The Burgeoning Landscape of Localization Tools and Smartphones – Guest post by Anne Bezançon

For the first time in human history, every movement in the physical world can be identified, recorded and analyzed through our mobile phones, smartwatches, fitness trackers and soon smart-tattoos and implants. This fundamentally changes our relationship to ourselves and others because “digital” and “physical” are now merging, providing a completely new source of data and analysis, and ultimately a higher-fidelity representation of who we are.

The expected impact of localization tools

The impact of these capabilities goes way beyond their initial application to maps and navigation or even geofence marketing. We are exploring use-cases across all verticals: advertising (from attribution of campaigns to segmentation of audiences based on their behavior in the physical world), retail (consumer patterns, routes, frequency, times), healthcare (from tracking an infectious disease across the country to reminding folks of the proximity of a pharmacy to pick up their prescription), sports and entertainment (from performance tracking apps to geofencing communications within a venue for a few hours), news (local citizen journalism), financial services (fraud prevention by matching transaction to place), transportation and logistics/delivery (from Uber to Fedex, route optimization, user feedback in real-time), field service operations (team management for utilities), and, of course, public safety and government (managing refugee flows is a timely concern). From collecting anonymous data from millions of users and extracting statistical models of behavior to addressing one individual’s specific needs based on interactive systems, localization tools are going to change every sector of activity.

From a company’s perspective, what needs to be done to take advantage of it?

First, think about what you could know through these tools that you don’t today. Localization tools provide data that was not available before.

Second, research and identify the right partner who has the expertise and technology to help you.

Third, start doing something, iterate and learn. There are major opportunities for competitive edge with the right combination of one and two above.

What are some of the risks and opportunities?

The biggest risk lies in the need to define new boundaries and protection mechanisms for privacy, as regulators are still lagging behind with the very rapid evolution of technology, particularly in mobile, internet of things, etc.

The opportunities are many from a business standpoint, since more “picks and shovels” need to be built, either specialized in certain “vertical” problems and solutions, or specialized in back-end computation of increasingly large amounts of data, or yet in front end data visualization for both consumers and business decision makers.


Anne_Bezancon_Placecast FutureproofAnne Bezançon is the founder and President of Placecast, the leading enterprise platform for monetizing mobile location and user data at scale. The company specializes in providing proven, secure, privacy-first solutions for big data monetization to the largest Telecom (AT&T, Rogers, Telefonica), Financial Institutions and Media companies in the world. Over 500 brands have used the Placecast platform, including Starbucks, Subway, HP, JetBlue, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut.

A native of France, Anne discovered her passion for technology when she helped develop the Minitel, a precursor to the Internet. Anne moved to the Silicon Valley in 1996. She has since started three companies and participated in the launch of two more. In 1995, she organized the NGO Forum of the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, and pioneered private sponsorships from Apple and HP to enable training in word processing and email for 40,000 participants.

Anne was invited to meet with the French President during his official visit to San Francisco in March 2014. Anne was also named to the 2013 “Mobile Women to Watch” list from Mobile Marketer. In 2011, Anne attended the eG8 Summit, an invitation-only summit of leaders in government and industry focusing on the Internet in the context of global public policy. She writes thought leadership pieces for leading tech and business publications, including Forbes. Anne holds a diploma from Sciences-Po Paris, and an LLM in Business Law. She is the author of several patents in the field of location-based technology, and speaks frequently at various tech industry and business events.

The Car Of Tomorrow Inches Closer – Guest Post by Arthur Goldstuck

If one is looking for a barometer of the evolution of the motor vehicle, one of the best places to find it is in the rising pressure on car makers to display automotive technology at consumer tech shows.

While the likes of the Detroit, Geneva and Tokyo Motor Shows still dominate launches, unveilings and announcements, the technology breakthroughs are slowly moving across to the likes of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Marque by marque, the car makers are trying to find a place among the gadgets and smart devices. Twelve major manufacturers now make their way to CES as a matter of course. And one manufacturer did the unthinkable in 2016: launched a new vehicle at MWC.

The biggest news announced at CES 2016 was not of a technology but of a piece of paper. To be precise, a driving licence. But this was no ordinary licence.

The US state of Nevada, home of CES, awarded the world’s first test licence for autonomous driving of a standard production car. The real big news was that the beneficiary was not a futuristic concept car of the kind launched by Nissan at the Tokyo Motor Show in October or by Mercedes-Benz at last year’s CES.

Instead, it was the new Mercedes E-Class, with three standard production 2017 models given approval to drive themselves by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (NDMV).

It is difficult to overstate the significance of this news. It means that the autonomous vehicle is no longer an experimental toy built by Google and operated by geeks. It means that vehicle software creators like Microsoft and BlackBerry no longer have to persuade manufacturers that this is their future. It means the likes of Ford, Audi and Volvo will also move on from elaborate adaptation of existing vehicles, modified steering and retro-fitting sensors.

As a Daimler statement put it, “The standard-production vehicle is already extensively equipped with intelligent technology. This means that, for testing purposes, it is necessary merely to make some smaller software modifications to the DRIVE PILOT control unit.”

But the robots have not taken over. Yet. For now, the self-driving cars will still need a trained test driver. While the tests are allowed on all highways in Nevada, human drivers have to take over for turning, merging and departing. The NDMV rules also require one passenger behind the wheel and a second passenger in the vehicle on test drives.

