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The folks at Farm and Dairy Magazine interviewed me on trends to watch in 2018 in the world of agriculture. It’s a good read – you’ll find it below!

On stage in New Orleans, I spoke about the idea of Spock having a medical tri-corder on the farm. It’s not as crazy an idea as you thinK!

As I write this post, I’m down in San Antonio, where I’ve got two events where I’ll speak about the future of agriculture to several hundred dealers for a farm and ag supplier about future trends.

I love talking to farming groups – it’s one of the most innovative industries that I know. Watch this video for the reasons why!

5 agricultural trends to watch in 2018
Farm and Dairy, January 2018

SALEM, Ohio — The top five trends to watch for in 2018 are sure to keep farmers on top of their game.

With an increased number of events causing hysteria, with the rise of “fake news,” an overload of news in general — thanks to the world being at our fingertips — farmers have to work harder to tell their story, said Jim Carroll, futurist.

“All producers need to be honest in explaining the humane treatment of animals, to explain what they do. We need real ag folks to tell our story, we’ve got to increase real news,” he said.

Social media is the key, and farmers haven’t been in the conversation enough, Carroll said.

This year, we need to keep our eye on emerging issues, agritourism and marketing, adds Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State Extension horticulture specialist and educator in Scioto County.

In addition to the continuous need to tell our story, experts believe these five issues will be trending in 2018:

1. Increased speed of change

We’ve been talking about it for years, and now it’s happening: Young people are returning to the family farm — the iPod generation is gaining the reins, said Jim Carroll.

“The speed of change will pick up; those returning to the farm are open to all these new ideas,” said Carroll, who travels the country talking about the future. “People are scared of the future, but want to understand it.”

The average age of farmers is 58. Their average age has been inching upward for approximately 30 years, according to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture.

The census shows that during the past 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years, but that is about to change, warns Carroll, and that change brings rapid innovation adoption.

2. Fitbits for cows

A world with animal and crop health sensors will continue to flourish this year.

“Fitbits for cows, chickens, pigs — we see it happening now, but it will expand,” said Carroll.

Using drones to fly over herds to check on the health is happening. Farmers are monitoring the gestation of an animal, getting notifications from their iPhone, he said.

“We’ll see connectivity as a management practice,” Carroll said. “Being connected can save time and money on animal health.”

“Data analysis in the year ahead will supplement what farmers know intuitively,” he said, “and, in some cases, challenge those assumptions.”

New products rely on aerial satellite imagery, greenness sensors, soil maps and millions of weather data points — this innovation meshed with a group of early adopters is sure to keep technology pushed to the limits.

3. Global trade advocates

Global trade matters, it always has and it always will, agree Carroll and Tanner Ehmke, a former wheat farmer who is now the Knowledge Exchange manger at CoBank.

“Of course farmers in the Midwest are saying ‘don’t take apart NAFTA.’ NAFTA does matter,” said Carroll.

“Without a global perspective, the cost of food will double or worse. Without NAFTA, markets will be lost, trading partners and labor forces will be lost,” Ehmke said.

“There is room to be optimistic in trade in 2018,” he said. “But, we can’t lose NAFTA. No bilateral trade deals can replace the benefits of NAFTA.”

4. Labor shortages

Labor shortages will continue for highly skilled stoop labor, which tend to Ohio fruit, orchard, nursery, hops and vegetable crops, said Bergefurd, who focuses on specialty crops across Ohio.

“There were major labor shortages on Ohio farms in 2017, resulting in many acres of vegetables and some fruit not being harvested due to shortage of hand harvest labor,” he said.

He foresees a shortage of high quality, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Several large farms don’t have the needed labor, and, as a result, they are changing operations and not producing as many — or any — specialty crops, and are growing more grain crops instead, Bergefurd said.

Bergefurd predicts the acreage devoted to mechanically harvested pickling cucumbers will increase in northwest Ohio and few acres of the 80-year-old traditional, hand-harvested pickling cucumbers of Ohio will be planted due to labor shortages.

“Farmers who will plant hand-harvest pickles will adopt the use of harvest aids and will continue to move away from the crop share method that has historically been used,” he said.

5. Hitting bottom

“2018 looks like we will hit bottom, with grain and dairy prices bottoming out,” said Ehmke, who works to provide strategic insights about trends, structural change, and policy directives within the key rural industries served by CoBank.

