Nine business bets for our emerging digital economy

Faster. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Marek Kowalkiewicz, Queensland University of Technology

Every year seems like an accelerated version of the previous one. Every year we think we have reached the peak and then following year comes, paling everything before it.

Will 2016 be the same? Every available sign suggests so. We might be worried about a potential new bubble burst or slowdown on stock markets, but this will not stop new ideas, business models, or new opportunities from emerging.

Here are my nine bets – what will change in 2016 in business, technology and social.

Doing the same thing over and over again will never take you to new places

In 2016, we will see more and more organisations focus on revenue resilience and look for new markets and opportunities. This will require oppositional thinking – looking for radically different ways of running business, for instance: paying your customers rather than charging them. Environmental sensing teams will be formed at many organisations with a goal of becoming aware and understanding the potential impact of new trends on their organisations.

Resolution for 2016: set up a team to do “environmental sensing”.

The gig economy train is not slowing down

Newly emerging business models will only get stronger in 2016. The gig economy will continue and will go well beyond house rentals and transportation. We will see at least one new global player following the Peers Inc. model – providing means for individuals to offer their products and services in an easier way. And the next dominant player will likely come from Asia, a market that has remained largely untapped.

Resolution for 2016: consider becoming a platform for the gig economy.

Delight your customers by predicting and meeting their needs ahead of time

We will see a rise in proactive organisations, that is, organisations that are able to offer products and services the moment the need for them arises often even before the customer realises there is a need.

We will see the first commercial examples of predictive delivery (“your product is at the doorstep, would you like to buy it, or shall we take it back?”). And after the easy ones are demonstrated and customers get used to it, other – often unexpected – players will follow: among others we will see the first truly proactive governments. All of it thanks to progress in digital identity.

Resolution for 2016: redefine your products and services, become a truly proactive organisation.

Welcome your digital personal assistant. One that really assists, not just pretends to

Digital identity will enable not only new organisational behaviour, but also facilitate evolution of other technologies. Digital personal assistants will continue to evolve. They will not only be able to tell you where the film you want to see is playing on the weekend or remind you about a doctor’s appointment, they will be able to pay your bills, switch electricity providers or truly support you in your work, like a real assistant (human-agent augmentation).

Resolution for 2016: get more things done by delegating to your digital PA.

If the world around you moves faster than you do, the end is near

Incumbents in asset-intensive industries will be challenged by technology advances even more than in previous years. The Janicki Omniprocessor will enable entire communities to go off the sewage and water grids. High capacity batteries in garages and self-driving cars will enable individuals to trade electricity outside of the grid. Telecommunication providers will see more and more pressure from meta providers. The cord-cutting movement affecting cable TV will spread to other industries.

Resolution for 2016: if you are an incumbent in your industry, focus on environmental sensing to avoid surprises.

Digital capital is an enabler of social good

Existing technologies will mature and be used in critical situations. Government agencies, emergency responders and disaster management will access Periscope and Facebook Mentions live streaming to gather intelligence. We will retain control of our digital selves and at the same time be able to “share our digital capital” whenever it may be helpful. This digital mindset will also be applied by organisations, looking for options to digitise idle assets using new technologies.

Resolution for 2016: have a close look at your assets. Can they deliver new value in the digital economy?

Hardware will become the new app

More and more individuals will find it easy to join the “maker culture”. Platforms like Arduino or Raspberry Pi will allow more people to rapidly prototype hardware solutions. We will see examples of Internet of Things applications that are finally compelling and useful to individuals. Environments like Apple’s HomeKit will only add to the momentum. On the other hand, platforms like Kickstarter will pave the way to efficient prototype-to-product processes.

Resolution for 2016: join and support a makerspace.

Build a community and a product (or service) will come

We will see more businesses starting in an unorthodox way: by first creating a community and only after that realising what product or service they could offer. Digital communities will become the new unfair advantage in every industry.

Resolution for 2016: identify and invest in your communities.

