Since 1999, the Webrain Report has presented in-depth examinations of trending and emerging technology topics. Looking one to two years down the road, the report examines how these technologies often have an impact that extends beyond just the corporate and consumer worlds and can shape entire industries, societies, and our day-to-day life. Far more than just another industry report, Webrain infuses each publication with a unique analysis and interpretation of events, movements, and human behavior, giving the reader a deeper and more abstract view of the topic.
The following are some of the topics we have recently covered. Please contact us if you'd like to learn how you can benefit from the unique business insight provided by the Webrain Report.
#219 - Flavor Tech: Marriages of Flavors and Tastes
In past reports, Webrain has focused on the digitization of the human senses of sight, hearing, and smell. This report continues this topic by looking at the sense of taste, specifically the digitization of flavor. It’s commonly cited that 70% of flavor is based on smell and the remaining 30% is texture. The report begins by examining exactly what flavor is and the methods to accurately analyze it. It then covers the role of digital technology in the flavor market, as well as ongoing changes in consumer purchasing behavior.
This includes processes such as AI-based technologies that enable creating new flavors, precisely brewing alcoholic beverages, and new technology to shorten the maturation process. These technologies have advanced to the point where people can efficiently and cost-effectively develop their favorite flavors from an infinite variety of combinations.
Meanwhile, the emerging market of plant-based meat has become the next major battleground for flavor and fragrance manufacturers. The ability to mimic the flavors and textures of real meat, which are not inherently present in plants, has become the focus of this intense market competition.
In this report, Webrain examine how digital technologies have been applied to food industries by introducing the strategies of beverage companies and the AI strategies of major flavoring companies. We also look at the new competitive landscape and how the existing major flavoring companies in Europe or US, as well as the new digital startups in Silicon Valley and other tech cities, are working to create the next generation of our food culture.
#218 - Collaborative Robotics: Human and Machine Symbiosis
A society and industry powered by an army of robot workers has been a mainstay of science fiction stories for many years. Over the last 60 years, robots have steadily been integrated into many industrial settings; if fact, McKinsey has predicted that a full third of workers in the US will be replaced by automation and robots by 2030. While there are many different types of robots for many different applications, Webrain notes that there are two key trends that are impacting the human-machine relationship in the workplace: Cobots and Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS).
Cobots (which stands for Collaborative Robots) have been developed to make industrial robots safe to operate around human workers. Unlike some robots that need to be sequestered within a steel cage to protect humans from its moving parts, cobots have the awareness and “intelligence” to work alongside someone without risk of injury.
RaaS represents a continuation of the “as a service” model that includes examples such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). With RaaS, companies can avoid the large initial capital investments usually needed to deploy robots, and instead buy robotic services as needed (for example, they will pay a set price for each item picked in a warehouse setting).
Even though there are instances of workers resisting the presence of robots in the workplace, research shows that they tend to be accepted when there is a clear benefit. Additionally, there’s evidence that the presence of robots can actually improve human-to-human communications and the workers alter their social dynamics to adapt to the changing workplace.
#217 – The Future of the Connected Economy: 5G and Beyond
For many years, 5G has been hyped as a transformative technology that will vastly improve existing data and voice transmissions, as well as generate lucrative new use cases. But now that 5G is commercially available, how is it actually being used?
Most of the mainstream attention given to 5G has focused on consumer applications such as faster data speeds for cell phones. Webrain notes, however, that the most important 5G impacts are occurring in key industrial sectors. In addition to its faster speed, 5G brings drastically lower latency and higher reliability than previous technologies, allowing industrial systems to operate at much higher levels of performance. This report looks at:
Healthcare, where telemedicine and even remote surgery become more viable with 5G.
Manufacturing, where removing even a millisecond of latency can make all the difference when optimizing a production line.
Automotive, where autonomous cars on the road can communicate with other instantaneously, greatly enhancing safety and reliability.
Retail, where 5G enables more automated processes and provides real-time actionable insights.
Entertainment, where fast-moving events such as basketball can be instantly delivered to fans from multiple perspectives.
But even though 5G is just beginning to be deployed, researchers are already hard at work on what may one day make it seem slow and outdated. Early specifications are being developed for 6G and other wireless protocols. While most of which are likely five to ten years away, it’s a good idea to be aware of them now when thinking about a corporate technology roadmap.
