Just when things look like they may stay the same, they change…
Amazon recently launched its first checkout and employee free retail site in the America as a natural complement to the existing Amazon web and mobile shopping experience. Products can be purchased via the existing Amazon web or mobile app and collected without Amazon employee intervention in the store. Or purchased in store from a limited selection based on a wholly store based experience with no in store Amazon employee oriented human interaction. This really is an example of digitisation “plus” at work where the historical customer buying cycle of instore person to person interaction with additional onus on the integrity of the financial transaction at the end of the cycle, has been reengineered to become a fully technology enabled experience.
Self-scanning checkouts in retail started the trend and are now somewhat accepted (if at times still challenging to use), but the human option for person to person engagement remained a key element of the instore experience based on the importance of cash collection and a customer satisfying end to the retail interaction. But could this be a “reset” of the customer retail purchasing script delivered in one swipe by the completely new Amazon retail approach. The Amazon experiment or pilot may signpost with tangible evidence the changing state of the workforce where system driven automation may augment or totally replace person to person engagement.
The Amazon GO launch has delivered a degree of shock and awe to both customers and the industry in equal measure and whilst much of the discussion has focused on the impact on jobs, i.e. the detrimental human labour effect, it further signposts the ever increasing importance of information technology in our professional and social lives. Secure wireless networking, high definition cameras, advanced AI, big data and analytics, IOT sensors and the sheer volume of IT elements required that must work in harmony with zero failure is immense. With the end result, promotion of the IT system from technology to augment human actions & intellect to a mission critical platform fundamental to both the business and customer experience. Via this new IT persona, failure, downtime or system breach is no longer an option – for any reason. Tomorrow’s user is already here today and deems a “Digital Me” experience, the only experience – the amalgam of imagination, technology and process allows that to happen.
Whether you are a supporter or detractor of this fundamentally new approach to retailing, the innovation and bravery of Amazon must be admired as the pilot of anything new of this style may suffer from the usual first mover teething challenges (shrinkage, reliability, miss set expectation issues). However, this really is a new dawn for the use of new technology, IOT and actionable AI in a real world customer centric environment. Personally, irrespective of the success or not of this Amazon initiative I have no doubt other retailers will be seriously considering this new customer engagement mode as the potential within is clear for all to see.
In my option human intelligence will NEVER be replaced by IT based systems, but standardised, repeatable human activity that can be automated and “systemised” certainly will be.
Forward now looks very very interesting
Until next time.
Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK: Networking, Security, Collaboration
2014 really was the year that was. Information Technology (IT) has for quite a while threatened to play such a fundamental role in our lives that we would struggle to function without it. In my opinion 2014 was the tipping point year where the silos between “technology” at home, play or work blurred into one – “a SMART one”. Through 2014 something SMART with a processor, memory, storage and a battery at its heart became the secondary brain that the developed/developing world leveraged to optimise and enhance “living”. Personal & work smartphones became just “smartphones” as BYOD moved from a disruptive marketing fad to an important catalyst for end user behavioural change within organisations. Mobile working, once the poor relation of “working in the office” became the must have work mode through 2014 opening the door to transformed organisational working outcomes through 2015 – watch this one as it should be the biggest technology user led transformation yet.
The internet of “stuff” (I’m bonding the Internet or Things and Everything) with sensor packed connected devices always on and transmitting data across the wireless airspace emerged as the new battleground for customer service and market control. The IOT/IOE topic gained a head of steam through 2014 but watch it fly through 2015 as connected devices leverage harmonised data to really behave in a “human SMART” manner. And as I briefly continue with the key stories of 2014, I will be remiss not to discuss the shift from “cloud HYPE” to “cloud RIPE” as cloud service providers on mass utilising software-defined datacenter, network and security ideals presented an increasing portfolio of real world, customer validated services that deliver essential outcomes to a now captive and receptive enterprise audience. Cloud is now here ………..
