beyond a ‘necessary evil’. It is an essential technology which is the foundation of the explosive technology advancements we’re all witnessing and benefitting from.

Working together, we can collaboratively improve the infrastructure so that we can get more done faster and more effectively.

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DevOps Opportunities and Challenges

January 21, 2019

devops

FountainBlue’s January 18 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘DevOps Trends and Opportunities’. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance and our gracious hosts at Techlab, and our investment partners at Vonzos. Below are notes from the conversation. 

Positioned at the intersection between R&D, QA and Operations, DevOps teams manage IT, engineering, product and business objectives, coordinate between multiple leaders and objectives and keep projects on track. This is no easy task as technology changes so quickly, solutions get increasingly more complex, and much more data is generated from a wider range of sources.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives around the table, with executives representing a wide range of companies and roles and company stages. We agreed that although medical and transportation and manufacturing companies might have little tolerance for errors, there may be more latitude for failures and breaches which might annoy customers, but not endanger them. Although of course, this is to be avoided. 

With the complexities for all DevOps teams across industries, it’s becoming more challenging to:

  • ensure compliance to security standards
  • document specification and other changes
  • proactively ensure security standards

Hence, it becomes much more important to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate on developer operations needs, and also fold in infrastructure and security elements. Below are some trends and best practices:

  • Move SW development from on-premises and into the cloud, where appropriate
  • Adopt Open source solutions 
  • Embrace Agile and fail-fast approaches to stay nimble – it’s more about sprints than marathons
  • Investigate using microservices  
  • Create dynamically generated reports help proactively manage mission-critical projects
  • Focus on the important data and information
  • Proactively lead and manage through change
  • Be disciplined and methodical about creating and following processes, about coordinating and communicating with other parties
  • Automate white-collar resources, but do regular sanity checks to ensure that the automations continue to make sense
  • Architect solutions well, make plans to scale
Below are examples of some DevOps opportunities ahead.
  • Over-the-Air (OTA) updating
  • Hardware and Software integration
  • Solutions which can respond more rapidly, more accurately to larger volumes of input from a larger range of sources
  • DevSecOps solutions (developer, security and operations)
  • Container security
  • Deep tech solutions – integrating AI, ML, IoT
  • Integrating digitalization trends into DevOps

With the successful running of DevOps teams, communication, coordination and collaboration converge, and technology becomes an enabler, allowing people, teams and companies to build tools and methodologies more quickly, more collaboratively, and more sustainably throughout a product life cycle in order to better to understand and deliver on (internal and external) customer needs. 

The Future of Networking

December 11, 2018

Networking

FountainBlue’s December 7 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘The Future of Networking’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Vonzos Partners. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives around the table, with executives representing different industries – from aerospace to manufacturing, from semiconductors to utilities, from healthcare to telecommunications. Yet they shared a common perspectives on the future of networking.

The foundational infrastructure has been set up which makes it easier for people across companies, industries and locations to connect with each other. From this foundation, we are all collectively building increasingly more impactful solutions for larger customer bases, while also providing more customized solutions for individual people. This leads to many inter-related factors including:

  • huge volumes of data which just keep growing
  • a broader range of applications to support a broader range of problems
  • a re-purpose of technologies from one solution to another, from one market or industry into another
  • the burdens and risks to the networks with the increasingly rapid evolution and adoption of hardware and software
  • the empowerment of the consumers, who are applying immense pressure to companies and their networks

Below is cumulative advice for proactively managing networks:

  • Budget time and resources to proactively integrate solutions across users and platforms. Solutions in the future will not be running on silos.
  • Assume that there will be a huge and ongoing need to dynamically balance privacy, security and access.
  • Analyze and triage individual devices and solutions which may impact others within the network. Isolate contaminants and manage the spread into the internal network.
  • Proactively collect, store, manage, communicate the data and its implications to the network, users, customers. 
  • Embrace a safety mindset, managing and minimizing disruption, while also being open to opportunities.

  • Connect your silos of people and teams and help them help each other manage the network.