Meanwhile, the unveiling of a new vehicle at the MWC 2016 represented a seismic event in the history of both vehicle manufacture and consumer technology.

At the world’s largest expo devoted to mobile technology, the unveiling of the new Ford Kuga SUV marked the final crossing over of car technology into the preserve of consumer devices. While manufacturers have been showing off in-vehicle advances and self-driving possibilities at CES for around seven years, the event always played second fiddle in this arena to the Detroit Motor Show. Detroit would see the unveiling of the latest cars and tech, while Las Vegas would act as a showcase. Around six weeks later, MWC in Barcelona would find itself coughing in the exhaust smoke of the media bandwagon that had been and gone.

No more. The presence of the new Kuga at MWC was almost as significant as the keynote address by Mark Fields, CEO and president of Ford Motor Company, who declared the manufacturer’s repositioning as both an automotive and mobile business.

This repositioning is at the heart of the choice of tech show rather than a car show to launch a new vehicle. However, the Kuga also offers the most convincing evidence yet of the mainstream potential of the connected car.

It debuts the latest version of Ford’s on-board information and entertainment system, SYNC 3, which uses conversational voice commands to control audio, navigation, and climate functions. It also integrates seamlessly with most smartphones by supporting Apple CarPlay for iPhones and Android Auto for Android devices. It means that any app available on the handsets can appear on the vehicle’s 8-inch touchscreen display and be controlled from there.

This represents a dramatic breakthrough, particularly in the world of in-vehicle navigation, which traditionally confined drivers to the mapping systems that came with the cars – and were thus already obsolete when they rolled off the production lines. SYNC 3 allows the latest version of Google Maps, Apple Maps or HERE Maps, for example, to be called up from the phone.

The significance of this is that vehicles can, for the first time, take full advantage of the rapid evolution of mobile technology, apps and utilities. In the next few years, the technology will be rolled out to all new Ford vehicles, meaning that cars aimed at the mass market will enjoy the same information system advances as high-end vehicles.

The Kuga introduces new driver assistance technologies as well, serving as a precursor to autonomous or self-driving vehicles. The existing semi-autonomous Active Park Assist technology is joined by Perpendicular Parking functionality, which uses ultrasonic sensors to locate parking spaces and steer the vehicle into them. The driver still controls the accelerator and brake, but the hard work is taken over by the car.

Coming out of parking spaces also becomes safer through additional sensors. The Cross Traffic Alert uses a radar with a 40-metre range to warn drivers of vehicles approaching from either side.

The sensors, which are for now the key to making vehicles safer, will be at the heart of the future self-driving car. That means that the Kuga is not only a taste of the future, but also a proof-of-concept that will hasten the arrival of tomorrow’s car.

When it does arrive, as we are seeing in Nevada, it will also signal a new era of licensing authorities having to reeducate themselves on the capabilities and limitations of vehicles. But don’t expect that to happen overnight.


Arthur_Goldstuck futureproofArthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel




The Cryptocurrency Disruption – Guest Post by Michael Carrier

To understand the level of disruption that could issue forth from crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, it is first necessary to understand the magnitude of the invention that they represent.

Understanding the innovation

Crypto-currencies aren’t merely the ability to transfer value from one person to another. Our current ways of doing this are many, low cost, and relatively easy to construct. These systems however rely on one critical factor, and this is the need to have a trusted 3rd party, conduct, verify, insure and facilitate the transfer. This has been how it has been done in many forms across all societies for over a millennium.

Traditional value transfer, or transaction communication systems like these work on the centralized hub and spoke architecture. They are often banks, or networks, or transaction facilitators like Visa and the like.

This type of “centralized” architecture has worked well for governments because it allows complete control over the money and communication systems. Governments can license and easily regulate the key players in this type of arrangement. All transactions, and deposits are tracked, their owners known, reported on and it is a system within which taxes can be easily compelled. Economic players that do not maintain political/governmental favor, will lose their license to participate in the centrally controlled economic system.

Only items of value like gold, physical cash, precious stones, or art works stand outside of the complete control by the modern government money system. These items allow for “de-centralized” value transfers and thus from a government perspective, less controllable system. These items represent the possibility for individuals to exchange value outside a transaction system overseen by the government. These items are “bearer” by nature, which means the holder is effectively the owner, and their mere existence is a threat to the current construction of the government/money system. But, because these items are heavy, hard to conceal or transport in large quantities, and also because governments are very keen to diminish or abolish their use as stores of value, or mediums of exchange, these physical items are very limited in the modern world of finance and commerce. And, in addition, centralized electronic ledgers are lower cost, faster and a more effective method for value transfers. But, what if we could have both? What if it were possible to have both the low cost and high speed of an electronic money system and the “de-centralized” money equivalent to a gold money system? A de-centralized electronic money system is what Bitcoin and crypto currencies represent. In short a massive disruption in the world for how we do money, and its implications will be massive.

The Impact of Cryptocurrencies

The emergence of crypto-currencies changes everything. Crypto-currencies are electronic, easy to conceal, transmit and impossible to control in a physical world. They enable an electronic “bearer” exchange of value, that is as easy to send as email, and effectively impossible to control. Billions of dollars worth of value can be held in the obscure pass phrase simply memorized by the holder, gone are the days of having to sew diamonds into the hems of your clothing to cross borders with items of value.

