Brace yourself for the 2024 Olympics

London may well have the swagger that goes with a global city but Paris will always be a treat for the eye. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Cognizant sponsored event on AI and I have to say, Paris doesn’t feel like it’s changed much since my first solo trip by ferry (I’m showing my age: my first trip predated cheap flights and even the Eurostar!) This trip coincided with the International Olympics Committee’s awarding the 2024 Olympics to Paris. And this got me thinking about Paris because it’s going to look and feel very different by the time the Olympic circus rolls into town in 2024.

I think that the French Olympics is going to the stuff of legend. It will be packed full of spell binding technology to really make the Olympic experience shared and breath-taking not for just those that are there, but for everyone that tunes in. I can imagine it being a similar phenomenon to when the Rome Olympics were first broadcast across Europe in 1960 or the live global broadcast of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Looking back at the quality of the broadcast then and now, you can begin to see the potential for sport broadcasting and crowd participation over the next 10 years. Now wonder a king’s ransom is pouring into virtual reality tools, technologies and start-ups as the tech giants look to understand and exploit these new tools—industry chatter is about a technology game changer. They’re right. But back to Paris and what can we expect.

As a tourist to the city in 2024 you are going to be a hit with a whole host of tech innovations that will bring the ideas and concepts we live and breathe at the Centre for the Future of Work into focus. Imagine interacting with a 3D hologram placed on the corner of the Champs-Élysées that can be dialled up, telling you how to get to the volley ball or to the Louvre or see the replay of the 100m final. Or the people friendly, android/robots trundling around the upmarket Galeries Lafayette that you can address in any language, and are able to deliver the answer you need without a Gallic shrug in sight. Or find yourself stuck near the Eiffel tower? All you need to do is press a button on your smart phone—or swipe the chip implanted into your hand over a reader—and summon a self-driving pod which will whisk you and the family safely back to your hotel. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but it’s a future that is happening much quicker than we think.

Paris has just followed Singapore down the path toward an autonomous future because today, travellers to the city can cross the River Seine between the Gare d ‘Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon and make the trip for free aboard one of two electric, driverless shuttles. The shuttles carry six passengers and a human overseer to keep an eye on things. These pods trundle back and forth over the Charles de Gaulle Bridge in a dedicated lane, making the 800-foot jaunt at about 12 mph (basically it’s too short for a taxi; it’s too painful with suitcases and a couple of moody teenagers in tow). It’s not a massive “wow” but it’s a sign of things to come in how we approach transport in our cities. And looking ahead six years after the Olympics, Paris has plans to be the greenest capital in Europe by banning all petrol and diesel cars off the road. Electric everywhere. And I take my hat off to the French for doing this. The city where the first global climate change accords were signed is walking the talk.

When the Olympics hit Paris perhaps we’ll cycle around with bike that powers itself. Check out the Copenhagen wheel that gives anyone (yes, even my mother-in-law) superhuman powers, and the ability to ride their bikes 10 times faster. The wheel synchronizes with your movements and amplifies pedal power as you cycle around the newly clean, traffic free streets (imagine how good the Parisian café culture is going to be). It looks supercool as well—it’s a red hub that turns almost any bike into a smart electric hybrid with a custom motor, advanced sensors, control systems, and a battery. Bluetooth connectivity (of course) enables you to personalize your cycling experience from your smartphone. Easy to fix too: simply replace the rear wheel of your bike or add it to a new bike (OK, my big plug is over for the Copenhagen wheel but I read about this innovation when I was on the Eurostar and I think it could be a game changer for all of us). In the meantime, perhaps we can figure out law around the blighted Segway and allow to actually use them to move around.

Most of all, think about all those people at home that cannot make it to Paris in 2024. This will be the most interactive, immersive, real-life-in-the-home Olympics ever. The images we will be in 3D, 4D and layered with insight and information about everything you could possible want to know about the sport, the competitors and the place where it’s happening. Think about putting on your headset (or a more palatable pair of hi-tech Ray-Bans or sporty Oakleys) and visit the games as if you were actually there in person. I can believe this vision will happen and I suspect you can too. You really need to read my colleague Rob Brown’s forthcoming report “Augmenting the Reality of Everything” and think about how incredible the Parisian Olympics are going to be for all of us. It’s another smart move for France’s tech industry that could catalyse great things for the country like the London Olympics did for the East End of London. Watch this space.

Man Made

Quite rightly, we stand back in amazement at the progress artificial intelligence is making day by day. This week news broke that doctors in Holland had performed the first robot assisted supermicrosurgery. Our minds boggle at the possibilities, the potential, and the risks.

But the more AI advances the more it makes one stop and think about how far its journey has to go; the smartest AI is still no smarter than a little kid and superintelligence is still decades away, even with the most optimistic (or pessimistic – depending on your perspective) guestimates.