#216 – Sales Tech: Data-enabled Trusted Engagement
No matter how good a company’s product is, the company will die if that product does not sell. The sales organization has always been a vital link the connects the company to the customer, and as a result, is responsible for generating revenue. No sales, no company.
How can a sales team, which has traditionally relied on person-to-person interactions, handle more products, close more deals, and bring in more money?
Sales technology is, of course, nothing new. In fact, there are two key types of tech that have brought sales to its current state:
Sales Acceleration: Tools that take over routine, mundane tasks and free the salesperson to concentrate on closing the deal.
Sales Enablement: These tools help apply the personalized, human touch to sales activities to give customers a feeling of true support and understanding.
Webrain has also noted three areas of particular interest that we fell will have a major impact in the coming years:
Social Selling: The array of tools that help salespeople connect with and learn about their customers through social media channels.
AI Chatbots: These advanced-tech tools can boost initial customer engagement by providing a highly personalized interaction.
Sales Coaching: These systems help salespeople fine-tune their selling skills through personalized training and coaching platforms.
#215 - Edible Intelligence: Data-driven AgriFood Revolution
The world’s population continues to rise and is expected to reach 8 billion by 2024. Meanwhile, the amount of arable land available for growing and producing food is shrinking, having decreased by a third in the past 45 years. We are faced with the task of providing food to more people, but with fewer natural resources available to do so. Fortunately, technology is providing new tools to make the entire process more efficient, faster, and cheaper.
When looking at the role of technology in food creation and distribution, five distinct areas emerge. These are: Farming Intelligence, which improves production on the farm; Food Processing Intelligence, which includes freezing, sorting, and preservation systems; Food Supply Chain Intelligence that can minimize waste at each step of the chain; Flavoring Intelligence to optimize taste of healthy foods; and Operational Intelligence to improve efficiencies throughout the entire process.
Additionally, there is extensive work happening in labs to better understand the relationships between food and our own DNA. These include the areas of Nutrigenetics, which relates to how our bodies respond to food, and Nutrigenomics, which studies how food affects how our genes behave.
#214 – The New Normal: The Social Distancing Economy
The coronavirus pandemic that swept the globe in 2020 dramatically affected how people work and interact with each other. Social distance was introduced as a key method to slow the spread of the virus, even though it had a staggering impact on everything from interpersonal relationships to global economics. In a very short timeframe, “business as usual” was radically altered as huge segments of the workforce had to adapt to a work-from-home lifestyle.
Had this same pandemic unfolded even just 20 years ago, we would have been ill-equipped to make a sudden shift to remote work, remote sales, virtual event platforms, distance entertainment, and distance learning. Fortunately, however, modern technology provides many effective ways to mitigate this situation. As “Disaster Capitalism” kicks in, some companies temporarily disregard ROI and privacy concerns by providing specialized new products and services that save people during a crisis.
But even with the best tech, requiring physical distance between people can introduce complexities that are difficult to overcome. How we behave and engage with people at work and home is something that is deeply engrained, and the sudden shift to social distancing removes critical context. Someone who is used to behaving and communicating with others in a particular way while in the office now as to adapt to doing the same over a video call taking place in their kitchen.
Computerworld magazine calls the response to the coronavirus “a worldwide experiment in remote working.” In this report, Webrain looks at The New Normal: The Social Distancing Economy, and how new technological products and services are helping us during these very earliest stages of this experiment.
#213 – Digital Mindfulness: Mental Health Technology
Research that looks at how people react to stressful times shows that we often focus on negative items rather than the positive. In other words, we are more drawn to what might go wrong instead of appreciating everything else that is going right. Compounding this pessimistic mindset is that brain-related problems become more common as we age.
Over 18% of the US experience anxiety problems, and this, coupled with other brain-impairment costs will resulting in a $6 trillion workplace productivity loss by 2030, according to WHO. Unfortunately, the consensus is that therapists are dramatically short-staffed to treat this many people using conventional therapeutic treatments.
Fortunately, many technological solutions are emerging to help fill this gap and bring treatment to a larger audience. As stated in one study, “smartphone technology has the potential to make behavioral health care more accessible, efficient, and interactive for patients and can improve the delivery of evidence-based treatments.” There may not be enough therapists to go around, but perhaps the tiny computer everyone has in their pocket can help fill the gap and maintain proper mental health.
In this report, Webrain looks at Digital Mindfulness: Mental Health Technology to assess how technology is being applied to mindfulness today and how the market is set to develop in the coming years.
