Traffic jams in India can be amazing for the variety of vehicles, the cacophony of horns and their sheer scale. Sitting in one a while ago in a hotel car – a BMW 7 series – I was given a demonstration by the driver of the sensor system that detected when the car came too close to another car or object. It was all but useless in India where tolerances for proximity in traffic are minute, much tighter than the sensor system was designed for. This might be about to change. In an article on trends in technology, Dan Burris, self-styled innovation expert and global futurist, talks about cars that soon will be aware of the presence of each other and everything else for 360 degrees around them and presumably sensitive to local driving habits.
To understand what is making this technology possible it helps to have a broad and incisive perspective on the technology industry. One such view was provided the other day by Ginni Rometty of IBM in her keynote at the Mobile World Conference. It is worth listening to in its entirety. Rometty identified three concepts that are driving business innovation and value creation: Data as a natural resource, Cloud and Engagement. The car example illustrates the importance of all three. To be effective in preventing accidents such a system would need not just to gather data in real time but to process it with advanced analytics that in Rometty’s words would need to provide prescriptive results: how to avoid a collision. The cloud provides the infrastructure to gather and process this data very rapidly and over a wide geographic area. Engagement refers to a new culture not defined by age but by a willingness to be empowered by knowledge and connected by a network. This in part means being willing to trade information about yourself, the location of you and your vehicle for example, for something of value, in this case safety. Underlying the viability of all of the above is security. Imagine the chaos that could ensue if the ability to redirect vehicle motion were compromised. That’s not just in the case described above of a machine-to-machine transaction, but human-machine and human-human transactions as well need to be secure. Conquering the different strands of data, cloud and engagement along with making them all secure will be mission critical in Rometty’s formulation.
The need to weave together these complex threads, especially for Financial Services firms, is putting a premium on a more traditional commodity: experience. Understanding the nuances of industry data and how the sources interact, knowing where the hidden demons in legacy systems are lurking to disrupt cloud adoption and appreciating how corporate culture can be leveraged to support a transformation that will motivate stakeholders and clients, all require experience. It’s great to bring in some data scientists to crunch the large datasets; it’s critical to have some experience on hand to seize on results that have value as competitive advantage.