In the meantime all this thinking about how wonderful AI is has led me to reflect on the achievements of humans – if Siri’s so fantastic, then maybe we should give ourselves a little bit more credit for the Triumph Bonneville, an Apollo 5 spaceship, football, kettles, the Pyramids, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Shakespeare’s King Lear, Picasso’s Guernica, ping pong, Thomas Crapper’s plumbing system, the London underground, Doc Martens, Louie Armstrong’s Potato Head Blues, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, a Boeing 787, the ENIAC, Versailles, an artificial heart, the electric light, rugby, a BMW X5, the Crispr editing machine, pizza ovens, Lord Dury of Kilburn’s Reasons to be Cheerful, the Chrysler Building, dog collars, Marc Chagall’s windows in All Saints Church, Elvis Costello’s Pump it Up, braces, Notre Dame, Excel, an English country garden, a Brioni suit, the National Health Service, Christ the Redeemer, Guinness, Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie, the Eiffel Tower, Eton Mess, contact lenses, tennis, Go, Jeopardy, Poker, and lastly, artificial intelligence.

One day, AI will make extraordinary things and add to my spin on Woody Allen’s what makes life living riff But in the meantime we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that real intelligence is still pretty wonderful too.

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The Anatomy of the Modern Enterprise

We still have much to learn, but it is clear that work as we know it will be organized, distributed, and performed in entirely new ways. A fusion of algorithms, automation, machine learning, and the rise of cross industry platforms is skewing business models, customer experiences and cost structures, sector by sector. Many industries are in fact melting and reforming around these new technologies, be they virtual reality, 3D printing or Block chain (trust me, the list goes on). Not a week goes by without learning about some spiky new start-up or innovative technology that looks set accelerate and disrupt in equal measure.

What’s more, the stuff that used to be seen as science fiction is now within our reach. We can now imagine a world where fleets of self-driving cars can be summoned at the touch of button, untethered from the hassle of personal ownership. Or see the incredible advances in healthcare as data begins to supercharge an era of innovation as smart medical devices, intelligent pill bottles, bio-sensors to the digestible chips on pills create a data trail rich with meaning and insight. And in this world of abundant data, why can’t we price our insurance in more equitable ways? Will my Fitbit generate an individual health profile for me, and customize my premium quotes; why can’t the sensors in my car ensure my auto policies are based on actual driving performance? The downside is we begin to judge each other but its cheap right? And as Ryanair knows we all love the cheap...

Survey data for my latest report on the dynamics of workflow and workspace—what we’re calling The Future of Space—shows that leaders are hearing the drumbeat of new technologies and rising customer expectations every single day. And it’s getting louder and louder. At their root however, what these technologies do is enable the “new.” New business models, new revenue streams, new types of customer relationships, and radical new cost structures. The big WIM (Forrester Research parlance for what it means) is that the modern company must pivot on software, open it up, partner with it, and co-create with it because surviving the impending tech disruption depends upon it. How well one company marshals data around its value-chain (i.e. pivots on software) versus its competitors will determine its long-term profitability and longevity. Listening to the industry chatter surrounding the recent Frankfurt Motor Show a couple of weeks ago is a case in point.

The buzz it seems is no longer about the sleek new model like the plug-in BMW i8 hybrid, but more about the software and business model pivot that technology enables. The advances in driverless navigation and battery power dominated the news emanating from the Frankfurt Motor Show (even EasyJet got in on the act and floated the idea of battery powered jets that would fly us around Europe). According to industry insiders, by the time the Paris Olympics hit Europe in 2024, the car industry will look very different—more of a blend between software, big finance and the car manufactures. You might have seen Uber’s travails in London (N7 night bus anyone?) but right now the competition within the brutal ride hailing race gives a glimpse into the future of city travel. The consensus at Frankfurt is the winner won’t be Uber, Lyft or Gett but will feature big finance somewhere along the line. Chatter at the show focused on the rise of new consortia within the driverless car industry, operating app controlled fleets of self-driving cars that patrol our cities and transporting us here, there and everywhere. The owners/lessors of the fleets could well feature BMW or Daimler and an Uber in there but most likely will feature an industry tie-up with banks or financial investors as the switch in business model from personal car ownership to rental disrupts the auto manufacturer’s revenue flow and cost structure. Heady stuff.

And you can see the disruption playing out today. Cars are beginning to trigger an industry mashup way beyond the disputed entertainment interface between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay—perhaps the first “platform war” of its kind) An instrumented car provides a platform for innovation and opportunity because it’s capturing what we want to listen to while driving and how safely we drive and beaming the data back to dynamically price our car insurance; our cars will soon collect road status data and use it to improve traffic flow around our cities. No wonder car makers are in a race to build the eco-systems in support—check out how Audi, BMW and Daimler acquired “Here” from Nokia to develop a platform for connected mobility services. The plans include some natty industry plays for utilities for example, to measure overhead power lines, or for local authorities to use the software and assess potholes and the state of our pavements.

My take is the modern enterprise has to speed up innovation, experimentation and collaboration with proprietary and 3rd party data inside, outside and across its industry. Mastery with data will offer incredible opportunities for companies to renew mandates, co-create and grow engagement across a value chain. But the modern firm must go beyond that. The modern enterprise must rethink work from the top down, how it looks and where it happens, what people get from it. Within the past 10 years, business ecosystems have dramatically switched, and so has the talent pool, the customer base, not to mention the technologies employees use to perform daily functions at work. Work is changing. Very fast.