Posts

Digital workplace: IT and HR - together or nothing

The arrival of a new generation, who wants greater flexibility and mobility, is bringing about unprecedented changes in working methods. Compelled to follow this trend so as to remain attractive, businesses are gradually shifting their focus to a new priority: the deployment of a digital workplace. This modern, digital environment is reliant on the joint efforts of a number of complementary players and in particular HR.

This digitisation of the workspace encompasses many different definitions and realities. For 74% of French businesses, it is a unique communications app with centralised access to all business applications, and for 75%, it is a mobile office (a mobile working environment via tablet, smartphone, etc.) offering a multitude of applications.

However you choose to define it, your objective is the same: to enable your staff to work together in a more flexible and mobile way, from anywhere and from any terminal. When it comes to deploying this digital environment, 97% of businesses see IT as the driving force. However, don’t underestimate the role of another player – the HR DirectorAs the main contact for employees and guarantor of the link between management, teams and the IT department, HR ensures the quality of the employee experience. This experience may be radically altered by a working environment which is itself disrupted. If you do not plan your digital workplace project transversally, you risk jeopardising employee commitment and the overall performance of your business.

Co-defining uses

Right from the start of a Digital Workplace project, HR plays a key role alongside the IT. The digital workplace brings with it profound changes in working habits. The technological challenges undertaken by the IT Director must run alongside the implementation of change, which falls more within the remit of HR. So new uses must be defined collaboratively. The HR Director is the teams’ direct point of contact. They can communicate employees’ concrete needs with regard to this deployment and assist the It Director in identifying the most effective and appropriate uses for each business unit. Some people, for example, will express a desire for a collaborative working platform such as Office 365, while others will want to go further, with the installation of a digital assistant or automatic speech recognition software. It is through active participation in the co-definition of these uses that the HR Director can help the IT Director to introduce a digital working environment which is appropriate for employees, and which meets their need for flexibility and efficiency.

The introduction of a digital workplace also has an organisational impact and requires the redefinition of certain roles in teams. Often overlooked amid technological rollouts, these changes may nevertheless undermine an organisation if they are not taken into account and explained to employees. Everyone must be able to find their place and HR Directors are a valuable resource when it comes to co-defining these new roles. Do set up a forum for HR and the IT Director to discuss the organisational impact and their consequences, so that everyone’s role can be clarified and explained.

Getting teams on board and unlocking potential

One of the risks you run when installing this digital workplace – beyond the initial trial and error with the technology – is the possibility of meeting resistance. As a channel of communication for teams, HR managers are a strategic cog for getting around this acceptance problem and making collective intelligence the backbone of the project. The Communications Department can also be a valuable ally.

The first step is the presentation – via HR, the IT Director and the Communications Department combined – of the digital platform project to the teams. You could even organise an open question and answer session to dispel certain doubts, convince people of the effectiveness of the new applications for collaborative working, or identify those who are most motivated by the concept. These people might be prepared to act as ambassadors or local liaison people. They could then introduce and support the change internally, show their colleagues the benefits of this new platform and pass on the best applications of these new uses, so as to motivate even the most reluctant among them.

In the early stages, you might also consider involving employee representative bodies. Working in direct contact with HR officers, they can pass on the on-the-ground constraints and imperatives which need to be taken into account by the IT Director.

Training in the new tools and associated issues

78% of IT Directors see training as the best means of getting team members to embrace digital workplace tools.  After team engagement, this is the second cornerstone for a calm and smooth-running deployment. And HR Directors once again play an important part in supporting staff by teaching employees how to use this space and take advantage of it to save time and increase flexibility.

The introduction of a digital workspace will mean that your employees will have to deal with new security issues specific to digital technology, such as data protection (the need to change passwords on a regular basis, etc.), compliance with GDPR, or secure data storage. Here again, it is vital that the IT Director and HR Director speak with one voice and take advantage of their synergies. As guarantor for data protection, the IT Director can identify all these challenges before and from the beginning of the project, while HR has the resources to identify the key people who need to be made aware.

These two roles should be seen as a single team whose complementarities will help you to see things more clearly and ensure a successful digital transformation in your organisation.

Tourism: When new uses bring down major players

Many have fallen since 2018. Over the space of just a few months, seven airlines went bankrupt, the most well-known being Germania, Aigle Azur and XL Airways. With their business models based mainly on the low cost tourist transport segment, they have been joined by struggling tour operators, such as Thomas Cook UK, whose failure recently made the headlines… Not to mention the many travel agents that are inevitably suffering. 

 

BIG PLAYERS ARE NOW VERY VULNERABLE

The digital transformation of the tourism ecosystem was probably the first of its kind. The term ‘e-tourism’ has been in use for some fifteen years now and there have been many success stories. Very early on, and in response to the emergence of giants such as Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor, tourism players both big and small have made the transition to digital. Commensurate with resources invested, the results of this adaptation to a fast-changing customer relationship have determined the survival of most players.