“In 2018, we will see farm stress get worse before it gets better. We need to be proficient thinkers and use our relationships to get by.”

The world supply of crops will get tighter this year as usage picks up — starting to match with production, he said.

“We see the world demand, especially in Southeast Asia going up, and that is a good thing.”

Politically, trade uncertainty looks to continue this year, which won’t help the markets. Dairy prices continue to be under stress, as we see expansion globally, he said.

As prices hit bottom, Ehmke is optimistic that they will start to go the other way in 2019.

“I hope to see the dollar soften a bit. It won’t be a game changer this year, but it will start to help,” he said.

Are you ready for 2018?

You need to be. Change is fast and furious, and it’s everywhere. Watch this to understand what comes next — and what you need to do!

 

Production note: ‘green screened’ in my basement with my new iPhone X. The video quality of this phone is staggering! Awesome video edit done by my partner in Moscow, Armine Simonyan, aka Alexandra. Her work is wonderful!

For just over a year, I’ve started every workday morning with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and a photo from one of the stages on which I’ve appeared.

I’m thrilled to say that magically, this little bit of morning mediation has now turned into my next book!

Here’s the backstory – each morning, I find a photo from one of the countless stages on which I’ve appeared, where I’ve been busy talking about the future and trends. I spend some time, while sipping my coffee, thinking about the story that I was telling on stage for that particular photo. I wrap that story into an inspirational quote, work it into the photo, and release it into the world.

The reaction has been pretty remarkable – it seems to be touching people! When released, the quote goes up on Instagram, and is automatically blasted out to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. I figure that about now, the daily photo reaches about 50,000 people each day.

Those quotes have now morphed into my next book – an active work in progress – #38! I anticipate a release in the 2nd quarter of 2018. The working title? “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Stories from the Stage on Innovation, Disruption and the Accelerating Future.”

The books goes behind the scenes on many of these photos — which really are my observations that people have on hope, fear, the future and change. As a futurist and a speaker, you are in a really unique situation to observe how people choose to cope with what comes next. Some do – many don’t. There are powerful lessons to be learned from how people react to the future, and how they deal with change.

It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve released a book, and I am tremendously exited to be working on this one. What seems to be coming together is 25 years of insight from having the ability to share my thoughts on the future, trends, disruption and acceleration with over 2 million people from the stage.

Stay tuned!

Oh, if you want to see the quotes behind the book, take a look. And hit the links over on the right to follow me on various social networks and to see each new quote early every workday morning. Get inspired!

 

Powered by flickr embed.

 

In more industries than you think, Amazon is the elephant in the room. My experience has taught me that in every single industry, regardless of what you do and what you sell, you are or will soon be faced with a situation in which they will challenge your business model, and shake your belief in the future to the core.

Why not change that before it changes you?

What do you do as this situation comes about? Don’t wait for Amazon to disrupt you – disrupt yourself and disrupt Amazon first!

This particular photo is from an event with several hundred insurance brokers. Might Amazon disrupt the world of insurance? It’s certainly possible -the phrase used for this type of disruption carries the fancy term “disintermediation” – it simply means that that the middleman is cut out of a business relationship.

Let’s coin a new phrase for what is happening — the Amazonification of industries.

The fact is, Amazon (and other companies with the same strategy as Amazon) isn’t just changing the world of retail — its’ changing and challenging virtually every type of business that involves a middleman.

In the last few years I’ve been called into an increasing number of events where this is the new reality going forward — with clients seeking insight on what they should do when their business model is under threat. In quite a few of these events, I’m asked to address the ‘elephant in the room’, which is Amazon.

My key message? Don’t compete — transform!

When Amazonian scale disruption occurs, you can’t hope to complete on price, the sophistication of the online interaction, or the other areas in which Amazon (and similar disruptors) clearly excel. You need a different proposition, different ideas and a different strategy.

In many cases, this will come about through an implicit decision to compete based on the unique value you can bring to the relationship – service, support, person interaction and other factors. In doing so, you specifically choose to not compete based on a race to the bottom and price.

The examples of the challenge are manyfold. I was invited in to speak at the quarterly leadership meeting of a company that is one of the leaders in the medical supplies marketplace. Clearly, a good chunk of their business could be subjected to risk as Amazon gets into their line of business.

How do they survive? Not by trying to offer a better price, but by working to ensure that their sales and professional representatives are working harder top provide greater value ion then service relationship they have with their clients,.