  • Whether you’re representing yourself or your organization, remember that your data is important and valuable. Selling your personal data, especially your personal health data or even your social media data, may tell the buyer much more about yourself than you know…

This also leads to many opportunities as well:

  • Data is everywhere and growing rapidly. There are tremendous opportunities for companies who can leverage and filter the data real-time for constructive benefits.
  • Design solutions which manage and contain security breaches across complex and integrated systems to minimize impact.
  • Optimize the capacity of networks so they can proactively manage upgrades (no run-to-failure decisions).
  • Providing AI/ML/predictive analytics on IT and networks to quickly detect anomalies and take measured actions based on patterns
  • Adopt solutions which may be able to optimize and report on its own health and do self-diagnosis.
  • Consider integrating open source solutions into your networking hardware and software adoption plans.
  • There are immense opportunities around IoT, IIot (Industrial IoT), 5G, Cloud/Fog/Edge computing, Video capture/manage/sharing, Autonomous driving.

The bottom line is that the future of networking involves people. 

  • Factor in how a network strategy will impact people and cultures so plan your strategy for the audience you’re serving – your customers, your employees, your industry.
  • Educate your people on how the network impacts them, and how their decisions may impact the network. 

IT Security Trends and Opportunities

November 20, 2018

it security

FountainBlue’s November 2 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘IT Security Trends and Opportunities’. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Lam Research and our executives in attendance. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our conversation around IT security trends ran the gamut across technologies, industries, and companies. Our executives in attendance had broad and deep experience across IT security, and agreed that: 

  • It’s amazing how increasingly important IT security is for a company, with serious repercussions on brand and finances when there are breaches, and also for consumers and individuals as well. 
  • Development and engineering is growing at an astronomical pace, which means that there are more devices, more software, more hardware, more data to manage and handle, and more opportunities for compromised security.
  • It’s hard to predict security trends because privacy is a ‘whisper industry’, and leaders aren’t necessarily openly sharing breaches or incidents…
  • There’s a war between the good guys who are in charge of keeping everything compliant, secure, and running, and the ‘bad guys’ who are trying to get access to the network for financial gain, for brand sabotage, and for political and other reasons. 
  • It’s important to create a culture that respects the need for security, while also making sure that everyone can be productive.
  • There’s a push-pull between regulators and innovators in this space, which adds complexity and challenges. But there’s a huge opportunity for companies and leaders willing to navigate the additional hurdles.  
  • Security is not the responsibility of the IT professional. It is everyone’s responsibility – at work and at home.
  • Security issues will impact our day-to-day lives, not just our work life. Our cars and roads, our healthcare organizations, our leisure activities, our shopping experiences may be the target of cyber attack. Be vigilant and informed, and make proactive decisions to protect your identity and your data.

Below is a list of some upcoming opportunities for IT security innovation:

  • Solve the paradox between encryption and searchability.
  • Create a solution which allows analytics and also respects privacy.
  • Automate multi-step validations of addresses and domain names.
  • Identify, monitor, and send alert on anomalies which occur within the network.
  • Design software so devices can send alerts when compromising scenarios occur, or even quarantine itself. 
  • Manage security at the hardware level.
  • Design a solution which would weave together IP, hardware, software, operations security functionality.

Below are some thoughts on how best to stay on top of IT security trends:

  • Accept that people will have multiple devices and want autonomy on when and how to use them. But provide reasonable restrictions and policies to ensure that the network and the data are also safe.
  • Collaborate across leaders, organizations and industries to share best practices.
  • Train and educate the workforce about the choices they are making which could unwittingly compromise people, infrastructure, operations, finances, brand, etc., Phishing attacks on your own staff may help you identify people who need more training around security, while keeping them and the network safe.
  • There’s so much information out there around security, and so many ideas on technology solutions in this space. Make sure that there’s a business case for the security solution – a technology which someone would pay for and use, not just a cool technology which sits on a shelf.
  • Adopt and consistently use a two-step authentication solution across the company.
  • Don’t just have a backup, make sure that you can restore from a backup if a worse case scenario should occur.
  • Try implementing ‘bug bounty’ programs, which challenge people to hack into networks. This will help your IT and security team keep on top of weak points across the network, and may even help with the cyber-security recruitment efforts! 

The bottom line is that no matter what technologies or processes you use to manage security for the company or for the home, it’s the people who will make the choices and decisions which could keep you safe and secure, OR compromised and vulnerable. So keep the people informed and educated, and help them make choices that will keep people, data, and infrastructure safe.