A money system which operates primarily through barter (individuals exchanging items), or through exchanging “bearer” certificates of value would put the burden of reporting (for tax purposes) for regulatory compliance, more on the individuals directly involved in the transaction. It would rely on the individuals to report or enforce transaction compliance, and this would vastly diminish all governments’ current abilities to compel legal decisions, payments, collect taxes or enforcement of regulation.

To understand what kind of world this will bring we have only to look to the past. Economies of the past were more of this kind of money system, as gold and silver or just cash were the primary methods of exchange and stores of value, not the centralized bank ledgers that we have today. As a consequence of this, individual power or personal sovereignty was much enlarged when compared to the powers of the state. There was more individual liberty for the people in relation to the state. The political implications of the emergence of this new type of crypto-currency money system are hard to overstate.

Governments in the past were in less of a position to compel compliance financially, and therefore this “bearer” type of money system required a more voluntary commitment of the citizenry towards paying taxes or governments left with collecting revenues at payment points that they could control. These governments of the past were forced to play a much smaller role in the economy than they play today. The vast bulk of economic transactions back then were opaque to governments, and beyond the reach of their governmental control, to tax or impose regulation (regulations which for the most part simply translate political power into unfair economic advantage for those who can curry favor from those at the top of the political system). A centralized money system is the primary method of control for modern governments over people, corporations and even foreign states.

Crypto-currencies represent the historical pendulum swinging back toward the more de-centralized money systems of the past, systems where governments have less centralized control over the economy and economic players within it. The emergence of crypto transactions mean we have seen the zenith of centralized governmental money systems. This will be a big disruption for the governments and corporations of the world.

The crypto-currency wave is more correctly understood really as the cryptography wave. Recent advancements in the science of cryptography are the underpinnings for the emergence of crypto-currency but they also empower new forms of better encrypted personal communications. These advancements are bringing back the opportunity for actual individual privacy and expanding the scope of individual sovereignty relative to that of the state. These advancements allow for secure private communications between people, as well as enabling crypto currencies which allow for the free exchange of value unmediated by the state, and uncontrolled by its politically protected corporations. For statists this is a potential disaster, but for Libertarians it is a potential renaissance.

The Internet Is the Largest Economy

The largest economy in the world is not the U.S. or China, it is the Internet, and the Internet has for the first time, just invented its own money. This change is potentially more significant than the invention of the Internet itself.

Despite their potency and I would say inevitability, right now the crypto-currency wave has slowed down and has been stymied to a major degree for lack of one critical thing, jurisdiction.

No major government in the West or East has seen fit to provide legal jurisdiction, legal contract and definition for crypto-currency. These governments are all smart enough to understand it isn’t really in their interest. Their support for crypto now would be all downside, from the almost perfect control they enjoy today over their money and banking systems. In the meantime, crypto-currencies have been forced underground, into the darker parts of the world economy both on and offline. Yet despite this repression, crypto transaction volumes continue to grow, and the technology and it users continue to slowly expand.

Cryptocurrency – The Genie Is Out

The technological advancement that crypto-currencies represent is a genie, which will not go back into its bottle. Eventually governments no matter how hard they try will be unable to prevent their rise and some aggressive governments will see the opportunity in taking advantage of this new system by granting crypto’s protection within their jurisdiction. The first large governments that grant jurisdiction will reap big rewards over other governments that lag behind. This same first mover advantage will be true for corporations as well, those that adopt this new paradigm shift first, will stand to gain at the expense of slower players in their markets.

Crypto-currencies will slowly change the money world. And I would call that disruptive!

michael-carrier futureproof bitcoin cryptocurrencies blockchainMichael Carrier – Bay Area Crypto Entrepreneur

You can find Michael on Twitter @michaelpcarrier



3D Printing Is A Revolution. But Probably Not The Revolution You Were Thinking Of

Guest post by Duncan Stewart (@dunstewart)

3D printing, where machines take computer files and make objects out of metal or plastic, building them up one layer at a time, has been around since the 1980s. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing was called part of the third industrial revolution[see footnote 1], and largely entered popular consciousness with the availability of consumer 3D printers for under $1,000: in 2010, pundits proclaimed “a factory in every home.[2]”

Personally, I blame the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and that damned Replicator[3]! The idea that you could have a machine make – to order – almost any food, drink, or spare part captured the popular imagination. So much so that a 3D printer company actually named one of its products after the science fictional technology[4].

But 3D printers in 2016 fail to match the 24th century technology. Home 3D printers are difficult to use, jam, break down, and require multiple efforts to make the desired object. Not only are the machines expensive, but the feedstock plastic costs so much that 3D printing almost any part will cost much more than just buying it in a store…and the process is slow: desktop 3D printers take hours to make parts only 5 cm or two inches high[5]. All of those challenges might be tolerable, except that the only things that home 3D printers can make are small plastic items that aren’t even as useful or attractive as the toys you get inside a kids meal from a fast food restaurant!

That isn’t just the state of the art for home 3D printers in 2016…this will continue to be true for the next decade or more. There are 3D printers that work in metal or other materials that are more useful for the average consumer, but they will not be coming to our homes any time soon, for reasons of cost, size, complexity, not to mention the toxic fumes.

