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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Thomas Serval: The Innovation Interview

Thomas Serval, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO of Kolibree shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the connected toothbrush.

An entrepreneur since 2001, Thomas Serval is one of the key pioneers in connected objects, having been instrumental in the Internet of things as far back as 1997. He is co-founder of Kolibree, Flaminem and Radioline and founder of Aleph1 a new accelerator concept that leverages companies across 3 continents. His latest innovation, Kolibree, the world’s first connected electric toothbrush, was named best of CES 2014 for Home by Digital Trends.

Prior to stepping out as an entrepreneur, he served as Managing Director of the Media and Platforms Group for Google Southern, Eastern Europe Middle East and Africa (SEEMEA) and was former Director of Platform and Ecosystem division at Microsoft France.

Before Microsoft and Google, he developed and grew his own venture Baracoda from $0 to $10m in revenue in 8 years, which has become a market leader in Bluetooth Automatic Identification devices and Internet Radio service.

As owner of more than ten patents on wireless technology, his inventions include the first Bluetooth barcode scanner, the first Bluetooth GPS, the first Bluetooth RFID scanner, the first wifi Internet Radio, the first radio application on the appstore (Liveradio), and the first electric connected toothbrush.

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

I am constantly thinking about ways to improve the world and from that vantage point, I think that Innovation is a way of life and a way to be curious about the world. Innovation means always staying ahead of the curve since you are not afraid to move forward with your ideas.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

All industries need innovation for without it, the industry itself doesn’t progress forward. People who live in fear is the very thing that stifles innovation. The opposite of innovation is the sentiment and fear that “I’m afraid of losing my job (while actually it is the contrary that is likely to happen), I’m afraid to fail, I’m afraid to contradict my boss). If employees can learn how to better master their fears, they can learn how to be more innovative.

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

Don’t try to be good in everything. Focus on what you know best and most importantly are passionate about. Then, try to find the people that are complementary to you and hire them.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

I invented the world’s first connected electric toothbrush, which provides people with real time feedback on how well they brush their teeth, which is life changing for those who want to make a paradigm shift in dental care. It can transform how we brush, improving the health of our teeth and making us healthier overall.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Physical books, digital newspapers or all digital when I travel.

Why did you decide to design and develop the smart toothbrush?

18 months ago since I thought it would help my daughter better brush her teeth and allow me to know that she did and when.

As consumers start to use the Kolibree toothbrush and become comfortable with the product, will they be able to share their brushing habits with their dentist? If so, how will the dentist digest the data from all of their patients?

Customers will have all rights on their data, so they can agree to share this with their dentist or choose to keep it private. We will work with dentists so they can collect data by permission to help them better understand their patients, therefore providing better oral care.

Besides knowing that you have correctly brushed your teeth, why will consumers want to switch from electric toothbrushes such as Philips’ Sonicare?

Kolibree will help you brush your teeth better and while you learn and improve your brushing habits, you will have fun along the way. We are building an API that will let third parties develop new games based on our toothbrush. The possibilities here are endless.

Have you held discussions with any consumer discretionary companies about building on the Kolibree API? If so, what has the response been from consumer discretionary companies?

Very positive – Who doesn’t brush their teeth?

How do you envision the smart health market evolving and how will you position Kolibree for the segments future growth?

We believe that with connected objects the world of oral care will move from curation to prevention and Kolibree wants to become the platform to achieve this transition.

Jason Fass: The Innovation Interview

Jason Fass, CEO of Zepp Labs shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of wearable technologies.

Jason’s professional career is deeply rooted in the technology sector, having held positions in product management for tech giants including Cisco, Apple and Jawbone. At Apple, Jason was the senior product manager for the MacBook Pro line responsible for launching 10 unique models. Jason saw an opportunity to use his obsession with personal data to develop new sensor-based technologies and is proud to be leading the team at Zepp Labs.

Zepp Labs empowers athletes and coaches with meaningful performance information that can help them discover ways to immediately improve their game. The company’s first product “GolfSense” combines a streamlined sensor, mobile applications for iOS and Android, and a patented motion engine to provide golfers with a complete 3D analysis of every swing. In less than 12 months GolfSense has become the world’s leading mobile swing analyzer.

