Sara Öhrvall - Digital Media Busy Intersection by Johan ThörnqvistI am a senior advisor, board member, writer and speaker who tries to understand new technology in the modern world, and where it is taking us. And that is what my blog is all about.

We are racing away from cars

September 10, 2014

All over the western world, the number of new driving licenses is decreasing. The decline is dramatic the US, the holy country of car driving, According to Federal Highway Administration, 83% of all Americans (between 16-24) had a driving license in 1983. Today it is less then 65%. The same development is true in Germany, Great Britain, Australia and Sweden.

The role of the car in youth culture is passé. It is more important what social media friends think about your lifestyle than what you neighbors say about your car. A number of studies prove that high usage of internet leads to lower usage of cars. Digital natives prefer access to products and services, rather than owning objects. They regard the car as an unnecessary problem, only bringing complexity to daily life.

In 2004, the total number of kilometers driven per person flattened out, to start a declining trend since 2007. The car as a mode of transportation is consequently questioned even before there is a full-blown effect of video conferencing, e-commerce, digitalized banking and hospital services, all replacing physical visits (where you may need your car). In the digital daily life, it seems like freedom will be to use google, facebook or instagram on your journey, not being locked behind a car wheel.

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What makes a nation innovative?

September 10, 2014

In international innovation rankings, the Nordic countries generally score in a top position. Sweden, for example, ranks number one in the EU Innovation Scoreboard and number two in Global Innovation Index as well as the World Bank Innovation Rank.

But if you dig deeper, you will soon find that a lot of the top performing nations, including Sweden, is strong when it comes to input to innovation – but not innovation that is commercialized or launched in any market. If a country spends a lot on R&D and innovation infrastructure, the ranking position improves but the commercial output can still be pretty low. There is also a difference between countries focusing on imitation compared to cutting-edge innovations. Imitation has been the path for developing countries, but lately a feature of European countries as well.

Maybe it is time to focus a bit more on the input-output level, the number start-ups, jobs, new products and services in the market per invested R&D dollar.

Top performing countries when measuring input-output levels are Israel, South Korea and the US. What’s common among them is an active national innovation agenda among politicians with strategic focus areas and prioritized market opportunities – and innovation is a defined area of responsibility included in politicians’ job descriptions. Another common denominator is universities with cutting-edge education and research, with distinct target areas and increased competitive strength as a result. Finally, they have built strong clusters around big corporations and the eco-system results in new start-ups building new commercial value. Strong clusters are of special interest as spin-offs from big corporations generally have a stronger growth than other start-ups.

A top position in an international innovation ranking may not be the answer. Innovation input without a market will not lead to international success. Innovation needs to be a top priority for national governments to build innovation and technology strategies, prioritize investments in strategic focus areas, research and clusters – and to make sure to support R&D investments that at the end of the day will be delivered to the market.

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Retail 2.0

May 12, 2014

It is a bit fascinating to think about all possibilities next generation of retail stores are facing. When blending the brick and mortar experience with mobile functionality and big data tools, some really exciting contextual and personalized concepts may appear.

Using technology as iBeacon, consumer engagement will be enhanced and real-time conversations between brands, retailers and consumers will start to happen. (iBeacon is a technology developed by Apple and built into its operating systems and iPhones since 2013. If you need further explanation of the iBeacon technology, check out this video.) According to the Washington Post, iBeachon may “change the world forever”. That may sound like a bit too much, but when businesses set up transmitters which can tell nearby smartphones of their presence, combining them with the right software, it opens up a massive number of possibilities. Shops could send customers special offers for goods they are walking past, deliver pre-ordered items for pickup the minute someone comes through the door or use personal shopping lists to remind consumers about crabs when they are standing at the fish counter, cinnamon buns at the bakery.

And think about all the other venues where the experience could include some more magic: theme parks, concert venues and stadiums, as well as restaurants.

As an additional opportunity, media companies can follow up the shopping experience with guides, interior design ideas, travel stories, food recipes, sports news etc with re-targeting at all these venues.

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