#212 – Innovative Education/Training with AI Technology
Artificial intelligence, once restricted to the world of science fiction, is now a widespread and somewhat commonplace tool throughout business and other sectors. The public is most aware of high-profile demonstrations that match computers against human experts, but less well-known are AI advances in areas such as education. AI-based education tools are spreading rapidly, and generally fall into three categories:
Smart content, which helps teachers optimize their time by having the machines take over the repetitive tasks and freeing the teachers to spend more time working directly with the students.
Intelligent tutoring systems (or adaptive learning), which learns about the specific learning needs of each student and then creates customized coursework.
Virtual Facilitators and Learning Environments, which present a virtual human interface to the students.
Central to any discussion of applying tech tools to education is an understanding of the different types of skills that are developed during a student’s academic journey. The cognitive skills, such as math and spatial processing, have a strong link to the creation and use of technology, and are often the types of skills thought of when considering AI tools. But what of the non-cognitive skills, those that encompass service and social skill task, as well as nonroutine reasoning? Fortunately, tech can help with those as well. As one expert puts it, “Using technology is one great way to show students that when we are brave and try new things, sometimes we are going to fail.”
In this report, Webrain looks at the Innovative Education/Training with AI Technology to assess how AI is being used today and how the market is set to develop in the coming years.
#211 – The Emergence of Civic Tech
The concept of a smart city has been envisioned for decades, with promises of high-tech conveniences weaving their way into the everyday lives of citizens. In a 2018 report, Webrain noted that the many elements typically categorized under the umbrella of “smart city” were in reality the first steps to the ultimate goal of creating a city that rapidly responds to the actual needs and wants of its citizens. The dream of creating smart cities is still alive, with projects like Toyota’s connected Woven City scheduled to open by 2021.
In other instances, however, smart city plans have not developed as originally planned. Google’s Sidewalk Lab’s plan to transform 190 acres in Toronto has been scaled back to just 12 acres, amid concerns from citizens over data privacy and the prospect of having a corporation so entwined in their civic structure.
One issue that has been cited as a recurring problem for troubled initiatives has been when the projects have not been properly defined to reach the proper outcome. That is, smart city initiatives are not focused on providing what the citizens actually need. What is needed is an element of citizen engagement and empowerment.
As business leaders began to understand that smart city initiatives must start with people, the term civic tech has been used to describe innovations that enable citizen participation in government. In many cases, civic tech involves implementing small-scale test projects using existing technologies, rather than waiting for perfect solutions to emerge at a later time.
For example, some cities are conducting small-scale tests of 5G, which will eventually serve as the backbone to smart city initiatives. Additionally, new technology-based solutions and protocols are being investigated to ensure the highest levels of data protection for the increasingly connected populace.
#210 – eSports and Digital Fan Engagement Platforms
Esports, the world of competitive organized video gaming, has grown rapidly in recently years. The “League of Legends” world championship had 100 million viewers (greater than the audience of the 2019 Super Bowl), and its 16-year-old winner took home a prize of $3 million at Fortnite World Cup. One key draw to gaming is that is represents a democratization of participation, in that anyone with an internet connection can excel regardless of body type, gender, culture, or location.
By 2021, viewership is expected to rise to 550 million worldwide across the various streaming platforms. At this time, sponsorships provide a significant portion of the revenue flowing to eSports players, teams, and leagues. One study projects $655 million in sponsorships in 2020, a doubling of the amount seen in 2019. Technology has always been at the heart of eSports, and new advances such as 5G are anticipated to provide even more compelling experiences for players and fans alike.
But even as eSports grow, traditional professional sports remain strong. Webrain notes, however, that both of these factions can learn a lot from each other, especially with regards to how they attract and retain their valuable fan bases. For example, traditional sports teams are now expanding fan engagement into digital space, especially during times when the teams are not engaged in play. Meanwhile, eSports will pursue engaging fans to generate more revenue not only in the digital world, but also through merchandise, media rights, and in specially constructed arenas. One term used for this is “360° fan engagement experience,” which includes connecting fans with players, and also allows for highly targeted, non-obtrusive advertising.
#209 – Longevity Economy: New Normal for Seniors
Growing old isn’t what it used to be. Once equated with becoming sedentary and living with increasing health problems, today’s seniors are proving that this stereotype is quickly becoming outdated. By 2050, there are expected to be 3.6 million people on the planet 100 years or older, an eightfold increase from current numbers. Living longer lives while enjoying good health essentially means that we are staying younger longer, and the arc of people’s lives stretches in a way that’s more than “70 is the new 60” or “40 is the new 30.” In Okinawa, Japan, as many as 1 in 2,000 of the island inhabitants are centenarians. Many there live by the principle of “ikigai,” which is loosely translated as “having a reason to get up in the morning.”