Home 3D printers are an interesting tool for individuals to learn about additive manufacturing. But the idea that they will get rid of the shopping mall or delivery of consumer goods in the near future is deeply misleading. In fact, most consumer 3D printers are likely experimented with for a while, and then consigned to the garage or basement, along with the bread-maker and that pasta machine that never gets used. As further confirmation of this trend, one of the leading manufacturers of a sub-$1,000 consumer device announced they were exiting the consumer business entirely at the end of 2015[6].

But enterprise 3D printing technology is misunderstood too. As part of my research, I discovered that virtually all of the businesses that were using additive manufacturing were still using it for rapid prototyping or the manufacture of intermediate parts like tools, molds, or casts: final part manufacturing was less than 10% of all usage[7].

Prototyping may lead to faster and better product development, but it isn’t as sexy as the idea that 3D printing will allow for customized local manufacturing that would disrupt existing supply chains: no more need for offshore manufacturing at scale, transport, logistics, warehouses, and so on[8].

That change may happen one day, but it likely won’t be soon. According to one manufacturer who tried producing complex metal parts using 3D printers, it is technically possible, but the technology took longer than traditional methods, cost more, required extensive and expensive post-manufacture processing time…and the final parts were still not good enough from a materials perspective. The company no longer uses 3D printing to make those parts, and the CEO (who is actually a 3D printing enthusiast) said “the technology has a lot of potential…but needs another 10 years.[9]”

Are 3D printers EVER used for final part manufacturing? Very much so! Hearing aid shells and dental copings are almost exclusively made with 3D printers today[10], as are most braces for teeth[11], some orthotics for shoes[12], and even some titanium hips[13]. In 2015, the FAA approved the first aerospace part made using additive manufacturing[14], and they are seen as potentially disruptive in use cases where there is no convenient parts delivery service: naval ships at sea[15], or even the International Space Station[16].

But we need to put these applications in context. It is interesting that the FAA has approved a 3D printed sensor housing – but given that each and every Boeing 787 has 2.3 million parts[17], we can see that additive manufacturing is likely to capture only a very small share of the parts market. Almost all of the time, traditional manufacturing techniques are faster and cheaper for volume manufacturing.

3D printers have become dominant in the hearing aid and dental coping markets, but that doesn’t mean that their adoption will be equally rapid in more complex medical applications. According to one leading 3D printing company, the probable timeline is roughly as follows: “printing cartilage in three to five years, because it is both avascular and aneural, followed by the ability to print bone in roughly five to ten years. The ability to print nerves and thus allow for the creation of organs is likely 10-20 years into the future.[18]”

To close on a more upbeat note, we don’t have to wait a decade or two for 3D printing to save lives. The most advanced hospitals are already using 3D printers to build medical simulators with unprecedented levels of realism: doctors and nurses are training on these dummies, and keeping their skills as sharp as their scalpels.[19] Soon, the hope is that “a surgeon preparing to operate, say, on a brain tumor will be able to 3-D print the child’s cancer from a CT scan, and then insert it into the trainer for a run-through.[20]”

Innovation is funny. Around the world, people got excited that 3D printing might be able to allow consumers to print out their own (plastic) cutlery, or that 3D printed parts could get rid of a warehouse or two. Neither will happen soon. So 3D printing is now being seen as a failure, even though real world applications in medical training are actually saving the lives of sick children.

duncan-stewart futureproof deloitteDuncan Stewart, Director of Research at Deloitte Canada.

You can find Duncan on Twitter @dunstewart
















[9] Confidential 2015 interview with a European manufacturer of industrial heating components.









[18] MedTech Bus Tour Recap: Revolutionary Breakthroughs on the Horizon, No Change in Current Industry Fundamentals, published 17 December, 2015, Stifel Equity Research Group (log in required)


[20] Ibid. NY Times


The Disruption Of Mobile Dialled Up – Guest post By JK Rohrs (@JKROHRS)

The disruptive nature of the smartphone cannot be understated. This one device has transformed nearly every waking moment into a potential for digital conversation, media consumption, and real-world engagement. Smartphone-wielding consumers are now always-on and a few clicks from information, ratings, and peer insights that can dramatically shape the stores, restaurants, and businesses they visit. Indeed, well over 50% of all searches across Google’s properties now originate on mobile devices; further research also suggests that over 50% of those searches include some local intent.

And yet, look at the mobile advertising across any smartphone browser or app you own, and you rarely see local content or offers. This is the next phase of mobile disruption–using real-world consumer location to increase the relevance of mobile marketing. Apps, GPS, and beacons will all help shape the efficacy of local mobile engagement; however, it is up to brand marketers themselves to walk a mile in their customers’ shoes to truly appreciate when and where local content can positively impact their journey. This marriage of smartphone, consumer intent, and brand content can yield new business opportunities for every brand–but it will take a disruptor’s mindset as the consumer’s smartphone usage continues to evolve.

JK Rohrs futureproofJeffrey K. Rohrs

Chief Marketing Officer l Yext l

You can find Jeff on Twitter @JKRohrs


How would you qualify the disruption of Meaningfulness? Why? Guest post by Doug Hewett

Post financial crisis, a new set of global expectations have emerged – that brands and business are not just responsible, but meaningful too. What does that mean? That a new generation are holding organisations to account for their authenticity, transparency, and their purpose.

For consumers this means voting with their ever decreasing disposable income – every pound, dollar, ruble or yen spent says something about the world they want to see, the companies they want to succeed and win. It’s no longer enough that your product is high quality, or that your store staff provide a great service…if you don’t pay your taxes and operate ethically as a business, they will destroy your brand and reputation in realtime with 140 characters.

