Blockchain – survival of the fittest

Recently, I took part in a discussion on blockchain broadcast by Digital Leader’s DLTV team. Guided superbly by the BBC’s Kate Russell, myself and three others (Maja Zehavi, Anish Mohammed and John Bertrand) wandered through the latest thinking and future possibilities of the world of distributed ledgers.

And it left me with something really quite striking.

Blockchain is complicated – we know that. It relies on a vocabulary that includes sophisticated cryptographic terminology and brain-aching concepts around decentralised consensus models. And yet, the principles are beguilingly simple. Aside from the complexity of the solution, the concept of everyone involved in a transaction having open, trusted access to a distributed ledger is something that a rapidly expanding community are eagerly pursuing.

And it’s the speed at which this community is collaborating that is so striking. We are at very early days in the development of this technology. (Never mind the applications, many of the core protocols are still being debated.) Despite its formative state, research and development around blockchain is distinctively collaborative, with start-ups, big business, regulators and academia all openly sharing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

In the programme, one of my co-speakers, Anish described this as being ‘Evolutionary’, in a Darwinian sense. Progress is being made through collaborative experimentation and a form of natural selection that enables progress to be made at speed through ‘generations’ of iteration.

It’s an approach that reflects our digital times. The value of knowledge is now ephemeral. It’s the application of knowledge that is key. The accessibility of digital technology – be it blockchain or otherwise – invites us to develop new use cases, test solutions and refine them. Openly. Collaboratively. And rapidly.

And in the end the fittest ideas survive. ‘Distributed Digital Darwinism’ in action courtesy of the blockchain.

Why not watch the episode on YouTube? and read our latest thought leadership paper “Blockchain: Harnessing the Power of Distributed Ledgers”.

Sopra Steria is proud to support Digital Leaders – helping to organise and host digital salons for Digital Leaders Scotland and Digital Leaders Northern Ireland. Learn more about Digital Leaders.

What are your thoughts about blockchain? Leave a replay below or contact me by email.

What will be disrupting our world in the next 3 – 5 years?

In 2015, we used this blog forum to talk about how our future digital business world is being shaped by some key technologies, what impact they are having and the resulting societal challenges they are bringing about. You may have listened to the podcasts from ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team that discussed digital automation and human augmentation.

In 2016, we are broadening our research and focusing on three areas of disruptive technology and the effect they have on us as individuals, the world of work and the planet as a whole. We are even more fascinated by where these stories interconnect, as shown on the matrix below:

(See end for text description of this image
Aurora horizon scanning: our six areas of research in 2016

Listen to our first podcast of 2016 where we describe the approach for our research and an insight into areas that we are interested in – and getting excited about!

We are hoping to include guest speakers for our future podcasts, so let us know your ideas for them and thoughts about our areas of research for 2016.

Leave a reply below or contact us by email.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Twitter:

@timdifford
@richpotter_
@ben_innovates

And enjoy our Flipboard magazine on iOS, Android and Windows devices.


Description of Aurora’s six areas of research in 2016

  1. The digital human: interacting with services and each other through ubiquitous devices and data-driven experiences
  2. The organic enterprise: flexible, distributed, collaborative and networked organisations
  3. The connected planet: a crowded, ageing, more connected and fluid world
  4. Intelligent insight and automation: the increase in the application of prescriptive analytics and automation to augment or displace human activity
  5. Ubiquitous interaction: the growth of sensing and interface technologies that make interactions between humans and computers more fluid, intuitive and pervasive
  6. Distributed disruption: the growth of decentralised processes enabled by the adoption of technologies which assure and automate security and trust

 

Internet of humans and whether smart devices are boosting our capabilities

Will information by sensors bring about the ultimate human augmentation?

I’ve spoken previously about how our future digital business world is being shaped by some key technologies, what impact they are having and the resulting societal challenges they are bringing about.

If you’ve listened to the first two podcasts from ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, you’ll know that we are fascinated by advances in the technologies that will increase digital automation (the displacement of human work by machines – or robots) and bring us closer to becoming fully augmented humans.

We’re increasingly familiar with people wearing fitness trackers and using other health monitoring apps and devices and are now well into the era of ‘the quantified self’. Our third podcast continues this discussion about wearables and other smart devices aimed at boosting human performance and capabilities.

We start to ponder nanotechnology as the ‘ultimate augmentation’ and if implants will change things in our bodies to the extent they could orchestrate our genetic code and influence the make-up of generations to come? However, as this is still more science fiction than fact, we focus on how the current plethora of wearables send data to external displays for our analysis and whether this data could be captured for use in real time to interact with our bodies to, for example, ‘inform by sensors’ for service providers to anticipate service delivery requirements and modify our behaviours.

If all this sounds a bit too futuristic for serious consideration at the moment, we bring our discussions back to more sound assumptions about current technologies enabling – or driving – us to become augmented humans of the nearer future. The course is charted where smart devices are becoming increasingly assimilated into the physical being of ourselves and the interactions between the technology and human beings are becoming more seamless. We’re starting to see this transition towards becoming augmented humans – for example, better management of our IDs and more enriched service experiences – as recognition that the human being is becoming part of the Internet of Things ecosystem in which we increasingly live.

Have a listen to this continued discussion in our podcast, and learn more about Aurora and the topics that we are researching by reading our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about human augmentation? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Internet of humans and the evolution of a sixth sense

How close are we to human augmentation?

