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The Future Of Sensors: Business In High Definition

Kai Goerlich

All change begins with the ability to measure. For millennia, humans relied on our five senses to gauge the world around us in order to survive and thrive.

As civilization advanced, however, we started to use technology to expand those natural capabilities. We began building tools to measure time – first sundials and then sophisticated ones like the sky disc of Nebra and the Antikythera mechanism. Early maps on the walls of the Lascaux caves charted the night sky while the ancient Greek Anaximander drew the first map of the world. Beginning with telescopes and microscopes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and continuing today with the CERN particle collider, we’ve developed increasingly advanced tools to examine aspects of the universe beyond human perception.

Today, thanks to the explosion of low-cost sensors and high-powered processing and analytics capabilities, we are on the cusp of the next wave of magnifying our natural ability to assess the world around us and stretching the limits of human perception – if we can open our minds enough to let them.

The tiny engines driving the digital revolution

Sensors come in a variety of form factors and with wide-ranging functions: wearables like fitness and health trackers, infrared imaging and night vision sensors, motions sensors such as gyroscopes, chemical and biological sensors, accelerometers and torque sensors, light sensors, gestural sensors. Increasingly, we’re seeing combination sensors that are capable of gathering multiple types of data from the world.

Experts predict that the universe of sensors will grow exponentially in the near future, up to 100 trillion sensors by 2030, depending upon which estimate you believe. These tiny bits of technology are driving everything from robotics to self-diagnosing appliances.

A number of advancements are colluding to make these increasingly ubiquitous sensors both cheaper and more capable every day. Imagespeech, and voice recognition will advance to near 100% accuracy by 2025, according to the latest published research. Today, a passive RFID tag costs between seven and 15 cents to produce. While active tags are more expensive, the cost of these is also rapidly dropping. Emerging 3D printers will enable lower cost production of sensors (and nano-sensors) to embed in day-to-day items like glasses or apparel. These sensors will quickly make their way as standard issue into many places, including the 111 million new cars and the 2 billion smartphones that will be purchased in 2020. If you have one of the latest smartphones, you already have several sensors on board, including a magnetometer, barometer, thermometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, accelerometer, and light sensor. Indeed, many future sensors will be practically invisible to us.

Perhaps more importantly, the analytics capabilities required to make sense of the staggering amounts of new sensor data – we could be talking brontobytes, or 1,000,000,000,000 petabytes – are also rapidly advancing. The speed of analytics will intensify thirty-fold by 2030, with 95% of queries answered in mere milliseconds, according to SAP estimates. That will be critical in transforming this truly big data into smaller, digestible bites of information. The question is whether or not we can cope with it. As Professor Dr. Yvonne Förster of Luephana University in Luneburg, Germany, points out, our devices already process and deliver information much faster than our human perception can track. As most of these technology-induced rhythms run outside our awareness, it will be interesting to see how we adapt to it.

Widening the doors of perception

Our innate biological senses and nervous systems are truly amazing. The human eye contains 2 x 108 sensors, the ear 3 x 104, and the nose 3 x 107. But with an expanding network of increasingly sophisticated and embedded sensors we’ll be able to expand our perception far beyond our human capabilities. Ultimately, we’ll be able to create an intelligent matrix of sensors and analytic tools to measure, detect, and analyze more data from the world around us. Looking beyond 2025, we will advance beyond data analysis as a distinct activity to more directly experiencing data as an additional aspect of life around us. We will experience the world in much finer detail using virtual reality and other technologies that tap into our biological senses at their roots.

Ultrasound, infrared, low frequency, and position sensors will increase our vision and hearing. Chemical sensors will amplify our ability to smell and taste. Mechanosensors will intensify what we can feel. Medical and biological sensors will monitor the health and status of humans, animals, and plants. And the mix of all the above sensors will be used to monitor a wide spectrum of parameters that are critical to the operation of machines, building, and living things.

Finally, there will be sensors that help us scan our environment for more precise navigation, logistics, weather prediction, agricultural planning, and pollution management. Sensors to watch for here include voice, facial recognition, chemical, biological, and 3D imaging sensors. Occipital Inc.’s 3D sensor provides a spatial view of the environment to be used in virtual and augmented reality and 3D scanning and printing.

