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'Society is the main driver behind tech innovation'

|Dec 18|magazine15 min read

Written by Matt Graham-Hyde, author of The Essential CIO

 

The technology environment is in a very transformational place at the moment. We are on the verge of very major changes in society brought from technology that we haven’t seen before. Matt Graham-Hyde believed with was an appropriate time to capture the changes of this within the role of the CIO and an emerging environment in his newly launched book 'The Essential CIO'.

Is society or technology driving technology innovation?

As the CIO at Kantar, I am fortunate to work with some really thought leading people and businesses. One of which is the Futures Company who’s CEO Will Galgey I am indebted to, for allowing me to use their extensive research when developing my book ‘The Essential CIO’.

The insight of The Futures Company in their paper Technology 2020, is that social change enabled by technology, is happening faster than technology change. This is a powerful new idea.  If I think about my childhood and most of my adulthood, they weren’t that different, even though there were lots of new gadgets. The amount of social change in the way we lived and interacted was very small. That has definitely changed over the last decade and the social change now appears much faster than change in business and technology.

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As digital technology evolves, connectivity is enabling it to unbundle itself. Devices, data, screens and sensors are becoming separated and connected machine to machine, to create silicon neural networks.

Amazing to me is that digital technology is social. It is being used to rebuild communities lost with urban migration. Computers and phones are not digitally individual devices, they are in a connected labyrinth, even though millions of users are unaware of it.

You can no longer predict technology advances based on the technological capability of the system or device. You have to look at how society might adopt the technology and how that adoption may drive further change and development.

The causes of the behavior changes are in part the large amounts of information that it is possible to collect on human behavior. Cloud computing means this can be stored, shared and analysed with sophisticated open source tools, to gain a greater understanding of patterns, trends and predictors.

Computers have changed from the traditional, to be essentially network-enabled devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, cameras, etc, capable of having access to collecting, communicating and connecting information anywhere.

New types of screen or reception technology, providing new and absorbing ways of projecting information, on a different range of devices like Google Glass, 3D, VR and Hologram glasses.

Network enabled self-powered sensors embedded in the majority of everyday objects. These sensors are capable of sending and receiving information on every aspect of human behavior.

These changes will be influenced and be adopted by society in ways we cannot predict, based purely on the capability of the technology itself.

While some of us are getting accustomed to these changes and more open to change, not least in the way they run their social lives, others are being left behind and still more are coming into this world as natives with no preconditioning. While technology has brought great advancement, in the way in which people are able to engage with each other, it is not yet clear what the impact of this will be on our economies, governments and social structures.

People are becoming more sophisticated in their use of technology and have an expectation about being able to use it to improve their experience with all elements of their life - simple things like scanning bar codes to compare prices and fitness devices to monitor your exercise routine. There are already deeper uses beyond consumer society, to the use of these technologies as a way of advancing political and social change.

A large proportion of these advances have come from Silicon Valley in California, USA.  Silicon Valley is still at the centre of technical entrepreneurship, but the world is changing and the societies of Asia and Latin America are going to start to change the focus of advancing technologies.  While the rise of these geographies will not be without challenges, for example, anyone who has been to Shanghai or Beijing knows that the levels of pollution have to be fixed. A different attitude to business governance is a problem to us but not as these countries see it.  Indeed their models are vastly different from those developed in the traditional markets and that will cause more challenges for businesses wanting to expand. 

The countries of these growth regions develop with a different mindset to investment and returns in which the short term spreadsheet is not the be all and end all.  Their adoption of technologies and the size of their markets will start to dominate the direction of development. 

This will be supported by the growth of prosperity and wealth in these regions and will have an equal effect on the ability for our traditional business models to compete.  Will American culture and volumes, that have spread across the world by television, MTV and the internet, remain the dominant driver of customer satisfaction, or will more subtle cultural shifts take place? 

For businesses, all these changes will impact how the customer experiences your product and in large part, the technology function is going to have to take account of local social and engagement needs more than driving, globalised one size fits all inflexible systems.  In the global vs local debate, these technology advances are shifting the power to local.

 

Matt Graham-Hyde, is the CIO of Kantar and has over 15 years’ experience as a CIO in major international businesses. Matt is the author of “The Essential CIO” (£14.99 Panoma Press) which is available from Amazon now!