Ultimately, for people around the world a longer life means more to do and enjoy – as workers, retirees, and consumers. Many terms have been attached to this trend, including Longevity Economy, Healthy Aging, Active Aging Tech, and Age-tech, but they all point to big money. One prediction is for the global Aging Economy to reach $27 trillion by 2025. Not surprisingly, several of the established tech giants – such as Apple, Amazon, and Google – are already working in agetech business. Whatever business your company is in, it’s critical that you understand the changing roles seniors play in society and the economy. In this report, Webrain looks at the Longevity Economy: New Normal for Seniors and the evolving ways in which the older population earns, saves, and spends money.
#208 – Consumer Empowered Digital Healthcare
Healthcare is a unique industry in that it is intimately entwined with every individual throughout their entire life. It is also continuously undergoing transformation as it tries to meet the demands of digital-age consumers who want fast, effective, and affordable treatment. Many large IT companies have been drawn to this sector, hoping to apply their deep technical knowledge to new products and services. Examples include Google’s purchase of Fitbit and their partnership with the Mayo Clinic and Apple’s expanding healthcare capabilities in its smart watch. Microsoft and Amazon are also both looking to redefine and transform the healthcare market. One way that technology can realize cost and time savings is through remote monitoring, thereby facilitating better consumer health decisions. As a result, physicians are displaced from the center of the medical care paradigm; they are no longer commanders of patient health, but partners in it. In what ways can your company contribute to empowering consumers during this healthcare digital transformation? For this report, Webrain looks at the dawn of Consumer Empowered Digital Healthcare, in which digital transformation redefines the availability, affordability, and capability of healthcare through wearable devices and medical IoT (IoMT) devices.
#207 – Hemp-derived CBD Market
Legal cannabis and CBD have been two of the fastest-changing and complicated markets in recent years. With laws varying from state-to-state and often at odds with federal regulations, the industries and consumers have needed to operate in a confusing environment to manufacture, distribute, sell, and consumer these products. In this report, Webrain focuses on the current state of the hemp-derived CBD market, beginning with an overview of how it went from nonexistent to mainstream in just a few short years. At this time, however, the FDA only allows for products such as topical creams and specifically has not approved any CBD-infused foods, beverages, or dietary supplements. Despite a constantly shifting landscape, the industry is spending large amounts of money on hemp cultivation and processing, and consumer demand is driving traditional retailers like Kroger and CVS to add CBD products to their shelves. Key to this report are interviews with industry experts who express their candid viewpoints on what needs to happen to make hemp-derived CBD a long-term sustainable market. With CBD finding its way into almost every product category, is there an opportunity for your company to profit from this booming trend?
#206 – HR Tech for Change Management Innovation
There was a time not long ago when HR was the least technologically supported department in the organization. Today, however, HR has the ability to leverage a wide range of AI-driven tools to help in the data-heavy tasks of recruitment, hiring, training, and management of employees. In this report, Webrain compiles observations from industry leaders such as Deloitte, Gartner, and Oracle to assess how HR technology has evolved since the 1980s and the critical role it plays in business today. This also includes a description of how industry expert Josh Bersin defines the evolution of tech from Automated Talent Management all the way up to the current state of Empowerment, Performance, and Leadership. Several case studies are presented to illustrate the extent to which HR tech is being used to enhance employee performance and, as a result, improve the experience of the company’s customers. Like virtually every other department in your company, HR thrives on data. Are you giving them the tools they need to succeed in today’s cutthroat market?
#205 – Blockchain’s New Opportunities
To most observers, bitcoin is synonymous with blockchain. But blockchain is much more than just bitcoin, and the unique traits of blockchain are driving its adoption by surprising organizations for surprising reasons. At the heart of these uses, say its advocates, is that the decentralized ledger technology of blockchains helps build and sustain trust. This architecture makes it useful for protecting data, streamlining service delivery, clarifying outcomes, and providing accountability, and will soon be able to perform functions it couldn’t just a few years ago. Most encouragingly, blockchain is being applied to create new favorable humanitarian opportunities offering benefits beyond commerce.