We’ll certainly develop algorithms and analytics necessary to process sensor data in an increasingly automated and real-time fashion. But will our minds be able to grasp it all?

An approach that keeps the human at the center might prove helpful as we adapt to the new world of high-powered sensors. According to Professor Förster, we tend to consider technology as an enhancement of our biological nature and believe we can choose which types of technology we allow into our system. But when devices and sensors are ubiquitous, technology becomes like the air we breathe, rather than being a separate part of life, explains Förster. Thus the function of sensors should be to introduce new data streams that are compatible with our existing biological and value systems.

Getting under our skin

Researchers are already developing sensor technologies that are far more embedded than in the past. And they won’t just go into “things” like smart tennis rackets or ceiling fans. Nano-engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a temporary tattoo that could enable non-invasive glucose testing. The FDA has accepted an application for the first digital drug-device that combines a pill for mental illness embedded with an ingestible sensor to track data on patients. MIT scientists have introduced a “Band-Aid of the future” that incorporates temperature sensors, and tiny, drug-delivering reservoirs.

In the future we will see more sensors embedded in humans, animals, plants, and all kinds of everyday items. But how much data do we actually need – and how much can we digest? Much of this data will exist in the background where algorithms will separate the insight from the noise, while new types of sensors will allow us to interact directly with our environment.

Company leaders should consider how they could benefit by combining existing data with the new sensor data that will soon be available. They should monitor the development of sensor technology with an emphasis on where sensor technology threatens to either bypass or optimize traditional business processes, and where new sensor capabilities widen the scope of what we can measure today. And they should keep an eye outside of their own domains for sensor advances that could transform their own businesses in different ways.

There’s no doubt that our five senses will soon be supplemented by these man-made sensors numbering in the billions and capable of measuring anything that we deem to be worthwhile. But deriving business value from them will require us to open our minds to the new possibilities.

Download the executive brief: Making Sense of Sensors

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To learn more about how exponential technology will affect business and life, see Digital Futures.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Idea Director of Thought Leadership at SAP. His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Data Analysts And Scientists More Important Than Ever For The Enterprise

Daniel Newman

The business world is now firmly in the age of data. Not that data wasn’t relevant before; it was just nowhere close to the speed and volume that’s available to us today. Businesses are buckling under the deluge of petabytes, exabytes, and zettabytes. Within these bytes lie valuable information on customer behavior, key business insights, and revenue generation. However, all that data is practically useless for businesses without the ability to identify the right data. Plus, if they don’t have the talent and resources to capture the right data, organize it, dissect it, draw actionable insights from it and, finally, deliver those insights in a meaningful way, their data initiatives will fail.

Rise of the CDO

Companies of all sizes can easily find themselves drowning in data generated from websites, landing pages, social streams, emails, text messages, and many other sources. Additionally, there is data in their own repositories. With so much data at their disposal, companies are under mounting pressure to utilize it to generate insights. These insights are critical because they can (and should) drive the overall business strategy and help companies make better business decisions. To leverage the power of data analytics, businesses need more “top-management muscle” specialized in the field of data science. This specialized field has lead to the creation of roles like Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In addition, with more companies undertaking digital transformations, there’s greater impetus for the C-suite to make data-driven decisions. The CDO helps make data-driven decisions and also develops a digital business strategy around those decisions. As data grows at an unstoppable rate, becoming an inseparable part of key business functions, we will see the CDO act as a bridge between other C-suite execs.

Data skills an emerging business necessity

So far, only large enterprises with bigger data mining and management needs maintain in-house solutions. These in-house teams and technologies handle the growing sets of diverse and dispersed data. Others work with third-party service providers to develop and execute their big data strategies.

As the amount of data grows, the need to mine it for insights becomes a key business requirement. For both large and small businesses, data-centric roles will experience endless upward mobility. These roles include data anlysts and scientists. There is going to be a huge opportunity for critical thinkers to turn their analytical skills into rapidly growing roles in the field of data science. In fact, data skills are now a prized qualification for titles like IT project managers and computer systems analysts.

Forbes cited the McKinsey Global Institute’s prediction that by 2018 there could be a massive shortage of data-skilled professionals. This indicates a disruption at the demand-supply level with the needs for data skills at an all-time high. With an increasing number of companies adopting big data strategies, salaries for data jobs are going through the roof. This is turning the position into a highly coveted one.