Starbucks, Google, Uber and others are just some of the many of the high profile brands that have been attacked for their approach to tax. In the case of Starbucks, a leak exposing their tax avoidance led to a downturn in sales – something that opened the door for smaller independent coffee shops to capitalise on (with handmade window signs proudly proclaiming ‘we pay our tax’ – which were very publicly shared on Twitter and Instagram).

A greater transparency through social media and digital has brought company cultures into even sharper focus too. Where before decisions about supply chains and third party partners was something hidden from view, today’s socially conscious super-consumer bases their purchase decisions on factors such as ethically sourced materials, fair working policies in third world countries, and the philosophy of the CEO.

All this means that authentic brands win, and those without meaning and purpose fall further behind. Companies can’t fake it anymore.

If generational insight is anything to go by, we are looking at a tidal wave in terms of mindset – with consumers and employees increasingly placing meaning and purpose above financial gain. This shift will mean that social currency and personal reputation becoming even more significant drivers behind decision making, especially at an individual level.

Never before have the choices we make been so visible to all – which is why people are taking their decisions so seriously. Not just because it helps others, but because it says so much about ourselves.

From a brand or company’s perspective, what needs to be done to take advantage of it? 

The path to becoming a meaningful brand involves three key areas of consideration:

  1. Create a brand proposition that’s built on a clear purpose – align your business strategy with your brand strategy, driving profit and success through purpose and meaning. It will differentiate your company from the competition, and also build value and equity that sits on your balance sheet as an intangible asset. Use brand as a filter and guide for everything you do – shape all business decision-making around it and build a set of principles that guide global consistency, but allow for hyper-local flexibility.
  2. Embed that across your internal culture and ways of working– clarify and revisit your brand values, ensuring that they are more than words on a page. To truly make an impact your values need to be lived behaviours that are embedded into your performance framework and ways of working. Define your culture, how you work, and the unique mindset of the people you want to attract and retain. Analyse every part of your supply chain and partnerships – they are an extension of your business and by that token you are endorsing their working practices, so ensure they are brand friends that you value and trust with upholding the same high level of purpose.
  3. Activate that across your service experience – revisit and redraw your approach to service experience, considering how best to add meaning and purpose across every single touchpoint with customers or clients. Once the internal culture and ways of working are ‘lived’ then this approach will allow all that good work to surface – showcasing a genuine and authentic brand that lives by what it says. Become the keeper of promises and build a stronger brand through opening up to your customers and employees as a transparent leader with nothing to hide.

What are some of the risks and opportunities? 

The landscape of every industry is being turned upside-down by disruptive new challengers, and factors such as the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) will only magnify this impact in the near future. The real risk is not doing anything at all – so if you’re standing still you’re falling behind fast.

Being a meaningful brand drives success – it connects customers and employees to a clear purpose they can connect with, drives ethical behaviours that gain respect and trust, and ultimately keeps its promises to drive loyalty and growth.

The era of illusion is over, the most successful brands of tomorrow will be those with meaning and authenticity. It’s a race against time for businesses to respond quickly enough to consumer and employee expectations. The quicker you move, the bigger your advantage will be.

Doug Hewett futureroof MeaningfulnessDoug Hewett, Founder, People-Made

You can find Doug @doughewett on Twitter



The IOT Disruption – Guest post by Thomas Nicholls (@ThomasNicholls)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the idea of connecting more physical devices to the Internet, or more precisely, connecting physical objects through sensors and actuators to learn more about what’s happening in the physical world. The IoT will provide new insights, that will have a huge impact on existing business models, in regards to optimization, but probably more importantly, the IoT will provide a means to disrupt existing businesses and even create new ones.

Examples of disruption in existing businesses:

– Product vendors will gain new insights in where their products are installed: by sending geo-location info, vendors will be able to perform geo-marketing even if they use complex distribution channels.

– Product vendors will be able to ensure correct functioning of their products: by knowing the battery status, configuration, etc., companies will be able to provide better support and maintenance for products such as set-top boxes, fire detectors, defibrillators, fire hydrants, television sets, etc.

– Product-oriented companies will become service oriented: by knowing how their products are used, companies will be able to provide predictive maintenance and provide services related to the products, such as on-demand washing detergent, coffee grains/capsules, air freshener, just-in-time dispenser refills, etc.

– Existing products will finally be democratized and thus enable new volumes and variants: tracking embedded in everyday objects such as schoolbags, bicycles, etc.

All industries will be impacted by the IoT. Companies who take advantage of it now, will gain huge competitive advantages. This could therefore be a huge advantage for those who get it, and a worrying threat for those who don’t.

How has Sigfox disrupted by its Blank Canvas approach…  ?

The three existing connectivity solutions (GSM, WiFi and Bluetooth) restrict what we can connect. By building a specific connectivity solution for the needs of the IoT sensors and actuators, SIGFOX is able to provide the missing 4th communications protocol, which enables years-to-decades of battery life, extremely low costs, and borderless and provisioning-less simple connectivity management. The invention of this 4th protocol, will enable a gigantic long tail and volume market for the IoT.