This report looks at the new ways in which blockchain is being used and examines industry expert opinions on how businesses should approach this technology. By profiling blockchain, Webrain provides a view of a future wherein applications build trust and reduce costs, securely transmit ownership of assets of any kind in transactions of any size, and address social problems. The costs and savings incurred through blockchain are explored and consumer reactions discussed. As more and more data are needed securely in atypical circumstances, organizations, led by those performing humanitarian work, are finding in ways to use blockchain that may have never before been considered. Is it possible that blockchains will help save humanity – and in turn, that efficiency and security might also serve to profit commercial enterprises as well?
#204 – Era of Hyper-personalized Media Delivery
The ways viewers consume media has changed significantly in the past couple decades, with a wealth of over-the-top (OTT) streaming players (such as Netflix and Hulu) giving consumers seemingly endless selections. For years, top content studios such as Disney and Warner Bros. have licensed their movies and shows to the OTT players, but now they are starting to get in on the lucrative distribution game. With Disney, Warner, NBCUniversal, and even Apple all announcing new streaming services, the selection available to cord-cutting consumers has become more expansive and more fragmented. But could it be that there will soon be too many choices? One industry executive thinks that we have reached the state of “peak TV.” In fact, this sentiment recalls a topic Webrain has discussed in the past, namely the “tyranny of choice,” where consumers are presented with so many options that making a decision becomes a stressful experience. So how will a successful OTT player break through the chaos and provide true value to the consumer? Webrain believes that this will only come about through advanced technology that can tame the excessive choices and present each viewer with a playlist of exactly what they want, when and where they want it. What’s happening in the media industry is a precursor to what will inevitably spread to virtually all businesses that need to keep their customer’s attention in an increasingly crowded and distracting market.
So even if your business is not at all related to media, pay close attention to what’s happening there today. It may very well be a glimpse into your own future. In this report, Webrain focuses on the Era of Hyper-personalization of Media Delivery, in which content is still king, but context is the key to success.
#203 – A Scent for New Intelligence
Scent has been called the least understood of the human senses, and its ethereal nature has made it particularly challenging to replicate with technology. Back in 2012, IBM predicted that the ability to digitally mimic all five senses would be reached within five years, but with that deadline come and gone, the ability to accurately generate and detect odors remains somewhat elusive. Smell is an intriguing function, as it was critical to day-to-day survival for our ancestors, and even today it is strongly intertwined with our emotions and memories. Marketers are acutely aware of the power of scent, and evidence shows the ability for the right scent to drive retail sales. The scent technology market is expected to grow from $320.24 billion in 2017 to $3.12 trillion in 2026, as this tech is applied to defense and security, medicine, and food and beverage. Having previously examined computer replication of touch, taste, hearing, and vision in other reports, Webrain now completes its investigation of the senses with a close look at what has been accomplished with smell and how this technology is being used today and where it is heading in the near future. In this report, Webrain discusses A Scent for New Intelligence, in which the ability to analyze scents provides humans with new insights and intelligence, leading to enhanced safety and convenience.
#202 – Plant-base Foods and Clean Meat
Food has always been essential for survival. But where our ancestors had to continuously hunt and forage for their daily caloric needs, we are now able to put technology to work to gather, store, and consume food more efficiently. Well into a new era of food technology, advances now promise to deliver foods that will make the commercial supply healthier for both humans and the planet’s environment as well. There are two ways in which the food industry is moving toward this goal. The first is through the use of new ways to construct foods from plants. Although this plant-based food industry has been around for many years, new players continue to refine their products and production processes.
The second is clean meat, which is the use of genetics and bioscience to grow meat in the lab. This industry is not as far along as plant-based foods, but is rapidly developing new products that players expect to be a major component of the food supply of the future. Both of these movements aim to provide food alternatives to people who want to eat healthier and minimize their environmental impact. As technology winds its way deeper and deeper into the food chain, there are growing opportunities for businesses to expand their product and service offerings in ways they may have never before considered. Could your next key revenue stream come from the kitchen table? In this report, Webrain takes a close look at Plant-based Foods and Clean Meat, and how technology is transforming our food at the molecular level.
#201 – Digital Transformation for Women’s Quality of Life (Femtech)
In both the US and around the world, women wield a huge spending power. This “She-Economy” is a driving force that is advancing women in business and society, but it is not one that has always been recognized or respected by marketers. History has recorded numerous instances where companies completely missed the mark as they tried (and failed) to customize everything from cars to computers for the women’s market.
