Technology Insights

Technology is transforming society and having an impact on every aspect of our daily lives, reshaping businesses, markets and entire economies.

Our insights into technology are listed below in the form of articles and interviews with founders and senior executives for your perusal.

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The AI Market Will Soon Top $150 Billion

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to improve the quality of life of customers, employers and employees. But first, companies — big and small — need to make AI work for them for the long haul.

Artificial Intelligence will make society smarter, leaner and more efficient. But first, startups and businesses must enable the workforce of the future and pivot business models to incorporate AI.

Mundane tasks such as driving, scheduling and logistics will all be handled by an AI assistant with multiple input points, such as microphones around your house and smartphones. The AI assistant will be the central nervous system of your life and connected smart home.

In the future, when you summon a shared autonomous car from your phone to go out to dinner, your AI assistant will automatically notify the restaurant of your ETA and dietary restrictions. This automation will create business opportunities for forward-thinking entrepreneurs first.

As entrepreneurs think about the future of AI, they have to recognize the need to be platform-agnostic, as AI of the future will work across multiple platforms, utilities and applications. For example, Zoox, which is working toward fully autonomous vehicles, could incorporate restaurant AI input into the Zoox platform if they opened their API to third-party developers.

Opportunities such as autonomous cars are creating a market for robots and AI solutions, and the future is bright. The market is projected to grow to $153 billion by 2020, comprising $83 billion for robotics and $70 billion for AI-based analytics, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

For the market to realize its true potential, we have to get over the skills gap. Today one in three businesses in the U.S. is experiencing difficulty filling positions due the skills gap.

In 2020, Millennials will make up over a third of the global workforce, and they should be welcomed. Twenty-nine percent of Millennials are willing to spend their personal time and money to learn a new skill. These Millennials are driven, intellectually curious and determined to learn new skills, no matter the cost or time investment.

The desire of the Millennials to learn new skills and master them at no cost to a business will start to help the U.S. get over the skills gap but not completely. As incumbent job-holders and industries merge and are replaced with artificial intelligence and robots, there will be resistance to innovation. In response, the key is for businesses is to meet that resistance with open ideas.

Beth Comstock, vice chair of General Electric, recently told the New York Times, “Every company has people who don’t want to change the way things have been done. But often people are looking for an alibi to not try something new.”

If there is resistance, will it come from your employees or from the industry as a whole? If it is from your employees, you should heed the advice of Comstock and embrace an open innovation culture that fosters creativity across multiple disciplines and skills.

Sally-Ann Williams, senior program manager with Google Australia told The Australian newspaper, “The reality of a digitally disrupted workforce means that we are seeing a greater intersection of disciplinary skills than ever before, and not just in cutting-edge areas where we blur the skills of medicine and technology, or art and science.”

Williams adds there’s an “ever-growing overlap” between computer science and the core skills from sectors that include finance, advertising, law and agriculture.

The overlap of skills that Williams describes is the future of innovation. For businesses to be truly innovative, they have to hire individuals with diverse backgrounds that can work as a team, solve big problems and improve the overall quality of life.

And that just happens to be the beauty of Artificial Intelligence. The best AI systems also solve big problems and improve the overall quality of life. Alongside the right workforce, Artificial Intelligence will create tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies.

The AI Market Will Soon Top $150 Billion is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.

Top image: Courtesy of Getty Images.

Four Ways Virtual Reality Is Shaping The Future Of Work

We are just scratching the surface of virtual reality. From doctors to auto technicians to astronauts, here are some ways VR technology is helping to reimagine the future of work.

Over time, ideas change and innovation takes us to new, unexplored territories that unleash the kind of creativity that creates new dynamic businesses and reimagines old ones. Today, we are potentially on the cusp of such a change — driven by virtual reality (VR).

VR will not simply affect one particular industry or a scientific research need. They have the ability to touch every aspect of society — from prepping for surgery to traveling in space. The ideas and opportunities are endless, if we can focus on the core outcome and not be afraid to try new ideas and concepts.

Here are four ways that VR is transforming industries:

1. Reimagining the Body

VR will enable doctors to see the body in new ways, with technologies that can transform medical imaging into interactive 3D programs.

“VR gives a very immersive way of looking at all this data,” says Sandeep Gupta, manager of Biomedical Image Analysis at GE Global Research, which is working with some research hospitals on early-stage testing of VR technology to allow doctors to take a virtual tour of a patient’s brain.

The technology holds the potential to not only improve patient outcomes, but also cost. Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center found that VR simulations helped to reduce surgical planning time by 40 percent and increase surgical accuracy by 10 percent.