Phew – all in all there was an abundance of IT good news through 2014 that should act as a springboard for greater things through 2015. But was it all good news? Back to the recap, an ever increasing population of mobile device users, generating masses of then stored or transmitted information, talking to sensors that transmit or store masses of information, that interact with enterprise IT systems that process and store a mass of information and so on and so on must be a good thing. When leveraged for beneficial personal, customer, enterprise or society based reasons the potential to drive value is unparalleled. However that same footprint of rich, relevant, always increasing data/information is equally digital gold for hackers who aim to utilise it in completely different manner.
The result, 2014 also saw a rise to unprecedented levels of one of the biggest concerns now at the executive top table, “security breaches”. With hacks now the norm within end user, offline / online enterprises and even nation states, 2014 and the mass of data moving freely around the heavily digitised world changed the importance personal consumers and enterprise organisations placed on information security. Since the dawn of the modern IT era, IT security has been just that “security for IT devices” often developed and managed by technologists. 2015 will see a major acceleration of a trend already permeating the enterprise with IT security a fundamental core of “enterprise information security” (that adopts a holistic view of enterprise end to end business security posture that includes IT). Security not a top priority through 2015? – not an option!
But no more talk about 2014, 2015 is here and its now. If 2014 was a dry run for the new face of people centric, end user fulfilling IT, 2015 is the year to make it happen. The end user is now king and long live the king (and queen). Stay tuned as we continue with this topic – (well at least for another 11 months).
Until next time.
I hereby make the case for a new term to describe our rich, IP network delivered, information flow – “Digital Fuel”.
Put simply, the wealth of digital information circling continually around the developed world could be classified as a fuel source utilised to drive everything from our social activity to the global economy. It now feeds the world, transported by IP networks and ensures we can consume the ever increasing volume of information created all the time, by everyone – everywhere.
But should it really be called fuel, what does it drive or power? In this IT centric day and age it may be easier to describe what “Digital Fuel” doesn’t drive over what it does. And if we loosely align the “Digital Fuel” term with its fossil equivalent, what do we really understand about it? How is “Digital Fuel” generated and who dominates the supply chain? In the fossil fuel arena, certain geographic regions or nation states play a key role – does such a regional dominance exist in the “Digital Fuel” arena? And closer to home, as you read this blog, where does your “Digital Fuel” originate from – where is it refined and processed – how is it secured / stored?
For the purpose of this blog the term “Digital Fuel” is used as a play on words, analogous to other “powered” system based ideologies or indeed realities – but in a pause for deep thought the term may ring truer than initially considered. As I sought to find additional insight to support the term “Digital Fuel” I located the following definition online in the midst of explanations aligning fuel with combustible fossil outcomes, Fuel -. something that nourishes or builds up emotion, action, etc.
Surely that definition resonates and could support the notion of “Digital Fuel” as information transported, realtime, all of the time by networks and now fundamental to our societal existence. But do you protect the pipelines or “networks” that deliver your “Digital Fuel” with the same level of diligence aligned with our fossil fuel pipelines – do you deem it part of your organisations “Essential critical infrastructure?”
If “Digital Fuel” really exists it raises serious questions of the use and importance of this fundamental and increasingly critical energy source. In too many circumstances the IP network readiness, design and deployment discussions are an afterthought usually well behind other more glamorous technology or business centric outcomes. BYOD, VDI, cloud computing, end user mobility, (I could continue) – all create, process and utilise “Digital Fuel”. But without a network fit for purpose, available and secure all of the time everywhere, the fuel delivery stops. And with it so do we….
If you seeking business change and need more fuel, it’s time to make the IP network readiness conversation your first one not your worst one. If not how will your “Digital Fuel”, fuel?
Until next time
In line with other public sector organisations, the NHS is required to make savings over the next few years. In total, these savings will amount to approximately £20Bn and are expected not to come from front line services, but rather to be found in rationalisation and efficiency savings across the board.
