Technology for Life - The Opportunities and Challenges in 2019

2018 saw us rebrand from Dogfish Mobile and move into a larger head office in the UK, increase our headcount and expand our presence in Europe, India and the USA. 2019 has a lot to live up to! I’m really excited about the prospects ahead, bringing new products and services to market that support our purpose of improving people’s experience of life through technology.

Looking to the wider technology world, I wanted to share my thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing our sector in the coming year as the CEO of a growing technology business with almost 20 years’ experience in the industry.

 

Healthcare and the Internet of Things

Healthcare TechI’m starting with the area that I’m most excited about! Technology has such huge potential to make massive positive impacts in this area of people’s lives. In 2019 and beyond, I’m confident that health tech will play an increasingly significant role in society, with much smarter connected technologies allowing us to take greater ownership of our own health and fitness, track the wellbeing of our loved ones and provide valuable data insights. For example:

  • Wearable tech tracking:
    • Fitness and Activity
    • Heart rates
    • Body temperature
    • Step counts
    • Sleep patterns
  • Smart technology around the home:
    • Movement monitors
    • Alert systems
    • Remote activated/monitored cameras
  • Mobile apps:
    • Track diets
    • Encourage healthy habits
    • Connect with advice and support
    • Display powerful data

One of the key benefits of health tech is the ability, through mobile and web apps, to display and analyse the data gathered by the smart devices and proactively take steps to improve behaviours or intervene quickly if there’s an immediate problem. The data gathered by these devices has huge potential in the areas of healthcare and driving new solutions, for example to meet the challenges of an aging population.

In late 2018 we joined forces with CareZapp, an organisation that’s making fantastic strides in this area. The CareZapp platform allows family, friends and healthcare professionals to monitor and respond to loved ones needs in real time, by using activity trackers, wearable devices or other smart technology around the home. It’s a life enhancing technology that allows elderly people to remain in their own homes as long as possible which has proven clinical benefits and a peace of mind to their support community.

This short video shows the impact CareZapp has made on some client’s lives. We’re really looking forward to growing and expanding the platform in new areas and with new functionality.

The opportunity to make a massive improvement to people’s lives in this area is huge – we’re only now just scratching the surface of what’s possible. I’m sure we’re going to see some wonderful innovations in tech for healthcare in 2019 and it’s exciting to see!

 

Digital Transformation

TransformationDigital Transformation has been the buzzword topic of the past couple of years, but in my opinion, it’s really just about ensuring alignment between the technology strategy and the overall business strategy! Traditionally organisations have had a very siloed approach to the technology needs of their business, with individual groups, departments and projects really being left alone to manage their own needs.

That’s a very outdated and often costly way to operate. To me, the concept of ‘digital transformation’ has been the realisation that, thanks to new technologies and platforms, there are better ways of working. Technology projects are now being discussed at strategic board levels and CEOs are getting involved in conversations that historically sat with CIO/CTOs. Businesses are taking a much more holistic view and connecting groups all the way from back end processes to end user experiences.

The magnitude of opportunity here can’t be underestimated. Connecting the systems, platforms, intranets and apps through a coherent digital transformation strategy allows organisations to provide a more consistent and improved experience to all their stakeholders, from employees through to customers.

A great example of where digital transformation has been done well is our customer, Public Health England (PHE). Back in 2017 they announced that they would be taking a digital-first approach to delivering their services and started an overhaul of many of their services. For example, much of their web presence was optimised to deliver fresher, more connected services and they continued their work in the area of app development, including the Sugar Smart app and the famous Couch to 5k app - which I’m delighted to say I’ve used and can vouch for!

At Vidatec we’ve helped many organisations along this strategic journey – feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like you discuss your organisation’s needs.

 

AI and Data

AINo discussion of technology for 2019 could be complete without a mention of Artificial Intelligence (AI)! One of the biggest selling gadgets at Christmas last month was Amazon’s Echo device – so many were activated within a short period that it overloaded the servers!

However, when I’m talking about AI, I’m focusing on the business applications and using it for data-driven decision making. It’s only really recently that there’s been a focus on that in business and it’s very early days. We still heavily rely on human beings to do the majority of data analysis in roles such as Business Intelligence (BI) experts.

However, with the growing adoption of digital transformation strategies, more connected devices, synched up systems and process, we’re churning out data at an eyewatering rate – in 2017 it was reported by DOMO that globally 2.5 QUINTILLION bytes of data are produced every single day. By 2020 (which by the way, is less than 12 months away now) it’s estimated that 1.5MB of data will be created every second for every single person on earth. Wow!

Obviously, from an enterprise perspective, not all of the data being produced is relevant, but certainly businesses have ramped up their data generation – probably at a faster rate! It’s simply not sustainable for traditional BI experts and tools to either cope with that level or maximise its use. That’s why I believe new roles will be developed that use a different skill set – combining data, AI and machine learning in powerful ways. Vidatec is already exploring how AI can enhance how we create technology for life by identifying how such a role could fit alongside our app developers.

 

Chatbots

ChatbotChatbots have obviously been around for a few years now so it’s not exactly a new innovation. However, for every article or study that says chatbots are a great thing, there’s another that says they’re terrible! I’ve included chatbots as one of this year’s challenges as I believe that we’re going to see them massively improving in the coming years.

Applied in the right way, I absolutely believe they’re an extremely useful tool. We’ve used chatbots in several of the apps we’ve developed for our customers; from conversational tools around shopping outlet villages to providing motivation and support to positively change behaviours in wellness apps.

There obviously is a lot of negativity around chatbots however; they can be seen as impersonal and lacking in functionality. I believe the chatbot experience falls down when developers expect too much from them – they can’t automate the full customer journey and it’s crucial that the point where human intervention is needed is identified and, even more importantly, that the handover from bot to person is handled properly, with minimal inconvenience to the user.

There’s so much potential in chatbots to automate simple processes and handle basic queries such as basic support issues, online shopping experiences etc. We’re getting close to achieving all the potential in the technology.

 

Intelligent Apps

Intelligent appsTo my mind Intelligent Apps are going to be the next big innovation in app development. The concept has been around for some time now and it’s really the natural evolution of the technology. Basically, using data gathered by the app and machine learning, your app experience will be personalised to best suit how you use it. The same app will operate and appear different to individual users (or groups of users). It goes beyond the concept of personalising the app in settings manually – it’s an automatic process. At a basic level, it could involve changing fonts, colours, sizes, icons etc.

Why would this be important? Well, we know from our own research and experience that user experience is crucial to driving engagement and developing habits. If you’ve developed an app, it’s because you want people to use it and, usually, return to it. Having that app be tailored to the individual user is really powerful.

I think our sister company, Insights, is a really good example of the opportunity here. Insights Discovery uses a four colour model to help you become self-aware, communicate better, develop your leadership and management skills and become more effective. Everyone is a blend of all four colours, but we each have a colour that is more dominant - hello all the other Sunshine Yellows! Each of the colour energies has different drivers and ways of processing information. An Intelligent App could operate on the same principle, delivering a different experience to a user based on how they would most effectively use it.

 

These are just a few of the opportunities I see ahead in 2019 for the wider technology world. I’m really excited about the year ahead and looking forward to working with our customers to develop incredible things. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topics I’ve discussed here so please do connect with me on Twitter or visit www.vidatec.com to find out more about the work we do to improve people’s experience of life through technology.

 

Best wishes in 2019!

Greig Johnston - Vidatec CEO