miércoles, 17 de enero de 2018

Digital breathing air is diminishing

According with the available data, in 2017 among the top 6 companies by market capitalisation 5 are ICT companies, 4 of them close to the concept of "digital platform". These companies are Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook and Apple, the GAFA. Only Google was among the top 20 companies in 2009, Apple was below the 30th post in the 2009 ranking, neither Amazon nor Facebook were in the top 100 companies.

The phenomenal growth of the GAFA is not completely understood yet today. However, it is sure is that working for more thatn a decade in an innovative and not tightly regulated sector has had a big influence in the current situation. The bigger the space you have to breath free of any other living being in the surroundings the more you can expand yourself. But suddenly, the space has started to decrease.

The breathing air for digital platforms is composed by two main elements: the usage of connectivity infrastructure deployed by other companies and contents created by third parties. The connectivity is used in the same conditions as other users without taking into consideration its role as producers and the content is exploited in an indirect manner without any charge for its intermediary role. Both of these elements are on the road of getting more expensive for platforms, and therefore, diminish the space for the benefit obtain from its usage for business purposes.

Starting with connectivity, US Government repealed Net Nutrality regulation. From now on, telcom operators can negotiate paid deals with websites for so-called fast lanes to consumers  as long as they disclose those practices to the public. This could mean in the future higher prices for those (as digital platforms) which are traffic sumps on the Internet, that could be forcedto pay more to have better access to consumers.

On the content side, there are two pressures towards more expensive contents. Firstly, the governments are looking for a bigger control of contents by the digital platforms in order to suppress extremist messages as soon as possible. More control means more humans analysing each piece of content, and, therefore, the need to pay more salaries. Secondly, some content producers are asking for tools to obtain a bigger piece of cake of money obtained for services by platforms built around their news, videos and so on.

So platforms are facing a new challenge: showing that the business model is healthy in spite of the diminution of benefits and the increase in expenses. A change on the landscape that could change the balance of forces in the digital ecosystem.

miércoles, 10 de enero de 2018

Omnichannel: Brick-and-mortar is not dead but the cog of a more complex mechanism

Christmas is over. There are no more gifts under the tree and even the tree has been dismantled. Online sales may have reached a new peak and its for sure that its growth has surpassed once more the growth of brick-and-mortar sales. Back in September, Deloitte forecasts a growth of holiday sales growth of as much as 4.5 percent while e-commerce sales would increase 18 to 21 percent. Taking into account these numbers you may be tempted to close your physical store and you will make an error if you do so.

Although it may look so, the future of sales is not the Internet. At least is not only the Internet. The combination of offline and online shopping is not a provisional stage but a permanent one. According with a survey, in the last Black Friday/Cybermonday campaign in USA while over 58 million shopped online only and over 51 million shopped in stores only, over 64 million shopped both online or in stores. However the future of shopping is also beyond multichannel, it lays in what someone calls omnichannel.

What's the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? Basically, it is a question of customer experience. While in a multichannel strategy a shop print a range of lightly connected options to the shopper, in an omnichannel strategy there is a seamless continuity of the actions done by the shopper through the different channels. For instance, the shopper is free to start the relationship with the commerce through one channel and end it in a different channel.

The implementation of the more basic cases of omnichannel strategies is growing. The US merchants offering omnichannel services as buy online/pick-up in the store or ship to store doubled from 2015 to 2016. But more complex cases are already being implemented. My favourite one is the "My Disney experience" that allow you to start planning your trip to the magic kingdom from your PC to fully enjoy your days with SnowWihite, Peter Pan and the rest of the troop.

So in the end it looks that it could be true that digitalisation will not be the end of jobs but the start of a new breed of them. Omnichannel is the first step in that direction on the retail world.

miércoles, 20 de diciembre de 2017

5G race: There´s no alternative

It looks that the race for the deployment of 5G has started at last in Europe. Since the European Commission published its communication "5G for Europe: An Action Plan" important thinks has happened in the European scenario. The European Ministers has backed the 5G deployment with a Ministerial Declaration and have agreed on 5G roadmap. Furthermore, the European institutions are closer to agree on an overhaul of the EU telecommunication legal framework which is expected to be adopted in the 2018 first semester.