One way in which Acute Trusts and Mental Health Trusts are seeking to meet this challenge is to undertake Estates Rationalisation Programmes. Many organisations have a number of sites which are extremely expensive to run and are often providing limited services which can be carried out better in the community or linked with other NHS delivery to bring efficiencies.
For example, at some Trusts Community Nurses are based at a site where they have to attend each morning to log in to systems and collect their workload before setting off to see patients. At the end of the day, the clinician is required to return to the site to input the results of each clinical session undertaken, as well as ordering any follow ups required. This seriously impacts on the total time available to clinicians to meet with patients.
Technology can help. By making clinical systems accessible over mobile and wireless technologies in a completely secure and safe manner ensures that the clinician is able to access notes and patient details at the point of care. In the case of areas where mobile and wireless coverage is far from perfect (anything from rural areas to city centre housing estates and high rise blocks for example) systems can be made available in an “offline” mode. In this mode, the clinician still has access to information which is at most 24-48 hours out of date, but still very relevant to the patient.
The ability of these mobile clinicians not to have to come in to a “base” on a daily basis will reduce the amount of wasted time in travelling, and will increase total clinician-patient face time on a daily basis.
But Trusts need to think carefully about how this is achieved. Requirements of the Data Protection Act, the underlying principles of Caldicott and other NHS specific regulations around patient data security cannot be dismissed. The ICO (Information Commissioners Office) has been fining NHS organisations large sums for the loss of data, and so Trusts must ensure that data is fully secured both at rest and in transit.
Solutions will need to ensure that mobile devices (including BYOD devices) are properly secured and can be centrally managed – including full remote locking and remote wipe. In the case of clinical information, there is a requirement that the information is encrypted at all times. Furthermore, IT Directors and CIOs will have to ensure that such solutions are not open to “screen scraping” technologies.
But it is not only the information which needs to be secure. We also need to secure our staff. Clinicians are already vulnerable when out working in the community. Some are seen as targets for FP10 forms (prescriptions) or for possible drugs they may be carrying. Others invite attack simply for being a clinician. Equipping these staff with expensive mobile devices may increase the risk of muggings etc.
To prevent this, Trusts must employ strong lone worker solutions. A number of these are available ranging from solutions which are manual – based on mobile phone usage – to technically adept solutions which track locations (GPS) and have two way radio built into them which can be operated without patients/citizens being made aware. This then allows an emergency call centre to listen in to the situation and summon the appropriate assistance. The small costs of such systems and the decreasing costs of mobile solutions is quickly saved in the ability of organisations to reduce their estates footprint and to treat more patients in a shorter time.
But a word of warning. It is easy for CIOs and IT Directors to over-promise ROIs and perceived benefits of such systems. Any such implementation should be done in a phased approach allowing impact on services and savings to be correctly measured and monitored before a whole systems roll out. There are issues around ICT training, availability of hardware and solutions, security and even clinical adoption which need to be carefully ironed out before any programme is initiated. And one of the major reasons for failure of IT Programmes in the NHS? Clinician Engagement – the Trust must ensure that key clinicians who represent their areas are involved in the design and build of any mobile solution.
As an IT person, I can design a technical solution which will best meet the technical need – I cannot design a solution to be used in clinical areas without clinical input. I will only look at the technology, I need the clinicians to tell me how they work to ensure that workflows are logical to the use cases. Running a Proof of Concept with a partner of choice who is technology and vendor agnostic will allow Trusts to mix and match all solutions available to find the best approach for their specific clinical and business needs. Not all mobility solutions are the same, and not all security solutions are designed with the mobile workforce in mind. Overall, Trusts need to ensure that they select the right partner who is able to work closely with them to assist them in achieving their goals.
It looks like the BYOD term has been knocked off its perch (well for a short period at least) as the hottest term around – the big story is now “the Wireless LAN”.
In recent years every mobility or BYOD discussion resulted in a “to MDM or not MDM” debate with the consensus MDM was a must have technology (whether it delivered all of the outcomes originally promised is the discussion of a future blog). However as we fast forward through the start of 2013 the BYOD topic now starts and ends with a debate about “wireless networking effectiveness”. In the time before the “mobility wave” the wireless LAN most commonly experienced by the corporate end user was a home based network of convenience deployed with simplicity in mind but often lacking in reliability.