Not surprisingly, simply putting a pink cover on laptop does not guarantee it will instantly appeal to female consumers. More critically, healthcare research has been impacted due to a longstanding reluctance to use women in medical test trials, thereby largely overlooking their unique needs during the development of products and procedures.
Experts note, however, that a massive shift is under way as more and more companies are focusing on the specific needs of women, particularly in healthcare. If this has been problematic in the past, why is it gaining traction now? The short answer is technology. With the application of IT, this emerging sector of “femtech” is quickly becoming a formidable market force. With VC funding flowing into femtech companies, the category is projected to hit $50 billion by 2025. Is your company properly positioned to target the specific needs of half of the world’s population?
In this report, Webrain examines the Digital Transformation of Women’s Quality of Life, and notes that it is supported by three strong components: hyper-personalized marketing; empowering women to discuss their needs in a tech framework; and making health solutions that are more affordable and available to women.
#200 – Beyond Taste as We Know It
Over the years, IT has played an increasingly important role in the food industry as new technologies streamline the production, distribution, and sales processes. A rapidly advancing area, however, is focusing on food in a different way; specifically, technology is examining and manipulating the actual taste of food. But why is taste so important? It’s believed that our ancestors owed their survival in part to their ability to discern through taste which foods were safe and which might be harmful or even deadly. For example, a bitter-tasting plant could be poisonous. Today, we’re not foraging in the wild for food, but an individual’s perception of taste could have a direct impact on their quality of life. Someone who prefers the taste of junk food over a healthy diet could be setting themselves up for serious medical problems such as obesity or diabetes.
But what if healthy foods could be hacked so they taste more pleasant to picky eaters? Could that improve overall human well-being? Nutrition author John Robbins delineated iterations of the food industry, from Food 1.0 (survival) to Food 2.0 (industrialization, when fast food became central to the American experience because it tasted good and it epitomized American manufacturing prowess) to the current stage, Food 3.0 (healthier eating for heathier and more vigorous lives). This 3.0 era is a growth stage, in which we see things like fast food outlets serving salads and more restaurants supplying health information about the items on their menus. FoodTech is expected to grow to $250 billion in sales annually by 2022. Additionally, Webrain believes that players in the FoodTech industry are following physicist Richard Feynman’s call for science to manipulate at the atomic scale, which he presented in his famous lecture titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.”
From growing food in vitro from animal cells or using chemicals to produce precise wine analogs, players are creating new engineered foods that will appeal to middle America not just on taste, but also price and availability. As the digital blueprint of flavor is carefully manipulated, Webrain sees the emerging trend of Beyond Taste as We Know It. Your company may not currently be involved in the food sector. In fact, it might seem like the most distant thing from your product line. But with the rapid pace at which IT is expanding into FoodTech, this is the perfect time to evaluate if you might have an unexpected – and lucrative – opportunity waiting in the kitchen.
#199 – Faceprint: Power of Convenience
Facial recognition (FR) technology seems to be everywhere these days. Some of the best-known uses are also the most controversial, namely when the cameras and back-end AI are deployed for security and law enforcement purposes. There are, however, a growing number of applications that are focused more on providing specific benefits to consumers, such as a system designed to streamline the often-congested boarding process at airports. Apple brought FR to the masses with the introduction of Face ID in its popular iPhone X, and companies such as Google and Facebook have also been weaving FR into their product offerings through features such as automatically tagging people in photographs.
In the US, however, FR has a long history of clashing with privacy issues, and many people still have concerns about how it is used (especially when used by the government in surveillance applications). This, however, could be changing. China has seen a much faster adaptation of FR applications in public, largely owing to the country’s more lenient attitudes towards personal privacy. Perhaps driven by national pride, US and European companies have been trying to gain a lead over China by implementing a variety of commercial uses. Webrain believes that FR will likely follow the longtime model of military and governmental applications finding their way to commercial implementations, with FR applications growing in sophistication while becoming more affordable. The technological ability of FR to capture the unique nature of a faceprint is the beginning of faster, cheaper, and more personalized access to products and services. Webrain calls this Faceprint – the Power of Convenience. As consumer behavior evolves to more fully embrace the benefits and conveniences that can be unlocked through the user’s faceprint, is your company positioned to leverage this compelling technology?