Similarly, I’m speaking to a group fo agricultural dealers who sell products to farmers. The simplistic view is that they buy products from the manufacturer, and then sell them to the farmer, with an obvious markup in price. Amazon could do this (and will) with a more sophisticated online system, and avoid the cost of the markup, thereby offering a lower cost alternative. How to compete? Become an invaluable partner to the farmer in terms of advice, expertise and personal support for new initiatives, products and ideas. Don’t hope to compete on price — because you will watch your business disappear!

It’s evening happening with optometrists — with a recent video clip where I’m on stage talking about what eye-doctors need to do when patients are focused more on price. In that case, focus on service!

The “Amazonification of industries” can get even more complex than that, when Amazon decides to offer a service element too! This is coming about quickly in the home repair industry — buy a door or window on Amazon, and they’ll line you up with a contractor that will do the installation for you. How can you complete if you are an established home contractor with a successful operation? It’s not an easy question, but is a reality that you might need to address!

A question came in from a potential client last night, and after writing a long answer, I thought it was probably a good idea to blog it and place the answer on my site!

The question was for a potential European event, and really had to do with whether I could work with an a European / international audience, be respectful in my timing, work with the translation team, work with simultaneous transition, and provide enough regional or localized content.

The answer is yes, yes, yes and yes….!

On stage in Sao Paolo for the Worldskills global conference. My audience featured individuals from 85 countries.

My mother tongue is English, and sadly, while I don’t speak any other languages (despite some 10 years of French lessons in elementary and high school!), I regularly speak on an international basis. This involves working with translators. focusing on international content, and working to keep my pace slow enough for the audience to be respectful of their needs.

Here’s the critical background on the international work that I do:

  • global audiences. I do a LOT of international work; I’ve presented in Sao Paolo, Budapest, Munich, Athens, Stuttgart, Prague, London, Paris, Brussels, Ghent, Stockholm, Zurich, Tokyo, Mexico …. and in all of these situations, have ensured that I have slowed my pace to be respectful of the audience.
  • simultaneous translation. Many of these events have featured onsite translation through headsets; the fact is, I regularly do sessions that feature simultaneous translation, and know the criticality of sharing the deck in advance with the translation team
  • advance translation planning. In some cases, I have done a Skype or Google Hangout walkthrough with the translation team of my slide deck, so that they are comfortable with the content and direction
  • a long track record with stage translation. I’m based in Canada and have been on stage for 25 years. Given that, my earlier years featured several hundred (!) events that have involved simultaneous translation (English/French) with headsets/translations. It’s just a thing in Canada!
  • sequential translation experience! My Budapest event actually featured sequential translation into Hungarian as opposed to simultaneous translation. Tthat was kind of fun, since my translator was actually on stage with me, followed me around, and even mimicked my stage actions!

There are many relevant examples of the international work I have done.

  • I just keynoted Nikon’s 100th anniversary dinner in Tokyo, with an audience from 37 countries. I provided my slide deck in advance to the translation team; I was simultaneously translated into Chinese and Japanese.
  • in January, I keynoted the first leadership meeting for Ulker; the parent company is Turkish, and the meeting represented the entities of the corporate group with the leadership team for Godiva Chocolates (Belgium), Ulker Biscuits (Turkey) and McVitie’s Biscuits (UK),  but with individuals from each of those 3 groups from around the world; a secondary booking had me with Godiva’s global supply chain team from 25 countries. Both massively global audiences.
  • Accenture had me speak at their annual energy conference in San Francisco; we had utility executives from China, Japan, Russia, Philippines, India, and 26 other countries. In that case, I was simultaneously translated into Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Japanese!
  • my keynote for the Worldskills conference in Sao Paolo featured simultaneous translation into Portuguese and Spanish.

In addition to speaking internationally, I often do Fortune 500 events that feature a leadership team from around the world. Some recent examples are global leadership meetings for Dow Chemical in Wilmington (2 events) with individuals from 57 countries; Disney (27 countries); and dozens, dozens more. So can I work with an international/European audience? Definitely yes. (Plus, when I mentioned for the Ulker group that I was Canadian, I got cheers. I think that the Canadian brand image is kind of fun right now!)

The other question that often comes up has to do with regional content, as in European specific examples/storylines. Can I customize my content so that it doesn’t include just American examples. (Well, did I mention I’m Canadian?)