Jason received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and an MBA from Pepperdine University. When he isn’t busy working on the next technology development for Zepp, Jason can be found out on the trails of Demo Forest and UCSC riding his mountain bike, kite boarding at 3rd Ave and spending time with his family.

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

Delivering a product or experience that fundamentally improves a customer’s life (in our case, their life in sports).

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Sports! How are so many outcomes of the world’s biggest games decided by humans? I also think the Airline industry could seriously embrace innovation. How is it that there are 8 doors on an aircraft yet we use 1 when boarding?

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

Trust your gut.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Marrying my wife. She’s my best friend in the world, incredibly supportive, and a wonderful mother.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

100% Digital.

What role will big data and sensors play in sports and how will you position Zepp Labs to benefit from this trend?

We think every ball, bat, racket, glove, shoe, etc. will be digitally connected in the future. There’s going to be an enormous amount of data available around the sports we all love. And there’s going to need to be a platform for this data from which amazing digital experiences are created. That’s what we are building.

What trends has Zepp Labs been able to identify in terms of how amateur athletes are performing in their chosen sport using Zepp Lab sensors?

We are seeing our athletes get better every day. Increased bat and club speeds, more consistent tempo numbers, more consistent power, etc. etc.

How do you envision Zepp Labs growing over the next two to five years and what segments of the market are you currently exploring for expansion?

We are excited about our multi-sport platform and new sensor technology. So much is possible.

When do you think big data will become an everyday “must have” for amateur athletes who want to perform better?

It already is. Anyone who wants to get better at their sport, wants to see the critical data that can help them.

What is the future of wearable technologies for the sports industry?

All gear will be connected in the very near future. Athletes will have more data available to them than ever before. but it must be meaningful and actionable data.

Liam Casey: The Innovation Interview

Liam Casey, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PCH International shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and development and supply chain management.

PCH creates, develops and delivers the world’s best technology products for the world’s best brands. The company employs 5,000 people around the world. PCH reported revenues of US$710 million in 2011, and 2010 revenue of US$413 million. The company moves 10 million parts every day with an annual retail value of approximately $8 billion.

Liam identified the enormous potential and opportunities for growth in China in the mid-1990s, and he founded PCH in Cork, Ireland in 1996. Liam is widely recognized as a thought leader on international trade and business in China. His entrepreneurial flair and talent for spotting new opportunities has revolutionized international commerce and disrupted traditional supply chain models, contributing to the success of many of the world’s largest technology brands. Liam’s vision for PCH has dramatically shortened the time-to-market for the latest products on the market. He developed a unique end-to-end integrated supply chain solution, including product design through to a fulfillment business that offers customers the longest global reach with the leanest supply chain inventories.

Liam was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year – Ireland accolade in 2007, Business & Finance International Irish Business Person of the Year in 2009 and All-Ireland Marketing Champion in 2012. Liam was admitted as a fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors in June 2011. He was appointed International Start-up Ambassador to China by Enterprise Ireland, an Irish Government agency, in March 2012. Liam was also appointed a member of the Advisory Group for the Global Irish Network by the Irish Government in April 2012. He is currently Patron of the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum.

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

To me, innovation means disrupting existing industries, systems, or products, and making the experience simpler and better for the end user.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Every industry should embrace innovation. In the world of product development, I believe the banking industry needs to develop better solutions for entrepreneurs, particularly early to mid-stage startups. Entrepreneur Magazine shared some statistics recently that showed banks fund less than 1.5% of startups. There has to be an opportunity here.

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

The best advice I have been given by another successful business person is to not be afraid to dive into the details of your business. The best advice I can give anyone is to travel and don’t be held back by traditional boundaries or perceptions – we have a saying in our business today that “geography is history”.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Hiring the best team I could find to help me build the business. It might be a cliché that people are the most important part of any business, but in PCH’s case, we really have the best people.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Both! The future of the publishing world is definitely digital but I am in a plane a lot, so I still read print copies of newspapers and magazines during takeoff and landing.

How were you able to grow PCH International from a one-employee sourcing company in 1996 to the largest employer in the Futian free-trade zone in Shenzhen, China?

We have always focused on customer service, and from the very beginning of the company, our purpose was Developing Partnerships Delivering Peace of Mind. Keeping the customer in mind and staying true to this purpose has allowed us to deliver on our promises and keep our customers, employees and investors happy.

