Paul Wallbank

Paul Wallbank is a speaker and writer charting how technology is changing society and business. Paul has four regular technology advice radio programs on ABC, a weekly column on the smartcompany.com.au website and has published seven books.

Oct 252014
 
nest-iot-aquired-by-google-protect-black-pathlight

Since Google bought smart smoke detector company Nest earlier this year it’s become apparent that the search engine giant sees the smarthome as one of its big marketplaces in the near future.

Nest’s acquisition of smarthome automation company Revolv yesterday illustrates this and shows that Nest is Google’s smarthome division.

As the smarthome becomes more common, the value of controlling the systems that run the connected home’s devices becomes greater. So the positions being taken by Apple, Google and Samsung are going to be important as the marketplace develops.

The latter relationship — Google and Samsung — is particularly fascinating as Samsung’s smartphones and tablets are locked into the Google Android system which makes it harder for the Korean industrial giant to strike off in an independent path.

All of this of course is based upon homeowners being happy with having their smarthomes locked into one vendor’s platform. We may yet see the market rebel against the internet giant’s ambitions to carve up the connected world.

Oct 242014
 
innovation

“Technology is part of the solution, but it’s also part of the problem,” says Brian Solis, the

Brian Solis describes himself as a digital anthropologist who looks for how businesses are being disrupted. We talk about digital darwinism, how businesses can approach change and the role of individual changemakers within organisations.

“My primary responsibility is to study disruptive technology and its impacts on business,” says Solis. “I look at emerging technology and try to determine which one is going to become disruptive.”

To identify what technologies are likely to disrupt businesses it’s necessary to understand the human factors, Solis believes.

One of the problems Solis sees is the magnitude of change required within organisations and particularly the load this puts on individuals, citing the story of one pharmaceutical worker who tried to change her employer.

“Her mistake was thinking this was a short race, she thought everyone could see the opportunity inherent in innovation and change when in fact it was a marathon. She burned herself out”

“What that means is to bring about change you really have to dig yourself in because you’re ready to do your part. You can’t do it alone, you have to do change in small portions and win over the right people.”

Oct 232014
 
sales methods are changing in an era of cloud computing and social media

Today GE had their At Work conference in Sydney where CEO Jeff Immelt was interviewed by Westfarmers’ boss Richard Goyder.

One of the key messages from Immelt in his interview with the Australian conglomerate’s CEO was that finding growth in a flat global economy is going to take hard work and creativity; just relying on increased domestic spending is not longer an option.

Immelt was particularly pointed about the developed world’s economies, “the US is best since the financial crisis, growth is broad based but it’s still in the two to two-and-a-half percent range. It may be that’s the new normal.”

“Europe and Japan are pretty tough, forty percent of the world’s economy is still difficult, not going downward but stable and flat.”

Preparing for a slow growth world

“We’ve prepared ourselves for a slow growth world but one where you can invest in growth.”

“There’s still opportunities out there,” Immelt observed. “We’re going to have to make our own growth.”

Part of that growth story relates to the end of the consumerist era where debt funded consumer spending, particularly in the US, drove the global economy.

“We are coming out of a time period of the last ten or fifteen years where the US grew four and half percent every year with no inflation. So the US was the dominant economy in the world during the 1980s and 1990s.”

“We knew that was not going to be the same, so we’re in a world with no tail wind where we think greater focus on things like R&D, globalisation and things like that which will be critically important.”

Changing business focus

One of things Immelt did after the global financial crisis was to change the focus of the business away from the consumer finance division that had been a river of gold over the last thirty years back to being an industrial infrastructure company.

“Everyone needs to paranoid about relevancy and what they do great in the world today. There is no shelf life for reputation or anything else.”

“The engine of growth in the US when it was growing at its best was the US consumer, both in the combination of their own wealth and in taking on leverage. That was the engine of growth from 1980 to 2007.”

“It ended badly, but those were big engines of growth. What will be the next engines of growth?” Immelt mused.

Asian consumers to the rescue

Immelt sees the rise of Asian economies as being the next growth drivers with over billion consumers rising in affluence.

Whether those Asian economies can generate the growth that the hyper-developed economies of North America, Europe and Japan were able to provide during the past thirty years remains to be seen given China’s, and most of Asia’s, consumers having nothing like the West’s spending power.

The truth is we’re decades off Asia’s huddled masses having the economic strength to carry the global economy in the way the western world’s consumers did for the closing decades of the Twentieth Century.

For economies like Australia that are largely based upon domestic consumption funded by debt, this will mean a massive redirection of the economy away from renovating houses to investing in productive industries.

