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It's the people, stupid!
Monday, 26th March 2012
Tim Buckley Owen
Will intelligent systems embedded within other products become so sophisticated and widespread that they eventually take the place of personal computers and smartphones or even threaten jobs? Fingers crossed – 84% of respondents in a recent LinkedIn poll believe in career luck.
Disruption of apocalyptic proportions is being predicted in several quarters at the moment, and it mostly seems to involve either big data or the internet of things. But however disruptive the technology, it’s the human potential for disruption that really matters.
IBM has recently announced developments that it claims will take the power of predictive analytics to “new levels of impact” on decision making in the C-suite. Its Smarter Analytics Signature Solution will identify potential fraud and abuse, predict customer behaviour and preferences, uncover relationships between financial performance metrics, anticipate performance gaps and assist with scenario planning. Wow.
Meanwhile the technology consultancy IDC says it’s only a question of time before intelligent systems, embedded within other products, will outsell devices such as personal computers or smartphones. Vending machines and smart meters are likely to be early drivers of growth – generating yet more data that can be analysed and used to refine business plans.
It’s a well informed forecast, no doubt but, reporting the comments, the Register newsletter is sceptical. Since IDC’s remarks were made at a conference called Smart Technology World, it’s pretty much inevitable that speaker after speaker was going to talk the subject up – but the Register’s correspondent Iain Thomson remains doubtful just how smart vending machines actually need to be.
A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Agent of change: the future of technology disruption in business, is scarcely less apocalyptic. Big data will become a business in its own right, alongside business-orientated social networks; there will be much more data mining for behavioural insight; and more computers that can learn by themselves.
But the EIU’s thinking goes beyond the technology alone. Mid-sized companies will be ousted by micro-entrepreneurs, middle managers will be replaced by analytics delivered direct to the front line, and customers will be a major source of innovation, it predicts.
Crucially, though, there could be a disconnect between economic and employment growth. Automation may create the wealth but will simultaneously threaten an even wider range of jobs.
Predictions such as these certainly do tend to see people – in the workplace at any rate – as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. The latest Ponemon Institute report on data breaches in the United Kingdom says that negligent employees or contractors are the main cause – and a recent Economist article reports that easily guessable passwords (created by us warm bodied operatives of course) are the biggest reason for successful security breaches.
So is there any hope for people in the technological Eldorado that is to come? Take heart from a recent LinkedIn survey which shows that 84% of professionals believe in career luck. In the circumstances, perhaps that’s just as well.
By Tim Buckley Owen
Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.
Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at www.buckleyowen.com.
Tim can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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