Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Disruptive Tech, by Cisco's Padmasree Warrior

As the level of connection swells over mobile and other platforms during the next decade, sweeping changes will transform how consumers shop, businesses handle data, and individuals grapple with the data available about themselves. In our special series on disruptive technologies, Cisco Systems' chief technology and strategy officer Padmasree Warrior discusses the future of connecting everything in a conversation taped at Davos with McKinsey's Rik Kirkland.
In this first part, she discusses "the Internet of Everything," which she describes as "an intelligent way to connect processes with data and things" that answers the question of how to use data to drive better processes, better decision making for businesses, and better lifestyles for users and consumers.
At a Chicago conference a year ago, Howard Tullman shared his take on key tech trends for the future, which tech firms and startup entrepreneurs ought to weigh carefully:
  • Precision targeting
  • Know before they know, know as you go
  • Smart reach ("mocial"), real time is more important than real place
He spoke mainly about targeting customers online and having such insight on what they're doing that a business can know what they want, before the customers themselves know what they want.  Moreover, a business can get this data on the go and in real time via mobile devices and social media.  

Enter: Padmasree Warrior.  

She doesn't spell it out, but I have noted the following tectonic shifts in technology: from mainframe to desktop, from wired to wireless, from set to mobile, from wearable to embedded.  She doesn't spell it out, but in time it will be The Internet of Things and People.  Everything and everyone will be connected.  

Her consideration of retail shopping is a step further from that of Tullman: Warrior speaks about people on-the-go in the physical space of a store.  Because shoppers are apparently using a tablet more now to shop, than a smartphone or a PC, she suggests that tracking them in a store affords real time data about what they're doing and where they're going.  So the store can come back to these shoppers with precision-targeted sales offers.
Think about retail, for example, how people shop today. Now, that’s dramatically changed with the mobile platform and the e-commerce platform in the first evolution of the Internet. In the last 20 years, with the Internet, and now more recently with tablets, the data actually now says that people shop more on a tablet than they do on a smartphone or on a PC. And so the commerce and how we make purchases and the shopping experience in the entire retail vertical has changed, and it will continue to change. And how might it change? This is perhaps an example of the “Internet of Things.”

If we can enable location for people, when you walk into the store, we will know which aisle you are going to. We know you were in this aisle, but you didn’t purchase something. And so if we can analyze that data and tell you when there’s a sale going on, that benefits you as a user as well as the retailer. And so that could be an example where there may be sensors. There will be sensors for indoor location (think of it as GPS for indoor location) and knowledge of your preferences.
Sophisticated sensors will pick up on their behavior, but they need something to send signals back.  At the least, it would have to be that tablet that, store owners hope, shoppers bring with them and enable for location.  But in the future that signal will come from wearable technology (e.g., Glass), embedded chips (rf. Bourne Legacy), and biometrics (rf. Minority Report).  

It makes perfect sense, then, that Google wants to make Glass so cool that you'd want to wear it wherever you go.  It also stands to reason that science fiction films can go a long way to influencing what is cool and what people do.

"We think IT in the future will really be a different IT industry than it has been in the past." In her conversation about the future of disruptive technologies, Cisco chief technology and strategy officer Padmasree Warrior discusses the three differentials that are driving changes in the IT organization of enterprises.
The first is the experience differential.  She speaks specifically about the Millennials, the generation born literally into this heady era of social revolution and technology disruption.  Not surprisingly, their access and their devices matter quite a lot to them.

It's intriguing that she positions cloud computing as a velocity differential, but it surely makes sense.  I saw cloud mainly as an economic alternative to purchasing software and storage and as a convenient option for accessing your stuff wherever you may be.  But now I see that it is also about speed of delivery and access.

Warrior puts the data differential in a really good, thoughtful perspective.  There is a veritable floodgate of data, unimaginably so, and available tools and methods have followed suit quite nicely.  But what do we do with all this data?  How do we actually draw actionable insight from data, that is, insight that makes a difference to a business and action a business can take?

The thrust of my initiative - Big Data and Analytics - is weighing and answering these questions.

"In the next three to five years, as users we'll actually lean forward to use technology more versus what we had done in the past, where technology was just coming at us. That will change everything, right?"
Speaking of Big Data and Analytics, Warrior quite indirectly, no doubt discreetly, touches on privacy as an ethical issue and choice as a moral imperative (emphasis, added):
Data. Usage of data. Do we opt in? There’s a lot of discussion about, let’s say, the data that is available about you. Today you don’t even know what data is about you. If it can predict and prevent some illness that I may be getting because of my gene analysis, and I don’t know about it, then I can’t do anything about it. In that case, I’d actually like for that data to be used in a constructive fashion in a health-care situation. But if it’s being used in such a way that it’s going to drive my insurance higher, then I have an issue with that. I’d like to know about that. 
So far, we’ve focused around data on, “Do you opt in or opt out?” In the future, there’s going to be a lot more work that has to be done that gives me a choice on, “When do I opt in, when do I opt out?” And I may want to change my mind. I may opt in at the beginning but as I find what that data is being used for, I may opt out. So all of this requires very sophisticated analytics—a different way to present that data. Again, up until now, it has not been the problem most creative people have been handling. 
Until now, we’ve mostly been creatively centered around the user experience. Just the experience of how information is moving, not how it’s being presented back to you. So I think there’s going to be lots of shifts in the way we deal with technology in the next three to five years.
Warrior is admittedly a technologist, so it is not surprising that her solution to the ethical and moral issues are technology in nature, analytics in particular.  At the very least, however, we ought to have conversations with one another and to carve out due periods of personal reflection, as technology develops and disrupts.  But on more serious issues, like privacy and choice, and on more life-and-death uses, as with healthcare and military, we must reconcile these ethical matters and moral imperatives.

Reference:  Connecting everything: A conversation with Cisco’s Padmasree Warrior.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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