Digital intelligence is the new black

Society will continue to learn how to deal with digital economy trends. We will move from digital literacy through digital behaviour to digital elegance. And we will see growing interest in cybersecurity, despite numerous governments trying to discourage citizens from using data encryption tools.

Resolution for 2016: invest in digital literacy and development.

The Conversation

Marek Kowalkiewicz, Professor and PwC Chair in Digital Economy, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Rise of the humans: intelligence amplification will make us as smart as the machines

Augmented reality technology could soon boost our intelligence. COM SALUD Agencia de comunicación/Flickr, CC BY

Alvin DMello, Queensland University of Technology

In January this year Microsoft announced the HoloLens, a technology based on virtual and augmented reality (AR).

HoloLens supplements what you see with overlaid 3D images. It also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate relevant information depending on the situation the wearer is in. The information is then augmented to the your normal vision using virtual reality (VR).


Microsoft’s HoloLens in action.

It left a lot of us imagining its potential, from video games to medical sciences. But HoloLens might also give us insight into an idea that goes beyond conventional artificial intelligence: that technology could complement our intelligence, rather than replacing it, as is often the case when people talk about AI.

From AI to IA

Around the same time that AI was first defined, there was another concept that emerged: intelligence amplification (IA), which was also variously known as cognitive augmentation or machine augmented intelligence.

In contrast to AI, which is a standalone system capable of processing information as well as or better than a human, IA is actually designed to complement and amplify human intelligence. IA has one big edge over AI: it builds on human intelligence that has evolved over millions of years, while AI attempts to build intelligence from scratch.

IA has been around from the time humans first began to communicate, at least in a very broad sense. Writing was among the first technologies that might be considered as IA, and it enabled us to enhance our creativity, understanding, efficiency and, ultimately, intelligence.

For instance, our ancestors built tools and structures based on trial and error methods assisted by knowledge passed on verbally and through demonstration by their forebears. But there is only so much information that any one individual can retain in their mind without external assistance.

Today we build complex structures with the help of hi-tech survey tools and highly accurate software. Our knowledge has also much improved thanks to the recorded experiences of countless others who have come before us. More knowledge than any one person could remember is now readily accessible through external devices at the push of a button.

Although IA has been around for many years in principle, it has not been a widely recognised subject. But with systems such as HoloLens, IA can now be explicitly developed to be faster than was possible in the past.

From AR to IA

Augmented reality is just the latest technology to enable IA, supplementing our intelligence and improving it.

The leap that Microsoft has taken with HoloLens is using AI to boost IA. Although this has also been done in various disparate systems before, Microsoft has managed to bring all the smaller components together and present it on a large scale with a rich experience.

Augmented Reality experience on HoloLens
Microsoft

For example, law enforcement agencies could use HoloLens to access information on demand. It could rapidly access a suspect’s record to determine whether they’re likely to be dangerous. It could anticipate the routes the suspect is likely to take in a pursuit. This would effectively make the officer more “intelligent” in the field.

Surgeons are already making use of 3D printing technology to pre-model surgery procedures enabling them to conduct some very intricate surgeries that were never before possible. Similar simulations could be done by projecting the model through an AR device, like HoloLens.

Blurred lines

Lately there has been some major speculation about the threat posed by superintelligent AI. Philosophers such as Nick Bostrom have explored many issues in this realm.

AI today is far behind the intelligence possessed by any individual human. However, that might change. Yet the fear of superintelligent AI is predicated on there being a clear distinction between the AI and us. With IA, that distinction is blurred, and so too is the possibility of there being a conflict between us and AI.

Intelligence amplification is an old concept, but is coming to the fore with the development of new augmented reality devices. It may not be long before your own thinking might be enhanced to superhuman levels thanks to a seamless interface with technology.

The Conversation

Alvin DMello, PhD Candidate, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What a ‘digital first’ government would look like

The digital economy means people are no longer passive consumers. Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Michael Rosemann, Queensland University of Technology

Australia’s new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced what he calls a “21st century government”. This article is part of The Conversation’s series focusing on what such a government should look like.