My previous blog introduced you to the first in a series of podcasts from Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team in which we talk about some of the key topics shaping our world. We discussed digital automation and the way it is impacting society and how we work.

Our second podcast takes the theme of automation further and we debate how the advances in wearables and other devices are turning us into ‘augmented humans’ – allowing us to do things that we couldn’t do before, improving the way we do things now and giving us access to a global network of connected humans providing the opportunity to do even bigger and better things in the future.

We also ponder the potential blurring of boundaries between humans and technology – for example, the progression for (what are now) wearable devices being miniaturised and embedded in our bodies, giving us a “sixth sense” and becoming an ‘Internet of Humans’, and whether industry-wide standards for these types of technologies can be realistically applied.

With such a vast and interesting topic to cover, we split the podcast into two sessions and you can listen to the first part – ‘The Internet of Humans’ – now.

To learn more about Aurora, and the topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘Beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about human augmentation? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Wired for sound: what are the next ‘big things’?

My colleagues and I in the horizon scanning team are constantly looking at stories from around the world about the technologies that are shaping our lives and digital workplace. But it doesn’t beat experiencing creative, insightful and inspirational speakers – such as those at Wired2015 in London last week, described as “…the innovators changing the world and promoting disruptive thinking and radical ideas…”.

We were so inspired by what we heard that we recorded a short (8-minute) ‘at event’ podcast in which we each summarised the highlights… they range from quantum physics, art installations and test labs to space rockets powered by antimatter, smart cities and whether our noses will become big data devices!

Listen to what excited us about our digital future and what is on the horizon that will shape our lives in the next few years and for the next generation.

To learn more about Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, and the topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about robotics and the future of digital? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Julie is a robot! The rise of digital automation

I love talking with colleagues, clients and partners about the new ideas and technologies that are defining our digital business world. As a result, I’m thrilled to be part of ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, where we discuss some of the key topics which are going to shape our world in the next three to five years.

We love sharing our ideas, and we want to widen the conversation with like-minded people interested in listening to what we have to say. So we’ve turned our round table discussions into a series of podcasts and you can listen to the first one where we focus our attention on digital automation – the displacement of human work by machines (or robots), the impact it’s having and the resulting societal challenges.

We discuss “Julie” Richard Potter’s ‘virtual assistant’ who – alongside the likes of ‘Siri’ and ‘Cortana’ – demonstrates an area of robotic technology that’s transforming the workplace, and Ben Gilburt’s interesting experience of a webchat with a high-profile media company. This began as an obvious interaction with a robot then, when his questions became too complex, in stepped a real person which posed the question, how and when does human intervention take place within a robotic process?

We talk about a specific example in the insurance industry where regulatory reports could be compiled using automated intelligence. Although each report would contain different data and results, the language used would be similar across every report provoking a potentially irrational response from the regulators that the reports weren’t acceptable.

These, and other questions around our readiness for faceless interactions with computers and whether robotics as simply another delivery channel would meet customer expectations, is discussed in our podcast, “Julie is a robot!”

To learn more about Aurora, and the six topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about robotics and the future of digital? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Personal best

Our propensity for feeding internet services with personal data is exploding

In 2014 we made 2.4 million posts on Facebook, sent 204 million emails, sent 277,000 tweets and made 4 million searches on Google – every minute.

For users of the Ashley Madison extra-marital dating site, personal data was meant to be just that: personal. The recent hacking and exposure of data is an unfortunate example of how much private information we are willingly, and sometimes unknowingly, giving away about ourselves.

So what is personal data, and why is it so important?

To get an idea of scale we have to understand that not only are we talking about your search history, social media and emails which you knowingly generate, but also a vast amount of other data from your smartphone tracking your location and your medical history to your buying habits. The scale of this data is so huge that it’s recorded in terms of Exabytes – a unit of storage 1 billion times the size of a gigabyte (and, if written, contains 18 zeros).

For years businesses have been decidedly opaque in the value they extract from personal data.  What we are now seeing is that customers are becoming more aware of this data and its value. And this is leading to them being more protective and selective when giving it away and more concerned over the security and privacy surrounding their personal data.

In Europe the midata initiative is exploring this growing change by putting tools and processes in place for people to access their own data and understand the value that is holds. One early project has been brought together by midata and GoCompare for the financial services industry – who has used personal data to enhance the value of their products for a long time.

By understanding their customers’ spending and living habits they have been able to carefully select specific products and market them to the right customers with the right risk appetite. The GoCompare tool however lets consumers conduct the same kind of analysis on their spending data as banks, running this data through a catalogue of financial products to tell customers clearly and visually what the best product should be for them and exactly how much they could save, demonstrating the financial benefit and personalisation they can receive through access and control of their personal data.

The key to the future of personal data lies with a clear appreciation of its value. In the future people like you and I should have access to our own data and a full understanding of how sharing our data can benefit us. We should be able to personalise the amount of data that we are sharing, decide how it’s used and understand the level of security and risks that it brings. Whether you are engaging in a relationship you shouldn’t be or building your nest egg, you should know what you’re giving away and to what end.

So is the future of personal data ownership a bright one?

Personally, I think the data points that way.  The age of Big Data has already arrived, but the era of Small Data is yet to begin.

If you’re interested in this subject and want to join the conversation, leave a message below or contact me in the the Aurora team.