2. Empowering the Worker

On the factory floor or the oil field, VR can provide skilled laborers with the real-time information to improve their effectiveness and safety. Industrial wearables — smart gloves, helmets, glasses, watches — enable workers to communicate with machines via sensors connected through the Industrial Internet, allowing for higher level of efficiencies, productivity and even predictivity.

“I have witnessed first-hand how human error can mean the difference between not just profit and loss, but life and death, and there is potential for 4D to vastly improve almost every process — from training new employees to assembling the most advanced machinery,” says Andy Lowery, president of Daqri, a startup that has developed a smart helmet for industrial applications. The helmet, which Lowery dubs the “worker empowerer,” is equipped with a camera, sensors and a transparent visor that displays data superimposed over objects in the worker’s view.

Wearables powered by VR and the Industrial Internet are redefining the future of work.

3. Collaborating Across Space

It doesn’t get more remote than space, and that’s where the true potential of VR technology is being tested.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are experimenting with Microsoft’s HoloLens for mixed-reality interactions with ground control. Instead of having to rely upon voice commands from Houston, astronauts are now able to have an expert guide them through in real-time how to make a repair or perform a certain experiment in space which reduces the possibility of error. The device can also display animated holographic illustrations on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting, eliminating the risk that communication delays could complicate difficult operations deep in space.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” says Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Given the remoteness and extreme nature of operations, space could be the final frontier for VR technology.

4. Off-the-Job Training

Given VR’s early success in the gaming industry, it’s no surprise that some of the biggest promise for the technology lies in worker training applications. By introducing VR into an apprenticeship program, an industrial company could digitally transporting new employees to their future work environment without the added expense of relocation or fear of failure.

Engineers at Bosch have developed a virtual reality training experience to train auto technicians how to repair gasoline direct-injection (GDI) engines. By using virtual reality to train technicians, Bosch is creating a cost-efficient training program that directly benefits their bottom line, as Bosch projects it will have a 56 percent market share in GDI technology by 2017.

“Training has been pretty much the same forever,” says Rob Darrow, manager of strategic projects for Bosch. What is the future of training and how do you get tools to engage people and talk to them?”

The power of VR is that it transports you to a place that you have never been to before — the future. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of how these technologies will impact industries and improve our lives. The future is bright.

Four Ways Virtual Reality Is Shaping The Future Of Work is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.

(Top image: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly performing checkouts for NASA’s Project Sidekick, which makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens device. Courtesy of NASA)

The Cyber Security Mindset

Business leaders and policy makers need to wake up and realize what it means to live in an interconnected world — under constant threat of cyber attacks.

Whenever you turn on the TV, open the newspaper or listen to the radio, inevitably there will be some story about a hacking incident, data breach or an individual’s privacy being compromised when a company has had their servers hacked. Yet for many of us, our mindset has not kept up with the changes to truly comprehend the implications of the connected world — especially the decision-makers in the private and public sector in a position to do something about it.

For business leaders, protecting against cyber threats means gaining a greater understanding of their organization’s digital infrastructure and how it operates on a day-to-day basis. For policy makers in Washington, it means finding the right balance between requiring private-sector disclosure of data breaches while maintaining the data privacy of their customers.

As Congressman Will Hurd of Texas put it, “One of the biggest issues that we need to deal with, both in government and in business, is the evolving nature of threats.” Congressman Hurd is correct —there is no one-size-fits-all solution to improving cybersecurity. But with the recent introduction of the EINSTEIN Act of 2015, he is proposing some important steps to address the threat.

The EINSTEIN Act of 2015 will improve the U.S. government’s cyber security. But it would behoove business leaders to follow Congressman Hurd’s lead by introducing protocols for their own companies on how to respond to and defend against a cyber attack and breach. With manufacturers connecting heavy machinery to the Industrial Internet through the use of sensors, security becomes all the more important.

The data gathered by these sensors is making businesses smarter and more efficient, but it is also making them more vulnerable to attacks by foreign governments, professional hackers and for those who are interested in espionage for their own personal gains. To avoid this unfortunate scenario, businesses must rethink their approach to cyber security with a well-defined plan that is always evolving and responding to the latest threats.

A comprehensive cyber security plan that both mitigates risks and is proactive with disclosure will help businesses avoid the “Oh, that just happened” moment. When a company is hacked, the plan would kick into gear, and the proper disclosures would be made to users, shareholders and authorities in a timely manner without delay.

Each and every company that interacts with the public and collects data on its users should be required to publicly share its disclosure plans in the case of a breach. Transparency is the key to building and maintaining trust with the individuals who interact with the business.

In that spirit, Congress members Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Peter Welch of Vermont have introduced the Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 to standardize the process of reporting a security breach to affected U.S. residents, which would make it easier for business to comply with the law while continuing to maintain trust with their users.