When discussing the digital economy it’s easy to focus on technology, and its exponential uptake.

In reality, there’s been a shift from an “economy of corporations” to an “economy of people”. While previous technologies were largely dedicated to automating and streamlining business processes, digital technologies allow active citizen contributions.

In the economy of people, citizens are no longer passive consumers, but come with their own digital identities, maintain personal networks that give them the ability to influence, and contribute data, opinions and even apps to the economy.

The public sector, like any sector, is not immune to the serious implications of the digital economy. As a consequence, future governments have to keep up with the increasing digital literacy of their citizens and adopt new ways of thinking. This demands a “digital mind” that is technology-agnostic, but focused on the impact of the digital economy.

In the economy of corporations, governments, like most organisations, could rely on largely reactive service provision. Citizens would approach the government via offices, call centres or web pages and government services would be provided in response. A proactive government, however, is able to react to citizens’ life events without being prompted. This could be facilitated by the provision of data from third parties or by proactively providing services based on available data.

An example would be age-based welfare payments. Instead of relying on literate citizens who have awareness of government services, a proactive government would offer such services when they become relevant to the citizen. One step further is the vision of a predictive government. In this case, the government would offer services before a life event even occurs. Such services could be related to health care, (un)employment or (upcoming) disasters.

What does a ‘digital mind’ look like?

Future governments will have to take part in the life of their citizens, as opposed to citizens taking part in the life of the government. This will require focusing on the following emerging trends.

Share of digital attention

“Share of digital attention” captures the relative time a citizen dedicates to a specific provider. Digitally minded corporations such as Google or Facebook have a detailed understanding of their share of digital attention, and how this leading indicator contributes to lagging indicators such as revenue. Most non-digitally minded companies do not measure it. Governments can compete for this share of attention by building mobile applications that bring citizens closer to government services. Proactive or predictive services can help them channel traffic away from web pages to mobile solutions.

Digital signals

Digital signals are the information that is streamed from citizens to organisations. In the health sector medical device sensors allow citizens to share digital data with trusted health experts. Instead of patients (physically) coming to health care providers, they let their data travel and enable medical advice. This trend will most likely flow on to other sectors of the economy leading to an increased willingness to share digital signals with trusted providers. Citizens would no longer look for services, but simply share life events (e.g., my house is flooded, I lost my job, I am a first time parent) and expect a government service in response.

Digital identities

The economy of people will see the emergence of citizens who “bring their own data”. In such a world, a drivers license would simply be an attribute of a citizen and not a separate entity. Governments have grappled with their role in providing platforms for such digital identities, but it’s likely citizens will look for a single digital identity that can be used across all interactions spanning private and public sector providers. A prominent example is Estonia’s digital identity solution, which supports its citizens in daily interactions such as public transport, voting or picking up e-prescriptions.

The economy of things

We predict the emergence of an economy of things, with wide participation of smart devices in economic and societal activities. This could include smart cars notifying of accidents, smart homes asking for help in case of a flood or bushfire, or robots sharing information or triggering further activities. The emergence of such G2T (government-to-thing) relationships will require entire new channels and interaction patterns as “things” cannot read web pages.

The ambidextrous government

Whatever the future will hold, the government, like any corporation, needs to establish innovation capabilities. This will demand new explorative, design-intensive capabilities in addition to the dominating ability to incrementally improve exiting services and processes.

Explorative, innovation services consist of environmental scanning (what are emerging technologies), ideation (how could these be utilised), incubation (testing and prototyping) and implementation (rapid, agile, scalable roll-out). An ambidextrous government is characterised by low innovation latency, that is, the time it takes to convert emerging opportunities into available government services.

This skill set will require changes in existing recruitment practices to attract people who are driven by what is possible in the future as opposed to by what is broken today.

The Conversation

Michael Rosemann, Professor of Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Swift: how Apple’s new coding language lives up to its name

Swift: how Apple’s new coding language lives up to its name

By Dian Tjondronegoro, Queensland University of Technology

As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) winds up in San Francisco today, 1,000 Apple engineers and 5,000 developers will return to their parts of the world armed with Apple’s own programming language.