Advanced Manufacturing

November 1, 2018

Industrial Revolution IT Integration Smart Manufacturing Innovat

FountainBlue’s October 5 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘Advanced Manufacturing Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments. Below are notes from the conversation.

We’ve heard the mantra for exceptional manufacturing decades: Faster, Better, Cheaper, but now it’s a bit different. The difference today is that it can’t just be ‘better’. For example, the quality must be exceptional enough, with LOW DFM (defects per million) to be safe for medical and automotive needs for example. And the results must be easily integrated into a host of other solutions, thereby raising the bar further.

Below is a synopsis of advice for companies leading advanced manufacturing initiatives for their organizations:

  • Change is necessary and will happen quickly, moving in the direction of digital. Sometimes that change will be dramatic, moving from paper processing to digitalization and automation. Sometimes the change has already taken place, but there’s a problem integrating with other solutions. But change is inevitable and needs to happen quickly for companies to maintain that edge.
  • The pressure to deliver faster, more integrated and better quality solutions is raising the bar for all stakeholders across the ecosystem. Companies and leaders who take that collaborative ecosystem view will set themselves apart and have that leadership edge, especially when change is happening so quickly.
  • The type of materials used in manufacturing will become important. For example, titanium and nickel and plastics might be more suitable for medical, aerospace and automotive manufacturing solutions, and might work well with 3D printing capabilities.
  • With the volume of data generated, we will need some standards for how data is accessed, managed and exchanged which would respect the privacy, access and security of all parties while also providing relevant actionable reports which would to help improve the product/service and also to better understand customer needs.

Below are some thoughts on some hot opportunities in advanced manufacturing:

  • 3D printing for prototyping
  • Manufacturing as a service
  • Leveraging software to enable redundancy and parallel processing  
  • Robotics and other automations
  • AI and ML, leveraging huge volumes of data real-time
  • Leveraging radio protocols rather than wifi
  • Sensors on the manufacturing floor and across the supply chain
  • Reports on power usage of individual units and components on the manufacturing floor
  • Fingerprinting and other ID methods to better understand where parts have been
  • Convergence of chemistry and materials to solve real-world problems

There was frequent mention of and many questions about the people and management challenges to get teams and companies innovating with advanced manufacturing solutions.

  • Will we be able to attract, recruit and trained employees to ensure that machines, processes and tools run well? Can we recruit that diverse workforce as well?
  • Will there be architects and designers who can define and automate processes so employees can efficiently maintain them?
  • Will people be able to work with systems in order to sift the signal from the noise, given the mind-boggling volume of data generated real-time?
  • Can we be intelligent and efficient enough to design and upgrade today’s systems for anticipated needs?
  • Will we have a diverse and trained enough talent pool that can integrate our own solutions into that of other suppliers, integrators, providers in the ecosystem, in order to meet the demands of the customer?

The challenge to all executives leading advanced manufacturing is clear: how do you think and act strategically and execute seamlessly in order to oversee and manage the product, people, and service side of the business, and serve the sophisticated advanced manufacturing needs of very demanding customers?

Resources:

Telecommunications and Mobile

September 21, 2018

telecommunications

FountainBlue’s September 20 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Telecommunications and Mobile Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Comcast. Below are notes from the conversation.

Everyone remarked on the technological changes which are creating the infrastructure and enabling the evolution of telecommunications and mobile solutions. There was a lot of discussion on the opportunities and challenges associated with providing 24×7 cable in the home. Everyone remarked on the up-sides:

  • The huge volumes of digital content streamed through a wide range of devices across the home provides massive opportunities for both content creators and device manufacturers alike.
  • Flexible options for managing devices and content for users within the home provides a similarly large array of opportunities.
  • There is a large gamut of software and hardware options available for users to manage day-to-day living, working and thriving at home – from the kitchen with its internet-enabled toasters and refrigerators to the entertainment and security devices distributed across the living spaces.
  • Open innovation is allowing companies to jump-start and complement their own development efforts, and also facilitating collaborations between teams, leaders and organizations.

But there are also down-sides to this explosion in telecommunications and mobility, which in turn opens up market opportunities.

