Trust and Privacy: Return to the office environment

Many opinions exist on how automation and machine learning will help our return to the office environment. Removing physical touchpoints and leveraging machine learning on tracing employee behaviour can help with the transition back into the workplace.  But will people trust the office’s automated suggestions on where to work in the building, or help themselves to alternative workspaces?  

Trust, Good Faith and the Engagement Process

Disney and Amazon both understand what kinds of processes and trust it takes to engage people. These organizations took their time to create a vision of the contactless trusted experience before developing an implementation plan.  The RFID wristbands at Disney that open hotel doors and get you on to rides involves many elements of trust and privacy.  The automated order and delivery tracking of Amazon, along with suggestions and buying patterns, require the person to opt-in and share information to make happen.

So for your own company, once I re-enter the workplace, how does our company create those processes, that level of trust and faith, that would allow my movements and my health status to be tracked by office automation?    For example, how often should I be overtly be aware of my temperature being scanned?

Abilities of buildings to manage

Facilities management is trending towards intelligent building management systems (iBMS) which know about room occupancy, room hygiene and tracking who has been where and with whom. Elevators will limit occupancy and direct users to the correct lift going to the correct location.  I have already seen this in our city hospital as it will direct you to the correct lift once you have entered information on your destination.  This combines user interface devices such as touchless pads, system hardware, and access control management software.

The building can also possibly direct you via a building app to request a place to work. You could swipe your personnel card and then be shown several options based on your personal profile and job role, including private quiet rooms, communal areas, and outside meeting tables.  Previous occupants can be noted to share hygiene tracing if necessary.

Intelligent buildings already offer direct support to the employees who interact with them for HVAC, lighting control and occupation sensor.  They have the ability to reduce user friction, while raising workplace experience metrics to create a measured environment.

Users’ trust and participation

Users should be willing to participate to get access.  To create that trust that is required for the willingness to be given, companies need to share policies and demonstrate stewardship of the data accessed.  Who is holding my locational data, for how long and for what purpose?

Trust facilitates successful data sharing, which in turn reinforces trust. Trust is built when the purpose of data sharing is made clear, and when those involved in the process know each other, understand each other’s expectations, and carry out their commitments as agreed. Trust increases the likelihood of further collaboration and improves core surveillance capacity  by supporting surveillance networks.


Will we put our trust in buildings and facilities management on our return to the office? If communication and clear policy is articulated, then building can play a role to engage users to return to some standards of in-office participation.  But if communication is muddy and policy not made clear, people will make their own way to safety – potentially impacting the environment of others.

Christmas Eve and Dreaming Big

The end of this not so lovely year of 2020 is next week, and not soon enough for most of us. Life in the “Now Normal” has seemed like an endless array of March days, except each day is different, yet the same.

So many people are pinning hopes on 2021, and if you understand that the pandemic of 1918 was followed by the roaring ’20s, you can also see that many people are overestimating what comes next.

We have a tendency to dream when we look at a new year, or a new decade. We overestimate how quickly changes will occur. So much of our lives are already reminiscent of the Jetsons cartoon, with voice and motion controlled rooms, personal transport pods, and robotics. Me, I was just looking at the prices of private islands and personal media studios. 😉

What will 2021 look like? You can see some of my tech predictions here on the Ecosystm website where I work as a Principal Analyst on a contact to cover Infrastructure and Cloud Enablement. On a personal level, I plan to scale up and out from my current situation. This means downsizing a reliance on physical stuff and rightsizing me.

I know for certain that this next year will bring great change, but much of that will be internal in how I view and live in my world. And the same for many people I know who are recreating what they read, listen to, find factual and want to engage with. I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a value-driven new year.


So what does ‘the After’ look like?


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A good friend from high school calls the period after we stop lockdown “the After”. As I teach university as well as run a think-tank, the discussion comes up about business models in ‘the After’. How will airlines operate with enhanced social distancing? What happens with restaurants, can they change seating plans to have a “corona immune” section? Will the emphasis be on local business sustainability, to the determinant of Amazon? Are we moving from the experience economy to the cooperative economy?

