Consumer technologies have invaded the government market. Our expert explains the promise of transformation these three hold.
Technology, in many ways, is the study of change. Our needs and wants, whether realized or otherwise, act as accelerants for technology to occur, and the result is change. If the change that occurs irreversibly reshapes the form, nature or purpose of our initial need or want, the technology is said to be disruptive.
My favorite example of this phenomenon is how music led in many ways to Apple’s ability to better penetrate the federal government. When the iPod was release in 2001, the music industry was irreversibly changed overnight. Apple’s successful iTunes platform squashed all other non-vertical competitors whom, like Sony, had fantastic hardware but horrible outsourced software that crashed your computer, was sluggish and incredibly hard to use.
The real change that Apple created wasn’t a shiny white box that played the music, but rather the iPod’s ability to fulfill our need to centralize and organize music collections while making music and purchases more accessible.
The same year the iPod was released, I had multiple sources working within IT sections of the government ordering iPods for the purpose of procuring “portable storage devices,” a little known function that these early devices were also pretty good at. In fact the ability to use these devices as portable storage contributed to the death of iOmega Jaz Drives, which were popular at the time for their ability to be Mac and Windows compliant.
Four years later podcasting took off, and a decade later Apple notebooks, desktops and various other devices are well ingrained in the federal space.
Even though we seldom see technologies this disruptive, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some pretty good contenders in today’s market. Below are some emerging technologies that, if conditions are right, could create the perfect storm of disruption.
Coming soon: video chat
It’s no surprise that video conferencing is reshaping the way we communicate. Facetime, Skype, Tango, Oovoo … there are seemingly dozens of video conferencing apps for consumers, and now dozens of solutions for business to business and business to customer conferencing. Surprisingly, many of the companies adapting to this technology as the first line of communication between the business and their customers are financial institutes.
Traditionally, retail and travel industries have been early adapters of this type of technology, but the economy coupled with the ability for banks to meet stringent security requirements by seamlessly routing and transmitting confidential data to siloed-backend banking systems has led to banks aggressively investigate, pilot and move towards this platform.
Similar to banking, video teleconferencing and chat is spreading throughout the federal, state and local government at an alarming rate, mostly for internal communication. Expect this trend to change within the next 10 years to include call center communication to the public. Soon you’ll be able to talk to an agent via your mobile phone camera on medicare.gov.
One of the main factors that will push trends like video conferencing, video chat and at-home call centers is the baby boomers, who were some of the fastest adopters of video technology. They are strong proponents of telework opportunities, and now they are hitting retirement age. If any of the preliminary studies in video for retail, travel and banking pan out for the government, this form of communication will not only increase problem resolution rates, but also improve customer satisfaction scores, and ultimately lower overhead costs.
Intelligent voice command systems
NASA may be diminished, but the miniaturization revolution it sparked is alive and well. In few places is this trend more noticeable than in the mobile world. Only now it’s not only about cutting down the size of an object, but also shaving-off as much time as you can on a query or operation.
Love it or hate it, intelligent voice command systems like Siri are changing the way we interact with our mobile devices and could dramatically change the way we interact with technology, usurping the mouse and keyboard as the main input device of a computer system. Your voice could in the near future be compatible with all operating systems and applications. Voice requires no drivers to install or operate, and the learning curve is on average the first 3 years of your life, which for most of us seems to have taken no time at all.
One of the most notable benefits of the voice input on Siri, for example, is the transaction time on an operation or command. Clocked, it takes me on average one minute and ten seconds to find a contact, and send a two sentence message to that contact but via Siri it is 15 to 20 seconds. American’s sent 7 trillion texts last year. Imagine how much time could have been saved using intelligent voice such as Siri.
Another key benefit with intelligent voice command system is the ability for it to partner with a robust search technology to unify data into a centralized management system. No more windows, folders, surfing. Just tell the device what you want or ask a question and presto! I personally can’t wait for this function in desktop or notebook.
Dragon Naturally Speaking has had this ability for years, and within the last three years in particular, Dragon has greatly improved the voice recognition element of their dictation software. However, an intelligent voice command system such as Siri which has the added benefit of a cluster of serves that act like a brain, has the potential altering a cool, almost gimmicky feature into an unstoppable disruption.
This technology offers perhaps the largest potential for disruption within the government. A migration toward an intelligent voice or text command system could, for starters, impact every FAQ or public portal. Companies like MyCybertwin that allow you to create an intelligent virtual human, capable of learning and remembering questions and answers for future use was used by NASA, and can be applicable to almost every public agency in the United States.
Systems like this cut down on overhead costs, remove human error, eliminate bottle necks and increase customer satisfaction. Not to mention that intelligent command systems such as MyCyberTwin or Siri are becoming less expensive, easier to implement, manage and use, and more importantly acceptable to the general public.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I detest wires. The worst wire in my mind is the power cable. Always bulky, hard to connect and a pain to lug around, power cables are the bane of my existence. Ok, so maybe I’m being a tad over-dramatic.
Fortunately one of the emerging technologies what will change everything is wireless power. Currently accomplished through magnetic induction, we’re in the early phases of this technology, which is focused more on charging a battery than maintaining a current.
For those of you, like me, who don’t remember your junior-year physics classes, magnetic induction is a technology that creates electricity by using two coils, a transmitter coil and a receiver coil. An alternating current in the transmitter coil generates a magnetic field which induces a voltage in the receiver coil. This voltage can be used to power a mobile device or charge a battery, and one day will hopefully be used to produce structure-wide wireless power, like WiFi does for internet access.
One of the main reasons I feel this technology will germinate and grow is because of the recent vigor associated with the Wireless Power Consortium. The Wireless Power Consortium set an international standard for compatible wireless charging stations. This means that you can soon charge wirelessly on any charger that meets the standard.
The impact for the government may be extensive since they can soon start offering drop charges at airports, DMVs, public schools and hospitals; you name it. It’s important to note that currently you have to have a compliant mobile device battery or a special case in order to drop charge. However, as part of the consortiums work, this technology will be standardized and integrated directly into the device.
Predicting which emerging technologies will last is nearly impossible. Predicting which of those will grow to disrupt the landscape is even more difficult. What is certain is that as long as there are needs and wants that technology can provide for, we’ll always be in store for disruption.
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