  • Those who do not gain digital access and literacy will be left farther and farther behind. But there are opportunities for companies and organizations to provide digital access and digital education, to help ensure that fewer people are left behind.
  • Weak links within a system may bring down a whole network, so you need to have an ecosystem approach to designing the network. There are consulting and management opportunities as a result.
  • Compatibility between devices within a network may make configuration difficult or even impossible. Companies who make it easy for impatient, non-technical consumers to adapt and integrate their solutions will likely get more market share.

Below is advice for navigating this time of hyper-innovation in telecommunications and mobile.

  • Embrace Change
    • Be open to the inevitable rapid change, and help your team to also be open to it. It will only get more complex and happen more quickly!
  • Be Collaborative
    • Embrace opportunities to innovate collaboratively.
    • Connect marketing leaders with product and engineering leaders.
    • Build a culture of trust within your organization, and an organization which customers could trust.
    • We should all assume some responsibility for the policy decisions made, to help ensure the business opportunities are available. Which countries are more business friendly? How would net-neutrality positions impact businesses? What are the GDPR repercussions? 
  • Embrace Diversity
    • Welcome people with diverse backgrounds and mindsets. They will help you see the problem better, and brainstorm solutions better as well.
  • Put Customers First
    • Focus on the needs of the customer, with an eye on the overall market trends.
    • Take a customers-first mindset. It may not be your fault when something unexpected happens, but try to take responsibility and partner with others to solve a customer’s problem.
  • Be Strategic 
    • Embrace the old and the new, explore solutions offered in adjacent industries, be open to integrating old tools and offerings in new ways.
    • Advances in telecommunications and mobile solutions may be adapted across industries, but only if we first understand the needs and the challenges of the end users for these other industries.
    • Proactively plan, but be prepared to react when it doesn’t go as planned.

Below are some ideas for opportunities ahead:

  • Elegantly balance privacy, security and access across a wide array of devices and solutions.
  • Manage the variability of access. We still have dead spots in geographies (‘Food Deserts’ also means internet access deserts), and hiccups in service when volumes of data traverses our lines.
  • Leverage technology and data, ML and AI to help customers systematically and proactively detect and respond to problems within a network.  
  • Design solutions for more concentrated populations as people will continue to move from rural areas into the cities.
  • Leverage Machine Learning to document known traffic patterns and also to identify anomalies at scale.
  • There will continue to be an explosion of low power hear-ables and wearables, in response to high customer demands.
  • Find elegant opportunities to upgrade legacy solutions, or at least elegant integrate these technologies, solutions and data into new offerings.
  • Embrace integrated hardware and software in upcoming innovations. Software alone will not be enough in this next stage of innovation.
  • As we look at having 5G solutions in your pocket in the near future, the possibilities around apps, wearables and IoT solutions are mind-boggling. What could we do with 5G on a stick? or AI on the go?

The bottom line is that there is a lot of chaos and change right now as we evolve into the Connectivity of Everything. Convergence is happening across technologies, leaders, industries, geographies and solutions. The solutions will be seamlessly integrated and woven deeply into the fabrics of our life and work.

Those who are open during this turbulent time are more likely to navigate this cycle of change than those who are electing to remain siloed, independent, complacent with the way-things-are.

Communications and Media

August 10, 2018

Communication.jpeg

FountainBlue’s August 10 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Communications and Media Trends and Predictions’, hosted by ForeScout. Below are notes from the conversation.

The conversation ran a wide gamut of topics from leading communications and media in tech companies and for start-ups, to the trends around communication and media industries. Our executives in attendance agreed on the following.

  • Effective Communication will become ever more critical. 
  • Everyone is responsible for communicating on point, on message, not just people who have the title and job description around communications.
  • The convergence of technologies and industries make for a complex, complicated and interrelated ecosystem of players – all of whom are integral to the success of the industry.
  • In an age of the empowered customer who insists on getting data anytime (24×7), anywhere (independent of location), anyhow (across devices), we must be prepared to respond in a timely and detailed matter.