I have a couple of immediate predictions:

Countries that now rebuild tech infrastructure (5G, IoT, contactless payment, etc) will get further ahead in bulletproofing their economies. WFH will be a reality for many years, and the platforms to do so need to be better scaled.

Governments that re-skill the population to 21st century work forms will survive more fully in the long term. Automation is king, protection of poorly trained workers benefits no one.

Supply chain agility will continue to be a big thing, as companies who quickly and without prompting converted to face mask, PPE and surgical scrubs will be remembered as innovators and their brands will benefit. (CSR)

Personal privacy will take a hit in the near term, but to the benefit of society as long as there is oversight on how the data is used.

You can bailout whomever you like, but if the consumer does not feel that was a worthwhile action, it will impact consumption. Not only elephants never forget…

Supporting local industry will be a priority for many communities who will remember what it was like to have scarcity at a time of crisis.

Much more to come, business model process innovation is my favorite thing next to chocolate……

Zoom as a Platform (ZaaP) – Innovation for the current era


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In a week full of stress and uncertainty, one thing is certain. We require new infrastructures to support the heavy load of all online all the time. And one thing I have learned from this week is that most video concall platforms are not scaling very well. They all meant well in offering free trials for 90 days and so on to take advantage of the online need, but cracks are showing in most platforms in terms of peak periods and performance.

Except for Zoom, I understand. Where Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts, MS Teams are occasionally overburdened, most folks using Zoom have not had the same experience. In fact, many are turning to Zoom as the platform of choice for real life experience in the age of social distancing. Education in the form of classes (academic and practical) are springing up all over the Web.

There is a great opportunity here, assuming Zoom continues to scale, to base business models on the Zoom as a Platform (ZaaP). Let’s call it being ZaaP’d. Will Zoom become the next Facebook as the must have app to reaching and communicating with customers?

How will COVID-19 test your organization’s resilience? Can a pandemic create new business models?


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I had a great concall this morning (yes, on a Sunday) about how organizations are approaching the possibility of the virus impacting their infrastructure. The tech giants are asking for home working, and the educational institutions are looking for virtual and remote learning.

But there are several business models here that are going to be damaged.

First is the model of insurance. As seen by SXSW this week, the organizers held off cancellation hoping that Austin would ask for it first. This is because the insurance company did not see the virus as an Act of God or natural disaster. As more and more companies will take financial hits going forward, how will insurers be pressured into adapting existing types of policies to cover (or not) pandemics?

The next is the model of conference calling. Many of the mainstream providers (Zoom, Cisco with WebEx, Google) have tried to take advantage to building the business with free 90 day trials during this period. But the uptake of Zoom recently has started to impact the quality and bandwidth provided for calls, as noticed by several users this week. Is there enough infrastructure for everyone to go virtual? I see an opportunity here for other models that exist (virtual universities, virutal events in the form of an electronic open day) to take hold.

The third model is the sick leave model, focusing on the amount of time off that a contracted employee can take. I know I had to take sick days for a family member being ill last week, and have already used up my days for the six month allocation period. Hourly workers, and those who work on freelance contracts, will be badly hit. Will people change what they do for work based on a pandemic? Certain industries will be short of workers if this is the case.

The final model I want to discuss is the retail high street. If we have social distancing, how we shop and how we eat out will change completely. E-commerce models still need fulfillment, and if workers cannot work in warehouses or shipping, we have a fulfillment problem. Will 3D printers be the answer that you can make your own? Will be there be fixed locations to pick up your goods with quarantine information available as to its preparers?

Will we have virtual dinner parties, or be exchanging recipes for self quarantine kitchens? Or will you book a restaurant based on distance from other diners and with a health certificate from the kitchen staff? (Note: already happening with delivered food in China, comes with temperature reading from kitchen preparer as well as delivery person.)