According to Harvard Professor Gary King, “There is a big data revolution. The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.” The big problem is that most enterprises don’t know what to do with data. Data professionals are helping businesses figure that out. So if you’re casting about for where to apply your skills and want to take advantage of one of the best career paths in the job market today, focus on data science.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

For more insight on our increasingly connected future, see The $19 Trillion Question: Are You Undervaluing The Internet Of Things?

The post Data Analysts and Scientists More Important Than Ever For the Enterprise appeared first on Millennial CEO.

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Daniel Newman

About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

When Good Is Good Enough: Guiding Business Users On BI Practices

Ina Felsheim

Image_part2-300x200In Part One of this blog series, I talked about changing your IT culture to better support self-service BI and data discovery. Absolutely essential. However, your work is not done!

Self-service BI and data discovery will drive the number of users using the BI solutions to rapidly expand. Yet all of these more casual users will not be well versed in BI and visualization best practices.

When your user base rapidly expands to more casual users, you need to help educate them on what is important. For example, one IT manager told me that his casual BI users were making visualizations with very difficult-to-read charts and customizing color palettes to incredible degrees.

I had a similar experience when I was a technical writer. One of our lead writers was so concerned with readability of every sentence that he was going through the 300+ page manuals (yes, they were printed then) and manually adjusting all of the line breaks and page breaks. (!) Yes, readability was incrementally improved. But now any number of changes–technical capabilities, edits, inserting larger graphics—required re-adjusting all of those manual “optimizations.” The time it took just to do the additional optimization was incredible, much less the maintenance of these optimizations! Meanwhile, the technical writing team was falling behind on new deliverables.

The same scenario applies to your new casual BI users. This new group needs guidance to help them focus on the highest value practices:

  • Customization of color and appearance of visualizations: When is this customization necessary for a management deliverable, versus indulging an OCD tendency? I too have to stop myself from obsessing about the font, line spacing, and that a certain blue is just a bit different than another shade of blue. Yes, these options do matter. But help these casual users determine when that time is well spent.
  • Proper visualizations: When is a spinning 3D pie chart necessary to grab someone’s attention? BI professionals would firmly say “NEVER!” But these casual users do not have a lot of depth on BI best practices. Give them a few simple guidelines as to when “flash” needs to subsume understanding. Consider offering a monthly one-hour Lunch and Learn that shows them how to create impactful, polished visuals. Understanding if their visualizations are going to be viewed casually on the way to a meeting, or dissected at a laptop, also helps determine how much time to spend optimizing a visualization. No, you can’t just mandate that they all read Tufte.
  • Predictive: Provide advanced analytics capabilities like forecasting and regression directly in their casual BI tools. Using these capabilities will really help them wow their audience with substance instead of flash.
  • Feature requests: Make sure you understand the motivation and business value behind some of the casual users’ requests. These casual users are less likely to understand the implications of supporting specific requests across an enterprise, so make sure you are collaborating on use cases and priorities for substantive requests.

By working with your casual BI users on the above points, you will be able to collectively understand when the absolute exact request is critical (and supports good visualization practices), and when it is an “optimization” that may impact productivity. In many cases, “good” is good enough for the fast turnaround of data discovery.

Next week, I’ll wrap this series up with hints on getting your casual users to embrace the “we” not “me” mentality.

Read Part One of this series: Changing The IT Culture For Self-Service BI Success.

Follow me on Twitter: @InaSAP

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How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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Our Government's Legitimacy Is In Danger

Hein Keijzer

It is a growing phenomenon: Governments are gradually losing support from their citizens. Citizens in European countries are also becoming disillusioned with their governments. This calls for a drastic improvement of the services provided to the most important and sole shareholder of the government—the citizen—because the government’s legitimacy is at stake.

Citizens’ confidence in government has been waning for some time now. There are reasons why populist and eurosceptic parties  have been gaining votes over the past years. The government must do everything within its power to win to rebuild confidence, and not just by fulfilling its basic tasks, because a feeble six can no longer save the parliamentary democratic system.