Blackburn, who has described cyberspace as “the battlefield of the 21st Century,” says the American people “deserve to know that their personal information is safe and secure.”

For larger breaches involving more than 10,000 users, the legislation would require businesses to notify the proper authorities — the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Secret Service or Federal Bureau of Investigation — as well as consumer reporting agencies. Importantly, businesses would also have access to an online educational resource at the FTC to get help in crafting a cyber security plan.

Instead of waiting for Congress to act, business leaders should prepare for the worst — while hoping for the best — when it comes to preventing a cyber attack or data breach. It’s not a matter of if, but when, as companies large and small are potential targets. Some companies today may not even be aware that their systems have already been compromised.

To avoid this scenario, business leaders should hire in-house senior-level cybersecurity experts, such as a chief information security officer and senior threat intelligence analyst. These individuals would be responsible for examining the organization’s digital infrastructure and using threat intelligence to develop a well-defined cyber security plan that would prepare the company for cyber attacks.

The cyber security plan should include the following:

  • Conduct a threat assessment based on current global events and proprietary corporate information.
  • Establish network monitoring techniques focused on cyber tactics that could be used against industrial companies to take over heavy machinery.
  • Regularly audit the network to test for penetration.
  • Conduct regular key control assessments for technologies and services.
  • Analyze existing and future systems for possible security weak points.
  • Train with leaders in cybersecurity and cyber warfare.
  • Maintain a relationship with law enforcement.
  • Craft a disclosure plan in case of a data breach.

A well-defined security plan complete with timely disclosure will allow businesses to maintain the trust of their partners, users, shareholders and the public as a whole. Trust is to the key to building any successful business and without it, there can be no business. As cyber security evolves, so should our mindset.

The Cyber Security Mindset is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published in The Washington Times.

James Harrison: The Innovation Interview

James Harrison, Co-Founder & CEO of Sky-Futures shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of drone-enabled data businesses.

In 2006 and 2007 James Harrison served in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as an expert advisor to the US airborne forces. It was here that we saw the potential for UAVs to be used commercially to measure, monitor and inspect dangerous and hard to access infrastructure.

Alongside Chris Blackford a fellow serving army Officer, and Nick Rogers, a certified commercial airline pilot, Sky-Futures was incorporated in 2009 and in January 2011 the company started trading. James leads the overall strategic growth and positioning of Sky-Futures.

He has originated and driven sales and partnerships in 5 continents and has detailed understanding of new market entry. James has a strong understanding of international markets and corporate strategy with a focus on technology led innovation to create long term value and defensibility.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is about understanding how technology can benefit consumers or an industry and then applying it in a way that creates a clear value proposition.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

More mature industries typically have a risk-averse attitude and a view of ‘this is how we’ve always done it.’ Great recent examples include taxis e.g. Uber and retail e.g. ASOS.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

‘Don’t believe your own hype.’ There is always someone better, smarter and harder working, it may just be that you’re in the right place at the right time. It’s really important to be true to yourself and recognize that.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Professionally it’s being a part of Sky-Futures and helping to shape a can-do culture where the team continually outperform. Personally, it’s cycling unsupported from Vancouver to Mexico down the West Coast of the USA for charity in 18 days.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital for daily use. Physical books are a luxury for holiday.

What are some of the strategic advantages for owning and operating Sky-Futures in the United Kingdom?

By being based in London we have access to the best and brightest European talent, without having to directly compete with Silicon Valley. The UK has fantastic global trade links and, being a smaller country, increases the requirement to export from an early stage.

When working on a remote offshore oil rig, which technologies is Sky-Futures using to ensure that UAV’s can broadcast HD video in real-time without a delay?

We are working with existing technologies such as standard 5.8ghtz transmission to the ground control station and real time to first person view goggles.

Which new technologies or services are you planning to integrate into is Sky-Future’s bespoke technology inspection platform?

Gas detection and laser measurement are the first two products to be integrated into the technology inspection platform. They are in beta test with clients now and will be commercially available in the next couple of months.

As a Senior Consultant at Deloitte, what was your greatest takeaway and how were you able to use that knowledge to help you build and scale Sky-Futures?

I was really lucky to work in the strategy practice and undertook individual month long projects evaluating lots of different types of businesses and business models. Seeing first hand common mistakes and examples of where companies have scaled quickly has certainly helped with the strategic planning and focus for Sky-Futures.

What is the future of UAV’s and how will you position Sky-Futures to benefit from this trend?