However, there are no longer any companies that are “too big to fail” in this sector.  There are many factors involved in this series of collapses: management failures, senior executives who look the other way to make a good impression with shareholders, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, volatile currency markets, a return of rising fuel prices and, quite simply, a lack of customers. Long-haul journeys and air travel are becoming decreasingly popular due to their impact on the environment. As for travel agents, they are in the front line when an airline goes bankrupt.

The fragility of struggling players is also directly related to the satisfaction of their customers. Customers who are “abandoned” hundreds of miles away from home will not be inclined to sing the praises of the companies that sold them the service or trip, whose reputations therefore suffer as a consequence.

 

IS MASS TOURISM IN FREE FALL?

We are all familiar with the controversy surrounding cruise ships, which leave local communities no other choice than to apply quotas, deny access or simply flee.

Because of their huge impact on the environment and local populations, tourists are beginning to change their habits. Whatever their destination or the distance travelled, tourists today take environmental responsibility into consideration. In the same way as people are going local for their food, they are thinking local for their holidays, with new approaches including slow tourism, air transport alternatives, the sharing economy and more frequent but less distant travel, to explore regional destinations and local attractions.

82% of people in France prefer planning their trip personally to meet their specific needs and desires. Each household has its own expectations. It is essential to personalise the customer relationship: understanding customers makes it possible to meet their needs more closely. Given the degree of tourists’ expectations, a virtuous circle must be created that makes service quality a core concern.

 

THE FUTURE OF TOURISM AND THE BALANCE TO BE STRUCK

Innovation and digital investments are decisive in order to be in hase with new uses, which now extend to all population and age segments. Technological and digital innvation are an effective way to address the frustration felt in the face of tourist hot spots that have become inaccessible due to the number of visitors.

The first area of action: the many imaginative apps provided by tourism players, as well as startups, which are growing in number every year, offering a vast array of digital innovations in order to create a fresh tourism experience.  This is the case of the startup Muse du Voyage, with its solution built using Open Data sources that automatically identifies cultural links between tourist attractions in order to offer an alternative to “standardised holidays”. France is a major driving force in Europe, with initiatives such as France Tourisme Lab, which brings together e-tourism incubators from various French regions and helps innovative startups revitalize the tourism sector. 

We will off course never stop hardened globe trotters from taking long-haul flights to seek unique experiences on the other side of the world, but, once again, when they arrive, these travellers are adopting new uses and looking to consume more responsibly. In the realm of User Experience, travellers remain omnipotent kings in search of authenticity and humanity. It is uses that create innovations; not the other way round… And the aircraft industry has never been in better shape. 

Coronavirus drives Chinese adoption of autonomous delivery and automation

As China finds itself isolated from the world by the coronavirus epidemic, meeting increased online ordering demand nationwide and guaranteeing sourcing of medical supplies – quickly and without contaminating customers – have proved critical for suppliers and distributors.

Leading local e-commerce and delivery firms have deployed their latest autonomous delivery technologies to make up for the lack of human labour and overcome the fear of contact. They have redoubled their efforts to provide same-day delivery and set up a stable distribution network to guarantee the delivery of medical equipment to hospitals both nation- and worldwide.

 

Ensuring the sourcing and quality of medical supplies

Shortly after the outbreak of the epidemic, Alibaba deployed a B2B web platform exclusively focused on the fight against coronavirus. The platform provides details on the necessary medical products and equipment, according to government and hospital recommendations. It enable suppliers of medical supplies and equipment to more quickly and effectively meet the needs of both hospitals and local authorities. Alibaba is also committed to checking that suppliers’ products meet the criteria before shipping them across China and to the rest of the world.

Coronavirus 1

Source: Screenshot of the Alibaba direct sourcing platform

On 25 January, the group also invested US$ 140 million in purchasing medical equipment to meet urgent healthcare needs.

 

Guaranteeing quick delivery without any risk of contamination

Following the quarantining of part of the population, demand for home delivery increased, but delivery and warehouse workers were confined to their homesSo, China’s e-commerce giants had to take several measures to guarantee continuous service and fast delivery. For example, Alibaba paid available delivery and postal workers extra commission on the hours they worked and offered all sorts of businesses financial aid to cover their delivery costs. They were also given free access to Alibaba’s resource ecosystem: live video shopping services, digital delivery solutions, and online lessons from its Taobao university.

As BATX (the Chinese GAFAM) have grown into giants with a presence in all fields and industries, it’s no surprise that they are also involved in medical research. Overall, more than 30 IT and sales businesses, including the Alibaba, Tencent, and Meituan Dianping groups, respectively the equivalents of Amazon, Facebook and Deliveroo, as well as the two biggest Chinese real-estate developers, have donated US$ 432.5 million to help the government and governmental research centres to combat the virus.

 

Autonomous delivery to avoid human contact

In an epidemic, autonomous delivery has proved an ideal solution. Delivery robots help to calm delivery workers’ fear of human contact (in Shenzhen, an undetected infected delivery worker had worked for 14 days before being declared sick).

