The Benefits of 3D Mapping Our World

The Benefits of 3D Mapping Our World
Most of us have used Google Maps at some point and some of us just about every day. Then there’s Apple’s Maps (which are slowly getting better.) A new company called Carmera is paving the road to 3D mapping not just for autonomous vehicles, but for architects and city planners. And it’s autonomous vehicles that most will think of for using 3D mapping. But it plays a bigger role in our society as we increasingly fuse the digital and physical worlds we occupy.
Beyond Vehicles and City Planning
As embed more and more sensors into devices from lamp posts to cars, buildings and windows, we’re going to be able to “map” our physical world in incredible ways. Here are some of the uses and advantages of 3D mapping our world;
Firefighting & Policing: Fire departments will have continuously updated information on cities and the buildings. Both police and fire can use VR and AR tools with 3D maps for training simulations. It can also provide criminal intelligence and help reduce risk for raids. Firefighters can constantly update plans and strategies for fire fighting.
Infestation Management: Rats, always the rats. And increasingly those urban pandas…raccoons. Using 3D mapping cities and pest control services can map infestation movements and develop countermeasures.
Insurance & Actuaries: Two groups that are hungry for data. They can use 3D maps of urban areas to help with risk analysis and predictive analytics for building insurance.
Healthcare: Hospitals can use 3D maps to plan ambulance routes and perhaps as part of epidemiology studies and preparations.
Logistics: Companies like FedEx and UPS or DHL could use 3D maps for planning delivery routes and drone delivery.
As always, technological advances find entirely new ways of being used that we can’t quite predict. Such as Twitter being developed as an ambulance dispatch tool; look how that turned out.
What interesting ways do you see 3D mapping being used in the near future?

Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem

Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem
To listen to the pundits, by Christmas 2017 we’ll all be diving under the tree for Virtual Reality goggles, from junior to senior, maybe even grandma too. Except, we won’t be. Microsoft just launched it’s tongue-twister flagship gaming console the Xbox One X (don’t say it too fast.) And it has no real support for VR. Nor does Sony’s PlayStation or Nintendo’s latest Switch.
Virtual Reality Has A Social Problem
For the most part, in the few games I’ve tried, VR is a rather solitary experience. Most VR games and approaches in development have been single-person focused. This largely makes sense since it is easier to develop technologies like this in the single person.
But console video games over the past decade have evolved very differently. Franchises like Call of Duty, Halo and Medal of Honour and sports games, thrived by being multiplayer in their very nature. The initial instalments of games like Halo and even sports games were 1-2 players and some online multiplayer. As broadband became less costly and more ubiquitous the game companies invested less and less in the story line, going for MRR (monthly recurring revenue) business models. Good for the gaming companies, but bad for the solitary nature of VR right now.
Augmented Reality is the Transitional Technology
Pokemon. Enough said. Even Apple realizes the mid-term strategy is Augmented Reality (AR.) Consumers are far more comfortable to adapting to AR right now because they already have a smartphone that they’ve adapted into their way of living. Are you really going to slap on a pair of VR goggles in Walmart to go shopping? Exactly. But you’ll hold up your phone to see layered information on a product.
The Problem is the Hardware and the Socialization
VR goggles, even the simpler version you can slide a Samsung Galaxy into, are still a difficult technology for most people. You have to stop and put them on. And be vulnerable. Not something most people want to do in public. People aren’t comfortable blocking their senses in public. This is easier with AR, since you don’t block out your situational awareness. The lizard brain is still a strong factor.
The secondary issue is the social factor of VR. It just isn’t very social. There just aren’t that many other people connected at the same time and few tools encourage or have socialization features. This is a problem in a world still trying to figure out social media a decade later. Are all your friends rushing out to by VR goggles?
The Short Term Prognosis for VR
For at least the next decade, VR will be a very specialized area. There is tons of economic opportunity for VR, don’t get me wrong. It’s a brilliant tool for trade skills, military, medical and technical training. The VR companies that understand this and focus in this way, will make money. They will also be ready for when mass consumer adoption is ready. But as a mass consumer technology? Not for a decade at least, if not longer.
In the meantime, look for advances in AR tools and those ever awkward eyeglasses.
What do you think?