Thomas Nicholls Futureproof SigfoxThomas Nicholls
Executive Vice President Communications at Sigfox |

Find Thomas on Twitter @ThomasNicholls

The Disruption From China & The East – Guest post by Marco Gervasi

China has become an innovator

China is now shifting from an innovation receiver to an innovation leader. Between 2013 and 2015, I have travelled and researched four continents to interview successful technology CEOs and understand what is happening in the technology world and in particular in e-commerce and in the Internet of Things. I have realized that the major technological changes that people are talking about in Silicon Valley are actually happening in China on a much larger scale. It used to take innovation years to travel from Silicon Valley to China, but now it only takes 24 hours. Not only Silicon Valley, but now also China have become a source of inspiration. But this is just the beginning. China’s innovation is not confined to its market; it is now coming out of its borders and spreading into the developing and the developed world. I narrated the story of this journey in a book, which I have called: East-Commerce

It is now widely recognized that China e-commerce has become the biggest in the world. Few numbers will explain the dimension of it. The world has over 3 billion Internet users of which 25% are in China, 667 million against 279 in the U.S. China has now over 361 million web shoppers compared to 200 million in the U.S. and its e-commerce demand for 2015 will be around 566 billion USD while in the U.S. will be 437 billions USD.

When looking at these numbers, it is hard to understand how Chinese e-commerce has grown so big so quickly and most of all where it is heading. To answer these questions I use some of the teachings I have learnt at Singularity University. Based in Mountain View, the Internet’s epicentre, and funded, among others, by NASA, Google, Cisco and Genentech, Singularity University helps people understand how technology will change our lives and which ones have the potential to impact billions of people. I believe that Chinese e-commerce is definitely one of those. Going back to our questions, How did it grow so fast? for the majority of us, change occurs at the same rate that we have experienced it most recently. But technology’s growth does not follow this rule. In other words, it isn’t linear, but exponential. The difference between linear growth and exponential growth is the basis of how technology evolves. Exponential growth is based on the famous dictum called Moore’s Law, named for Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore who described the trend in a 1965 paper. Moore’s Law observes that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. This means that the power of your computer or mobile phone doubles every two years and explains why China e-commerce is growing faster than anywhere else.

To understand where it is heading we first need to look back at how this world of the Internet evolved. In his award-winning book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman described the personal computer as the change agent enabling anyone in the connected world to join the Internet and in turn, create a unified world. That was 2005. The wide diffusion of PCs and of the Internet made geography irrelevant and suddenly, everyone became connected. This is when a new world started to unfold. However, while the world was becoming flat thanks to the PCs produced by China, China was still lagging behind. The real technological revolution arrived in China thanks to another device: the smartphone. This was the agent that enabled mass connectivity and became the tool to access the Internet. Thanks to this vast diffusion of smartphones, the Chinese are now moving one step past the rest of the world in creating a super connected world where the physical and virtual dimensions meet inside a mobile phone in the most seamless of ways. This is where China is innovating and where it is creating some of the most interesting business models in sectors such as retail, automotive, finance, healthcare and many others.

Even thought the Internet, e-commerce, and social networks are products of the West, the way Chinese are using them is innovative in itself and is allowing a mass diffusion of these technologies on a huge scale. So far, everyone is still looking to the West, thinking that innovation comes only in one form: inventing something unique which becomes revolutionary. However, something that at first might seem paradoxical is happening in China. The innovation brought about by China, an incremental innovation on a mass scale, is changing the emerging world and will soon influence the developed world as well. This will be a new type revolution, one that is brought about by evolution.

But e-commerce is not the only sector where China is planning to be ahead. It is likely to become leader in the Internet of Things as well. E-commerce has in fact created a super connected world, where the physical and digital dimensions are now coming together like nowhere else on the planet. Through the adoption of Cloud services and data centers, this world has the ability to collect and analyze information on a massive population, which, in turn, allows the development of a very sophisticated grid. When you add the power of the Internet of Things – with its ability to generate an exponential amount of data – to this sophisticated grid, it will give rise to the development of even more innovative models not only for e-commerce, but also for the Internet if Things world itself.

But this is not the end of the story.

In The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil describes an event called the Singularity, a future period during which technological change will be so rapid that it will irreversibly transform human life. The transformation will affect all the concepts that we rely on from business models to the cycle of human life. China e-commerce and the Internet of Things are the world’s biggest experiments connecting the physical to the digital world. They are connecting human beings and technology on an unprecedented scale. Thanks to this fast digitization process, China has decided to take the road of reforming and evolving its civilization through technology; the road of the Singularity. This is evident today with the mass adoption of smartphones and the increasing number of businesses moving online.

A society that was once based on a traditional industrial model is now quickly becoming technologically advanced; smart homes, self-driving bicycles, and cars will soon be part of the lives of millions. Of course, it will take time for China to fully transform itself into a society based on the future technological model. E-commerce and the Internet of Things show that China has decided to take that road and the first steps to bring its civilization into the future.

The world should take notice.


marco-gervasi-futureproofThis article is excerpted from “East-Commerce, A Journey Through China E-commerce and the Internet of Things” by Marco Gervasi, published by Wiley & Sons in April 2016. The ebook is also available on Amazon. To learn more about how technology is changing our lives and the global business models you can follow Marco Gervasi on his blog.


Digital Transformation of Industries – Guest post by Eric Gervet

Over the last two decades digital technologies have manifested themselves as an extremely powerful combination of mutually reinforcing, exponential drivers of fundamental change.

