Gartner’s Vision Of The Future Of Mobility; Should Users Be Afraid?

The opening session I attended this morning at the Gartner symposium was entitled “by 2017 your smartphone will be smarter than you”. The speakers were Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi from Gartner and the moderator was Charles Arthur from the Guardian. As a matter-of-fact, the discussion ended up being far more interesting than the title suggested. The panel started to review the future of Smartphones and wearable devices and connected it very well to the issues of data privacy and user benefit, which are central to the use of big data.

Carolina Milanesi introduced the subject by saying that “smartness is achieved through sensors and also geolocation. Yet, “we are not there yet” according to her, and mostly if “people don’t want to share their location information, smartness may not even happen”. I think she exposed the issue very well by emphasising the fact that innovation related to Smartphones will not just be a matter of technology, but of user acceptance and benefits.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi today in Barcelona

There are, according to those 2 Gartner analysts, 4 phases of what they call “cognizant computing”. “We have caught glimpses of each of these phases at the moment depending on the vendors and the services, but we are nowhere near complete smartness” Milanesi added. She and Reynolds went on describing these four phases:

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Gartner’s four phases of “cognizant computing”

  1. “sync me”: this is the most obvious phase, the one which most of the Computing giants have achieved; it is composed of storage and the syncing of personal data,
  2. the “see me” phase: this is all about our digital footprint. “This phase is still not very intelligent, and not many companies are taking advantage of this” the Gartner analysts said,
  3. the “know me” phase: this is about understanding who the user is, what he likes and what he does through the data he stored; so that he can be presented with offers and messages which are relevant to him,
  4. “be me” phase: this is where services are acting on the user’s behalf based on learned or explicit data.

Yet, looking at how many companies do this show that there is still room for improvement:

  • the “sync me” and “see me” phases are pretty common and are mastered by most high-tech giants like Evernote, Google, Apple, Amazon etc and Facebook of course,
  • the “know me” and “be me” phases are more restricted at the moment to mostly Google and also Apple. “Google now” is a good example of that, mostly on Smartphones: it is able to suggest ideas, for instance a restaurant which is relevant to your tastes, when you might actually need one and one is available in the vicinity. Apple’s Siri is a bit different. “It looks smart but is not” said Gartner’s Milanesi. When Carolina’s daughter spoke to Siri and said: “Siri, I don’t like you” he responded “now, now”; that’s because it was cleverly programmed but it doesn’t mean that it’s smart at all, Milanesi said.

clip_image006So all in all, we are several years away from smartness, Martin Reynolds explained. “Smartness will happen when your phone is able to ring 30 minutes earlier because there is to be heavy traffic and you have a meeting with your boss” he added. Yet, “if the meeting is not with your boss but just with a colleague, then the system should be able to send an email to say that you are going to be late”. That’s an example of how smart and predictive a service can be. I must admit that some of the stuff that I see from Google on my Galaxy S4 smartphone (the service is called Google cards) at the moment is already very close to this as Google is able to propose quite a few things (sights, public transport, stocks, birthdays, all based on social data…) already without me asking for anything (see screen grab).

Only a limited number of companies have that ability

Only a limited number of companies have the capacity that Google has gathered over the years in order to store and compute all this data. Others are following now said the Gartner analysts. Microsoft is on Google’s heels with an amazing catch up in terms of how many servers they are investing in at the moment, Reynolds said. Apple, and even Amazon too, but to smaller degree, they said.

But the real question is “how does this innovation affect regular businesses”?

“Some of these ideas will be disrupting traditional businesses” Martin Reynolds said. Through a combination of mass storage and Twitter feeds (Martin thinks that companies which don’t have a proper kept Twitter feed will soon be at a disadvantage) you will be able to reach a proper strategy which will project your company in the future.

What will change by 2017?

Carolina demonstrated a Plantronics prototype headset which is “a lot smarter than existing headsets” insofar as it knows what its user is looking at. Applications for that innovation could be found in video conferencing, but also in the user shopping experience, live navigation in Google Street view (as demonstrated live to us this morning), and even insurance applications for bikers and hikers, for instance, who would be able to record road accidents even before they happen.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi

Powerful motion sensors

“There are also new motion sensors which make it possible for online services to know exactly what it where you are going and at what speed” Martin Reynolds added. “You will be able to record all your movements” he said. “Companies like Google and Apple, and even possibly carriers, will be able to map out where people go; even your house will be tracked” said Martin, and you will be able to see where you, but also your guests, are actually sitting and moving about in your house.

