This blog post was originally published in The Guardian on March 1, 2016:
Innovation comes in many forms. In the technology world, we often like to point to products since that’s the simplest thing for our minds to imagine. But changes in processes, business models and user experience can all cause transformative change.
At this year’s Institution of Engineering and Technology/British Computer Society Turing Lecture series I analysed the remarkable impact of the smartphone at work, at home and on our lives more generally.
Everyone lauds the introduction of the Apple iPhone as the cause of the smartphone revolution, but it wasn’t the first smartphone. I’d argue that the explosion in adoption came because the iPhone was offered with a brand new data plan from AT&T that offered consumers an “all you can eat” model of data consumption for just $30 per month.
Suddenly, the price barrier attached to data consumption disappeared and people were free to use their phones to surf the web as much as they wanted.
The challenge is balancing the delivery of information and content to people without it becoming overwhelming.
With overall mobile subscriptions set to grow to 9.1 billion, including 4.1 billion people signing up to 4G technology and almost 70% of all mobile traffic data projected to be video by 2021, data is now everywhere.
Imagine how today’s professionals differ from those of past generations. Arriving at work at 9 a.m. to start the day, slugging through for eight or nine hours and then heading home is a thing of the past.
Now, people kick things off by reading emails in bed and getting a start on the day before their commute. The day blends between work and personal as our devices let us remain in contact with family members. When we go home at night, colleagues still contact many of us until bedtime.
We can now FaceTime with our kids while travelling for work and, likewise, we can telepresence with our colleagues in Asia from our couch. Our smartwatches deliver news and content to us when we cycle or run. This change gives greater flexibility for us to plan our days as we want them and savvy customers demand that their products and services keep up with this shift.
User design is also often overlooked part of the innovation drive. The challenge with this is balancing the delivery of content to people without it becoming overwhelming.
Companies of the future must be ready to deliver information and answers on any screen at any time, but must also respect the boundaries demanded by the end user. This will compel companies to better understand their customers, gain their trust and enable them to opt in to what I have termed consumer dayflow.
Some airlines do this already with their products for the iPhone and Apple Watch. I can use the app on phone, for example, to book a flight, check in and get my boarding pass. On the Apple Watch, I get departure updates, the latest gate information and weather details at my destination.
Likewise, we are starting to see the crossover in solutions on the Android platform which are available on phone, tablet, smartwatch and car via Android Auto. In the US, Major League Baseball app MLB.com At Bat provides realtime score updates on my watch; phone and tablet apps offer pitch by pitch tracking, news and multimedia. Since MLB.com offers the ability to subscribe to audio streams, the Android Auto version enables that functionality when in your car (while also locking out distracting features).
This fourth industrial revolution will come because companies will understand the culture necessary to create innovations that do just this: making people smile by delivering personal, contextual and relevant information using whatever device they want to access that content upon.