Business Management

Kathryn Cave (Global) - Innovation 2013

In the future multimedia won't just be at your fingertips, but in your arms, torso and face. By next year you won't be reaching for the remote control to switch on your television or radio, you'll sweep your arm across your body like you're the touch screen on an epic iPad. At least that is the vision from Inon Beracha, Chief Executive of PrimeSense, the company behind the raw technology in Microsoft's Kinect system which provides the brains for the interactive Xbox 360 video game console.

Selected by the World Economic Forum as one of its Technology Pioneers 2013, PrimeSense and 22 other organisations sit at the cutting edge of this change. According to the report, they have succeeded in pushing against the limitations of our daily lives, showcasing cutting-edge developments in security, collaboration, performance, waste reduction, creativity and economic advantage; these stand at the forefront of innovation. They are responsible for bringing technology to new audiences, helping machines adjust to people (rather than vice versa) and developing new models for the planet.

Over the last few years it seems "innovation" has become the word of the moment - drop it into Google News and you get 3,560,000 hits in 0.27 seconds. It is indelibly linked with new technology and steeped in all the kind of awe otherwise reserved for "creativity". It gives a quasi-religious admiration to the companies touched by it; in fact you can hear the breathy wonder when people begin eulogising on the "creative innovations" of Steve Jobs and Apple. The term is traditionally used in association with "disruptive technologies", lies at the heart of business development, and is necessary for any form of progress.

Today however, most innovations are not brand new - they tend to be tweaks, adjustments or a new take on existing solutions. A recent article in Memeburn for example, looked at five technologies that will disrupt the world in 2013. This addressed developments in technologies that have been around for years but will come into their own shortly. It covered 3D printing, something which has been around for over a decade, but which is finally becoming invaluable through the creation of bionic body parts. Plus, it showcased advancements in TV and audio, mobility in Africa, and technology in education, to provide the spectrum of technological disruptions.

The same is true of the recent Gartner 2013 predictions list. These technologies have been making the lists for the last few years. Old stalwarts such as consumerisation, apps, big data, the cloud and analytics all make an appearance, but what is interesting is that they are now morphing and blending into new areas. Hybrids and modifications appear to be the future of next year's change.

The 2012 KPMG Innovation survey pinpoints the cloud and mobility as core technology disrupters. This will come as little surprise and is supported by numerous studies. More interestingly though, KMPG also looked at how developments in new technologies are finally spreading out of Silicon Valley. Tech hubs are springing up around the world: "Asia is leading the charge in mobile communications and commerce, skipping past the PC generation of the West. China is already the world's second-largest economy, and as micro-innovations unfold, could eventually stack up to Silicon Valley as a tech force."

Differences in the Chinese and US approach to business (and innovation) are becoming an increasingly politicised issue as China continues to compete with the US on the world business stage. A recent article in the China Daily addressed the supposed gap between the US and China in terms of innovation by looking at five core myths surrounding innovation held by China sceptics. One of the more interesting arguments concerned the people necessary to drive innovation. This showed that whilst many people believe the US lead in innovation is down to an educational move from rote memorisation towards critical thinking and creative problem-solving; the US system has some severe deficits, which are actually being filled by Asians.

A recent US government report on "The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States" showed an expanding gap in the education of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Kauffman Foundation also reported a quarter of the US science and technology companies founded in the decade between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born CEO or technical lead; whilst 52% of start-ups in Silicon Valley were founded by an immigrant. These facts appear to suggest that no one education system is fool-proof, and people from around the world have their own approaches to innovation and need to work together to manage progress.

This is never more obvious than in the local tech hubs which are springing up spring up left, right and centre. These are appearing everywhere - with a lot of hype applied to the new technological areas in Africa - but epicentres also emerging across South America, Asia and Europe; spreading local improvements in their wake. And who knows what next? The future is a surprising place. Would anyone have believed in iPads (except Jobs himself)... let alone turning yourself into a touch screen remote control.

By Kathryn Cave, Editor, IDG Connect




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