As such, great leaders must be able to navigate:

  • the technologies integral to the way we run our businesses today;
  • the privacy concerns of consumers and companies within and outside an organization;
  • the convergence across industries and sectors;
  • the leaders in other roles within and outside their organization;
  • the industries adjacent to their own

The importance of collaboration between leaders and companies is key because:

  • The pace of change is mind-boggling. No one person can track it all.
  • The advancements in specific technologies are significant and ever-evolving. 
  • The security of the brand and impact is on the line.
  • Knowledge and information will reside across leaders, functions, companies and industries.

Below are suggestions and best practices given the above.

  • Tell a story which draws out emotions and speaks to the truth.
  • Educate everyone within the company about appropriate communications and messages.
  • Learn from what others are thinking, saying and doing in this field. Change is happening quickly!
  • Remember that anything you’ve ever communicated is fair game, and may come back to haunt you!
  • Watch for applications who may gather data without permission, or manipulate you with the information collected even with your permission. 
  • Be an educated Prosumer – one who creates and consumes content. 
  • Segment your audience and strategically message to them, based on their interests and priorities.
  • Document in written communications who the intended audience is.
  • Keep your communications simple but meaningful. Speak the language of your intended audience.

Below are thoughts on trends around communications and media.

  • Balancing privacy, security and access will continue to be key. Emerging companies in this space will ensure maximum accessibility and flexibility – across devices, across content, between interval and external devices, while also ensuring privacy and security for everyone.
  • There will continue to be opportunities around collecting a comprehensive, dynamically-updated database of devices and managing them.
  • There will continue to be strategic consolidations between networking, telecommunications, entertainment industries and companies. Users will benefit from more seamless integrations of networks, more integrated presentations of content options, and even more safety and security functionality at the home.
  • There is and will continue to be an excess of content and data. There are therefore opportunities for filtering out content based on the real interest of people. Companies who do that right, without pushing their own agenda first (e.g. promoting companies who have paid more in ads), would be more respected for their authenticity and for representing the truth.
  • AI and ML will continue to be part of customized solutions.
  • Direct-to-direct communication will help ensure security, and minimize potential interception of communication – intentional or otherwise.
  • There’s an opportunity to curate content to reflect what’s really happening, the real truth, not manipulated messages. Perhaps crowdsourced creation of content, including the input of people with true identities, would help elevate the validity and the veracity of communications.
  • With data provided by leading marketing technology companies, both established and emerging, companies and leaders can have enough data to understand the buying decisions of targeted users. There’s a huge opportunity for companies who can get this piece right.

Any way you slice it, there’s a lot going on around Communications and Media trends. Connecting with other leaders and with market trends will help us all stay on top of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Smart Cities, Smart Buildings

July 17, 2018

building

FountainBlue’s July 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Ford and to our participating executives. Below are notes from the conversation.

The perfect storm is bringing together technologies and industries and solutions to make cities and buildings smarter, serving an ecosystem of broad and diverse players. There’s a lot at stake, and everything is evolving quickly. Success with this opportunity involves:

  • A collaborative mindset which is open to technologies, solutions, and processes introduced by other leaders, companies and industries. 
  • An adoption of cutting hardware and software technology solutions, and even more importantly, the elegant integration of same.
  • A customer-centric, tech-philic, data-enabled approach to delivering solutions.
  • A vision for a future which leverages technology to make life easier for more people.
  • An ability to respect the volumes of data generated, and then to filter out the noise and collect actionable information which will efficiently prescribe measured actions.
  • A deep respect for the privacy of users, while also delivering to their specific and detailed personalized needs.

Below is advice offered by the participating executives on how to facilitate leadership and innovation which creates smarter cities and smarter buildings.