How Your Job Will Get Better With Artificial Intelligence

How Your Job Will Get Better With Artificial Intelligence
There’s a lot of hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) knocking out great swathes of jobs, from low-level administration all the way over to lawyers and doctors. Yes, to some degree. But that will be a while before it has a truly significant impact on the economy. Based on my work with clients across a number of industries and the role of AI, it’s more likely your job will be made better by AI, not worse. Let’s take a quick look.
The Mundane Stuff Goes Away
Almost every job role has mundane tasks, they may be quick but boring, or tedious. But they are almost always processes that involve the management of information; whether that be numerical or textual, it is all about information management. Today, AI does exceptionally well at repetitive, mundane, process driven tasks. Just because an AI system can do those tasks, doesn’t mean job loss for you. It means being able to spend more time doing what challenges you and benefits the company. Monday’s may not be so bad again…
Create More Career Opportunities
As AI takes on the mundane, this may give you more opportunities. Wise companies will deploy skills and job improvement educational programs via eLearning platforms. You’ll have opportunities to grow. How many certifications can you hang on your wall?
Relieve Some Stress
Taking on the boring stuff that can be stressful, will enable you to exercise the brain a bit more and take away some of that stress. This gives us a better chance at the elusive work/life balance challenge.
Enable Greater Cross-Team Functionality
As AI will help manage information flows and execute certain process driven tasks, this will enable, with those added skills you’ll get, greater cross-functional team projects. Companies will do better and so will employees.
More Interesting Jobs Will be Created
When ATM’s were introduced into banking, the assumption was no more human bank teller jobs. In fact the opposite happened. There are now more human tellers than ever. Because now tellers do more, have more responsibility and have increased their skills. It’s hard to imagine what jobs will be created, but they will be. That’s human nature.
So what do you think? Are there other ways your job might improve?

Technology & Society’s Big Questions

Technology & Society’s Big Questions
The hype around emerging technologies like blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), self-driving cars, Big Data, home automation, drones and so on, is loud. The hopes of Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon and others all rest on these technologies taking off. They all offer great opportunities to advance commerce, create and destroy jobs and make our world a better place. There are downsides to each as well, as it is with all technologies. The printing press enabled the exchange of knowledge, but also lead to a lot of arguing between academics…but there are some serious questions we’re going to have to deal with in the next few years. Here I take a look at some of them and maybe you’ll have one or two to add.
Free Will & Human Agency: While privacy has and continues to be a concern, the issues of free will and human agency could be even bigger. No more so than with predictive analytics. Imagine that you apply to university for a commerce undergrad and you’re rejected. Why? Because the university’s predictive analytics program saw that neither of your parents had a college degree and worked blue collar jobs, so no advanced education for you. Or you’re rejected for car insurance based on an AI algorithm. Does this take away your free will?
The Jobs Gap: It is likely that whole new jobs will be created from all these technologies. But they won’t happen overnight. If mass unemployment happens, that will mean no money to consume goods. Robots might be efficient, but if there’s no one to buy the goods they produce, they’re not much use. This will have to be addressed through government or corporate programs. Will Basic Income be a solution?
Who Owns Your Biologicals: There have already been legal battles over who owns their genome. This could get worse as we introduce 3D printing of human organs and perhaps even brain tissues.
The Underground Economy: Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on “cash under the table” to survive. If we eliminate cash with technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, tracking to taxation becomes easier and sliding money under the table not so easy. Is this okay?
There are many more big questions around these emerging technologies. In some cases these technologies may end up taking several decades to be truly integrated into our societies. Some may be stopped altogether or radically changed. Just how much should government regulate? Can corporations self-regulate?

