8 Technologies that will destroy how we do business


Unleashing the Road Warrior

Unleashing the Road Warrior

I want a 3D Printer and a Filabot. The are two items on my bucket list. I guess that means I’ll be printing plastic, but the Filabot of course means that I can recycle plastic, so that’s a good thing right?

I was reading an article in the July-August edition of my favorite magazine, The Futurist about Tomorrow’s Jobs. If you have followed my various blogs over the years, you will know that I am driven by working smarter rather than harder, so the story about Goldman Sachs prediction about 8 technologies that are forcing businesses to adapt or die obviously caught my eye. The quote was about 3D printing. If you have a look through some of my other blogs you will find stories about 3D printing military clothing, printing human organs, my friend Vik Oliver’s work with Reprap and others.

So I was naturally curious about what Goldman Sachs thought the other 7 were. I was thinking self driving vehicles, eBooks, virtual and augmented reality tourism and education, eGovernment and all those menial jobs that don’t require human understanding and problem solving skills. So in a nutshell to satisfy my curiosity and maybe yours. The other 7 are:

  • eCigarettes. I know a few people who use these and I was semi-tempted as someone who gave up smoking over 20 years ago, to give it a try, but yeah, nah. I do wish they had been around back in the day though. I’m sure these were originally conceived by someone like Jules Verne and if it wasn’t for the power of the tobacco industry, we probably would have been using them years ago.
  • Cancer Immunotherapy. This is something I have read a little about on recent times. Who doesn’t know someone close who has had or has passed away from a form of cancer and we all know that often the treatment is almost as bad or worse than the symptoms. The concept of having your body able to combat cancer cells in the same way as we deal with a virus is compelling and hugely attractive.
  • LED Lighting. Energy savings of up to 85%, a longer lifetime and so many creative ways you can use it from the home to the car to wherever you are. This one has already become huge without us even realizing it. Something that many disruptive industries and technologies are doing. Is there one invading your turf that you haven’t acknowledged sufficiently yet?
  • Alternative funders for insurance such as pension funds that are willing to take a lower return. That’s a very interesting topic in my neck of the woods right now, where insurance companies who were happy to take premiums from the citizens of Christchurch seem to be reluctant to give it back after the earthquakes. Here are some stories from New Zealand’s Campbell Live Show on TV. CHCH
  • Natural Gas Engines for the freight industry. Funny reading this because my very first company car ran on CNG. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2020 20-30% of hauling fleets will be fueled by natural gas.
  • Software Defined Networking. The cloud gets smarter. This blog is in the cloud and I’m writing it online, it is not stored on my hard drive.
  • Big Data. No surprises here. This is what I was saying earlier about the human element. Until we have a true artificial intelligence, we are still going to be asking the questions, so I’m hoping that problem solving people like me will continue to be able to find exciting and fulfilling work to do. This is not intuitive for many people and the more specialized the workforce becomes, especially in large businesses, the less innovative the companies become. Shareholders increase their expectations of Return on Investment from old products and business concepts, then when it all turns to mush, they wonder what happened. I have to say, it’s not big data, it’s the ability to understand what’s contained in big data and how to apply it. Ask the wrong question and the answer could hasten your demise.

So there you have it. Interesting isn’t it that fundamentally there is nothing particularly new here. Yet all over the world companies are clinging to dated concepts and wondering why they are imploding. The crazy thing is that what people want and need isn’t changing significantly. People still read books, they still listen to music, they still want to know what’s in the news, they take more photos in a day on mobiles than in the entire history of Kodak film based cameras, yet the traditional businesses that grew fat on those industries are going broke.

What I also find interesting is often the answers are in the exact places that those companies don’t look. They are with the customers, they are with independent consultants, often with little experience in the specific industries. They are not in the traditional spreadsheets and they are not in the typical boardroom (don’t get me started). Business As Usual is a great model for going broke and yet none of the above industries are significantly novel or bleeding edge. They are natural evolutions of what came before. Yet many leading brands don’t get it, or stubbornly don’t want to get it.

So whether you own a business, or whether you are looking for your next job. You had better think very carefully about your future. The answers are closer than you think, but possibly not where you are looking. Do you know where your knowledge base is? Do you know what your greatest asset is? If you’re thinking it’s in your IP, unless you own your people, you might find that very soon the value of your patents will be minimal and that your creative minds have moved on, in many cases with the suggestions and creative ideas you turned away, because you knew better.

Whoops, I have sort of ended up on my soapbox again haven’t I?

Electricity, Earthquakes and other Disasters


So in this series motivated by the Canterbury Earthquakes and particularly Christchurch, I have looked at how prepared we were and what personal lessons we could take away. I asked is it now business as usual, have we gone from maybe it could happen to me, to phew, glad that’s over and we’re good for my lifetime?