It’s not the cover of the Rolling Stone, but I was once featured on the cover of CEO Magazine Hungary. The only speech where I had armed guards in the room with Uzis! But that’s another story for another time!

The answer is yes – I can easily and often do that do that. Many of the client bookings above have involved a necessity where my examples include global, not North American centric examples.I am regularly booked and work with content that is specific to the folks in the room. And so my Godiva Chocolate supply chain event included retail trends from Asia, India, the Middle East. My Dow Chemical talk took a look at global trends with examples for many of the different groups in the room.

The fact is, I do *extensive* research as a part of my talk, and regionalization is part of what I bring to the table if we need to do that with the content.

I work hard to alleviate the concerns of any clients who book me, and this includes translation and internationalization.

So – pick up the phone and call me. Let’s chat!

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think. My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, participating in leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry. Clients such as NASA, Disney, Godiva, Nikon, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.

There is so much coming together all at once, and it accelerates everything. You might not understand the multiple trends that are coming together, so let me take you there.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. There’s a lot going on! Individually, any trend is disruptive. Combine them together, and it’s transformative. 3D printing, exponentiating bandwidth, hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, Bitcoin and blockchain, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry.

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare to insurance, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul.

3. Moore’s law innovation speed defines every industry. It’s the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — and that speed of change is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry as we all become tech companies. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before.
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4. Science exponentiates. The volume of medical knowledge is doubling every six years, and the number is going down. The cost for genomic sequencing is following an exponential downward curve. Battery technology innovation is moving forward at a furious pace with new methodologies, ideas and more coming to market. One single new chemical substance allowed Apple to miniaturize the hard drive for the original iPod, which led to the birth of a billion dollar industry. Science is the heart of the future, and the future is happening faster!

5. Edge thinking dominates. Crowdfunding networks allow for a world in which small upstarts don’t need to follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through new forms of financing, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories.

6. Small beats big. Legacy is death: agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by history and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge.

7. Ideas accelerate. With the Internet, we have essentially built a big, global idea machine, and fast innovators know how to mine its riches. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality.

8. Revenue reinvents – regularly. With fast ideas comes faster innovation : 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist 4 years ago. That’s a blistering pace of innovation. Expect that to become the norm in most industries as the future accelerates, product lifecycles collapse, and disruption disrupts.

9. Attention spans collapse. All of this fast change is difficult to comprehend, and so we have become scattershot! We now scan some 12 feet of shelf space per second – a goldfish has a longer attention span than a human. We need to have constant, relentless innovation in terms of marketing, branding and consumer outreach, not to mention what we need to do to engage our workforce!

10. New interaction dominates. Mobile is everything; we live on our devices. It influences everything we do, all that we decide, and much of how we interact with each other. The next phase will involve smart, connected packaging talking to our devices, and a new era of hyper-connectivity that will make todays’ early attempts at mobile marketing seem like child’s play.

11. Business models realign. The Internet of Things (#IoT) doesn’t just result in cool new products – it redefines entire revenue models. The era of predictive diagnostics allows for a future in which appliance or automotive manufacturers can now design products that will tell you when they are about to break down. This changes the essence of the product from a physical device that is sold to the sale of a service with uptime guarantee revenue models.

12. Distributed technologies redefine. When everything connects, power disperses. Micro-grids will change the utility industry as backyard wind, solar and other renewables result in little, local neighbourhood micro-grids. Cars that talk to each other and to sensors in the highway result in a new concept of transportation. Everywhere you look, distributed connected technologies are redefining concepts and turning industries upside down.

13. Money disappears. Sometimes distributed technology have a bigger impact than you think – as is the case with blockchain, which essentially redefines money. Central banks are out, and distributed ledgers are in. Ethereum goes one step further than Bitcoin, by embedding the historical contract concept of an offer and acceptance into the very essence of money. It’s intelligent money, and we still don’t know how quickly this will change everything.

14. Flexibility emerges. Given all this change, companies are focused on agility in order to get ahead. At a manufacturing plant in Graz, Austria, Magna has built the ultimate in flexible assembly lines, with the ability to build different cars from different companies on one assembly line. Elsewhere, companies are busy moving the software concept of agile development into the boardroom, adopting it as a key leadership trait. The ability to change fast is now the oxygen that fuels success.