IoT Technologies Need to Become Invisible

IoT Technologies Need to Become Invisible
We’ve seen what happened when Google launched Google Glass; anyone wearing them became a social pariah and was called a “glasshole”. Snap has been clever to make their version very visible and over-the-top. But the market is niche, just like Google Glasses. Then there’s all the devices you can connect in your home; thermostats, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, lightbulbs, door locks, cameras and so on…it’s a lot of “things” and it’s all very much in the way.
Technologies That Become Invisible Are Interesting
The telephone is what you might call invisible. We carry them with us on our portable computers (smartphone.) We know instinctively how to use them from a very early age. A fridge and a stove are invisible. The printing press is not something we think about, but almost every day we come into contact with a book, magazine, brochure, newspaper.
Are There Too Many Things Right Now?
I’m a big fan of IoT devices myself, but then my work and passion is studying the intersection of people with technology. So I have a Nest, a couple of Phillip’s Hue lightbulbs and some sort of Sonos magic. But they are all highly visible, not in the visual sense, but in that they need paying attention to. Individually, via my iPhone or iPad or manually. And this is the thing…the things need a fair degree of intervention.
It Takes Time to Integrate Technology In Our Home
The first radios and TV’s were quite large. We needed to change lifestyles and routines to figure where they would go. Then along came the PC, they were quite large and furniture makers did quite well making new desks and chairs. Families had to sort out where to put a PC. Now we have smartphones and tablets and laptops/netbooks. These devices are becoming invisible and no longer require a specific place and that is important to what’s coming next.
An interesting new product is from a startup called Lightform, that can turn your entire room into a screen with a device that doesn’t even look like a computer. You can interact with other connected devices in the home. Microsoft is doing some work in this area as well.
When these devices connect easier and can disappear into the background, they’ll be adopted much faster. One challenge for now is that it’s incredibly easy and low cost to make an IoT device.
What are your thoughts?

Marketing is a Proper Mess. This is Good.

Marketing is a Proper Mess. This is Good.
I’ve spent over 20 years marketing, the past 17 employing the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) hybrid model. For public and private companies around much of the world. Today, marketing as a profession has become much more sophisticated, largely thanks to the internet and technology. Universities are struggling to keep up and many a marketing practitioner has to self-educate post graduation to remain relevant in their skills. It was a blog post by Proposify CEO Kyle Racki that got me to pondering on the state of affairs in marketing.
Measurement: The Deadly Blackhole
About 17 years ago, technology was just creeping into the marketing best practices realm in a serious way. Marketers were developing complex spreadsheets to incorporate CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) with CRC (Customer Retention Cost) along with field sales data, survey results and website data. That was about all you really had. Then along same SEO and SEM. Then social media and the (still) raging battle on measuring “likes” and sentiment.
Now we have a complete sub-sector of marketing called MarTech or marketing automation. Tools that enable you to digitally push your message 24/7 via social media, websites, email and in other digital channels.
Measurement. Every step of the way. This is good. It’s a boon to marketing that struggled, not as badly as public relations, to justify departmental spend. Now we talk about A/B testing, cohort analysis, personas and engagement data etc.
All of which is good, but with many of the CEO’s and CFO’s I speak with when we discuss the marketing component of their corporate digital strategy, they are left more confused than ever. Startup CEO’s live and breathe much of these metrics via new approaches to marketing and fare much better. Right now, however, marketing has become an increasingly complicated practice. Some may say marketing has become less creative just when it needs to be more creative.
Why This is Good
All of this mess, this extreme quantification of a practice that remains largely about human behaviours and psyche that will always be qualitative, is a good thing. Marketers are starting to figure out what works. Leaders like HubSpot and SimplyCast are improving their tools. The application of behavioural economics and ethnography through digital anthropology are starting to bear fruit.
As with most any profession, marketing has gone to the extreme in attempts to quantify almost everything. Now it will begin to pull back, like an elastic and the tools will get better. It is a fascinating time to be a marketer and developing marketing tools. Marketing needed to be shaken up. It has been. Now it’s time to turn this mess into something more comprehensible. But it will be messy for a while yet.

