As developments over the past few years have shown, we are in a time of unprecedented technological growth which shows no signs of slowing down. This has caused upset and disruption on a huge scale as the impact of new, cutting-edge technology is beginning to be seen now in every industry. As with any technological revolution, in order to avoid being made obsolete, existing companies will need to ensure they take advantage of these new opportunities to improve their business, products and services. If they don’t, newer and more consumer friendly options will be chosen by the customer.
In this series of blogs, we will examine the impact that the introduction of a new technology has and the changes that are occurring with the arrival of blockchain and other disruptive technologies. As part of this investigation, the importance and the benefits of implementing new technology solutions will be discussed, along with the dangers of ignoring them. As well as this, the articles will look at a previous example of a disruptive new technology - the internet - and how it changed industries, along with the possible lessons that can be learned and applied to this new technological revolution. Additionally, some of the new technologies, and how industries can best prepare to adapt to their upcoming impact, will be discussed. Along the way, we’ll also explain how Blockpass fits into all of this.
For this fourth instalment we examine how to adapt to the disruption brought about by a new technology, along with some of the key developments that are taking place at the moment: blockchain, AI and IoT - the benefits they bring and how they might develop in the near future.
Find the first part of the blog - The Importance of Embracing New Technology. Part One: Introduction, here.
Find the second part of the blog - The Importance of Embracing New Technology. Part Two: The Benefits and Dangers of Innovation, here.
Find the third part of the blog - The Importance of Embracing New Technology. Part Three: Examples From the Past, here.
The idea behind employing new technology is not simply to do a specific task better or provide a particular new opportunity; instead, it is to make the company more effective or efficient. There is often a worry from groups or individuals in a business that new technology will put them out of a job. Whilst this may sometimes be the case, it is not necessarily true and often those who most successful implement technology will retrain or reassign workers to different areas where the new technology is not applicable, or to provide assistance in particular areas (customer support, product design, testing etc.) as their expertise and knowledge can be put to good use. Companies that don’t have this progressive mind-set are at risk of missing out on opportunities and falling behind competitors.
Evolving with the times is the general idea for companies, but in order to do this, companies need to be aware of the latest developments in technology. With this in mind, the management team, particularly the CIO or CTO, should have a focus on monitoring and applying disruptive new technology to areas which it can best assist and avoid wasting resources on unnecessary development. As understanding is key, It may be prudent to bring in outside experts in order to gain the most thorough insights.
“IT leaders, CIOs specifically, need to stop being so passive. I view the role of IT, the role of the CIO as being frankly one of the most important, if not the most important role at the leadership table today. Because company CIOs that can’t understand how to use technology to change their business models are going to find themselves somewhat out of jobs” - Jeff Immelt, CEO, GE
Once a potential is identified, a company-wide approach should be taken, with employees from all levels identifying ways in which technology could improve processes or products as people will have specific knowledge of what is needed in their roles. However, in order for everyone to understand what the technology can and cannot do, it would be necessary to educate people of the abilities of the technology. This task may fall to the CIO or other members but in turn it requires that they be knowledgeable on the subject and communicate effectively across the company.
Assuaging fears, discovering benefits and identifying weaknesses in a business will all be necessary before improvements can take place most effectively. As mentioned before, a lot of employees may feel worried about the future of their jobs when faced with a digital replacement that can do it better, faster or more efficiently. If this is the case, they are unlikely to fully cooperate with efforts to progress. Before fear of unemployment can spread, management needs to speak openly with workers to explain that the goal of this transformation is to free up time and resources to be put to better work elsewhere in the company as the business aims to progress by providing improved products and services, rather than saving money in the short-term but stagnating in the long-run.
Before deciding to implement changes, a cost-benefit analysis should be done or market research carried out to determine if it is financially prudent or if it will be a success. This is an area where many businesses make mistakes. As possible use-cases become apparent, the company will then be able to then break them down by time, application and other relevant categories to work out how best to implement it.
“You cannot run a business by standing still in a rut. A business has got to move and it’s got to progress.” - Thomas Patrick McNulty, The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode 4 - A Kind of Stopwatch
At the moment there are a number of cutting-edge developments that are expected to have an impact across all industries. Some of these are on the horizon but others have already begun to disrupt the market.