The future of UAVs will see segmentation of different types of hardware servicing specific markets as opposed to the ‘one model fits all’ approach today. Also the increasing role of automation and sensor technology will increase the size and sophistication of the drone data sets. Sky-Futures are a drone-enabled data business; therefore, as UAVs proliferate and segment we will be uniquely positioned to work with various drone data sets providing high value analysis for businesses.

From Quartz to Smartwatch — Will History Repeat Itself?

As smartwatches become more prevalent, it might be worthwhile for the venerable Swiss watch industry to reflect back on the turbulent 1970s following the advent of the quartz watch.

Will history repeat itself for Swiss watchmakers — if they choose to stand by as smartwatches steal market share — or will they learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and adopt some of the disruptive technologies? Might we see a Swiss-made mechanical sensor hybrid watch with a sub-$5,000 price tag to offset the possible loss of revenue and market share from Apple, Samsung and other smartwatch innovators?

First, a history lesson: the last revolution that would forever change the watch industry started in 1962, when the Swiss watch industry founded the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) research center in Neuchâtel. The mission of the research center was to reinvent the wristwatch and develop a Swiss-made quartz wristwatch.

Around the same time in Japan, Seiko and Citizen were focusing on building their own electronic watches. Until that time, all watches manufactured in Japan since the late 19th century had been mechanical. On Christmas Day 1969 in Tokyo, the world’s first commercially available quartz watch was introduced — the Seiko 35 SQ Astron. With a limited production run of only 100 watches, Seiko 35 SQ Astron retailed for $1,250, roughly the same price as a Toyota Corolla in Japan at the time.

The Seiko 35 SQ Astron was accurate to within five seconds per month, or 100 times more accurate than any watch on the market. The accuracy combined with the fact it ran continuously for a year would help change the watch industry forever.

Soon after, in 1970 the CEH introduced consumers to the first Swiss-made quartz wristwatch — the Ebauches SA Beta 21 quartz. Yet when the Ebauches SA Beta 21 failed to catch on with the public, instead of doubling down, the Swiss watch industry returned its focus to crafting handmade mechanical watches. Meanwhile, the Seiko 35 SQ Astron would go on to usher in a revolution in watches.

As the Swiss watch continued to focus on their heritage, the exports of Swiss-made mechanical watches declined from 40 million in 1973 to only 3 million 10 years later. During this turbulent time, there was a massive downsizing of the Swiss watch industry, with several watch companies closing their doors. The number of individuals working in the Swiss watch industry fell by nearly half over the decade, to 47,000 by 1980.

It was not until 1983 that the Swiss watch industry rebounded to compete with the Japanese — with the launch of Swatch. The plastic watch was a big success, paving the way for the revitalization of Swiss watchmaking.

Who Will Join the Next Revolution?

Fast forward to today: the next revolution that could forever change the watch industry may have begun in September, with the official introduction of the Apple Watch. Could history once again repeat itself? If Swiss watchmakers follow the same path that they followed in the 1970s, it may very well.

Just ask Elmar Mock, co-inventor of the Swatch. He recently warned that Swiss watchmakers may have already “missed the boat” when it comes to capitalizing on the smartwatch opportunity.

So far, the Swiss reaction to the challenge posed by the Apple Watch has been a mix of indifference as well as some level of appreciation.

“I don’t think at all that this will change what we are doing,” Patrik Hoffmann, CEO of Ulysse Nardin recently told the Financial Times, following the unveiling of the Apple Watch. Hoffmann noted that luxury mechanical watches such as his — which start around $9,000 and can top $1 million — aren’t really in the same market as smartwatches that carry a price tag in the hundreds.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Biver, LVMH president of watches and jewelry, says he recognizes the opportunity that smartwatch technologies present to the Swiss industry, but doesn’t necessarily see it as a threat. “Adapt to this new business model and don’t underestimate the technology,” he told the FT. “But, at the same time, don’t forget that it is not the first revolution experienced by the watch industry — and it will certainly not be the last.”

If there was a history lesson from that last revolution, it’s that adaptation to a changing marketplace is key for any business — even Swiss watchmakers who can take great pride in their craftsmanship. Embrace the disruptive forces of technology and make them your own.

Biver has raised the possibility of a smartwatch for the company’s TAG Heuer brand and, as Apple sets its sights on capturing market share from the Swiss, other watchmakers might be wise to explore a similar move. For example, the strategic development of a mechanical-sensor hybrid watch retailing for less than $5,000 would not only provide a hedge against smartwatches, but potentially change the course of history — just as Seiko did more than four decades earlier.

The Seiko 35 SQ Astron quartz watch changed the watch industry by making owning and operating a watch simple. Similarly, the smartwatch is redefining what a watch is what it means to the consumer. The clock is ticking.

From Quartz to Smartwatch — Will History Repeat Itself? is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on General Electric Reports.