What have been your greatest challenges building and running a business in China?

The challenges of running a business in China are no different than anywhere else in the world. Hiring and retaining the best people is the most important part of any business wherever you are in the world. We have operated in China since 1996. In the West, when people think of doing business in China, the first thing that comes to mind is low-cost manufacturing. Back in 2003, we made a decision to invest in our own facilities in China. In doing so, we knew for sure that Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta region had a lot more to offer than just cheap labour. We saw it as an innovative, creative and entrepreneurial place to operate, and the best location to run a global supply chain company.

With PCH International’s understanding of the supply chain and manufacturing of great products, what large challenges are companies in the Accelerator currently trying to solve with new innovative products?

We have two programs for startups, an incubator program, Highway1 (for early stage startups) and PCH Accelerator (for later stage startups with more than $1 million in funding. All of our companies are carefully chosen for their ability to fill a niche or to disrupt certain industries. Some of our most innovative products such as Lively in the Accelerator program are helping to improve the lives of the elderly through innovative technology.

How will PCH International help Xiaomi scale on an international stage?

We don’t go into details about our specific clients. We can help Chinese mainland companies to develop their products and we have the systems in place to fulfill products directly to international markets in a very short time frame – as short as 40 hours to Europe from China.

What is the next great product growth category and how are you positioning PCH International to benefit from this growth?

I couldn’t possibly choose just one category! There are so many exciting opportunities. I am particularly interested to see what’s next in the wearable technology industry.

Henri-Nicolas Olivier: The Innovation Interview

Henri-Nicolas Olivier, CEO of CONNECTEDEVICE Ltd shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of smartwatches.

Mr. Olivier has over twenty-four years of experience in the telecom industry in marketing and management positions with key industry players like Barphone, AT&T, Inventel, and ModeLabs in his native France, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

From 2003 to 2009, Mr. Olivier served as board member in charge of product strategy and international development at ModeLabs Group — a high-end mobile handset manufacturer and mobile accessories distributor that he co-founded. ModeLabs’s subsequent IPO on Paris Stock Exchange NYSE-Euronext was a great success in 2006.

Prior to founding ModeLabs, Mr. Olivier was the CEO at Inventel, — a French wireless product design house and wireless access point and broadband router equipment manufacturer, including not least the development of LiveBox for Orange. The popularity of LiveBox and its subsequent versions led to the company’s successful sale to Thomson S.A.

Since 2009, Mr. OLIVIER has been the CEO of Bluetrek Technologies Ltd., a Hong Kong-based multiple award-winning mobile accessories developer and manufacturer with presence in China, Europe, and U.S.A.

Riding on the advent of Bluetooth Smart (Low Energy) technology, together with his solid experience in Bluetooth, Mr. Olivier started CONNECTEDEVICE in 2011 to enter the fast growing market of wearable technology and Internet of Things. The first product is the COOKOO connected watch, a stylish analog watch that connects to smart devices via an App.

Mr. Olivier’s natural leadership and his ability to bring in the right people have made CONNECTEDEVICE a strong global team. His vision, business acumen and lean start-up experience all help drive the strategic direction of the company. His ability to innovate and hands-on and down-to-earth approach also make the team nimble and efficient in meeting the dynamic needs of the market.

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

I would use a simple and broad definition — innovation is about creating something that doesn’t already exist. In technology, it’s about creating a product or delivering a service that was not possible in the same way before.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The watch industry has a rich tradition of innovation. From complex mechanisms to quartz technology and digital displays, it’s always been a great application field for innovators. The next step for watchmakers is connectivity. It’s the new frontier.

In the coming years, the world will benefit from more innovation in products and services related to health and aging. We have to find better solutions to address this important need for the next generation. I believe technology can help us better manage the social costs and personal challenges of caring for an aging population. Wearable tech, like embedded sensors in clothing, will play a big role in this next wave of innovation.

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

It’s not necessarily the most profound words that I remember, but rather the daily interaction with intelligent and talented people. Their actions and examples have had a more positive impact than any single piece of advice I have received.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

The next one. The past is known, but the future, that’s where you put your heart and energy today. When you look forward, it is those achievements still to come that are really the most rewarding.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Both. I do a lot of digital reading, like most people in business today, but I would not give up my Sunday-edition print newspaper or a big book. I’m reading now a biography of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Sometimes it’s just more satisfying to turn the pages of a heavy book.