Blockchain - Potentially a completely secure and almost instant method to transfer data, blockchain can most famously be used to transfer money - cryptocurrencies - but has much wider range of applications. As a secure, transparent and immutable platform, it avoids the potential for fraud. It also has the potential to make auditing and compliance with regulations easier and more transparent and as such is finding use in areas where regulation and compliance is a top priority (such as finance), as well as for industries which struggle with a lack of transparency (such as supply chain and gambling). Many are using it to bring a variety of services to under-developed countries. At the moment financial services are still the main focus; however blockchain is rapidly expanding into many other areas and blockchain start-ups have already begun to be seen in almost every industry.
Rising from this technology, smart contracts has drawn much of the interest from companies with their ability to automate processes and disintermediate ecosystems. This is what enables blockchain technology to be applied to a whole range of solutions, as with a secure and decentralised system, effective and efficient options can replace current methods. As an example, Blockpass (currently using the Ethereum blockchain) is harnessing blockchain technology to provide a solution to the expensive, time consuming and repetitive KYC process.
The uses this technology is being put to is growing rapidly. Whilst initially development and solutions were mostly from start-ups, some of the biggest companies in various industries are increasingly looking to blockchain to solve issues. Microsoft, IBM, Apple, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the China Construction Bank Corporation, JPMorgan, Berkshire Hathaway, Ping An Insurance, A.P. Moller - Maersk Group, Accenture, Fujitsu, the list goes on.
AI - Artificial Intelligence has gained a lot of ground recently and holds the potential to automate many different kinds of tasks, freeing up manpower to be better spent elsewhere. Although somewhat a misnomer at the moment (true AI still seems to be a way off), it can still be used for complex tasks - crating large efficiencies and reducing errors. Bill Gates has posted on twitter before that, were he to be starting a business again, AI would be the area he would look into.
Like blockchain, AI can be used to enhance compliance, particularly with anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer regulations. One company doing this is Onfido, which enables remote background checks on customers and utilises a number of different verification means. A combination of AI and machine learning enables Onfido to strengthen its fraud detection further as more data is added.
Besides these possibilities, AI can also identify patterns in consumer behaviour and predict future trends for companies to use when planning new products. There are numerous ways in which AI is being put to use and the technology is rapidly growing more sophisticated as companies around the world turn to it to automate processes that would take too much time and effort for human workers.
IoT - In the Internet of Things, electronic devices - especially smart devices, will be in constant communication with each other and link disparate areas of our lives. This will provide a whole host of data about the spending habits, likes and routines of potential customers. The acquisition and analysis of data, which information from the IoT would provide, will give invaluable information for people such as C-level executives or senior management to analyse.
In order to identify the right direction for the products and services of a company, an executive or manager must understand the consumer wants and needs so that development can be focussed towards endeavours that will be well received by the consumer. With more, and more detailed, information, this will be able to be carried out with both greater speed and accuracy - an essential component of successfully keeping up with new developments.
Apart from this huge benefit, IoT will bring connectivity between many different areas of a person’s life, allowing companies to find new avenues to pursue in offering new products and services.
This area is a future target of Blockpass, which will provide human, company, device and object identity to allow interaction between, and ownership of everything in the Internet of Things.
In the immediate future, these three areas are already starting to merge into one homogenous solution: a combination of IoT and AI creates a powerful force in accurately predicting what consumers are likely to want in the future by collecting and analysing ‘Big Data’, whereas blockchain adds the much needed secure and immutable aspect to an IoT system. In combination, these three areas will contribute hugely to increasing efficiencies, reducing errors, enabling new products and services, and enhancing the way of life that we experience.
At the moment, Blockpass is using the blockchain to improve the process of complying with KYC for individuals and businesses alike; with a mobile app for users and an API for merchants to make using the technology as simple as possible, Blockpass allows companies to adapt quickly and easily.
However, as the idea behind Blockpass grew out of an IoT application, Blockpass is more than prepared for the crossover of blockchain technology and the Internet of Things. Members of the Blockpass team have been involved in both the blockchain and IoT spaces and attend and speak at events on the topic. The goal for Blockpass is to begin with blockchain-based compliance and regulation solutions for human identity (KYC first) and then to grow alongside the Internet of Things as it becomes appropriate, providing necessary solutions and applications as the two technologies merge.
Work in these areas is not only focussed on developing applications, but also furthering ground-breaking research in these areas through the Blockpass Identity Lab - set up in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University. Through research and development, Blockpass intends to provide highly desirable solutions for any industry.
Next week, in the final part of this series, we will conclude by examining what may be coming in the future and how industries might react. We will round off our look at what new technology can do and how Blockpass is preparing for this intends to leverage its potential.