At the national level, things are starting to get moved also. Four of the big five EU countries have taken steps to lead the 5G deployment in Europe. Both Germany and Spain have published a comprehensive 5G plan which included pilot projects backed with public funds, Italy without a clear strategy but have announced 5g pilots in 5 cities and United Kingdom is ahead of the pack with a 5G strategy and some testbeds under development.  The first auctions of the 3,6 GHZ band, critical for a successful 5G deployment, are expected in UK and Spain at the first quarter of 2018.

However there are some doubts in Europe is still on time to compete in the global race to lead 5G. The last 5G market predictions published by Ericsson estimate that Europe will be substantially lagged from Asia and USA in 2023. There are serious fears that Europe could be on a groundhog day and repeating the failures lived with 4G deployment

Because the question is if the telecommunication companies will respond to all the plans and calls for pilots. In spite of the general perception of the 5G benefits which let open the hope to a rapid adoption and monetization of needed investments for its deployment, telecom operators look doubtful to start the preparations for the 5G roll-out. And the doubts are foreseen to increase in 2018 with gloomy predictions of a further squeeze of margins.

However, let's be optimistic. There are none alternatives different to enter the race, so we can expect that Europe operators will not lose another train to the digital future.


miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2017

Digital Xmas

Christmas are around the corner. Shopping malls are crowded of people rushing from one shop to another and e-commerce sites are changing its face including  season images as Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men to attract more customers.  As it happens year after year, we will buy  this week the main part of our Christmas presents, an important part of them are targeted to kids and children. Even for them, those with digital features are the gifts which are more awaited.

Smart adjective has started to appear jointly with the word toys. Cameras, wifi connectivity and bluetooth links pave the way to a new a generation of toys that can collect images, voices, personal information and location from their little owners in almost real time. The market is gorwing at a quickpace. Accordingly with a report published by Juniper Research last summer, Smart Toy sales will reach $15.5 billion in hardware and app content revenues by 2022, up from an estimated $4.9 billion in 2017

The threefold growth of smart toys business is driving by the early unlimited access that children have to their parents smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, there is a growing base of children under six that owns their own smartphone or tablet that will be around 90% in 2020. Right now, nearly half of them has their own smartphone when they are 10 years old, almost all of them with the same features as their parents.

A growing supply industry and a thriving demand base will have as a consequence a proliferation of smart toys at our home. The emerge of this new wave of children´s companion has been so fast that we are not yet used to pay attention and demand information about with which data retention rules are embedded in their smartness and  with whom they shared the data they collect. As some field studies show, some times both parents and children are unprepared to manage the associated risks.

Consumer associations in Europe and America has started to warn on the risks after testing several smart toys. The lab work shows that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Nothing new, the experts has been calling for more attention on Internet of the Things vulnerabilities for a long time. But this time could be more serious, hackers speaking with our children paves the way for a whole collection to social engineer attacks that could take full advantage the kids naivety.

Slowly, but those responsible to take care of citizens safety in this area are starting to take measures. Norwegian consumer agency is beginning to do intensive test to smart toys and has discovered vulnerabilities on them. German agency even is banning some this connected toys due to the cybersecurity risks.  At the other side of the Atlantic, the warnings came from the FBI who calls "consumers to consider cyber security prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes or trusted environments."

As when we face any other challenge related with digitalisation, we should not let ourselves be driven by luddism. The consumer note published by FBI provide a full complete list of the actions we can do by ourselves in order to provide our kids safely with a digital companion for their games. Basically, as with everything, we have to know what we are buying. 

miércoles, 6 de diciembre de 2017

News on fake news

We have lived more than a full year under a growing worry for fake news in social media. It all started US presidential election, some journalist also discovered some hints that there where also present in the Brext referendum. Although their presence in France´s Presidential election and Germany´s Parliament election were apparently weaker than expected, the question of fake news stayed as a background sound for all the year.

