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More than Money: Get the (Free) Gist on the Future of Blockchain

Our latest Gist report briefly looks at the future of Bitcoin and its related technologies – blockchain, smart contracts and distributed autonomous organizations. Proponents say Bitcoin will decentralize power away from banks and other institutions while distributing it across whole communities. If these promises hold true, Bitcoin will only be the beginning.

Download the whole report for free.

What is changing?

Financial institutions are investing in the blockchain to make their job easier and more secure. R3 CEV is a company specifically set up to help banks trial blockchain technology. They lead a consortium of 42 banks who want to see how blockchain technology could change their industry, the potential of which R3 compares to how the internet changed the music and media industries.

However, the blockchain could be useful for so much more than just financial transactions. Ubitquity has developed a blockchain platform specifically for the real estate industry. The company says the new platform will improve the title transfer process by making it faster, more accurate, and more transparent for fraud prevention. And they say it will improve the due diligence process for the industry.

Multiple organizations are working to use blockchain tech to make voting more secure, and anonymous. In 2014 a major political party in Denmark, the Liberal Alliance, used blockchain tech for its own internal party voting. Since the blockchain relies on consensus anyway, it is inherently a voting platform and could one day be modified by government entities for such purpose.

Implications

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies offer a libertarian ideal that could destabilize the current infrastructure of banks and other powerful institutions. The blockchain offers distributed, secure, trusted and highly scalable architectures that conventional technologies cannot compete with. Although the banking industry is pre-empting disruption by investing in this new technology, many of their business models and revenue streams will be affected especially with increased competition from the tech industry. The opportunity for the financial industry is high, but the potential risks are also large especially for smaller players in the industry.

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Cryptocurrencies

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Learn more from your future than you do from your past

Verne Wheelwright is a pioneer in using foresight for personal development. The same methods that corporations and governments have used for the past decade are just as relevant for personal use as they are for shaping macro futures.

Many self help authors want readers to connect to their future selves, but none of them offer any practical tools for doing so. Such authors look too narrowly at the future to guide readers into visualizing multiple, plausible futures, and readers often give up or lose faith when their actual future turns out differently than they expected.

Wheelwright takes a different, less mystical approach with his award winning self-help book, It’s Your Future…Make it a Good One. He also offers some free downloads on his website which I strongly recommend, but the book provides readers with the perspective necessary to understand what these free resources are all about.

Most people view the future as either a hazy, cryptic event or a technological utopia. Neither of these views are true much less practical. The future is unpredictable, especially at a personal level. But the future can be forecasted into multiple scenarios to help organizations and (now thanks to Wheelwright) individuals steer their personal lives in a direction to achieve their goals no matter how the future plays out.

If you run your own business, no mater what size, this is the most important book you could read for your business success. As a business owner, your personal life is the rudder that steers your business, and to achieve success you need to align your personal future with the future of your company. Wheelwright even has a book coming out soon about applying these techniques to small and medium sized businesses.

Methods for learning about the future have been in use by businesses for decades, but the process was simply too complex for most individuals. The Personal Futures Network introduces some new, easily understood approaches that will help you to think and plan like a futurist. You will be able learn about and plan for your personal futures.

Think like a futurist? What does that really mean, think like a futurist? Well, each futurist may have some different thoughts, but generally futurists think about longer term futures, usually 10 or more years ahead. Futurists believe that the future is not predetermined, but that several futures are possible. If several futures are possible, then one of those futures may be better than the others, or a “preferred” future. Very important; futurists believe that individuals or groups can take actions in the present that will help determine the future.

That brief paragraph helps explain why most futurists don’t make predictions about the future, but rather suggest multiple possible futures, often in the form of “scenarios” or stories about the future.

The above quote was taken from Wheelwright’s homepage. The whole website is dedicated to helping readers understand how to look at the future in an effective and practical way. Read the book and begin learning more from your future than from you do from your past.

Wearing IT to Work–repost from Shaping Tomorrow

Wearing IT to Work is my latest trend alert based on my report on wearables. I am also hosting 2 free webinars to cover the basics of the report (please see links below).

Wearable electronic devices, or simply wearables, have emerged from specialized markets such as the medical sector and the military and are aggressively entering the mass market. Fitness trackers such as the FitBit, smartwatches such as Samsung’s Gear, and head mounted displays such as Google Glass can accelerate a wearer’s access to information while offering greater convenience.

What is changing?

 Wearable computing is converging with the mainstream mobile sector and driving growth in both industries. Wearables will help expand the mobile sector, but they will also provide significant benefits for almost every other industry as well. Wearables can be categorized into seven primary areas of application:

  • Mobile: One Among Many – The wearables experiencing the biggest push in the market at the moment function as extensions of the wearers’ mobile devices.
  • Measuring Myself – These wearables draw data from the wearers’ activities and physical condition, and they help users better understand their daily activities – sleep, exercise, work.
  • Immersive Experiences – Augmented reality and virtual reality are both rising, and their applications in wearables promise to further immerse users in their digital interactions.
  • Spying on Myself – Wearable recording devices (i.e. cameras or microphones) – previously relegated to spy shops – are being used for liability purposes, personal/ mobile security, and recording personal or organizational legacies.
  • Thinking Outside the Brain – Neurotech is breaking out of the lab to help organisations and individuals gain greater insight on their behavior as well as control certain devices.
  • Wearing My Password – Biometric authentication can be more secure than passwords, but the real benefit will be the convenience of signing in to anything, anywhere with the wave of a hand.
  • Feeling the Data – Haptic feedback is very effective at alerting mobile phone users to incoming messages, but it can communicate more complex information – GPS directions and potentially news feeds such as stock quotes.