  • Define standards which are approved by a wide range of partners across the ecosystem. 
  • Everyone across the ecosystem must work with policy-makers to help ensure the success of entrepreneurial and business initiatives which spawns innovation and economic growth.
  • Have regular open conversations in community and encourage and reward win-win collaborations.
  • Understand the business models for proposed solutions, especially when you’re supporting cities, who have not traditionally had the financial resources and risk-taking mindsets necessary to adopt game-changing technologies that make life easier for citizens.
  • Accept that users will insist on bringing their own device to work and want to work from anywhere. Corporate and community leaders must figure out how to make everyone’s data safe and private despite these choices.
  • It’s always about the data. Make sure that you Focus on quality data (not just noise), that the right people Access the intended data, and that you can fluidly Manage how data is generated, accessed, used and distributed.
  • Focus on creating specific use cases for adopting technologies and processes and business models which would benefit all participating parties.  
  • Be mindful of the many innovations happening in Asia, specifically Shanghai. Don’t assume that Silicon Valley and the US are leading the way.
  • Look not just at the technology and economic progression of the company/team/industry, but also at the social impact and long-term sustainability of the decisions made. 
  • Although we are always looking for sexy technologies and solutions, it’s always about the people – our customers who adopt it, our staff who implements it, our leaders who influence adoption.
  • Sometimes adopting a technology without a specific goal in mind might deliver results beyond your imagination. Case in point, in Shanghai, $1 sensors were put on manhole covers because it was easy. Although it wasn’t planned at the time, the result was better traffic management and control, better road safety and quality around the manhole, less theft of manholes, decreased number of vehicles who didn’t get smog-checked, and increased ability to track stolen cars.

Below are thoughts and questions to consider when investigating opportunities for Smart Cities and Smart Buildings.

  • What technologies would increase public safety and minimize crime?
  • How will analytics help cities to better serve residents?
  • What’s the best way to get from point A to point B?
  • How can we improve parking, and therefore better manage congestion?
  • How can we measure the time and energy used and saved in a building with more granularity? with more regularity?
  • What can we do to support over-strained city resources as people flock to cities and as more huge cities are born?
  • How will sensors integrate with AI and ML to create actionable data, not just noise?
  • How can we continue to optimize storage, access and connectivity when demands grow at such an alarming rate?
  • How do we keep in front of the bad guys who would jeopardize our safety, compromise our network, steal our personal data?
  • How can we all more efficiently and effectively work together to deliver customized services to workers and residents in growing cities?
  • What can be automated and what should not be automated?

We are all impacted by the choices made by leaders and companies to create smarter cities, especially as the greater majority of us will move to cities in the decades to come. The leaders and the innovators will define which technologies, which processes, which solutions will succeed, and who will benefit from these successes.

Food for thought:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/13/microsoft-president-calls-for-regulation-of-facial-recognition-technology/

e-Commerce and e-Marketing Trends

June 1, 2018
ecommerce
FountainBlue’s June 1 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘e-Commerce and eMarketing Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at eBay. Below are notes from the conversation.
There has been so much transformational change in the world of e-Commerce and e-Marketing over the past couple of decades. Below are some trends and predictions on how these trends will progress and how they will impact each of us.
 
The E-commerce highlights from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report (May 31, 2018) shows the following:
  • E-commerce sales reached upward of $450 billion, a 14 percent year-over-year increase reported in 2017.
  • E-commerce represented a 13 percent share of all retail spend (both online and physical retail sales) in 2017. As e-commerce continues to grow, physical retail sales growth is trending toward deceleration, with less than 3 percent year-over-year growth.
  • Mobile shopping is also on the rise, with mobile shopping app sessions growing 54 percent year over year. In fact, mobile shopping represented the fastest-growing app session, ahead of music/media/entertainment (up 43 percent year over year), business/finance (up 33 percent year over year), utilities/productivity (up 20 percent year over year) and news/magazines (also up 20 percent year over year).
Our participating executives agreed that the volume of information and data is mind-boggling. But the effective marketer and leader will categorize and leverage that information so that it’s sorted and actionable. 
  • Urgent and immediate cases are quickly triaged and acted upon with special parties as necessary. This is especially true with suspected fraud and technology glitches.
  • AI is leveraged to ensure the efficient handling of common, lower-level problems or questions or concerns.
  • Algorithms and architecture will help ensure companies have scalable and robust infrastructure necessary to scale operations.
There is also agreement that today’s customers are very demanding. Doing the above also helps companies to better support their customers. With the data, we can better understand current and anticipated needs and more quickly address technical and process issues which interfere with our ability to give customers what they need. Consider these trends around customer needs.
  • Customers are taking urgency to the next level, even asking for 10-minute delivery windows! Categorizing what you can practically deliver when will help companies better and more efficiently serve customers. Same day, two day and one-week deliveries will be much more regularly requested, so companies will have to find efficient ways to make it happen.
  • Local ethnic and specialized goods will be requested. Creating a platform where multiple physical store fronts can leverage technology to deliver goods from these multiple stores to sites throughout the neighborhood would be a good win-win solution.
The big companies such as Amazon and Google are already successful in the market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities ahead. Below is advice on how we as leaders can best take advantage of these trends.
  • Adopt digital solutions from the top down, from the bottom up. Integrate it into your culture.
  • Enhance physical stores, embracing technology solutions.
  • Provide personalized solutions for customers.
  • Respond to their needs of the customer real time.
  • Design robust loyalty and rewards programs.
  • Provide your high-impact customers with specialized perks, with special treatment and access.
Below are thoughts on the opportunities ahead for e-commerce and e-marketing solutions.
  • Provide chatbots which are embedded into the shopping experience so you can quickly address questions and concerns. 
  • Provide platforms which seamlessly address the customer from search to order to fulfillment.
  • Consider separating the delivery from the e-commerce solution.
  • Consider partnering with other companies to provide specialized services. As a retailer, you might want someone else to provide the mobile and web platform for delivery, as a technology company, you might want to have someone else distribute the goods for example.
The bottom line is that everything is trending toward e-commerce and forward-thinking leaders are responding to that trend.
 
