While many of you were asleep, castigating about the economy, others have been innovating. Last year was a year of investments, and the coming years will continue to be a year of transformation of the Value Chain. Technology again will transform many of the ways we work/shop/play-in fact it already has. Policy and Process leaders in government and business, as well as the various think tanks, have not really gotten a handle on the impacts all these pervasive technologies will have on us going forward.
The Shopping Experience
RFID is only half the story…that acquaints us with items moving, with the assumption of items being attached to people at some point. In the short run, item level intelligence visions have a way to go before they become reality. But Personal Sales Assistance, smart shelves, small cameras and transmitters attached to sales and marketing personnel are being experimented with today in various retail settings around the world. The web, of course, has got the connection, literally, to people, preferences, and products today. Speaking recently to the President of a major retailer, we learned that they don’t do that much with all this data today.
What they do with all that data is drive newer, smarter applications that are integrative, analyzing business in new ways. And pervasive technologies, which are cool to look at, will need to layer more and more intelligence-at the local layer and at the hub.
The Worker Experience
Most working people, though sometimes frustrated with the continued lack of integration of all their tools and devices, (it is getting better) are loving the freedom provided by pervasive technologies. More business applications are on the way for the SOHO, the factory & warehouse, and the road warrior. With the business profits up, and the continued drive of the inorganic world to the net, the demand for connectivity from Telco carriers is growing. That will allow the Telco’s to grow again-from Cisco to Lucent, to Comcast, to Time Warner and all their brethren-they will have a bright future. Now, if Time Warner would wake up and realize what a fabulous merger it really is between AOL and Time Warner-everybody from kids to seniors wants their games, shopping and social life on either AOL, Yahoo or MSN-from home to instant messages on their personal roving devices!
Spam/ per se is not the enemy. It is a nuisance like junk mail. Although insidiously persistent, we are all learning how to cope with mail from XPRSAL Loves You, or Get a Degree in a Few Minutes! The law is not on your side here-your information is being shared. Mostly because of our own consumerism and desire for convenience. But in addition, the Patriot Act has the right to access your accounts at Fidelity, Merrill Lynch or wherever you hold them. Your credit card company, your doctors and insurance companies sometimes may share (don’t you love that line) your innermost information with organizations they deem worthy. What gave them the right? You did!
Our governments, while quietly taking advantage of these technologies too-your Safe Traveler smart card (we frequent travelers want one) will allow the US government to track your every move, if you fly. Now, if a terrorist is smart, they have so many other ways to get at venerable populaces without air travel, as we witness the sad devastating scenarios in the Middle East, Indonesia, the Philippines and South America.
It is questionable whether these laws do much. The real answers, like most technological problems, are not in the visibility but the intelligent analysis of what you do with all that data.
Conclusion-Globalization and our Future
Will Smith lived through the maniacal version of this technology presence in the movie Enemy of the State. Disruptive technologies, along with the technology displacement we are all experiencing in various businesses, are actually just beginning. The US and other G nations will experience a slow transformation of their economies due to these technologies. In Asia and Central and South American, the challenge will be how to avoid an uprising of the very poor who will not have a stake in the manufacturing and digital revolutions going on there. Obviously, this is the number one concern of the Chinese government. US under employment (though high) and the decrement of income over the last years (though very painful for us) are not about to start a violent uprising. We somehow put up with this financial chaos-Ken Lay and Jack Grubman and their kind have gotten away with this avarice. But ethnic violence, which is probably more driven by the great economic divides, continues in other countries and will probably get worse. The gap widens between the very rich and poor, as middle class growth leaves large populations behind.
The digital and economic divide is an immediate problem, since it forms cultural attitudes that can last generations, even as the benefits of globalization-better education, medical care and rights for women and children grow. Our interconnectedness should keep all nations open to ways to reduce our mental and policy embargos to make a better future!