At first this change took the form of exciting new channels to markets, a step change in our ability to exchange information, and an important source of efficiency. It is now clear, however, that digital technologies will transform almost every aspect of doing business, from redefining markets, putting customers in charge, disruptively innovating on every aspect of value delivery, making an entire range of new business models possible, and blurring industry boundaries. On top of that, digital technologies deeply transform the way we organize human activity and can put our knowledge and expertise to work, not just locally, but on a global scale.

From an industry and business perspective there are a number of dynamics that are of particular importance in this culmination of industry change driven by digital technologies:

Overload of opportunity

The combination of digital technologies creates a plethora of opportunities not only for doing things fundamentally better, faster, and cheaper, but also to redefine markets, customers, products and services, value chains, and business models. This comes with highly challenging consequences. Many companies are so busy dealing with the fall out, that they no longer have the organizational headroom to properly strategize the wealth of opportunities. As a result, many have become reactive to the digital technologies that have driven the change coming their way.

The risks and opportunities resulting from digital technologies have proven difficult to strategize mainly for two reasons:

  1. Most digital technologies related drivers of change can be observed to have exponential growth behaviors, as characterized by Moore’s Law and the network effect. This quickly goes beyond the limits of our imagination. We might envision what 50% more functionality could mean for us, but we have real problems envisioning what something will look like, or what it can do, if it has 5,000% times more functionality. This is further complicated by the fact that most digital technologies related drivers of change never act alone. Most of them strengthen and feed off each other in major ways. This makes that digital technologies play out in closely knit systems of drivers exponential change that are even harder to fathom than understanding the impact of a single individual driver of change.
  2. The overload of opportunity is a strong incentive for businesses to simply get going. Even without properly strategizing the way forward, there are so many opportunities that ensure benefits are certain to accrue, regardless of the direction taken. Competitor dynamics however, can quickly turn such pursuit of new opportunities into a frenzied effort just to stay competitive: whenever a competitor enjoys success in capitalizing on digital technologies in a specific way, others will have to add it to their to-do list to stay competitive. This can quickly lead to a situation in which companies are overly busy and captured in the here and now.

Customers are in the driver seat

If companies would do a Porter Five-Forces analyses today, most would find the results to be extremely predictable and remarkably similar for many different industries – at least in terms of their insights and implications.

For a start, almost all will be characterized by a truly massive shift in power towards customers. Their bargaining power has enjoyed a phenomenal boost, as digital technologies have enabled greater market transparency and accessibility. Customers are expecting – and are increasingly getting used to – an unlimited choice, getting more than they asked for, whenever, and wherever they want, for less than they paid before. This has triggered an almost universal drive to make organizations customer centric, to engineer the most enticing customer experiences and offer the most optimal sales processes – anything less would be a disappointment to customers.

Customer bargaining power is only half the story however.

Some of the other forces have gone through metamorphic change as well. The same technological trends that fuel the transparency for customers has also provided the basis for all sorts of dis- and re-intermediation at various points in the value chain, dissolving industry and business boundaries in the process. Technology has exponentially driven innovation opportunities, triggering the redefinition of products and services and the reconfiguration of entire value chains, routinely leading to new entrants and substitutes, networked business models, and eco-systems of business activities creating value for customers. Together with increasingly global markets, this has taken industry rivalry to its highest point yet.

All these dynamics create a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there has never been more opportunity to innovate and opportunities to take businesses to the next level, but at the same time, never has there been more need to do so just to stay competitive and to stay aligned with fast growing expectations from customers.

Unknown and disparate outcomes

Given this overload of opportunities and the relative difficulty in strategizing on which opportunities to pursue in hopes of capturing values, there is a clear incentive for businesses to simply get started. Many companies – both incumbents and startups – do so in a variety of ways, such as experimenting with digital ways of working, developing digitally enabled processes, launching new (digital) businesses, adapting business models, acquiring new capabilities through M&A, etc.

Such activities can be of crucial importance to put organizations on learning trajectories and provide them with the necessary transformational experiences that help it get their mind around new business paradigms. Experimentation with new concepts and pursuing new opportunities also helps companies take advantage of the potential created by digital technologies.

From a company perspective, without an overall strategy guiding these efforts, there is no reassurance that such digital exploration reinforces itself (or even that counterproductive efforts are avoided), nor is there any guarantee that the results are optimally relevant for the companies going forward.

As a result, there are substantial impacts on the value chains, activities, knowledge and people inside organizations that are left facing the digital dilemma. On one side of the spectrum, incumbents face a variety of threats and in some cases even the chance of outright substitution, while on the other, many start-ups explore new territories only to run into the end of their funding.

A much discussed logical response to such unknown and disparate outcomes is to become more agile and responsive so that companies can take greater advantage of the impact of digital technologies than competitors. In fact, agility is now commonly seen as a decisive factor for securing future success. Organizational agility is of course always a worthy goal to pursue, but it is not a true substitute for the strategy that allows for proactively making decisions crucial to charting the path to superior performance going forward.

Reclaiming control

There is now widespread recognition that going forward, most industries and businesses will go through sweeping metamorphoses. Many leading companies are already putting themselves though wholesale digital transformation. In doing so, companies can draw on the learning of almost two decades of digital technologies driven disruptive innovation and experimentation to help them capitalize on what digital technologies can offer to them and avoid becoming irrelevant in the digital onslaught.