#198 – Era of Empathic Marketing
Marketing exists to convince consumers to take specific actions, and today’s marketing experts make use of a wide array of digital tools to fine-tune exactly how they entice individuals to part with their money. Many of these tools are focused on gathering incredibly detailed data about people, thereby enabling the marketers to craft highly personalized messages and incentives. But have things gone too far? In May 2018, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to better control how companies handle personal consumer data. Meanwhile, technology giants like Facebook – arguably one of the largest digital marketing platforms on the planet – are facing harsh scrutiny over their data-gathering and usage practices.
To understand how things got to this point requires backing up and looking at the marketing mixes (such as “The 4 Ps”) that have been used during the eras of Marketing 1.0 (product-centric); Marketing 2.0 (consumer-centric); Marketing 3.0 (building a relationship between marketer and consumer), and now Marketing 4.0 (where reliance on technology makes a human-to-human touch essential). We see that quantitative big data projects have mostly been unsuccessful, leading to the rise of qualitative Thick Data projects – data reviewed in context of human desire, needs, and sentiment. Additionally, Contextual Intelligence (CI) is providing more relevant knowledge about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of consumer interactions happen. Webrain sees this as the emergence of the Era of Empathic Marketing, a technology-driven interaction that provides common ground between marketer and consumer. Applying digital tools to your marketing efforts is a standard practice for today’s business. But be sure you use them correctly to create the semblance of a personal 1:1 relationship with your customers.
#197 – Visibility of Things
The explosive growth of IoT in recent years has led to a proliferation of data-gathering devices employed in diverse applications around the globe. But while IoT has become increasingly sophisticated and has garnered most of the attention, a powerful subcategory of IoT has been steadily ramping up. Combining IoT devices with location information has led to the Location of Things (LoT), which is sometimes called the Location Intelligence (LI) market. For many applications, LoT provides a cheaper method of gathering location-based information over wide areas than technologies such as GPS – and cost becomes a major influencer for companies that are planning to deploy thousands or millions of individual devices.
A key element of LoT is connectivity, and numerous players have stepped up to offer an array of solutions, ranging from proprietary networks to those that make use of existing cellular infrastructure. In doing so, they have created products and services that expand data-gathering and analytics through the entire supply chain in a wide array of sectors, such as government, manufacturing, service, and retail. The strategic combination of location-based services, IoT, and AI/cloud services has created what Webrain calls the Visibility of Things (VoT). When you are able to precisely track and visualize the position and condition of every asset, you gain an unprecedented ability to bridge the traditional gap between customer expectation and what your company can actually deliver. In the end, you create a stronger customer experience by furnishing your products and services at the highest level. In this report, Webrain explains the technologies underlying VoT and the new market opportunities they present.
#196 – Human-centric Digital Innovation
One of the hottest topics in the world of business has been Digital Transformation (DX). This is a term that can mean different things to different people, but at its heart it encapsulates three principles. First, it’s not something that only impacts the IT department, it can potentially touch every worker throughout the organization. Second, it must be accompanied by a change to the corporate thought process; the status quo must give way to innovation. Third, it should enable exponential growth to take the enterprise to new levels. Companies that successfully implement DX initiatives often embrace new decision-making models that enable them to move faster than the competition. Webrain refers to this as Human-centric Digital Innovation. In today’s world, no industry is safe from disruption. But established incumbent enterprises don’t have to sit back and watch while innovative upstarts take over their market. With the right planning and execution, the incumbent can become the disruptor and take charge of the future. In this report, Webrain looks at a variety of case studies that illustrate the profound changes DX can bring to organizations.
#195 – Convergence of Ownerless Mobility
The business model of personal transportation and mobility has undergone a radical shift as more and more consumers favor on-demand rideshare services (such as Uber) over owning and operating their own vehicles. Bank of America has declared we have reached a state of “peak car” ownership, as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) options provide seamless, door-to-door experiences using various modes of transportation. In this report, Webrain examines how the automotive industry – which historically has been a significant portion of the American GDP – is clearly being disrupted by new emerging technologies that give consumers an unprecedented array of choices. Webrain sees this IT-driven trend as the Convergence of Ownerless Mobility. But it’s not just the automotive industry that faces being upended in the same way personal computers crushed the typewriter market a generation ago. Everything that is even tangentially related to transportation would feel a ripple effect – from parking garages and city planners to financing companies and oil refineries. At the same time, new solution providers exploring mobile technologies, 5G, AI, and sensors are positioned to skyrocket in their new era. Could this disruption impact your industry?
