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The Digital Effect – London Tech Week

This week we’re on the front line at London Tech Week – Europe’s biggest tech convention – to meet some movers and shakers and see what opportunities the future of technology holds for businesses.

First up, we headed straight to ‘The Digital Effect’ to try to gauge how important the experts think digitising your business is going to be. The expert in question on this occasion was Phil Smith, CEO of Cisco UK & Ireland and Chairman of the Technology Strategy Board.

“40% of all companies won’t exist in 10 years unless they digitally transform.” – Phil Smith

Fundamental change

Phil said, “A fundamental change of the rules is what digitisation is all about.” We see this in the big businesses that are being built on purely digital platforms like Uber and Amazon, and in smaller scale businesses too. If you do not make some effort to digitise your business you will likely be left behind.

Spotting opportunities

Digitisation throws up new exciting opportunities for your business – some obvious and some less so. Phil spoke about ‘Uberpreneurs’ – a word to describe Uber drivers who run businesses while driving their taxi. For example, one driver, who makes £20,000 a year from driving his cab, also makes £200,000 a year from giving customers magazines for his jewellery business! All condoned by Uber who, of course, are open to entrepreneurship.

The basics for small businesses

So how is embracing digital going to benefit small businesses? The answer is it already has. New technology and connectivity is allowing small businesses to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. Phil mentioned tech like the iZettle  – a free card reader compatible with chip and pin, contactless and even Apple Pay – that speeds up the point of sale and keeps up with customers adopting the latest tech.

Possibility of connectivity

Another stat from Mr Smith: “By 2019, 50% of the world’s population will be connected to the internet.” The rapacious reach of the internet is allowing us to connect with more people in more ways, which in turn throws up more opportunity. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the launch of 4G, which has improved the speed of those connections.

AirBnB is an example of a peer-to-peer success story that comes from connectedness, but also trust. Phil spoke of the importance of trust and the new phenomenon of rating people on services like this and Uber. We wrote earlier in the year about a bed and breakfast that claimed to owe much of its success to excellent ratings on TripAdvisor. Phil called this rating trend “a powerful self-managing system”.

The Future

Phil’s vision of the future was one of connectivity, partnerships and the all-important big data. He spoke about the England Rugby Sevens doctor who started monitoring the players in training using heart rate monitors and accelerometers. He analysed this big rich data so accurately that he could predict when a player would catch a cold two days before!

Products and infrastructure will talk to each other like never before. Phil crashed his car recently so he called the police to inform them but they had already been notified. By his car! This kind of story is set to become more common – let’s not even get started on driverless cars.

Conclusion

Phil painted a very bright and interesting vision of the digital future with a stark warning about not being left behind. “Afterall,” he concluded, “the internet of things is changing everything.”

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