The impact of digital technologies, however, is not confined to single companies; not only does it extends across company boundaries, blurring industry definitions and spurring growth in newly established business ecosystems, but in doing so has profound economic, social, and public effects. This puts a premium on being able to proactively deal with the opportunities and risks brought about by digital technologies.


Eric Gervet futureproofEric Gervet, @ericgervet
Head of San Francisco Office of AT Kearney,
Global Head of the Digital Practice at AT Kearney

Futureproofing Against The Disruption of AR and VR – Guest post by Olivier Cimeliere

Augmented & Virtual Reality – Is it a fad or a sustainable trend?

Virtual reality (VR) is clearly in the process of becoming a trend for communication by brands and by corporations. In North America, the content in virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) is increasingly integrated into the communication strategies of the major groups. And, at times, we are seeing VR experiences being enhanced with what might otherwise be considered “augmented” elements, i.e. clickable links within the virtual space. Although for a long time, the VR technology was reduced only to video games, it is now trying to prove itself as a conduit to other types of audience. That’s why Facebook did not hesitate to spend $2 billion in 2014 to buy Oculus Rift, a helmet that allows navigation in virtual and augmented content. This will change the way we communicate.

For brands and businesses, the benefits are many. First, offering virtual reality content has the advantage of positioning the brand as innovative, the better to differentiate oneself against one’s competitors. It is a remarkable (i.e. stand-out) activity for customers. This is a crucial point in time because we live in an era of information overload where the netizen’s attention is volatile and fragmented. Then, with virtual reality, one can offer an immersive experience where the user really feels in touch with the content they are viewing and with which they can even interact. For example, by opening a video clip or changing the point of view of a building or a landscape. Editorial possibilities are tremendous and are capable of being adapted according to the communication issues or targeted communities. There are new features that enhance the impact of the information you want to share. It is generally estimated that 80% of our attention span is primarily visual! These new devices have, therefore, their whole reason for being as part of a more comprehensive communication strategy.

A few examples

I will cite four examples to show that virtual reality can relate to very different sectors.

  1. The brand of sportswear and hiking, North Face. They have developed a mobile app that is also available in 3 shops in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Thanks to a sophisticated 360° video capture, a customer can experience an immersive virtual hike in the famous Yosemite park in California or in the Moah desert in Utah. The idea is to entice people to buy the equipment in order to go enjoy this type of hike for real. The app was a great success in 2015, with 15,000 downloads on the Google Play platform alone!
  2. The Marriott hotel chain. They needed to become better known to younger audiences and thus designed two different VR experiences. The first took place in a London street where they offered passersby the opportunity to escape for a moment by being transported on to a beautiful beach in Hawaii for 100 seconds! The second instance was made available in certain Marriott facilities. It is a program called “Vroom Service.” Residents were able to request a special helmet and then – from the comfort of their hotel room – virtually wander around with another person in one of three dream destinations, in Chile, Rwanda or Beijing. Then inevitably the guest is tempted to book another trip!
  3. The NGO, Amnesty International. In exchange for a donation, passersby in London were allowed to wander virtually through a virtual reality helmet in the ransacked city of Aleppo, Syria, crafted through the photos and 360° video made by a group of Syrian citizen journalists. It was an effective way to raise awareness of the dramatic situation in the country.
  4. The chain of real estate agents, Nexity (based in France). They opened in November 2015 a connected agency in the heart of Paris. The particularity of this agency is to be able to visit a prospective property through the Oculus Rift technology. Virtual reality allows a visual immersion throughout the selected apartment or house, providing a very different experience and saving the customer precious time. The client can, thus, better refine his/her choice and visit on site only those properties that hold the biggest interest, rather than traipsing across town to see locations that did not deserve the trip.


The trend of virtual reality is clearly going mainstream. A concrete sign that times are changing: manufacturers, such as Sony and HTC, are also marketing virtual reality helmets. Although the video gaming area continues to lead the way, there is no doubt that the proliferation of this type of device will democratize access and the technology will quickly spread to other sectors. In particular, the media are starting to be more prolific users. In early November 2015, the New York Times distributed 1 million free VR cardboard goggles to subscribers and also launched a specific app with the intention of adding a monthly documentary. The US news agency Associated Press (AP) also just dipped its toe in the VR pool with a movie on the Calais shantytown in France, where thousands of migrant refugees from Africa and the Middle East had taken up camp. Meanwhile, Google intends to bring VR to the masses. Last year, they announced that YouTube would support video formats in VR and that viewers will be able to see all the YouTube videos via the cardboard goggles.

The firm, CCS Insights, recently published a report in which they predicted that 24 million VR compatible devices would be sold worldwide by 2018, representing a market size of approximately $4 billion. In terms of market segments, video games will continue to dominate according to financial analysts, hitting $1.4 billion in 2025. However, two other heavyweights, the NFL and the porn industry should generate, respectively, $1.2 billion and $1 billion.

Virtual reality is far from a techie fad or only for hard-core gamers. For brands and corporates, this technology provides very interesting opportunities to cultivate the relationships with their audiences. It’s an alternative way to gain greater proximity and deliver impact and foster engagement via a visual experience.

Olivier-Cimeliere futureproofOlivier Cimelière  @olivcim
CEO Heuristik Communications, a consultancy based in Paris
Author of “Le Blog du Communicant” (in French)