 

I don’t think the people of Dannevirke thought so this week when the 5.1 hit there. But then, were they planning on getting prepared before that? Possibly not. Are Wellington people still watching?

I talked about putting together an emergency kit and all the things that Civil Defence recommend you should have both for in the home as well as a kit that you can have ready to throw in the car last minute. This could be useful for so many things, not just earthquakes. In NZ and Australia fires, floods, volcanoes are just a few reasons for people to have to bail in a hurry. If you prepare a getaway kit and never ever need it, that’s great:)

I had a look at community issues and remembering or meeting your neighbors. This is really only a starting point and I want to come back to this in future because once we get over the physical wounds, the things we can see, we are going to have to deal with the psychological outcome. I believe we are going to be dealing with a whole city suffering from PTSS. We are starting to see small examples such as when people are visiting areas of Christchurch that have been closed to them. The tears are good and the visits will help with acknowledgement of the situation and belief in the recovery, but there are still people n0t able to get their cars back let alone go back to their places of work. There are still buildings being torn down.

There are kids who won’t sleep in their own rooms at night. There is an underlying emotional distress of an order that NZ has never had to deal with before. People will be saying I’m OK Jack, but many of them are not. I have some ideas on this, but it will be a separate blog.

I started on the insurance saga, this was before the EQC story and the AMI bailout.  I don’t know about you but I’m getting concerned about banks and insurance companies getting massive bailouts.

They are always talking about the risks they take in consumers, but it seems like perhaps it is the people taking the risks. Should we pay premiums to insurance companies, trusting that they will re-insure and spread their risk and spend a minimum of our premiums on sharing profit amongst employees and shareholder dividends, at least until after they know they have the necessary reserves for major disasters.

Insurance is like playing poker machines or lotto, it is about risk. If a gambler blows their rent money at the casino, does the Government bail them out? Rhetorical question. But when the banks get carried away and over commit themselves to loans that don’t stack up, when insurance companies commit themselves to risk they can’t cover and the government bails them out, it isn’t some nice friendly uncle we’re talking about. You and I are the Government. That money comes from our taxes. It means more pressure on minor things in our community such as education, health, taxes.

So I was wondering, if an insurance company has failed in managing its risk, is it in fact guilty of trading while insolvent? Should the $500 million bailout go to them, or should it go to a liquidator to share amongst the people who bought policies from them in good faith? How much of the bailout goes to the people waiting on insurance payouts? Would you like an answer?

I wrote about the lessons we learned about the telecommunications companies and I have to say I think the telcos did a great job. There are things you can do as well to be able to continue to communicate without power to run or charge your phones. Have you changed anything since then?

Today I wanted to write about electricity, but I’m at 681 words already and there is a fair bit I’d like to stay, so if you’re interested in my thoughts on electricity and emergencies, you could subscribe to my RSS feed or bookmark this page. I think you might find what I have learned interesting.

I also want to write about green power and particularly about solar power schemes, following on from my blog a couple of years ago on Feed-in Tariffs. I’ve learned a little since then and I’m not sure the Government has. It was great to see Bunny McDiarmid from Greenpeace on TV1’s Close Up last night talking about the Petrobas oil exploration and the tension between that and our ‘renewable energy policies’. But I have to wonder where the Green Party is right now. This is a huge opportunity for them in election year to discuss solar power opportunities which are really starting to prove effective in many countries around the world through FIT programs. More on this in one of my next blogs…………….

In the meantime, here’s a video that explains the installation of a PV system on a house in Puget Sound.

Getting Your Household Ready for an Emergency


Christchurch City Council has a really good list of things to prepare in an emergency and if any area knows what to do, it’s them. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and its a good idea to learn from someone else’s hindsight.

It seems obvious, but there is a lot more to it than you might think off hand.

Food. What happens if you can’t visit a grocer for a couple of weeks? What if there is no power? What if you have no water coming from the tap or it isn’t drinkable? If there is no power you can’t boil water. Do you have babies who need special foods? What about pets?

Cash. This was another major in Christchurch, no power, no comms, no EFTPOS. What happens when you need to rush to the store for last minute supplies? How much cash does anyone carry these days? Really obvious when its too late!

Gas for the BBQ is well worth it. Is your cylinder full? Lots of people will leave them over winter unless they also use the cylinder for other things, like a heater.

Medicine. If you can’t get to the doctor or the pharmacy and you use regular drugs, how long can you go without repeats or a new script? What state is your first aid kit in, what about regulars like paracetamol, bandages, antiseptics, slings? Do you have a St Johns or other first aid book? In many emergencies face masks would also be worth having around.

How many things do you have that need batteries? Torches, radio’s, emergency lights, many people only have battery powered can openers. How about your mobile phone, can you charge it if you have no electricity? A product like Cellshot might be worth investing in. Its great to see products like that available in NZ now. Of course candles and matches or lighters are also a must, something that non smokers may not have.