The victory of populist parties is the beginning of the end of the current democratic order. It is very likely that these parties will not participate in the government, because the other parties will mostly exclude them. As a result, the chasm between citizen and government keeps growing, creating a situation that reinforces itself and that holds very little chance of success in the future.

The base

We must return to the base to touch on the core of the problem. Western governments are complex bodies, but the basic idea behind them is rather simple: Citizens pay tax to a central, democratically elected system. In return, they expect basic services such as security, education, physical infrastructure, healthcare—and in the case of the Netherlands, dry feet, i.e. protection against water. It is not unreasonable to expect a western country to provide at least this bare minimum.

But this is where things is going wrong these days. Every country is dealing with at least one case in which the tax payers’ money is not allocated correctly. The Panama Papers is a recent example of this. The term cover-up often does not apply anymore, because civil servants are no longer even capable of hiding the chaos in a cover-up. These days the media are capable of making the content  of the cesspool available to the public in no time. A ministry that cannot manage its internal affairs has even more trouble proving its legitimacy to society.

The government must not only deal with organizational problems; mentality comes into play as well. Many governmental institutions see the taxpayer as such: a taxpayer with mostly obligations. This mindset need to change. It is time for a customer-centric approach: The citizen is the customer, and the customer is king. As is the case with the boardroom of a commercial party where shareholders cannot get away with mismanagement, the government should not be able to get away with mismanaging the assets of their sole shareholder: the citizen.

This approach requires a number of very strong measures:

1. Earnest use of apps and social media

In the past it was necessary to go to an office and make an appointment in order to communicate with the government. These days, social media allow for much more efficient communication. Governments can use apps and social media—potentially—to more quickly discover trends, indicate problems, and communicate with citizens. Now digital communication is mostly housed in separate departments. This is not sufficient for the much-needed model in which the citizen is the shining center of the services provided. Communication with the citizen should be at the core of the organization.

2. Make the policy completely transparent

Backroom politics and convoluted decision-making are no longer feasible. Citizens are entitled to the best possible access and information provision. The government has come a long way with open data, but is still very far from doing enough.

3. Clear communication

It is the duty of a good service provider to communicate clearly with its client. This also applies to the communication of the government with the citizen. Unfortunately, this fails all too often. Vague, official language and unclear wording are the order of the day. If a citizen does not understand the government, it creates a wedge. Civil servants should be forced to follow compulsory courses on clear communication on a B1 level. This is an official language level that is understood by the majority of the population and is effective to communicate messages in a clear way.

4. Smarter information linking

The government knows a lot about their citizens, but this information is not linked well or not linked at all. As a consequence, the government does not know anything about us at all. From a privacy point of view, this is of course not unattractive, but it is disastrous for the provision of good services.  The government cannot think with us if it doesn’t know who we are, if it doesn’t know our preferences and our problems. In order to achieve this, systems and an integral data policy must be connected, for one version of the truth. I provided a few examples of this in my previous blog.

Unfortunately these four points are still far from reality. This isn’t the first time that I have broached these problems. The communication between the government and the citizen is often very difficult. There are few apps, and the government uses social media in a very reactive way. It is not rare to only receive an answer after a few days. Smart connections between citizen data points are missing. Many governments are developing the majority of their IT solutions themselves, and barely believe that integration via standard solutions is possible. The government’s outlook is inward and doesn’t change, because there is barely any staff turnover.

Governments could follow the example of the Australian government, which started a digital transformation with a genuine Digital Transformation Office. Its primary focus is efficient and transparent service provision toward the citizen. Its motto: “Simpler, clearer, faster public services”—an easy but meaningful statement. It touches the core of what has to happen here as well.

The gap between government and citizens will not close on its own. A digital transformation is unavoidable if the government wants to stop the downward trend and not lose its legitimacy completely.

For more insight on digital transformation in the public sector, see Unlocking The Benefits Of Digitization For Governments.

 

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Hein Keijzer

About Hein Keijzer

Hein Keijzer is customer solution manager for the Public Sector Business Unit at SAP Nederland. After his education in Applied Economics and Public Administration, Hein worked for the Dutch Ministry of Finance, Budget Affairs directorate, and since 2000 at SAP. Connect with me on Twitter @heinkeijzer or <a href="https://nl.linkedin.com/in/heinkeijzer"LinkedIn.