#194 – Digital Olympics: New Moore’s Law for Human Performance
The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, showcased remarkable technology used for athlete training, event coordination, and media broadcasting. The opening ceremonies, for example, featured a demonstration from Intel with 1,218 drones performing an intricately choreographed aerial display. Less visible were items such as ski suits that could inflate like a car’s airbag to protect the athlete in the event of a crash. With the Summer or Winter Games happening every two years, Webrain has noticed that the technology that powers the Olympics follows a path similar to the long-standing Moore’s Law. In this case, however, the continuous progression isn’t in computer chips, it’s in the growing performance of the athletes and event operations that aim for new heights on the two-year cycle of the Games.
Everyone associated with the Olympics – the athletes, the organizers, the spectators – are now shaped by Digital Olympics: New Moore’s Law for Human Performance, outlining a continuous push for reaching new levels of achievements year after year. In addition to providing a lucrative business opportunity for a wide range of technology companies, Webrain also believes that the emphasis on continually boosting performance can be an inspiration to corporate manager in any industry. Olympic athletes are the best of the best, and you need the same from your team in order to win in today’s business market. Whether in an Olympic stadium or in an office cubicle, competition is fierce and victories are often earned by the slimmest of margins. In business, managers are the coaches, and they must use everything at their disposal to build their Olympic-worthy team.
#193 – Actionable Farming Intelligence
The farm is not usually thought of as a place brimming with cutting-edge digital technology, but it is quickly becoming one of the most connected and digitized work sites out there. For decades, the industry has been dominated by a group of companies called the Big Six, suppliers of everything from fertilizer to seeds. Lately, however, these entrenched companies have been acquiring IT startups to expand their offerings to farming customers. Meanwhile, schools such as MIT have added new classes about tech advances in technology used on farms, while companies such as semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm have made large investments in ag-tech startups. Historically, farmers have been slow to adopt new technology due to high costs and products that do not yet have a long, proven track record. Digital tools that have been used have typically subjected farmers to data rich, information poor (DRIP) results. That is, the tools deliver copious amounts of data, but fail to convert it into the information the farmer actually needs.
But Webrain now sees a new era of Actionable Farming Intelligence (AFI) tools that give farmers the ability to harness this data and receive benefits in the same manner that enterprises benefited from Business Intelligence (BI) tools. The core concepts of BI tools and practices – such as data visualization, dashboards, and predictive analysis – allow AFI to convert data gathered on the farm into actionable insights that can directly benefit operations. And the impact extends far beyond the farm. Food distributors, warehouses, processors, restaurants, and grocery stores – essentially the entire food supply chain – will all benefit from the improved processes delivered by AFI. What this means is that technology companies that have never played in the agricultural sector now have an exciting opportunity to leverage their products and services in this rapidly evolving area. AI, cloud technology, sensors, drones, IoT, advanced imagery, and robotics are just a sampling of what’s needed to power the farms of tomorrow. Does your company have a product line that could be targeted toward AFI? Are you missing out on a potentially lucrative new revenue stream? In this report, Webrain examines the growing AFI market and the wide range of players that are involved in bringing new technologies to the farmlands.
#192 – The Responsive City
For a number of years, the “smart city” has been touted as the next big thing – a fully connected digital metropolis that brings science fiction style amenities to everyday living. So, where are the smart cities? Not surprising, it turns out that realizing these dreams is far more complex and expensive than may have been originally expected. Even though there have been numerous smart city projects enacted around the globe, the idea of a complete end-to-end implementation remains elusive. But it appears that momentum may be building to finally move in that direction. Now city planners are moving toward smart cities with a new bottom-up approach designed around the specific needs of citizens.
Webrain suggests “smart cities” are not the end game, but rather are stepping stones to “responsive cities” that respond to the real-time needs of their citizens and provide rich interconnectivity. Another motivator? Money. It is estimated that responsive cities will represent $1.5 trillion of business within 20 years. Webrain believes that a people-centric focus, strong market-making incentive, and new smart city technologies will combine to make the Citizen-oriented Responsive City a reality. But the Responsive City is much more than just the government and public sector activities that are often at the center of implementing smart city initiatives. It also includes all the retail shops and their supply chains, all the transportation options available to the citizens, all the office buildings supporting the workforces; in short, it can encompass everything that is happening within the city’s boundaries. The Responsive City lives and breathes on data, and companies that can provide the infrastructure, sensing network, and computing power necessary to keep the data flowing stand to claim their share of the $1.5 trillion pie. Will your company be one of them?