COOKOO has a simple design that appeals more so to watch connoisseurs than an early technology adopters. Was this the goal that you had in mind when you designed, marketed and launched the COOKOO smartwatch?

Absolutely. We believe a watch should be — first and foremost — a fashion accessory, not simply a digital display on your wrist. Most devices you carry, like phones, have standard form factors. But when it comes to a device you wear, the one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Consumers expect something that reflects their tastes and personality.

For this reason, we believe COOKOO’s look is just as important as its functions and features. We worked with award-winning designer Xavier Houy to create a watch that consumers would want to wear, a timepiece that blends an attractive analog face with a digital display. Everyone is free to express their own style through a variety of color choices and, soon, a choice of silicon, leather or steel wrist straps.

With the recent launch of the Samsung GALAXY Gear Smartwatch there seems to be an increased consumer demand for Smartwatches. How are you positioning COOKOO for the perceived consumer demand?

The trend is very clear — everywhere COOKOO was sold alongside Samsung Gear, we saw our sales increase after the launch. Wearable Tech is a relatively new category, so as much as Samsung promotes their own product, they also promote the entire world of smartwatches. COOKOO stands to benefit as our competitors explain the value of smartwatches to the consumer, and as we explain our unique position.

Unlike other smartwatches, COOKOO was designed to be an extension of the phone, not a duplication of it. This is an important distinction. When linked with the app, COOKOO allows users to customize settings based on their priorities and select which notifications they want to appear on the watch face. Less is more. Most users do not want, or need, full phone functionality on their wrists.

Our approach to battery life is also quite different. We don’t believe users will accept another power-hungry device that requires a nightly recharge with bulky power cords, so we designed COOKOO to run on a conventional button-cell battery. You can use COOKOO for up to one year without a charge and, when necessary, the battery can be replaced easily by the user.

Since COOKOO can support multiple devices, have you explored any marketing partnerships with OEM’s or Wireless carriers to create exclusive enhanced versions of the COOKOO smartwatch?

Yes, we have deals in place with wireless carriers today where we bundle a phone, the COOKOO watch and the service. We will do more of this in the future, and we know that services will be a critically important part of any offering.

Was making the COOKOO Smartwatch waterproof always a priority when you were developing the concept? If so, why?

Waterproofing was always a priority. Think of all those wet situations when you can’t carry your phone: in the shower, on the beach, in the pool, under the rain. The COOKOO watch is a wearable extension of the phone, especially helpful when your phone cannot be in your hands.

Wearing a smartwatch should be as natural as wearing a conventional watch — features like waterproofing, and the fact that COOKOO does not require a recharge, allow us to add connectivity without changing the user’s behavior. It’s a normal, comfortable experience. Our next generation watch will have enhanced water resistance, up to 10 ATM.

How do you envision the wearable technology market evolving over the coming years?

Wearable tech will be an evolution, not a revolution. Much of the development now is technology-driven, where manufacturers pack every possible feature on the device simply because it’s possible to do so. But does the consumer want it all? Does it really make sense to wear it? Wearable devices are so close to the body, so personal, that future development will have to be usage-driven. It’s not about the technology itself, but the benefits and experience it delivers to the user.

Ami Ben David: The Innovation Interview

Ami Ben David, Co-Founder of Everything.me shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the Everything.me dynamic phone experience.

Ami’s career began at Aladdin Knowledge Systems, a software security company (NASDAQ:ALDN and later acquired by Vector Capital), and continued at AladdinSoft, a start-up subsidiary of Aladdin, developing home banking and CRM solutions for some of Israel’s largest organizations. While at AladdinSoft Ami led the CRM group, which developed and sold high-end telemarketing platforms.

After selling AladdinSoft, Ami worked as a senior consultant, primarily in London, UK followed by a period at MagmaVC (previously Magnum Ventures) where as VP of Investments he dealt primarily with mobile software-related start-ups.

Returning to his entrepreneurial roots, Ami then co-founded Ki-Bi Mobile Technologies, a mobile content distribution company, where he was responsible for product, marketing and sales. The company went public on the AIM in 2005.

