Accelerate - September 2014

Disrupting revolutions

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Dr Mary Quin shares her thoughts about the impact that converging technologies is having on the world around us.

Our new fiscal year is already off to a fast start and it seems as though the convergence of several technologies is making the world change even faster. As these new technologies are combining, they are changing the way we are living, connecting and doing business, and will continue to spur rapid change over the next 10 years.

In a SAP thought leadership paper, Idea to Performance, Maximizing Opportunity in a New, Technology-Driven Industrial Revolution, the writers reason that we are in a fourth industrial revolution. The first revolution was, of course, the introduction of steam-driven mechanical production in the 19th century to replace human production. The second revolution involved the use of electricity and mass production, which led to the introduction of the assembly line.

The third revolution took place in the 1970s, with electric engineering and automation that helped manufacturers to globalise their operations through optimal use of resources. The fourth revolution, according to the SAP paper, is happening now as technology is merging the digital and physical world. Products, machines and resources are communicating with each other and the challenge is to keep up, plan ahead and not become a casualty in this new world.

Sensing technologies, mobile devices, big data and cloud computing are influencing the way we relate to our environment and the smart entrepreneurs and businesses are taking notice. We are more connected than ever, and we are entering an era where machines will know more about our behaviours and habits than most of our closest friends and family members.

In a recent lecture at The University of Auckland, Tony Seba, international disruption thought leader, author, and Stanford University lecturer, shared his views of how the combination of several technologies is set to disrupt the transportation industry completely within the next 10 years.

He used the example of the mobile app Uber that connects passengers in urban areas with private drivers for a fee or drive sharing. Uber was launched in 2010 and within four years it has become such a threat to the taxi industry across the world that cabbies in the UK have gone on strike and recently it was banned in Berlin. A mobile app from a company that does not own a single car but uses sensors, data and consumer choice as its selling point is threatening the future of the taxi industry as we know it.

The taxi industry did not see it coming, was not aware of the impact that the changes in technology will have on its market and is now facing a battle for survival. They also missed a great opportunity – they could have been driving the change, not responding to a crisis.

We have to be smart about how we can use these technology convergences and create our own disruptions if we want to grow our businesses and the New Zealand economy.

This was why we were so happy to host two workshops with Tony Seba for businesses in Auckland and Christchurch early in September that focused on future opportunities in a disruptive market.

Tony believes that the next 10 years will be a time of considerable change across different industries as technologies combine and we have to start planning for several scenarios and be smart about our choices and opportunities.

I look forward to sharing the success stories of New Zealand companies who are disrupting their markets and creating opportunities for growth. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but an exciting one.

Dr Mary Quin, CEO

Updated: 4 September 2015