Avoid crossing the “creepy line” (Eric Schmidt)

Where is the boundary between storing a lot of personal information for statistical purposes in order to bring value to the user and prying into personal data in order to be able to track what people do? That is the real question. A lot of that issue boils down to who actually does the tracking in fact, and how much trust the user is putting in them. Governments definitely seem to be out of that game (at least if I believe the responses from the audience to Gartner’s questions), but also possibly carriers (for the same reasons). Strangely enough, companies like Google, and to a lesser extent Facebook, were perceived as less intrusive by the audience because “they bring more value to the user” according to Gartner. So the “creepy line” is less about the usage of personal data as it is about the value that the service brings in the users’ eyes.

As a Conclusion, what will be the future made of?

“The unlocking of all the data that is being stored at the moment will always take place” according to Reynolds, but the real question is “whether this is being done with the objective of bringing value to the user or third-party”.

According to the Gartner analysts in the panel today, value will also move away from the handsets and therefore we will witness a shift in prices and a lot of pressure on the manufacturers in the next three years. Even then, it’s difficult for us to see that happening in the very near future, given the recent demise of Blackberry and Nokia which left a very significant market share to Samsung and concentrated the market in a few hands. Also, “Consumers are starting to get more interested in the ecosystem and applications than the hardware itself”, Reynolds added. A sign of this being Apple’s decision to give away its software for free (as they did with “Pages” and other apps on iOS recently).

So what will be the future made of in 2017? And how smart will our Smartphones be? Certainly, more wearable devices will be available out there. And Smartphones will probably not get much smarter than they are at the moment as intelligence is bound to shift into the software and the ability to do predictive things using the data that users have provides… that is to say as long as they agree with that!

5 major trends for the future of IT and the Web – #blogbus

imageThe Orange Blogger bus tour – of which I am the organiser on behalf of Orange of which I am the Director of Internet and social media – was stopping by San Francisco today and the whole day was hosted by Orange Silicon Valley

Georges Nahon delivered a very inspiring keynote today before our panel of bloggers in which he shared his vision with regard to what is happening in IT in general, and in the Valley in particular. I will begin my account of Georges’s visionary presentation by detailing his conclusions. As I always do, I have taken detailed notes of the pitch and they are made available at the end of this piece. If there is one thing that should be remembered from that pitch is that the Web is everywhere and in everything that will be happening in the future. Something which established players don’t like according to the Head of Orange Silicon Valley. However, Nahon insisted on the fact that it won’t be the same Internet we used to know.

Facebook will be “Yahooed!”

“Social” has been going through a rough patch over the Summer, with the now infamous Facebook IPO, dubbed “IPOcalypse”, IPO meaning “It’s Probably Overpriced” Nahon said facetiously. Yet, Europeans are wrong when they interpret these issues as the end of social media, Georges Nahon said in essence. Social is here to stay, and beyond, it will change everything which takes place on the Web, even though Facebook itself will probably be “Yahooed!” Georges added.

But the worrying thing I got from his pitch is that, according to his analysis, next to the World Wide Web that we all know, an increasing number of companies, including Amazon, are creating a “non-searchable adjacent Web” which sounds very much like the end of the Web as Chris Anderson announced in Wired a few years ago. I think Georges is right indeed, there is a growing concern that Net neutrality is being sacrificed for the sake of user experience. Time will tell, but there are indeed worrying signs.

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Georges Nahon, head of Orange Silicon Valley, on the first day of the blogger bus tour

Here is how I summed up Georges’s 5 trends for the future of IT:

  1. Tech is all about mobile: “Twitter is a mobile-first company” and thriving he said, “Facebook isn’t and is suffering”. 10% of Internet traffic is made of mobile traffic. Yet, 25% of US users are using the Web from mobile only, but in Egypt, this number soars up to 70%, and India is close to 60%! And 68% place their mobile next to their bed while sleeping at night.
  2. The default is now social: and social meets mobile (over 50% of smartphones connect to Facebook). Social graph (Facebook), interest graph (Twitter) and influence graph (Klout) are the new frontiers of the Web and “they are here to stay … for a long time” Nahon said. For many, Facebook is the new web (“find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter). What is the future of search? it is social and both Google and Microsoft are working on it… “and Facebook search is coming fast” Nahon added.
  3. Another Web: At the same time, traditional web development is slowing down, and Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Mobile will continue develop their “non-searchable adjacent webs” as Nahon called it.
  4. The Cloud as a new frontier: “The new guys are Amazon, Zynga, Rackspace and even people like Google were taken by surprise” Nahon said. But there are even newer guys you may never heard of such as Bluejeans, Alfresco, Joyent and many many more. Explosive data growth is also forcing companies to develop solutions for data reduction. And “the next big thing isn’t Software, it’s data” Nahon concluded on that subject.
  5. All video will be on the Net: most players in that field are coming from the Internet world, not the media world. “We think that the future of TV is to be streamed” Nahon said. There is more innovation than ever before in that area he said. Nahon added though that the concept of app-centric TV on smart TVs wasn’t entirely convincing. Time Warner see their future in apps but another trend is Social TV (described by Nahon as “a descendant of interactive TV which never worked”. 85% of tablet owners use their device while watching TV he said. What are they doing? Social websites, Zynga, Search, Craigslits (an old web survivor!) according to Nielsen.