Immelt’s message to business leaders is clear; don’t rely on a rising tide of domestic growth to keep you afloat. Companies are going to have to find new markets and products if they want to grow, waiting for customers to arrive is no longer an option.

Oct 212014
 
paypal-innovation-tour-039

Beacon technologies are one of the hottest items in the Internet of Things with retailers, sports stadiums and hotels looking at how they  can use these devices to improve their operations and customer experiences.

At Dreamforce 2014 Proximity Insight’s Steve Orell spoke on the event’s wearable panel about how their service plugs into beacon technology and customer service.

Proximity Insight was born out of the 2013 Dreamforce Hackathon where Orell and his team were finalists. From that, the company set up operations in New York with a focus on customer relationship management in the retail industry.

Retail isn’t the only the field that Orell sees for Proximity Insight with the hotel and casino industries as being other targets.

“With the hotel, why check-in? Why not walk in and let your smartphone do it for you?” Orell asks.

“It’s all about making live so much more seamless and slick,” Orell adds. “There’s opportunities in every sector.”

For businesses looking at rolling out beacon technologies the key is to be adding value to enhance the customer experience, Orell believes.

“You have to be delivering something to the customer beyond tracking them, it’s about making the whole retail or hospitality experience better. It has to benefit the customer.”

With beacon technologies now becoming common and the supporting hardware being built into all smartphones, we can expect to see more applications coming onto the market. It’s worth considering how your business can use them to enhance the customer experience.

Paul travelled to Dreamforce 2014 as a guest of Salesforce

Oct 202014
 
Santa Claus is largely an invention of the coca-cola corporation

At today’s Telstra Digital Summit in Sydney, digital strategist Brian Solis spoke about the disruptions happening across all industries.

One of the sources he cited was Scott Galloway of the New York University’s business school and Galloway’s Winners and Losers presentation from last May.

The presentation is thought provoking with Galloway predicting many of the social media platforms are doomed to either low returns or failure.

Galloway is particularly scathing of Pinterest: “They were the leader in the visual web, but they’ve been blown away by Instagram”. Instagram’s success, Galloway believes is driven by the shift to visual communications on the net.

The biggest takeaway though is Galloway’s prediction that the middle class is in decline. That has great ramifications for all businesses built upon the Twentieth Century consumer model.

Oct 192014
 
social media services like facebook have fan pages

The story of Whisper and the betrayal of its users continues to roll on, but the real problem is the way social media services are desperately trying to recreate the dead business model of print advertising.

Whisper’s problems with The Guardian continue as the company tries to salvage its reputation but the irony for the service is that it was trying to shoehorn its business to fit the print publishing model that the internet started to erode twenty years ago.

It’s not just Whisper; almost every social media business from Facebook to Twitter wants to be an advertiser funded publishing company, just like the newspapers of thirty years ago.

A few weeks ago I wrote about LinkedIn’s pretensions of becoming a publishing platform and this week Forbes tells of Pinterest’s adventures at the Cannes advertising festival as it sells its marketing services.

Every social media service has some sort of angle that harks back to the golden age of newspaper publishing where print advertising was a deep river of gold. Most of them want to become publishers themselves.

It would be hard to think of a service less suited to being a media company than Whisper; but then there’s Yelp whose main business of reviewing eating houses and bars seems to be totally at odds with newspapers of yore.

On the Salesforce PayPal Media panel last week, Yelp! Founder Jeremy Stoppelman was asked if he saw the restaurant review site as being a media company, his response was “sure, it’s a blogging platform.”

So we have new media aping the old media business models where these platforms try to lock users into information silos; in the same way that a London Times reader would never buy the Sun.

The problem with that is the internet broke down the geographic barriers and today a Sun reader in London can just easily find celebrity gossip on TMZ and the broadsheet reader might find more thoughtful analysis in the New York Times.

Certainly someone browsing the web for restaurant reviews might find a better site than Yelp while a bride researching wedding dresses could just as easily find ideas on Facebook as much as Pinterest.

In reality, social media sites have nothing of the stickiness of the old fashioned newspapers in the days before the internet.

Of the social media services it might be that Facebook is the best placed to succeed as an old media publishing service with its advertising smarts pushing messages to its diverse and deep user base but that isn’t certain given the widespread user dissatisfaction with its news feed.

For the social media services much of the problem – -particularly for Facebook – lies in their contradictory aims; they are trying to be identity services, buying platforms, publishing services and advertisers.

For publishers that balance between content and advertising was always a delicate one; and one that shifted over time. For online services that balance is far more complex and the future far less certain.

One thing that is clear Is those contradictory aims aren’t going to be easy to reconcile and the quandary may prove to be insurmountable.

What’s clear though are the advertising models of the future are still waiting for a David Sarnoff moment.