Implications

 Wearables accelerate access to information, and they increase the types of information made practical in a variety of industries. While maintaining a constant connection, wearers will be able to work hands free allowing wearers to track more information and multitask more effectively. Wearables will also increase security and play a part in improving memory. These benefits will enable individuals to optimize their performance of everything from exercise and driving to teaching and stock trading. One study has already indicated that wearables can increase productivity and even job satisfaction. Wearables will help ramp up the changes spurred by the advent of the internet, but they will also intensify the existing questions surrounding privacy, security and society’s definition of humanity. As the devices enter the mainstream, the cost for R&D will drop, and more organisations will be able to utilize the devices to their full potential. Employees will also want to wear their own devices to work (similar to other BYOD policies), and organisations will have to decide how to regulate their use. The trends and their implications are further explored in our latest trend report,Wearing IT: Trends Expanding the Wearable Web. In it, we also explore wearables’ benefits for:

  • Medical and caregiving
  • Security and defense
  • Training and simulation
  • Transport and logistics
  • Banking and finance
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Travel and Tourism

We are also hosting 2 free webinars that will cover the basic findings from the report. Both webinars will require the download of GoToWebinar software or mobile app to attend. Please register here:

The ShapingTomorrowBlog just posted a quick review of an infographic from EducationNews.org that appears to suggest the long awaited arrival of the paperless society. While paperless may be a misnomer, the infographic points out that office use of paper has declined since 2001 and its overall use has declined since 2006. Those are interesting statistics which could herald an even more significant decline happening very soon as smartphones, ereaders, tablets, and the various hybrids continue to grow in popularity. http://www.educationnews.org/technology/never-print-again/

ShapingTomorrowBlog

The idea of a paperless society has been talked about since the 70s. Professor F.W. Lancaster, who coined the phrase, expected its arrival by the end of the 20th century–a typical time horizon for prognosticators of his time period. However, we still use millions of reams of paper everyday, but a significant decline in paper’s use is now being seen at least in the home printer industry.  EducationNews.org has published a useful infographic that reviews the changes in student use of paper. Now that the generations addicted to paper have graduated, the younger generations are focusing more on electronic devices for textbooks, notes, and probably doodling & gaming in class. The tablet owning student population tripled between 2011 and 2012, and 90% of that population say they use their tablets for educational purposes. More importantly, 70% of all students say they regularly use digital textbooks, and 60% say they prefer…

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Big Data: Hype or Value

My latest trend alert has taken me a long time to prepare, much longer than I expected. Below is the repost and the title links to the Innovation Management publication:

Big Data: Big Hype or Big Value?

The amount of data organizations are expected to manage for planning, transparency, compliance, etc. is expanding, but the amount of data which could benefit these organizations if analysed effectively is growing exponentially with the aid of social media, RFIDs, machine translators, and other tools. The total amount of digital data is growing exponentially leading to the coining of the term big data which has become a major buzzword in the enterprise and even in the general press, but what is the real value behind the hype?

What is changing?

According to International Data Corporation (IDC)’s fifth annual survey in 2011, 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes) of information were created and replicated in 2011 alone which is up from 800 gigabytes in 2009, and the number is expected to more than double every two years surpassing 35 zettabytes by 2020. However, this data includes everything from covert government strategies and medical records to holiday photos and spam. Not all of this data is inherently useful, but all of it can be collected, managed, and analyzed to reveal patterns and trends which could improve decision making at every level for security, system optimization, market research, scientific discovery, etc.

Data analytics has been around for decades, but the current tools are too limited for the massive, fast moving, and disparate information that is increasingly required for analysis, hence the need for big data solutions. And those solutions present new possibilities in data analytics by allowing for greater complexity of data to discover events and populations that may only be seen with the right volume, velocity, and variety of data. With greater segmentation of datasets, big data solutions also allow greater tailoring for an organization’s clients, customers, employees, etc. The biggest challenges are in asking the right questions and ensuring that as much data as possible is included.

Some organizations are already addressing these challenges for the health and energy sectors as well as marketing and cybersecurity. EcoFactor mines thousands of data points about weather, regional building codes, home value, and others to reduce energy consumption in smart homes by 17%. WellPoint is using IBM’s Watson-as-a-Service, the cloud application of IBM’s Jeopardy winning artificial intelligence, to mine millions of pages of medical data to help doctors and nurses improve their decision making while face-to-face with their patients. American retailer, Target, is following the purchasing habits and other information about its customers and coupling that data with behavioural research to improve its target marketing. Zions Bancorporation is using big data solutions to identify phishing attacks, prevent fraud, and stop hackers. The city of Santa Cruz is leveraging data to forecast high crime areas that can be patrolled to reduce offenses, and the US government is also applying big data to homeland security as they search for signals and online activity that could indicate real world security risks.

Why is this important?

Big data is certainly hyped, but the potential is equally big. Epidemics might be spotted sooner, security threats may be detected earlier, and customer demographics could be made more specific. Regardless of the many opinions about big data and its hype, the data itself will continue to expand exponentially, and more organizations will find themselves hitting the ceiling of previous data management capabilities.

Data has become a commodity, and as it becomes even more valuable, some organizations might loosen their hold on ever more types of data for the sake of mutual benefit. While organizations will still have to maintain compliance for the sake of privacy, intellectual property, and other security concerns, parts of an organization’s data may eventually become more valuable to them released to the wild than securely isolated in their own storehouse. Imagine mining the data of several organizations across multiple sectors added to all the data freely available on the internet, and the potential of big data for organizations of any size can be better understood
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