Why We Deserve More for Our Data

Unless you live in a cave and have never touched a smartphone or computer, you may already know that it’s impossible not to leave a personal data trail while navigating the digital world. The invisible cookies are always watching our activities and algorithms making suggestions for the benefit of the digital economy. And now with connected devices, our society will be awash in data soon.

Companies have been busy minting money by monetizing our personal data. In return, we get to use their app, website, or service for “free,” but with advertisements. Targeted ads are now commonplace on Facebook. It’s not a surprise that a bulk of its revenue comes from advertisements. On the other hand, data brokers, such as Acxiom Corp., collect hundreds of data points per person for millions of people worldwide. The company processes over 50 trillion sales transactions/ year by selling consumer data multiple times to multiple customers without our knowledge. There is no way we can find out where our data is stored and how it is being sold behind the curtains.

This raises some important questions: Is this a fair trade-off in which we get access to free services and in return companies make a fortune? Will companies be willing to share even a micro-percentage of their revenue with us to make the trade-off justified? And, what’s the future of information sharing? The gap between companies’ wealth and what we get in return will continue to widen. This has to change. So, what’s the solution? I think we can address this issue by flipping it on its head.

We really need to start recognizing the value of our data. We have to think of all data created by us as our personal property, not that of the company that collected it. It’s already happening. Companies like Datacoup sell your anonymous data for real money. The pricing is based on market fluctuations; users choose to sell their data at any moment to the company, which then resell it to third parties at a competitive price. Also, concepts like citizenme are gaining momentum. The company aims to liberate your personal data and make artificial intelligence accessible to everyone. You are in control of your data and discover what it says about you, and you can choose to exchange it with a company. And, your data always remains anonymous and aggregated. In fact, 72% of consumers surveyed feel that cash rewards will motivate them to share their personal data with companies.

It’s not in distant future that we may start signing ‘personal data contracts’ with companies which will bring transparency upfront in terms of:

  • Where is my data stored?
  • What information on me is collected?
  • How is my data being used?
  • How much I get paid?
  • What are my options if I want to revoke my data and terminate the contract?

What about privacy then? Well, it’s conditional. We are witnessing events like ‘data privacy day’ happening and regulations gradually taking shape across the world. But at the heart of the debates about data privacy today, there lies a mirage—an assumption that digital regulations will address the privacy-related issues OR we should develop self-control in protecting our privacy online OR companies should be more cognizant of our privacy.

First, the law will never catch up. Regulations are always behind the curve compared with technological advancements. While digital regulations will evolve at their own pace across geographies, they should not be considered as the only resort for protecting consumer data.

Second, let’s face it—while we generally voice a desire for privacy, we are also very open with the information we share about our lives online. In fact, 77% of us view social media platforms as critical to maintaining social relationships. In spite of all the concerns about companies tracking our information online, few people swore off the Internet entirely. Human conversations are being replaced with ‘updates’ and ‘likes.’ We are still very likely to disclose personal information online, download apps, upload images, and follow free sites. The truth is that we tend to focus more on the benefits we’ll get out of the activity online, than the risk of engaging in it and this will not change in the future either.

And third, many companies believe that they have done their part by publishing privacy and security policies. But more than half of consumers see the densely packed text in the “terms and conditions” popup, think “This is Greek to me,” and skim past it to press the “I ACCEPT” button. No matter how hard we try to protect our information, it’s almost impossible to do it. Almost 50% of consumers surveyed agreed that there is no data privacy in the digital world, with everything being online.

I believe the notion of “privacy” will undergo a radical change over the next 10 years. We should have a ‘Delete’ button that allows us to be in full control of our data. It’s up to us to decide what we choose to disclose or not disclose about ourselves, and in which contexts, and with whom. It may be that what is seen as the unethical sale of data today will be acceptable tomorrow. As consumers become more educated about how companies are using their data, they might be willing to assume more risk in exchange for more value than simply a personalized experience or a free service. This kind of trade-off, called the give-to-get ratio, will be the new norm for privacy in the future.