What about your camera? It struck me that it would have been a great idea in Australia with the floods if you could prove what you lost to the insurance companies before things got thrown out. A digital camera would make life much easier when it comes to rebuilding.

While I’m on mobile phones, I never thought about the fact that I couldn’t use my landline when there is no power. It’s well worth having an analogue phone in the house as they are powered by the exchange. Telecom did a great job in helping people donate their old phones to people in Christchurch. There’s a good business opportunity for someone to bring in new analogue phones for emergency back up.

Water is essential for so many things, cooking, drinking, washing, hygiene. Many disasters could mean that very quickly none of the water in your taps or house is usable. Some bottled water will keep for a year or more, but it also needs recycling or rotating.

Meetup plan. A number of friends in Christchurch had family members all over the city. It would be a great idea to have a plan on where to meet if people get separated, a public place, with common friends etc.

Getaway Kit. What if you had 5 or 10 minutes and had to leave in a hurry? What would you take with you? Lots of people have ended up with nothing in an emergency.

Do you have precious heirlooms? Special family items like photos, videos, jewellery etc that can’t be replaced? Do you keep them somewhere safe. Many of us have multilevel homes? If that’s you are those special things at ground level or up high? I have plastic bins that I bought from the Warehouse that stack and seal. They were only around $20 each and all my precious things like letters from grandparents etc are safely protected from the elements. Do you have your computer backed up? All those digital photos? where do you keep your backup?

The point is that these are all logical and simple things to do, but very easy to wish you had done once its too late.

Preparation Lessons from Japan and Christchurch


It’ll never happen to me is probably the first thing. Even in Japan, which I have visited at least 20 times, I doubt many people expected anything like this latest earthquake. I experienced earthquakes on many of my trips to Japan. I have been in office buildings and hotel rooms and felt the vertigo as buildings sway. The thing is it happens so often that people take it in their stride and the evidence was seen with images of people standing on bridges watching rather than racing for cover.

A similar situation occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand. We all expected that if a big one did come, it would be in Wellington, not Christchurch. I used to be a Civil Defence rescue team leader and our earthquake training was all based around Wellington because it has a compact CBD, lots of buildings clad in glass and sits right on the fault line. Like Japan, they experience lots of earthquakes there.

What I really wanted to mention in this blog though, is the survival kits, the essentials required besides shelter and ablutions. That is water and power. Water has proven to be probably the biggest issue in many fronts. Basically water is the most crucial element. We can live longer without food, but not without water. We need water for drinking, bathing, cooking etc and when the water supply either fails or becomes contaminated, this becomes a major problem.

I will certainly be taking this more seriously in future because it was obvious that if you didn’t have any, your chances of getting your hands on water were pretty slim. In Christchurch for example, only one supermarket remained open. Not a lot for New Zealand’s 2nd largest city.

If you don’t have electricity, you can’t boil contaminated water, can’t wash yourself, your clothes and risk hygiene problems. A generator isn’t much of an option but gas is. We saw lots of images of people filling up their gas cylinders and having communal BBq’s because their refrigerators couldn’t run and food would soon perish.

Getting gas after the quake

Of course gas also means you can boil water. We were very lucky in Christchurch to not have outbreaks of cholera or other diseases due to water contamination, not to mention the inability to flush the toilets etc.

In this situation I’m not sure how much it would help, but these are easy things that I will be doing to ensure even though I don’t think it will ever happen to me:

  • Stocking enough water and non perishable food to support my family for a number of days.
  • Ensuring that I have a couple of full gas cylinders (remember that without power, petrol stations close)

Longer term I will look at replacing my hot water cylinder with gas. Doesn’t help if there is no water, but does if there is no electricity.

Then I get back to my hobby horse of solar power. A hobby horse of mine is that the government should not only be encouraging us, but facilitating solar power for both business and consumers. I’ve blogged before about feed-in tariffs and interest free finance for people to install solar panels as happens in other parts of the world. If we all had solar power, we would be much more sustainable. Obviously New Zealand will not be running nuclear power, even more so given the latest catastrophe in Japan. As I write this a 3rd nuclear reactor has lost its emergency cooling system after the 8.9 quake!

For a country that asserts itself as clean and green, I think this is a big fail. Maybe this would be an opportunity for the Green Party to assert itself. With the election due in November this year, if I was them I would be pushing hard for interest free subsidies for solar energy, especially for water heating. I would also be pushing for the right to sell surplus energy back into the grid .

When I was in the Netherlands a couple of years ago I saw many warehouses and farm buildings covered in solar panels. I also of course saw many wind farms. I thought they looked really cool, although I probably wouldn’t want one in my backyard. Fortunately for the size of our country we have plenty of space.

So have we learned anything and will we act on it?

The following video illustrates how people are so used to earthquakes that they don’t do what they have been trained to do.