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The real challenge with new data technologies

Posted on: Monday 11th of January 2016

Gartner’s 10 technology trends for 2016 make interesting reading for anyone involved with customer service, innovation or new value creation. From the point of view of Personal Information Management Services (PIMS) (information services that help individuals make better decisions and manage their lives better) five trends stand out in particular. They are:

  • ‘The Device Mesh’: an expanding set of endpoints, including mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices, and Internet of Things sensors that people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses.
  • ‘Ambient User Experience’ 
that allow user experience to seamlessly flow across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.
  • Information of Everything’ strategies and technologies to link data from multiple different data sources on the device mesh and make sense of them.
  • Advanced Machine Learning’ systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world, on their own.
  • ‘Autonomous Agents and Things’ including autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors that use machine learning to become users’ main interface with services and organisations. Instead of relying on menus, forms and buttons most of these agents are voice-driven.


Realising the full potential of PIMS

Put these five trends together and we can begin to see just how sophisticated, ubiquitous and powerful PIMS could be.

The whole idea of PIMS is to integrate multiple services, devices and interactions around the needs of individuals trying to get stuff done. That’s exactly what ‘device mesh’ is about. To create a good user experience, this ‘device mesh’ will have to offer ‘ambient user experience’ which helps individuals fit service organisation and management into busy lives. It also requires ‘information of everything’ strategies that make sense of the data produced by multiple different devices.

Advanced machine learning will be a key element of all future decision support services, whether for individuals or organisations, and service/user interfaces are increasingly likely to take the form of virtual personal assistants that get to know you and interact with you in easy intuitive ways.


A fork in the road

In our consultancy work with organisations, we invariably come across a fork in the road. Most leaders in most businesses naturally view any new opportunity from the perspective of business as usual. How can we use this opportunity to defend, promote or improve what we currently do or how we do it?

In these ‘business as usual’ scenarios, information is deployed in the hands of the organisation to solve the organisation’s problems and help the organisation achieve its goals..

The fork in the road is the alternative view of information; that is, information deployed in the hands of the individual to solve the individual’s problems and achieve the individual’s goals.

The challenge with Gartner’s picture of technologies futures is that if these technologies are implemented with traditional businessas-usual assumptions in mind, they will naturally result in a highly intrusive customer data landgrab. The ‘device mesh’ and virtual personal assistants will collect far more intimate and sensitive data than say, traditional CRM systems. If these services are not working explicitly for and on behalf of individuals, who are they working for? If they are not putting the data that’s collected and used by ubiquitous devices and virtual personal assistants under the control of the individual, then who is gaining control of this data?


Making a choice

There is no avoiding this. One direction takes us in the direction of trusted person centric services that are a great opportunity to innovate and add new consumer and business value. The other ‘business-as-usual’ direction risks creating a turbo-charged consumer data landgrab that, even if it starts out well, will inevitably end up with a trust backlash.

Gartner’s ten trends aren’t really just for 2016. They will still be unfolding in 5, even 10 years’ time. The trends are important in their own right. But what’s really important is how they are approached. Which fork is your organisation opting for? This decision is becoming increasingly urgent.