I’ve just returned from a whirlwind tour of industry conferences from Wavefront Wireless in Vancouver, to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and finishing up with SXSW in Austin. I thought I would like share some of the more impactful insights I came away with.
In the not so distant future, integrated connectivity will bind and transform how business is conducted by integrating sensors in to product hardware in an effort to monitor and enhance customer experience.
So if we make the assumption that everything that can be connected will be connected; my impression is that the next frontier in design innovation will come from technologies which operate imperceptibly in the background – the idea that the technology provides the end user with a “sixth sense”. This “sixth sense” will help consumers make on the fly decision-making based on data collected locally but aggregated and analyzed in the cloud. This notion of an “invisible” sensory aid became apparent when I heard about Ford’s vision of the connected car to seeing personal “navigation” jackets with hidden sensors which prompt / guide user movement or the restaurant espresso machine flagging the need for maintenance.
From Digitization to Connectedness
Nicolas Negroponte once said that humanity is inevitably headed towards a future where everything that can will be digitalized; I believe we are headed towards a future when everything and everyone is connected. In this context, every business becomes a services business. The creation of a connected customer experience becomes an opportunity for companies to go beyond what we know today in terms of a customer’s experience, to delivering an experience based on predictive behavior analytics.
One way to conceptualize this is if a car is connected and involved in an accident – an ambulance can be automatically called, thus possibly saving lives with no human intervention. Technology today around car safety is for protection around safety, but moving forward it will be about leveraging data to prevent accidents in the first place. Alternatively, the predictive service may be as simple as warming up in the winter and, cooling down the car in the summer before you show up.
Another example is the connected toothbrush, where the brush uploads my tooth brushing data to my dentist – so they can focus my yearly exam based on my brushing patterns or feeds data back to the toothbrush so I improve how I brush ahead of my exam… What this means is today these types of services are over the top, and tomorrow they will be integrated in our day to day in a seamless way.
Connected means a safer, more convenient, and in the moment experience.
From Curative to Preventive Medicine
Another topic that seemed to be on everyone’s mind at SXSW was that of personalization of healthcare and how to better engage patients in taking an active role in their own health management. Macadamian has been actively working in this area for years with our healthcare clients, but the difference that I witnessed is that the healthcare industry is keenly aware of the need to find a way to ensure that patients are the key decision makers in managing their well-being to a far greater extent than they are today. Further, healthcare institutions are a more focused on outcomes now and this is also driving innovation at the patient level. Major healthcare software vendors are only now turning their focus toward patients. To date they have been focusing on hospital operations. Now, given that hospitals have a mandate to ensure that patients don’t re-inter the system, there is a greater emphasis on equipping patients with the tools to facilitate leading healthier lifestyles. We now are seeing investment from venture capital firms flooding in to this area.
The challenge is in designing applications that will not only engage the user to ensure long term use but also to affect a long term positive outcomes. The challenge can be broken down into two aspects:
1) Change is difficult, “old habits die hard” ;
2) All the data in the world, if not used, is useless.
It’s sad to say, but I believe that companies like Target are more capable to find ways to make me healthier with the data that clothes and fitness devices gather; than any of the hospitals, clinics, or even my personal physician.
A Sense of Global Interconnection
As I reflect back on all that I saw and heard I realize that the “internet of things” which has long been talked about, is here. We are still in an era of ”clunkiness” where technology is at the forefront, and we still have a way to go in terms of progress toward the design of seamless, assisting and compelling solutions. From cars, clothing, thermostats, to your local store, mobile sensors are slowly creating a world where we will soon all be interconnected seamlessly. The challenge will be in how, as an industry, we develop new business models to monitor, analyze and monetize all the collected data in a way that enrich peoples’ lives.