We surely need open and honest conversations about the future of information sharing, and how we want our data to be traded in the dynamic digital economy because we deserve more for our data.


AI Outside is the Kingdom of Robots

Fingerspitzengefühl: Is a German word used to describe an ability to maintain attention to detail in an ever-changing operational and tactical environment by maintaining real-time situational awareness.  The term is synonymous with the English expression of "keeping one's finger on the pulse".  The problem with traditional fingerspitzengefühl, in addition to pronouncing it - is it is hard to scale.  Today, however, in a world of sensors, GPS and mobile devices, having real-time situational awareness is far easier than ever before.  In fact, today the challenge is not how to do it (answer: sensors), but what to do with all the information.

There are many dimensions of data that are available for work outside the four walls, which is mobile, remote and dynamic.  We all know about 3 dimensional (longitude, latitude and altitude), but there are many more.  We contrive:

  • Time
  • Start and stop tasks times
  • Travel times
  • Traffic conditions
  • Available workforces and associated costs
  • Available equipment
  • Activities
  • Events
  • Business process steps
  • Expenses
  • Security steps
  • Transactions
  • Compliance tasks
  • Performances against KPIs (key performance indicators)
  • Actors (customers, partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, etc.)
  • Relationships
  • Contract/Agreements
  • Supplies, materials and equipment tracking
  • Etc.

All of these data points can be bundled together as Performance Impact Variables (PIVs).  PIVs are the data points that can be used as inputs to algorithms that can be used by AI systems to optimize and manage the performance of the business in real-time.

All of this data can be used as overlays to simple GPS coordinates on a map.  Each of these additional layers of information exponentially increases the complexity, decision-making options and possible combinations.  This enormous volume of data quickly overwhelms humans.  That is why non-humans (AI/software robots) can be used to such great effect to maintain productive situational awareness and strategic advantages in complex environments demanding real-time decision-making and action.

During the period between WWI and WWII, Western countries all developed new tanks and military aircraft to support their infantry.  The Germans, however, went three steps farther by developing strategic advantages in:

  1. Radios and frequencies for communicating between forces (tanks, infantry and aircraft) in real-time
  2. Strategies for coordinated actions between the three groups
  3. Mission oriented command structures – Commanders define the mission “intent”, but the details of how to accomplish them were left to frontline officers.

In today’s world, companies seeking strategic advantages in field services operations can learn from these three additions. 

The modern equivalent of “radios and communication networks” is OILS (optimized information logistics systems) that sense, collect, securely and wirelessly transmit data, analyze and report on it, and support artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

The modern equivalent of “strategies for coordinated action” is the ability to collect and analyze vast quantities of real-time data to automatically and dynamically manage and adjust (using AI and software robots) a whole series of activities and events such as: schedules, tasks, jobs, orders, transactions, etc.

The modern equivalent of “mission oriented command structures” is an algorithm.  Once the algorithm is developed, it can operate without human intervention. 

When massive amounts of real-time data are automatically collected and analyzed, they can feed algorithms and AI systems to optimize real-time activities and events.  The speed at which data can be processed through OILS and AI systems today far exceeds human decision-making capabilities – so automation that works in digital-time is required.  This is where AI excels.  AI can analyze all the inbound data in nanoseconds and instantly adjust and optimize operations. 

AI does not just impact field services.  It impacts many business processes by supporting:

  1. New ways of selling
  2. New business models
  3. New ways of managing
  4. New business processes
  5. New ways of collaborating
  6. New ways of making decisions
  7. New ways of engaging customers
  8. New ways of working with products
  9. New marketing and growth strategies

My mantra is, "Digital technologies without digital strategies are wasted."  Having digital technologies without a digital strategy is like having tanks, mobile infantry and aircraft, but no coherent plan for combined action.  In a recent report, 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation, digital laggards were found not to receive as good of return on investments (ROIs) on their digital investments as digital leaders do.  The difference I believe is in their digital strategies, or lack thereof.