15. Gamers Game. 25,000 people showed up to watch 4 gamers play a video game tournament in the Los Angeles Staples Centre – and 43 million tuned in worldwide via Twitch, the hottest new social platform on the planet. They’re coming into the workplace, and live in a world that involves a constant need to ‘level-up.’ Nothing will ever be the same as new forms of motivation and reward come to drive everything – and in this world, Xbox-type rooms are the new office!

16. Virtualization arrives. AR and VR are here, and the era of virtual welding is not too far off – and any other skill can be undertaken anywhere, at any time. An example is the forthcoming disruption of trucking, which will happen when a driver in India can navigate a truck through the streets of New York through a virtual headset! Outsourcing of skills is one thing – outsourcing of physical work is a whole new level altogether!

17. Infrastructure risk exponentiates. One word – Equifax. We are busy building a big, elaborate machine in the form of massive connectivity and accelerated information, but don’t quite know how to secure it. The TV show South Park had a character do a shoutout to in-home Amazon Echo and Google Home devices — and exposed a new security risk that no one ever thought about. Expect things to get better much worse before it gets better!

18. Insight influences. Big data and analytics might be overused buzzwords, but not to everyone. We live in a new world of Amazonian insight, where those who have the tools and knowledge to understand what is is really going on are the ones to get ahead. Depth of insight drives disruption – actuaries are moving from a world of looking back to one fo looking forward based on real time medical device connectivity. Car insurance is no longer based on past driving performance, but real time behaviour based on GPS. Even the world of health care is moving from a a world in which we fix you after you are sick – to knowing what you will be sick with based upon your genetic profile, and acting accordingly.

19. Expectations accelerate. If your Web site sucks, so do you. In our new world, people want the simplicity of a Google query via a touch screen device. Gone are the days of complex online forms — in are applications that are instantly aware of who you are and what you want. The bar of expectations is increasing at a furious pace, and if you can’t keep up, you can’t compete!

20. Industries virtualize. No one company can do everything that needs to be done in an era of fast change. In retail, all kinds of new partners are emerging to support last mile shipping, drop shipping capability, drone delivery and more. In finance, there are more types fo Fintech startups than there are world currencies, helping banks to navigate the complex new world of cryptocurrencies and more.

21. Knowledge accelerates. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which grabbing them fast is the only path forward.

22. Experience is the new capital. Innovation is the new oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century.

23. Generations transform. 1 out of 2 people on the planet are under the age of 25. They’re globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, change oriented — and they are now now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation, as they move into executive positions

24. Big, bold thinking predominates. There are people who grab all of these trends and do “big things.” We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas.

25. Action is the best reaction. Put it all together, and what odes it mean? If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about it.

Another article on a recent keynote I did on the future of manufacturing; in this case, from The Fabricator, the publication for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

A chat with futurist Jim Carroll indicates that fabricators should be open to embracing technological possibilities or risk being left behind.

At one time you needed a room of skilled craftsmen just to make even a simple prototype. Tomorrow it might all be done by the design engineers themselves in hours instead of days because of advanced 3-D modeling software and virtual reality technology.

In helping out with some editorial preparation for The FABRICATOR’s sister magazine, Canadian Metalworking, I had the opportunity to chat with futurist Jim Carroll. (He gave the opening keynote address for the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show on Sept. 25.) Conversations with such industry and societal observers are always interesting because they take the time to consider what may be possible in the years to come while others have their heads buried in the drudgery of everyday life. My talk with Carroll was no different, and the following three conversation highlights only promise to make those that are technology-averse even more nervous about the future.

Continue Reading

The folks at New Equipment Digest interviewed me a few weeks back for an article on manufacturing,  ahead of a major keynote I had earlier this month.

You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.” And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

It’s but one talk I do in this sector; on Monday, I’ll headline the International Asset Management Council on future manufacturing trends. They’re the folks from Fortune 1000 organizations who make the decisions on where to locate future factories, logistics locations and supply chain investments.

INDUSTRY TRENDS
Futurist Says “Fast & Furious” Changes Coming to Manufacturing

Forget your Magic 8-Ball or fancy-schmancy predictive analytics. Futurist Jim Carroll knows what lies ahead for manufacturing and technology, and we have the scoop for you here. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
John Hitch | Sep 21, 2017

Jim Carroll, a former accountant and current author/corporate speaker, is confident he knows what’s going to happen in the world of manufacturing. And the world renowned Canadian futurist doesn’t need a flux capacitor or any other sci-fi MacGuffin to make bold claims in front of millions about what technologies they need to adopt now, and what the world will look like for our children after we’re rocketed to our Martian retirement homes — where our corpses will no doubt be used as fertilizer for space yams. (You’re welcome, Elon.)