The Dismal Economics of Artificial Intelligence

The Dismal Economics of Artificial Intelligence
Perhaps the single biggest reason Artificial Intelligence won’t reach the ominous scale of the Terminator or the romantic, dulcet tones of Samantha in Her or the childlike wonder of Spielbergs AI is economics. Although AI has made some truly astounding advances, I take a look at the more dismal side…because sometimes we have to.
Artificial Intelligence is a Business Proposition
While it may seem impressive that IBM, Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are dropping hundreds of millions into developing Artificial Intelligence systems, don’t ever forget that there is a business purpose behind these investments. They anticipate a profit. If that profit becomes elusive, AI research at this current scale will fizzle rather fast.
IBM with Watson; the two have almost become synonymous and I’d wager IBM may even change its name to Watson. If AI pays off (and it probably will.) When IBM changes it’s name to Watson, we can be fairly sure they see the economics to do so. IBM is perhaps the one tech company that has placed the biggest bet on Artificial Intelligence. I’ve made extensive use of Watson services in the past two years. It is impressive, as in very, very impressive. If I had to bet on a winner over Google, Facebook or Microsoft, I’d be firmly in IBM’s camp, followed by Microsoft.
The Cost of Thinking Machines
Getting to the Hollywood portrayal of an AI that is truly cognizant and aware is likely economically unfeasible. But then most companies investing in AI don’t actually want to get to the point of a machine that actually thinks like a human (one might argue that a machine could never think like a human simply because it is a machine.) It would take a significant amount of ongoing capital and resources to get there. Yes, progress is significant and there will be some excellent AI tools in time. Today, AI is equivalent to, at best, Windows ’98. Maybe only even MS-DOS.
The Business of Artificial Intelligence
On the one hand it’s easy to slap on the tinfoil hat and suspect governments of developing spooky AI systems for global domination. The reality however, is that is unlikely in the extreme. The economic value isn’t there, so governments will likely buy AI from corporations. So it all falls back on corporations. And economic viability.
The major companies investing in AI development are doing so to unlock the massive profit potential. And it could be massive. The smaller ones and startups working in the AI field are doing so probably with the intent to be acquired by a big player and that’s already happened a few times (i.e. Siri.)
AI – Bear or Bull?
Having helped a few companies determine the potential of leveraging AI for their business strategy, I’m personally bullish on AI. With qualifiers. Companies buying and using AI must have good ethical/governance behind it’s intended use. Secondly, integrating it is no small task and the actual value of productivity gains or cost reductions is not yet proven. Today, most AI tools are singularly focused.
What should also be considered is power systems in industry and government. At this time, there is a big enough challenge for CEO’s to defer decisions to Big Data analysis (many CEO’s are reluctant to give up on “gut decisions”.) Doctors are extremely reluctant to pass on decision making to automated tools as well. It is more likely in the next 15-20 years that as AI advances, it will find it’s place in low-level functions where the cost/benefit/risk scenario makes it more economically viable and poses less threat to senior management (such as highly process driven decision making where intuition is not much needed.) And it is highly likely AI won’t be feasible, for a very long time at least, to take on the human role of the C-suite and finer points of health care, international relations or global trade issues.
Ray Kurzweil, the renowned and brilliant futurist  with a long track record of being right suggests AI will reach the “singularity”, where man and machine become intellectually equal, within the next 15 or so years. I have no track record or brilliance like Kurzweil, but I doubt this will happen so soon. If ever. The economics seem to argue against it.
What do you think? Will AI be a profitable venture for business?
Footnote: I had the opportunity to hang out with Ray Kurzweil for a couple hours a while ago; I learnt quite a bit and gained some key insights. A brilliant man. Taken in Halifax.
Ray Kurzweil & Giles Crouch