In spite of the situation described above, the worry about fake news were uneven in the European Union and stayed at low level of prioritisation for many Member States. Although in september it was clear that the European Commission was planning some initiative on the issue, the Presiden Juncker decided to include in his letter of intent for 2018 but did not mentioned it in his address to the Parliament. All the clues pointed in the direction that fake news would stay as a minor issue in European policy, if not completely dissapear from it.

But some policy-makers apparently want to maintain fake news on the front page in the same manner that Hearst furnished the Cuban War after the sinking of the Maine ("Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return." To which Hearst's reply was: "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."). The dramatic events around the secession intentions of Catalonia from Spain have provided new fuel for the EC intentions to develop policy initiatives around fake news. The EC is exploited the opportunity and, what is more valuable due the Council mechanism, has won a relevant ally for its intention (Spain).

Certainly, there have been examples of fake news and doubtful pictures on the Catalonia crisis.  The EC has shown some of this pieces of fake news, curiously biased on one direction only when there have been example from both, but there have been little detail about the impact on the opinion of the population or even the actual distribution beyond Twitter´s retweets and Facebook´s likes.  This hype on fake news is logically supported by the traditional media, a logical support due to their fierce competence with online platforms as the main news distribution channel.

It is impossible to deny the existence of fake news on online platforms, even it is possible the involvement of governments, in what we can call a kind of revival of cold war. However, perhaphs we should be also critical analyzers of the news on fake news, they also could have an intention.

miércoles, 29 de noviembre de 2017

The end of jobs: A bigger problem than we think

Several studies began to point towards a decrease of people employed due to automatisation a couple of years ago. These results ignited a debate on  the future of employment, where some people have taken a more positive view hinting that at the same time that some jobs could dissapear other could emerge. One of the areas of hope for the provision of new kind of jobs for the susbtitution of the old ones is the IT sector. Furthermore, from the political level they are sending continuous messages about the lack of IT specialists

Thinking about IT fields where new specialist are needed, it is easy to point immediately to Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity. The former looks as essential for the automatisation and redesign of activities, while the later seems as highly demanded to stop the continuous cyber attacks some high profile companies and institutions are receiving. Unfortunately, it looks possible that those who think that has existed an overestimation of the IT jobs gap are close to the truth.

What could failed? Why in a highly automated world the demand of digital jobs would be not as high as we expected? The answer is that automatisation could devour itself. To begin with cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence is at the heart of a new generation of cybersecurity products that "helps analysts to boost their accuracy and shorten their reaction time".  But same could be said regarding Artificial intelligence itself, the shortage of AI specialist is quickly filled by cloud companies as Google to provide AI on demand services.

Although I´m on the side the optimists who think that automatisation will bring new jobs on the medium term, news as those described above fill you with blue for some time. We will need to fight hard in order to maintain a working space for human beings.


miércoles, 22 de noviembre de 2017

Funding the policing of the digital world

Be careful what you ask for, it can become a reality. I'm pretty sure that achieving world's success was among the garage dreams of Google and Facebook inventors, now they have. However, the problem is that their success has been so huge that they are the main news channel for a significative number of people. This undeniable fact has become a nightmare for the GAFA, because governments have started to remember them the old spiderman's adage: With great power comes great responsibility.

The plague of fake news become the front-page of daily news with the US elections. There has not been electoral process in a big country since then without evidences of  them. Like the naughty boy, with each new evidence the GAFA`s asked for pardon and made some big commitment to fight the plague. Up to now, the result have been null and the faith on self-regulation on this field has decline.

So governments in Europe have decided to start policing the network to stop the fake news disease and other kind of misinformation online. But this new government activity comes with a cost, it is said that only in Germany facebook is employing 600 people to fight (with a humble success) fake news. So, the governments have decided to start asking the GAFA for funding for this fight, whether in a compulsory manner through fines (Germany) or in a voluntary manner through levies (United Kingdom).

Nothing new, it is another sign of the turning tide against the GAFA that were so cherished until recently. A first attempt to make sustainable the so long neglected labour of policing the virtual world.
palyginti kainas