Ami then was tapped by Oberon Media to launch the company’s European and Asian operations. Moving to London, Ami established and oversaw this expansion, taking responsibility for online, mobile and social platforms. While at Oberon, Ami drove hundreds of deals with media companies, portals and carriers leading to the distribution of online games that garnered tens of millions of monthly users across the EU and Asia. Under his leadership, Oberon garnered a position within the top 3 distributors and publishers of mobile and online games in most territories.

In 2010 Ami and Rami Kasterstein began talking about potential investment ideas, and in the process conceived the idea for DoAT. They brought in a third co-founder, Joey Simhon, and began development. At DoAT, Ami is responsible for product, user experience, strategic relationships and marketing.

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

Innovation is about creating something that is truly new, not superficially, but deeply and fundamentally new – something which changes reality. For me, innovation goes together with thinking big. It’s pretty easy to innovate in small increments, in fact for every problem or opportunity, there could be dozens of alternative, and equally good incremental improvements. But what is that one big leap that changes the reality of the problem or opportunity? These are the things I call innovation.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

We live in an exciting era, in which Innovation is not an option any more, its the only way to survive. Therefore every industry should embrace innovation, but not every industry should take more risks. In fact, the biggest risk any industry player can take is to NOT innovate. The reality of our world fundamentally changed since 10 years ago. Today, every smartphone carries (or connects to) low-cost and near-endless computing power. This changes everything, and if you don’t embrace it, your competitor will.

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

When I just started in business, I was about to go on a trip to Asia for the first time, and asked a friend for advice on how to behave, how to exchange cards, etc. He said, “There is too much to know, and no way I can teach you all of it”, but he then said “just be yourself, be genuine and real, show your true personality, and people of any culture will instinctively recognize and appreciate it”. Best business advice ever.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

It has to be the start up I co-founded, Everything.me. Out of all the things I have been involved in, it is the most ambitious, innovating and exciting – trying to reinvent the way people interact with their smartphones. I truly believe the smartphone is the most important innovation of our time, if our ideas can become the way millions of people use their devices, for me – that’s the ultimate achievement.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital is a life saver for me, I can’t really read physical books. Analog is romantic, but digital is reality.

What was the inspiration for Everything.me?

We have been working on Everything.me for almost 3 years now, so there were a lot of inspiration points, but the key moment when I felt inspired, was when we together deeply understood that we are not an app inside a phone, we actually want to re-invent the smartphone interface, and make it dramatically more powerful and in tune with our dynamic lives. I feel the biggest inspiration is to figure out the core of your full potential, and go for it.

How do you see the dynamic phone concept evolving? Will you scale Everything.me to the Smart TV and then to the car?

The idea behind the dynamic phone is that our lives are dynamic, we change modes 10 times a day, and our devices should simply and almost magically adapt. This is universally true for any device with apps and an interface, so yes we see the model evolve to tablets, TVs and cars, but for now we focus on the smartphone.

What role does user feedback play in development of Everything.me?

I believe great innovations come from a great vision, so you have to have a clear direction you believe in and that drives you forward even when a portion of your audience demands something else. Within that vision, really listening to user feedback and understanding what they are saying, is critically important in delivering a magical experience.

With Everything.me’s ability to turn any Android phone into a branded phone, have you approached and or has a company such Nike approached you about developing branded experiences that tie into their existing platforms? For example, hypothetically Nike could tie an branded Everything.me expereince into their Nike+ platform.

This is absolutely a direction we are working on, remember we only launched our beta 2 months ago, and there is a lot more to come.

It is extremely savvy to have Telefónica Digital as a strategic investor as it opens up a wide array of distribution options for the Everything.me platform in the Spanish Speaking market. With Telefónica’s presence in South America, specifically Brazil, are there plans to work with Telefónica to develop localized dynamic phone experiences for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?

We are part of the Firefox OS launch with Mozilla and Telefonica, and we are super busy with preparation for this exciting product launch. On top of this platform there will certainly be a place for local and dynamic phone experiences, not just for the FIFA world cup and Olympic games – but for every relevant event… this is the whole idea of the dynamic phone, to deliver relevant experiences on demand and on time.