In the book, Stray Voltage, War in the Information Age, author Wayne Michael Hall defines two more PIVs - cyberspace and cerebral.  "Information superiority is firmly connected to making decisions that are superior to an adversary's and combines information technology and intellectual power to create conditions with which to make better decisions…human beings will need to improve their thinking capabilities to cope with the increasing complexities of the world...people will depend more on visualization to help understand complexity quickly. Visualization will fuse data and information and display the result in a multimedia format.  Visualization will allow the integration of data, information and knowledge from all sources and will allow for the integration of numerous contributors."  Visualization, although helpful to humans, is far less relevant once algorithm-consuming AI systems take over.

Sensors, already powerful, are being developed with more capabilities to sense more things every month.  Each year when I attend GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I am astonished to see what additional capabilities sensors have added.  Here are some examples:

  • Sensors able to identify and classify vegetation - natural and artificial
  • Sensors able to identify and pinpoint distressed crops
  • Sensors that can identify soil moisture content
  • Sensors that can detect heat sources and leaks
  • Sensors that can detect movements and changes in defined objects
  • Sensors that can detect the chemical make-up of make-up

Each of these sensors and their real-time data collection capabilities adds to decision-making complexity, but they can also be the very PIVs that give you the competitive advantage you need to win.

  1. How Digital Leaders are Different
  2. The Three Tsunamis of Digital Transformation - Be Prepared!
  3. Bots, AI and the Next 40 Months
  4. You Only Have 40 Months to Digitally Transform
  5. Digital Technologies and the Greater Good
  6. Video Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  7. Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  8. Virtual Moves to Real in with Sensors and Digital Transformation
  9. Technology Must Disappear in 2017
  10. Merging Humans with AI and Machine Learning Systems
  11. In Defense of the Human Experience in a Digital World
  12. Profits that Kill in the Age of Digital Transformation
  13. Competing in Future Time and Digital Transformation
  14. Digital Hope and Redemption in the Digital Age
  15. Digital Transformation and the Role of Faster
  16. Digital Transformation and the Law of Thermodynamics
  17. Jettison the Heavy Baggage and Digitally Transform
  18. Digital Transformation - The Dark Side
  19. Business is Not as Usual in Digital Transformation
  20. 15 Rules for Winning in Digital Transformation
  21. The End Goal of Digital Transformation
  22. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  23. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  24. The Advantages of an Advantage in Digital Transformation
  25. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  26. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  27. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  28. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  29. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  30. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  31. Digital Transformation - A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  32. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  33. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  34. Digital Transformation and Mobility - Macro-Forces and Timing
  35. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time

Every click, swipe, "like," buy, comment, deposit, jog and search produces information that creates a unique virtual identity - something we call

Code Halo

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How Digital Leaders are Different

We asked 50 futurists, professionals employed to review trends and develop strategy, to identify and rank the top five ways they believe digital transformation will drive value generation between now and 2020.  Here are their top five answers:

  1. Accelerates speed to market
  2. Strengthens competitive positioning
  3. Boosts revenue growth
  4. Raises employee productivity
  5. Expands ability to acquire, engage and retain customers

These top five value generators offer significant business advantages; but if your organization can achieve them faster than your competitors, there is a bonus advantage.  We call it the Ax2 phenomenon (advantages have advantages). Not only do digital leaders realize competitive advantages before others, but they also have the advantage of insights from new data, which leads to new actions and new insights not yet understood or possible for laggards. 

Research In Motion (RIM), the progenitor of the Blackberry, responded slowly to Apple’s launch of the iPhone. Years passed before RIM responded with its first smartphone. During this time, Apple worked at “digital speed” to improve its iPhones and the iOS operating system, and hundreds of thousands of software applications were developed for it. Each of these versions provided additional insights into consumers and their behaviors. The Ax2 phenomenon enabled Apple to rapidly widen the gap between leader and laggard, a competitive advantage that proved impossible for RIM to overcome.