In his keynote on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled – among other new developments – programming language Swift and claimed it to be a significantly faster code for development across iOS and OSX.

Apple is the latest tech firm to produce their own programming language (Google and Microsoft also have their own languages) and Swift can be used by Apple developers as of today with 677 pages of documentation available in the iBooks store.

But why would a company want their own programing language – especially when existing, general purpose codes such as Objective-C and C have been successfully used for 20 years?

So what’s so good about Swift?

It pretty much comes down to speed.

While Apple (and other companies) supply the hardware, developers ultimately bring the most utility value out of technologies. The faster developers can code, the more apps can be created.

So let’s have a look at why Swift is the next big thing (and why developers should take the time to learn a new language, as it were):

Swift is much easier to code with. Swift looks much “cleaner” than traditional code. In addition to getting rid of nested brackets and semicolons (which makes code look very complex and harder to maintain), programmers can now use inferred types, which means that variables and constants can be declared without necessarily specifying the data type.

Developers can reduce debugging time over mundane and trivial errors (if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, Swift manages unsafe codes by self-managing memory, preventing overflows – in arrays, for example – and properly handling nil objects).

It also means that new developers can be spared the need to learn Objective-C’s complex and verbose syntaxes (but Swift will sit alongside existing Objective-C and C codes).

Young developers at WWDC with Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Jimmy Ti, CC BY

Swift is fast and powerful. Fast programming is a key ingredient in Apple’s new hardware and software capabilities. Swift codes will be compiled using the same high-performance compiler, and it will be run natively to combine the best features from Objective-C and C.

Based on the presentation in WWDC, we saw statistics showing complex algorithms can be run much faster than Objective-C.

Swift supports “interactive playgrounds”. “Interactive playgrounds” allow developers to immediately see the results of changing codes and keep track of progress timelines. This is particularly useful for debugging complex loops, algorithms and animations.

Speaking of new developments …

Michael J/Flickr, CC BY-NC

As widely expected, Apple joins Google and Microsoft’s moves towards delivering health and home automation applications, as well as supporting stronger integration between native features (such as Siri and Notification View) and third-party apps and sensors.

The Health app joins Samsung’s Gear Fit, Nike and Fitbit to bring health and fitness data, measured by mobile and wearable devices, into our palms.

A new tool for developers called HealthKit adds to the standard activity, heart rate and diet measurements by allowing developers to create third-party apps and sensors to measure factors such as blood pressure and sleep patterns.

Users can also create emergency cards with important health information such as allergies and blood types, accessible from the lock screen and emergency call screen.

Another development tool – HomeKit – will let us control aspects of our homes (such as lights and temperature) using our phones.

To enable natural interactions with our phone for home and health apps, iOS has evolved to allow Siri be hands free, similar to its Android counterpart Google Now.

We could say: “Hey Siri, I’m ready for bed”, then the lights will automatically dim for sleep and the phone will go into “do not disturb” mode – perhaps even playing our favourite relaxing music.

With the introduction of Swift, we can expect to see more apps than ever – truly building upon Apple’s 2007 slogan, “There’s an app for everything”.

The Conversation

Dian Tjondronegoro is a member of IEEE and ACM.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Three new tech concepts you might actually use from CES 2014

Three new tech concepts you might actually use from CES 2014

By Dian Tjondronegoro, Queensland University of Technology

The massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hosted annually in Las Vegas, showcases the latest discoveries and innovations, including audiovisual, gaming, smartphones, computing, household appliances and in-car technologies.

While we see plenty of new hardware, software and gadgets which definitely have the “wow!” factor (such as a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush) as well as the odd celebrity low point, we should focus on the bits and pieces which could actually be useful – and potentially change our lives for the better.

So here are my top three most practical themes from CES 2014 which, in my opinion, could be easily incorporated into daily life.