Continue Reading

Last week, I was the opening keynote speaker for the annual SOMOS Toll-Free Users Summit – it’s the annual conference for the folks involved in the 1-800 industry. Obviously, there was a big focus on the issues of customer support and interaction, and my keynote took a look at those trends.

They’ve just run a blog post that captured one of the key themes in my keynote : that is, how do we keep up with the fact that consumer and customer demands are changing faster than ever before!


Keeping Up With Fast Customers!
SOMOS Conference Report, October 2017

Remember the Jetsons? Their lives in 2062 seemed like a dream — self-flying cars, automated home appliances, virtual reality shopping. But today, we’re already starting to live that dream, almost 50 years early.

As futurist Jim Carroll said on the Toll-Free User Summit stage today, technology is advancing so much faster than our world ever expected. It’s creating new market opportunities, new professions and daring new business ventures.

One of the most transformative part of our daily lives stems from the advancements around personal mobile devices. All generations rely on their mobile devices for navigation, shopping, entertainment, and business. The more consumers engage through their phones, the more chances Toll-Free Numbers have to serve as the conduit between businesses and their customers, through voice, text, and other smart services.

As Jim stated, for the Toll-Free industry, responding to the rapid transformations happening to this consumer touchpoint will make or break our ability to better serve our customers.

He shared a few of the imperatives businesses must address to satisfy today’s consumers in the context of continuous and rapid transformation.

  1. Deliver exceptional customer service, especially in light of the empowered consumer, and thanks to the speed and viral nature of online reviews and social media networks. To capture a customer’s loyalty, the brand experience must be personalized, instant, flexible, and consistent.
  2. Capture sales while you have your customers’ attention, which means being available to communicate directly with your audience at the moment of highest interest. This means having the data and ability to intelligently package products and services, customize sales pitches, make advertising location-based, and enable click-to-call and click-to-text.
  3. Deepen customer insights with big data and analytics. Gather as much candid and personal information as possible. And use the millions of perspectives available through voice and text data to know and serve consumers better.

Technology means increasingly rapid progress. Yet, underlying all these approaches is one fundamental truth — people still need people to get the support they need. Human interaction is a core part of the way consumers make complex and difficult decisions. And businesses need to understand the people behind the data — if they can capture and interpret the data from these conversations, they will be poised for better and deeper insights for future planning.

The future of Toll-Free lies in a new perspective. With the impending transition to IP, Resp Orgs and Toll-Free Service Providers have to transform the way they act in the industry. Jim stated the industry is no longer simply responsible for supporting voice and text conversations — but is stepping into the customer touchpoint industry. Looking beyond the core business of Toll-Free reservations, he sees new business opportunities gaining strength and engagement at the growing edges of our industry.

The BBC gave me a call to chat about what is really going on with the Internet of Things (populalrly known as IoT) … and ended up running a great summary of our conversation.

The article captures the essence of my thinking that it is very early days yet with IoT. We’re at the starting gate in building the most complex machine ever built, and we’ve got a lot to learn in terms of architecture, security, and its’ role.

Read more about those issues here and here. I’ve been speaking about IoT for over 20 years : a good example is here. And even here, where I talk about the changing role of light bulbs in the era of IOt.

Give the article a read, and see if you agree.

 


The Brain Inside Our Homes
BBC, October 2017

The most humble of objects can join the connected world, thanks to what is known as the Internet of Things – the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Smart bathroom scales can log weight and body mass index, then feed the data back to a Fitbit wearable for action; networked dog collars can track a pet wherever it roams, help with training and even detect pain; Amazon’s checkout-free Go stores will allow shoppers to fill their bags and leave the store without queuing or even touching their wallet.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates the world will spend $295 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) systems and devices by 2020.

Yet, according to futurist Jim Carroll, the concept is still in its infancy.

Engineer and futurist Roy Amara observed that people tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate it in the long run. Similarly, Carroll believes that when it comes to the Internet of Things, the world is still in the era of inflated expectations that precedes a crash and is followed by more gradual adoption and global dominance.