Having stocked up on canned goods and toilet paper, I am not as ready as I would like, but already thinking past this season until next Fall…… Can we turn this into an innovation moment?

Looking for my red rubber ball

On my home office desk for many months sits my copy of the book by Kevin Carroll entitled “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball“, as well as an actual red rubber (squeeze) ball. I have had the book for a number of years, and always enjoy revisiting its message of that thread throughout your life that keeps you engaged in what you find meaningful and energizing.

But I have to admit recently that I am lacking that direction towards joy.

My theory is that every seven or so years you enter a new phase of your life. I think it had to do with how often your cells rejuvenate. I recently read a document that suggests you create a timeline of your life, and pick 10 or so major moments that have defined your life direction (the so-called ‘highlights’ or major milestones). But that kind of turns things into a Readers’ Digest version of your life and I am not ready to be on “This is Your Life” just yet….

Even though the last 4-5 years having had extreme lows and interesting highs, at the present time I am plateauing and I am not sure how I feel about that.

So next to this book sits another hand-sized notebook, reminiscent of a former colleague who carried a little notebook everywhere. This is where I jot down my instructions to myself on how to make the necessary changes I believe need to be made to be on a more positive path towards better outcomes. It has a unique cover, and I picked it up in Australia on trip in 2018.

Together, these two books are helping me to guide my journey this year towards not necessarily calmer waters, but ones that flow with ease and movement. And somewhere there, I hope to find my red rubber ball floating alongside me.

Why 2020 could be the year of “Edge as a Service” (EaaS)


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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Bringing compute resources to the edge implies efforts in reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent up to the cloud. For many data-intensive applications such as video surveillance, natural speech recognition and health related monitoring, the need to process data as close to the source as possible can be important for both efficiency and security.

The major pitfall with edge computing, as it is now, is not a lack of data available but the lack of understanding in how, where and when to use it. Enterprises are starting to really understand that sometimes data has more value staying close to where it is, rather than centrally collecting it.

So why does certain data need to stay at the edge?

1. It’s big. Bandwidth issues exist: networks need to be kept clear of large volumes of data needing to be sent up into the cloud.

2. It’s timely. Speed of reaction is important: having low latency low allows rapid response as the data is processed where it sits. Imagine the reaction time necessary on the brakes of a self-driving car, for example.

3. It’s valuable. Security and privacy concerns that are alleviated (mostly) by keeping data processing as local to the data source as possible thus eliminating massive amounts of potentially hackable personal data from being stored in the cloud.

What is the power of data in a smart structure?  Trust in data is now essential to effective digital transformation.  Single verifiable source of truth is critical to sharing and collaboration using data sets. We are not getting into a blockchain discussion here, but it is imperative that data can be reliably sourced. Leaving it where it is, as a single source which can be both dynamic and real-time, is important.

I believe that data-driven implementations of Edge as a service (EaaS) will be important this year, especially in mission critical production activities, which could be oil and gas, machine assisted surgery in healthcare or any activity where immediate data inputs affect automation-assisted performance.

Content is not King


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Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

Content is not King.   Content is more like microplastic, everywhere and in volume.  Content is not curated anymore, on the contrary.  Content is everywhere, sprayed like a firehose.

This is why the streaming wars on broadcast media content is reasonably meaningless.  Because when you see how much people can make from YouTube and the advertising model there, you wonder why Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc is spending so much money and time creating “original content”.

Because we are all now self-important, as shown by our need to create our own narratives (Instragram, TikTok) and our own self-fiction.  Heck, some even want to test their DNA to create their own biological narrative.

In the early era of broadcast media, we had both content creation and network curation.  People in media became trusted sources of information.  Right now, it takes personal effort to curate what is true, and what is not.  And much like the concerns when portals were created, many personal curation attempts end up filtering all but what they want to hear, not necessarily what is true.