the future of the World Wide Web

So, what is the future of the Web? Georges Nahon highlighted 10 trends in that area too:

  1. the web is becoming data centric
  2. apps will rule consumer and entreprise innovations and html5 will infiltrate apps and web services
  3. non searchable adjacent webs will continue to develop and the web will be fragmented and site-less (mobile, apps)
  4. the web of sites is dead and Facebook like buttons are the new hyper links
  5. Real-time multi-user game cloud platforms will influence enterprise cloud technologies: the main issue will be “latency” ‘as already explained on that blog)
  6. 4G/LTE (which we all were using to day via local mifi devives) will trigger innovation
  7. mobile payment will kick off from 2015
  8. all video will be on the web
  9. Enterprise IT will shift to the cloud.
  10. Facebook will rule the web during the next 2 years and Google will be in catch-up mode and within 3 years they will be “Yahooed!” Nahon said
  11. Amazon will continue to diversify and will create more online commerce/entertainment clouds and mobile devices (tablets/phones). “Amazon is belittled in Europe” Nahon added, “and it should be considered as a major player, for Bezos is the new Steve Jobs”.

Started as an R&D organisation and evolved towards what they are today (scouting organisation). 60 people, 40 of  which are in a position to file patents and they file 20 per annum. Often, it’s about reviewing the strategy. Statement from Prussian general “no plan survives contact with the enemy” e.g. 5 years ago, no one had seen the iPhone coming. Even analysts. An none of these people has seen Apple becoming a major player in the Telecom industry => be prepared for the unexpected. There were times in which you telcos could go to the ITU organisation and get things sorted but this isn’t the case anymore.

Essentially Orange wants to get prepared for the future. One of the key elements for Silicon Valley is capital investment. In Bay Area only, venture investments represent $3.2 bn 46% of total investments in the USA (San Jose chronicle on Q2 results). Texas only represents $ 179 m (3%) despite the huge tech firms in that state. The core subjects is ICT and media but not only.

The software industry in Q2 of this year received the highest level of funding. (34 out of 39% other source) $2.37 bn i.e. 32% of the total.

Market capitalisation: Apple + Cisco +Oracle +Google +Intel have a total of $ 1,261.82 bn (IBM is only $236b or FTE $37b). What this hides is the myriad of small companies which help these companies become what they are.

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IDC’s Ho: 70% of future growth in emerging markets will come from Asia #live11

Adrian Ho from IDC presented “new technologies & future priorities for IT departments”, he was replacing Sandra Ng who unfortunately couldn’t attend that meeting.

Asia is shaking the world

Adrian (left) explained some of the most important drivers behind Asia’s growing importance: demographics, new middle class rising, mobile everything, smart/connected cities in increasingly big / mega cities and all of this is delivering hyper growth: 70% of future growth in emerging markets will come from Asia, Adrian said, 40% of which from India and China.

time to market mantra in Asia: “speed, speed, speed”

But the mentality is very different from other parts of the world in Asia: Flexibility, customisation and speed of execution are extremely important. Clients expect flexibility and on-demand customisation. Speed is of the essence too, when it comes to time to market.

Yet, the other side of the coin is that Asians also expect 25% pay rises otherwise they will leave your company for another one. There are also leading business concerns & priorities such as Escalating cost of operation and expansion.

Tech trends

Unified communications in Ho’s mind is a re-invention of past video and audio conferencing and other concepts brought into it. Social Media is really about “knowing one’s customers” Ho said, and when Unified Communications is linked with Social Media then it starts meaning a lot. The workspace of the future is almost, it’s not the collaboration tools though that are exciting, it’s the white boarding features that are attached to these new tools. As to mobility, it is now becoming mainstream with the introduction of tablets in first class airline service in some Asian countries.