Ultra high definition, curved, glasses-free 3D screens

Just as most people start to fully embrace the beauty of high definition contents, the Ultra HD (4K) screens already promise four times the resolution of existing 1080p full HD screens.

There is a strong push from leading companies such as Samsung and LG for technologies, such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), to deliver next generation screens that suit human vision better. Features of these screens include a curved, bendable design, richer colour, more dynamic range of contrast and a more natural 3D depth vision without glasses.

The world’s first curved television – the LG Curved Ultra 108-inch HD TV – guarded by LG employees after being unveiled at CES 2014.
EPA/Michael Nelson

To help usher these screens into a new era of living room, new cameras and content providers (such as Netflix) will start the race to support the 4K resolutions. Next-gen gaming consoles such as PlayStation 4 are already 4K compliant.

The biggest question, though, is how would content be distributed? Blu-ray disc is no longer seen as a future-proof media to hold ultra HD audio visual contents.

(Perhaps the keynote by networking company Cisco later in the show will address streaming 4K contents over the internet, which means new services for renting and purchasing 4K videos.)

Refresh rate will continue to be a key requirement for comfortable viewing, especially for 3D viewing. High frame rate 3D has been used in some cinemas to show the latest blockbuster movie The Hobbit in 48 frames per second (rather than the usual 24 frames per second), which, according to director Peter Jackson, delivers a better 3D experience.

A higher frame rate also shows how future cinematic experience will feel closer to home theatre, but some reviews found the experience a little too real, like “watching a daytime TV show”.

Ultra realistic, near-lifelike visual experiences will continue to push technology, and future audio speakers, ranging from sound bars, headphones and multi-speaker systems will have to keep up by delivering equally high-definition audio contents.

Bluetooth 4.0 and AptX codecs are designed to deliver better quality audio over wireless.

Wearable tech fashion from head to toe

Tim Alessi from LG Home Entertainment introduces Lifeband Touch.
EPA/Michael Nelson

An infographic by Mashable portrays how Google Glass, smart watches (or wristbands) and smartshoes can form fashionable technologies. When connected to smartphones, they will allow us to harness the power of embedded computers using natural interactions such as speech, gestures and action recorders.

These wearable gadgets have the capability to record our actions and activities to better understand our characteristics, profile and preferences to provide smarter services.

CES 2014 also unveils Netatmo’s sun tracking bracelet that helps users to track their UV exposure.

To support real-time monitoring and processing of information, many gadgets will leverage from the computing power of smartphones which are equipped with better processors, evidenced by the increasing push for 64-bit mobile processing units by Intel and NVidia.

In addition to these wearable gadgets, there is also Withing’s Aura Smart Sleeping System for analysing body activity and records information including noise, room temperature and light level to optimise a room’s lighting and sound that helps people get a good nights’ rest.

Pervasive technologies that help with daily needs are attractive, but what’s overkill? For example, a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush to help parents monitor children’s dental health is probably not going to be awfully useful.

Driverless cars – well, almost

Cars can already be connected to smartphones, enabling drivers to use speech to control features like GPS and streaming music. Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant Siri helped revolutionise natural interaction and will soon work with new cars.

This year CES 2014’s keynotes feature Audi’s chairman Rupert Stadler. Audi will provide a large dedicated floorspace to showcase their future of driving, with driver assistance systems ranging from adaptive cruise control to lane-keeping assistance and automated steering, making cars nearly autonomous.

Manufacturers are committed to follow regulators in enabling gradual advances, as the key objective is to bring as many benefits as possible, such as helping to prevent road accidents, and more comfortable and safe driving experience.

Drivers remain in control, while built-in sensors, cameras and radars enable the car to take over much of the actual driving task.

What do these mean to us for now?

CES 2014 brings the emphasis to natural computing. It is now assumed that technology will become pervasive, wearable fashion and embedded in most of daily activities. People will embrace new gadgets that can help to make life easier, and bring imagination and creativity to reality.

The Conversation

Dian Tjondronegoro is a member of IEEE and ACM.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.