Because of this, we get other people’s detritus.  And the effort to filter, to listen, to critically think – is beyond many people’s capacity. (Unfortunately, I see this in working in higher education.  I also see a great deal of mental health issues, which I believe is tied to this.) And I also see less people willing to read, which may be a function of time.

Trust now is a function of curation.  And the instinct to trust is built on experience and wariness, not openness and willingness to listen.

This stream of thought came to me this morning when I realized that I was not reading new authors, having bought a new book from an author I had not read before.  I have been reading blogs and articles using tools such as Medium but finding less and less relevant content for my personal interests.

So how do you go about finding new relevant and honest content in (nearly) 2020?   Where do you apply a trust factor in terms of sourcing relevant material?  I watch less TV, listen to less broadcast media, and generally have less media entertainment in my life at present.  I no longer find it that relevant or entertaining.  But I see myself in the minority, given how many people are attached to small or large screens, or with headsets or earbuds on.

I am highly critical of content now and limit myself to infrastructure providers that are not going to make me uncomfortable with their efforts to sell my data in exchange for access.  Have we all become more wary?

Where do you find yourself in this next decade finding relevant and interesting content?

A workplace design fixation


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Source: LEGO

I have been actively looking at workplace design the last few years, focusing on why and how a workplace motivates creativity and inspires collaboration. If you go back and look at some of my blog posts, you will see discussions on IoT, lighting, temperature and use of space as part of our quest with technology to make workplaces more inclusive and efficient.

But I am not ending it here, in fact quite the opposite. I have recently seen how the space that you work in impacts how you perceive work. Which is why I question the whole coffee shop working ethos, as well as the lack of logic on putting up glass walls between offices. Neither situation creates comfort and engagement. Coffee shops may be hip, have coffee and great music, but you cannot focus nor engage well for any period of time with others there. And as for the glass walls, my colleagues either stay away or put up posters blocking the view.

So I am now looking at how technology enables the use of space, and how technology and intelligent design can really push the boat out on how we work, and more importantly why we work as we do.

Reach out if you want to chat about this more.

A nightmare service model


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I woke up at midnight from a nightmare, and knew first thing this morning that I had to write this post. The nightmare was caused by a service model I am participating in where I acquire the services of an expert.

Why would an expertise service model give me a nightmare? Let’s first look at the service models we are used to, and then I can show you where this one caused my severe reaction.

We are used to a subscription (utility) model, where we sign up and consume, and then monthly (or other time frames) we are billed for our consumption. If you do not use the service, you are still billed for a basic fee for connectivity.

The next more common model is one of retainer. I use the services of an expert when it is necessary (lawyer, consultant, accountant) and they bill me on billable hours, and I pay when service has been rendered.

I am currently consuming remote expertise with a different model, and this is the one that gave me bad dreams. I pay a monthly fee, and can (per week) ask for visual analysis for up to six events. I submit the events, and then the expert gives their opinion (usually within 24 hours) via a visual medium. But it is my responsibility to provide the data in the right format and form, and to take actions after the expertise. I am also responsible for the monthly payments, as no reminder is sent. This is a small, but lucrative, business where this service is one of the smaller services of the service provider.

Why does this give me bad dreams? Because I have been using the service for 7 months so far, and I always have to remember where I am with the service (what week, what events, what payment is still required) and my subconscious reminded me last night that I have two more weeks and need to get some more events to load. Guilt by taking full advantage of my payment, in other words.

I am seeing a shift from classical service models of subscription and retention to models where the consumer has to take a more active role in the service provisioning. These services are more complex and less mainstream, and cannot actively scale as the subscription model does.

Is service complexity really a growing phenomena? In my business, I see the opposite that more and more information is put in front of a paywall to tempt the potential client (kid, candy store) to enter and to see the level of expertise on offer.

Yet when I consume from other small businesses not in technology, I see increased service complexity and enhanced consumer participation.

What do you see in your business? Reach out to me here or via my Twitter feed (@afairch) and let me know.