It’s like it’s 1994 or 1995 and the worldwide web has just arrived – we know that something big is happening here,” he says. “But there were lots of early experiments with websites and e-commerce. A lot failed. A lot were silly. And it took time to mature and figure out business models.

The Internet of Things presents important challenges around security and privacy, which organisations are only beginning to explore. Many manufacturers are still shipping devices with default passwords and user IDs, leaving them ripe for hackers. Privacy legislation has yet to catch up to a world where a single household can emit thousands of data points every day – unconsciously sharing everything from the layout of an infant’s bedroom to the contents of their refrigerator.

Experts agree it is still too early to identify which of the myriad IoT businesses will become the new Amazon, PayPal or eBay. No one can predict which will face the fate of dotcom bubble victims such as Pets.com or Boo.com, or prove, like the various virtual currencies that preceded Bitcoin, ideas ahead of their time. Yet some industries are clearly ripe for disruption.

By 2020, over-60s will outnumber under-fives around the world. By 2050, there will be two billion people aged over 60 worldwide. In an ageing world, cost-effective elderly care is critical. From wearables that track vital signs through to emergency response systems, virtual assistants and perhaps even internal smart devices swallowed like pills, the Internet of Things will help the elderly live in their own homes, with dignity, for longer. Google and Novartis are developing a smart contact lens for diabetics that won’t just correct vision but will track blood sugar; even the humble floor is getting smart, with systems to detect falls – and ultimately, perhaps, prevent them.

I talk to healthcare groups about virtualisation, remote blood pressure cuffs, diabetes monitoring and more,” Carroll says. “We can rethink the concept of care and re-engineer senior care. We can architect a world where seniors are in their own homes and connected by these devices.”

If climate change is the single biggest threat our planet faces, then the smart grid is key to the European Union’s battle against it. By 2020, almost 72% of EU consumers will have an electricity smart meter, part of a smart grid rollout that could slash the union’s carbon emissions by as much as 9%. By saving energy on operations, helping consumers monitor their usage and even feeding stored solar energy back into the grid, smart meters reduce a household’s carbon footprint. Networked to IoT devices elsewhere in the home, such as thermostats, lighting controllers, refrigerators and washing machines, they will cut emissions even further.

Globally, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – that’s over 1.3 billion tonnes every year. For food businesses, IoT technology can help cut waste, whether by monitoring perishables on their journey from farm to store or identifying patterns that cause food to end up in the rubbish bin. In the home, smart refrigerators can warn when food is approaching its use-by date, send real-time information on their contents to a shopper in the supermarket to avoid double-buying – and, of course, remind consumers when to stock up on milk.

The Internet of Things is central to the worldwide Smart Cities movement, which itself links closely to global climate action goals. “We can give internet connectivity to all kinds of devices,” Carroll says. “Like a light pole. We can stick in environmental sensors and turn it into a FitBit for the city. We can put charging stations in it, for charging electric vehicles with credit card transactions. It might become part of an intelligent highway solution, where it’s monitoring traffic, interacting with cars, fining drivers using high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

In California, the city of San Diego is upgrading some of its streetlights to install 3,200 sensors, transforming them into a connected digital network. The anonymised data should help monitor traffic, pollution and carbon emissions, identify crimes and assist first responders, and even help visitors find a parking place.

And in Taiwan, the engine room that fabricates many of the hardware that powers the Internet of Things, government and mayors are embracing the Smart Cities movement. The nation that manufactures the Amazon Echo smart speaker hosts an annual Smart Cities summit and is equipping its own urban centres with a low-power wide-area network tailored to the Internet of Things.

In the capital, Taipei, a network of sensors already monitors pollution – driverless buses that collect data on road conditions and traffic are undergoing trials. Local smart scooter start-up Gogoro, which operates on user-swappable batteries, just launched its first solar-powered charging station. In the southern city of Tainan, Acer has developed a smart parking app that enables users to find parking spaces quickly, as well as paying parking fees and parking tickets through a licence-plate recognition system. It was also in Taiwan that German luggage-maker Rimowa chose to launch its smart-tag system, meaning passengers on EVA Air could check in their bags via smartphone, saving time at the airport.

It’s this electronic alchemy – transforming everyday objects such as parking meters or luggage tags with the power of the network – that Carroll sees as the most life-changing element of the Internet of Things. “That’s what gets me excited,” he says. “Not any particular type of device, but how we can fundamentally transform anything so it can do so much more than we thought possible.

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