Friday, November 25, 2016

Updates from the Gartner IT Expo

I attended this year's Gartner IT Expo in India, held in the beautiful sea side town of Goa. It was a rather large gathering (1200+ participants as I hear), blocking the capacity of most Goa hotels already in holiday season.  The talks were rather interesting and engaging (including one by Guy Kawasaki), but I guess the opportunity of catching up with technologists from peer companies and other industries was the high note.

Here were my major takeaway themes.

User experience: Digital UX is increasingly becoming conversational, immersive and ambient. As AR-VR tech (Google Glass equivalents) merge with conversational interfaces (Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, MS Cortana) and messaging, we are seeing the emergence of a new set of rich UX channels. This will require new "shared state services" in the back-end to synchronize journeys between channels while managing complex context. For that matter, "context" management - sensing, modeling and applying context information intelligently - seems to be an emerging holy grail capability in addressing these evolving user experience channels.

Data: As Big Data becomes the state of the play across industries, the value of metadata becomes more prominent. Particularly in an era where the boundaries of analytical insight span data sources beyond the enterprise, the value of metadata in establish trust is rather immense. We no longer "collect" data, but rather "connect" to it from multiple sources to create temporary data structures to run analytics (with mechanisms such as data virtualization).

Blockchain: Given that this was a cross industry event, I was surprised by how much everyone was talking about this topic. It was not just the bankers and insurance teams, but everyone from manufacturing to agriculture-tech was talking about its potential in enhancing trade across industries and managing assets more effectively. Every industry seems to be running a pilot and exploring its practical potential.

Digital Platforms: While the concept of platforms has been around for some time, the value from the platform model is becoming more apparent (as Gartner mentions, a majority of the largest capitalized companies in the world today are platform heavy like Amazon, Google and even GE with its Predix). In addition, the construct of digital platforms is itself becoming more complex. Platforms are moving from being two-sided (buyer and seller) to becoming N-sided (including aggregators, advisors, service providers and brokers), and spanning multiple industries. For example, take the case of Uber financing car owners or Starbucks with its loyalty cards.

Connected ecosystems and IOT: This was a big theme, particularly for the manufacturing, automotive, industrial and consumer industry areas. The 7 Billion connected people and 30 Billion connected things (as Gartner projects by 2020) will create a huge potential for a new services. An interesting presentation was on connected cars, where they highlighted the case of a fully autonomous car of the future with all seats were turned inwards - resulting in the need for new forms of entertainment and allied services to engage commuters. 

I also picked up some interesting FinTech statistics along the way.
  • The total valuation of Fintech startups firms is already at 30% of valuation of global banks! That was news.
  • A huge number of non-banking entrants to banking: For example, Starbucks which currently processes $9-10B in quarterly float due its loyalty payment solution (and without any associated financial regulation)

Overall, a rather useful forum, not just to pick up these nuggets, but for meeting interesting people.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Chilly Philly

Philadelphia was on my travel target list for quite some time, and so when I had a weekend available amidst travels to NYC, I decided to do a quick trip.

And what impeccable timing, as a colleague put it. Apparently one of the coldest days ever for the area, with temperatures touching -15 degrees Celsius. 

The early bus from NY deposited me near the Philly station in the morning. Freezing, but sunny. I strolled into the station and was kindly directed to take the metro to the old town center, to start my itinerary. By the time I had reached the Independence mall, it had started snowing, rather heavily. After a leisurely stroll through the exhibits in the visitor center, I hit the National Convention Center first, to keep warm from the freeze.

I wasn't expecting the Center to amount to much, but I was impressed. The Center has one of the best exhibits on American history, the creation of the constitution, and its subsequent evolution that I have seen. They had a multimedia presentation called "Freedom rising", which introduced the historical context of the creation of the US constitution, and was quite insightful. Since it was close to the President's day weekend, they also had an exhibit on the US Presidential elections, which was rather neat too - a good layman's overview of the process of Presidential elections, and cleared quite a few questions I had as an outsider.

Next stop was the Liberty Bell Center. It had quite a large line before it, and I walked around towards the end, only to realize that I could see the "bell" up pretty close from the glass panes. Saved me time in standing in line in freezing weather.

I spent the remainder of the day walking around Philly's old town. A lot of historical places and really well documented exhibits. Interesting to see how well some of this is preserved, and how pretty the area really is. A notable point was close to the river, where the inscription indicated a point where the US Marine Corps was founded (a tavern apparently, that no longer exits).

After wandering around town as much as the chilly weather would permit me, my last port of call was the Reading Terminal market. Loved the bustle. Quite a wide variety of food and non food items. Even found a shop selling Indian food (even had Britannia biscuits, Maggi and Lijat pappad!). Spent so much time engrossed in the time, that I almost missed my bus back. Had to make a hasty run to the metro and head back, just in time for the bus.

Overall, loved Philly's old town - so much to explore and see. Almost like Boston, with so much history and culture. Would love to go back and spend leisurely time exploring the place in a more sanguine weather.