But how things have changed, what was a useful add-on to the physical RJ45 cable based corporate LAN environment has now become the talk of the CIO agenda and potentially the bane of many CIOs lives. That same wireless network used by guests, learned end users (who knew how to sneak the secret passwords) and the handful of approved laptop users is fast becoming the defacto connectivity environment for most end users. Where is the RJ45 port on a tablet computer, or modern Smartphone – does anyone care? Why embrace the inflexibility of laptop use tethered via the physical RJ45 network port when it becomes free and supremely flexible when connected via a high performing wireless network environment. The behaviour of many of us in both personal and professional arenas toward wireless connectivity has changed. In previous years, the IT aware individual within a household configured and used the home wireless network due to awareness of it at work – now the generation Y/Z digital natives not only own the home wireless network for social, education and entertainment ideals, but equally expect it to exist all the time everywhere.
Searching for a wireless hotspot is a teenage norm and second nature to all due to the ubiquitous use of smart phones, tablets, hand held games consoles and all fundamental to a digital native personal or social existence. But it doesn’t stop there, the behaviour outlined previously synonymous with a generation Y/Z persona now exists within us all, from the seven year old expecting the ipad to connect to download the latest update to “Temple Run”, to the corporate professional checking into a hotel on business uttering those now all too common words at reception “what is the key for the wireless network”. Do you ever remember the physical network deemed so fundamental to our work/home existence as the wireless network is today – it actually was, but in our minds it “wasn’t” and their lies the hypnotic magic of the wireless or WIFI network. This blog homes in on WIFI wireless networks but the ever reducing blur between WIFI and service provider 3G/4G networks forces us to summarise it all as “THE WIRELESS NETWORK” (not technically correct, but you get the picture).
The wireless network underpins and enables the new world order, one where the end user can have the best connected experience of “ME” but at the swipe of a hand can choose to be part of a worldwide “WE”. That only works if the nothing stops connectively and no rules exist for connection (i.e. “it’s not available or limited to times, zones, locations”). The wireless network is already the primary network and with “gigabit wireless” coming soon destined to be so woven into the fabric of our personal and professional existence we face a “world wide stall” at times of wireless network failure. Some would say it makes the task of maintaining and securing these wireless networks far more important than we think. Uuummm, I think I can feel another blog coming on.
Until next time
As usual, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier made several thought provoking observations during a presentation to the assembled Lenovo channel partner forum in Berlin earlier this month. The topic that really grabbed my attention was the increasing importance of wireless technology in everyday life. In a recent internal blog, I wrote about wireless and the fact that it’s now one of the most essential commodities in my life which still feels odd at times for something that can’t be seen or touched.
But think about it. Like most people, many years ago I was handcuffed to the PC in the study if I wanted to do anything ‘on line’ or run the gauntlet of the 10m cable and the then heavy and usually very hot laptop to remain part of the family in the lounge. Now I have smartphone and tablet at my disposal wherever I am in the house as well as smart tv, Apple tv and a myriad of other devices all communicating with the tiny little box in the study. Can you imagine life without wifi?
As more and more of us access increasingly rich content from our smartphones and other devices, the demand on wifi bandwidth will reach incredible proportions. How will this be delivered, who will ‘own’ the supply and will a whole new market emerge in the same way that oil is traded today? Entirely new businesses will be created to profit from this opportunity and unless existing companies adopt new strategies to evolve their business models, they may find themselves with a fight on their hands.
Within the business community, growth in BYOD is as inevitable as rain during a bank holiday. IS departments have little if any choice in the matter and instead should be focusing their efforts on building strategies for securely incorporating the multitude of new clients into the network. The subject of security has never been more important and if your own organisation is seeking advice or support on this or the future of wireless in the workplace, please speak to us.