Executives must closely watch the innovation efforts of competitors, and recognize that it is not only the new products and services that are being introduced that can be differentiating but also the data they glean from new innovations that can spawn additional advantages.

Information dominance is the strategic imperative of the 21st century. The good news for executives is that investing in digital technologies to gain information dominance makes sense as the return on investment for digital technologies averages nearly 50% among survey participants, but jumps to an astounding 230% for the top 25%.

Achieving information dominance involves understanding the data required to achieve competitive advantage, and then collecting and analyzing it to glean business meaning faster than the competition. Information dominance, however, is meaningless unless it results in actionable insights, which lead to appropriate actions, at the right time and place. It’s not the ability to collect and analyze data faster; it is the ability to understand and act on it faster. Businesses that can “understand and act with speed” will dominate those that are slower.

In today’s age of hyper-digital transformation, enterprises must digitally transform and implement OILS (optimized information logistics systems) that can respond and change with self-sustaining business agility. These abilities take more than digital technologies; they require a new way of thinking, which is revealed in our data on digital leaders:

  1. Digital leaders recognize and respond to underlying market forces, and are budgeting and planning to implement specific business strategies and digital technologies in specific sequences to maximize ROI and competitive advantage.
  2. Digital leaders recognize the impact of digital technologies on the expectations of consumers and markets. These expectations are speeding the tempo of operations beyond human time to digital time. The demands for digital time require humans to upgrade IT environments and augment their capabilities with AI and robotic process automation (bots) to enable mass volumes of transactions to be processed in milliseconds in order to support real-time and mobile environments.
  3. Digital leaders develop a digital doctrine and strategy to unify and guide all business and technology strategies, tactics and investments and provide a shared frame of reference across their organization.
  4. Digital leaders are exploiting the Ax2 phenomenon. The Ax2 phenomenon enables enterprises to gain new and unique business insights earlier than their competitors, leading to competitive advantages that result from the collection and analysis of data not yet available to digital laggards.
  5. Digital leaders identify the digital technologies they expect to have a significant impact on their businesses across the three digital transformation ages spanning 2016 to 2025. These technologies are not all created equal in their business impact, and some are still not ready for prime time, but are maturing fast. As a result, it is critical to carefully time the adoption and implementation of digital technologies in accordance with the age in which they will deliver maximum ROI and competitive advantage.

First and foremost, digital leaders understand the reality and degree of impact that digital technologies are having on their customers, and their ability to compete. They recognize the pace of change and are aligning their strategies and budgets in ways that will provide them with competitive advantage now and in the future.

Watch my latest video on digital technology trends: 

  1. The Three Tsunamis of Digital Transformation - Be Prepared!
  2. Bots, AI and the Next 40 Months
  3. You Only Have 40 Months to Digitally Transform
  4. Digital Technologies and the Greater Good
  5. Video Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  6. Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  7. Virtual Moves to Real in with Sensors and Digital Transformation
  8. Technology Must Disappear in 2017
  9. Merging Humans with AI and Machine Learning Systems
  10. In Defense of the Human Experience in a Digital World
  11. Profits that Kill in the Age of Digital Transformation
  12. Competing in Future Time and Digital Transformation
  13. Digital Hope and Redemption in the Digital Age
  14. Digital Transformation and the Role of Faster
  15. Digital Transformation and the Law of Thermodynamics
  16. Jettison the Heavy Baggage and Digitally Transform
  17. Digital Transformation - The Dark Side
  18. Business is Not as Usual in Digital Transformation
  19. 15 Rules for Winning in Digital Transformation
  20. The End Goal of Digital Transformation
  21. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  22. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  23. The Advantages of an Advantage in Digital Transformation
  24. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  25. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  26. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  27. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  28. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  29. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  30. Digital Transformation - A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  31. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  32. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  33. Digital Transformation and Mobility - Macro-Forces and Timing
  34. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time