Resources:

Energy and Utilities Trends and Opportunities

May 7, 2018

EnergyUtility

FountainBlue’s May 4 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Energy and Utilities Trends and Predictions’, hosted by EPRI.

The focus on generating and distributing a reliable, cost-effective energy source remains the goals of our consumers, companies, utilities, cities and countries. But the needs of the “customer” are making that progressively more difficult. Couple that with the tech-savvy, real-time update needs of empowered customers around the world and the problem seems almost impossible to solve. 

Our executives in attendance all remarked on the mega trends around the energy sector and how they are impacting everyone across industries, across geographies, across technologies. Keys to managing and staying on top of these trends include:

  • The need to collaborate across sectors, technologies, companies, and nations to provide solutions which optimize energy generation, leverage sustainable practices, and manage storage and distribution for maximum benefit for all stakeholders.
  • Enterprise Customers need to actively become involved in defining the problems faces, adopting technologies which optimize benefits for all.
  • Policy-makers need to be more flexible and open to change, for changes need to be made to support the massive energy demands of customers.
  • Local utilities serve both the commercial and consumer markets. Providing proven, scalable and sustainable solutions will remain challenging. Partnering with other utilities and other organizations will help develop communities, share learnings and resources, and better anticipate and address energy-related needs and concerns of customers.
  • As customers get more involved with generation through solar, wind and other renewables, it helps in some ways by increasing the amount of available energy, but also complicates matters and puts a strain on the grid as well, for generation happens only at certain times of day.

Below are some of the opportunity areas mentioned in the discussion:

  • The nexus between energy and water  
  • Microgrids to provide energy to smaller villages
  • Using data-rich, crowd-sourced reports to inform stakeholders, customers, policy-makers, etc.,
  • Apps and business models which use energy as part of the shared economy
  • Cybersecurity: Nuclear, Power Delivery, Generation, Storage
  • Lithium and Cobalt batteries and how they can be better mined and recycled
  • Recycling of batteries in general
  • AI and big data solutions around energy at work and at home
  • Smart mobility which help communicate energy needs
  • Smart city solutions which help generate, distribute, manage energy
  • Robotics solutions around energy generation and distribution
  • Utility-owned batteries
  • Hydrogen fuel cells

We repeatedly remarked on how empowered customers, volume of data generated, huge international markets, sustainability demands, the power of the millennial generation and other factors will all significantly impact our growing need for energy.

The challenge is how we can also consider all these factors in creating long-term and short term goals, while serving local, regional and international markets. Success factors might include:

  • Creating and supporting collaborative networks focused on creating innovation around energy
  • Supporting win-win solutions for this vibrant ecosystem of stakeholders 
  • Accepting and working with slow-moving, fragmented utilities, outdated infrastructure to make this happen
  • Designing the types of dynamic AI, HW and SW (vs static), data-based, flexible and scalable solutions which will serve the customer base
  • Designing for a long-term view, while supporting the short term revenue needs for key stakeholders

The onus will always be on each of us, as leaders in technology and business, across roles, companies, sectors and nations, to collaboratively deliver solutions which work for all.