So, the current crisis has served as a catalyst to the development of several technologies that have been tested for several months by Alibaba and other tech giants in China.

Coronavirus 2

The Meituan Dianping delivery robot – Source: Handout 

  • The Chinese Deliveroo, Meituan Dianping, launches its robot delivery service:
    With the Wuhan region isolated and the risk of contamination high, Meituan Dianping decided to deploy its fleet of autonomous robots to provide last-mile delivery in Shunyi, a district of Beijing. The autonomous vehicle can carry up to 100kg of products and make between 3 and 5 deliveries a day. The business had begun testing last year but this is the first time that its robots have been spotted in public places and city centres. 
Coronavirus 3

JD’s first autonomous vehicle delivery – Source: JD.com 

  • JD.com automates last-mile delivery in Wuhan:
    Since February, the e-commerce giant JD.com has also been using autonomous vehicles to make deliveries to hospitals, stores, and communities in quarantined areas of Wuhan. One of the hospitals in Wuhan places between 10 and 20 orders a day, 70% of which are delivered by autonomous vehicles, size permitting.
Coronavirus 4

Ele.me’s Little Peanut robot delivers meals to infected people – Source: New China TV Channel 

  • Ele.me delivers its ready-prepared meals using autonomous robots:
    Another example of implementation is the ready-prepared meal delivery giant, Ele.me, which is using robots and drones to deliver to quarantined hotel guests in Wenzhou, eastern China.

 

The biggest robotic warehouse in China

The country didn’t wait for coronavirus to kick in to get ahead with automating its supply chain. The autonomous technologies used in Alibaba’s warehouses are developed by the business Cainiao, in which it owns a 51% shareholding. The 160,000m² smart warehouse, located in the city of Wuxi, near Shanghai, is equipped with 700 robots, meaning it can process 50% more orders than a traditional warehouse over a given period.

The few employees present on site work “hand in hand” with automated guided vehicles and robotic arms. The concept’s agility makes its design more adaptable and simplifies its deployment and relocation to new spaces. Cainiao also offers a solution to one of the biggest challenges of automation, which is traditionally less flexible than using new employees. It’s a smart system: it improves and learns constantly. The warehouse features the following technologies:

  • Automated guided vehicles (AGV): they are connected via the IoT to a routing system that guides them to load and unload goods collision-free. The AGVs are able to find the right article for each order. The content of the shelves is taken to employees in a specific order, meaning they know exactly what products to put in the boxes they’re filling.
  • The robotic arms are connected to AGVs: Cainiao combines 3D camera algorithms and computer vision to identify the position of objects and recognise robotic arm movements to effectively sort parcels and route them to the right shelves, conveyor belt and AGV in the warehouse.
Coronavirus 5

Source: Alizila

Innovation for last-mile delivery

The smart warehouse is just one example of implementation of Cainiao’s technologies. The group is looking to digitize every stage of the supply chain so isn’t stopping there.
A few of these inventions are particularly focused on the last-mile stage, which is the most expensive part of the delivery process, as well as environmental issues to make deliveries greener:

  • Connected packaging: Cainiao has developed smart packaging to reduce waste due to overpackaging. The seller provides the dimensions of the products ordered, and the system recommends the right packaging, as well as the order in which to pack the products to maximise space.
  • Smart letterboxes: similar to smart lockers, the concept solves the issue of time lost through repeated attempts to make deliveries when customers aren’t home. The box can be installed by consumers by their front door to take parcels or food deliveries. Equipped with its own camera, the letterbox opens using facial recognition or a mobile app. It can be used as a temporary refrigerator as its temperature can be adjusted and controlled remotely using the app.
  • The Sky Eye programme: set up for Singles’ Day, the Cloud-based video control system was jointly developed by Cainiao with other supply chain partners in 2019. It connects to the country’s logistics station cameras and enables businesses to track parcels shipped in real time to solve unexpected issues as quickly as possible. The system made deliveries 15% more efficient and successful.

China’s advanced development and early adoption of the latest technologies, from automated warehouses to delivery robots, as well as smart maintenance or delivery systems, have proved key tools to contain the epidemic. It remains to be seen how the adoption of these technologies will change when the situation gets back to normal.

CES 2020: the best innovations 

Maxime Thubière and I were special envoys from SQLI at the CES trade show in Las Vegas this year. As a follow-up to our previous article, I’d like to relive our visit and share all our discoveries with you. 

 

The opening of the CES: Samsung really got the ball rolling! 

 Day 1 featured a keynote speech by the Korean giant, which presented its Ballie. This assistant, which is no longer actually virtual as it takes the form of a ball which follows you around, can look out of the window to see what the weather’s like, activate the vacuum cleaner if it sees something that needs cleaning up, keep an eye on the house and the family, or even check your yoga poses (!)…other applications still remain to be seen, and it is somewhat surprising that Samsung didn’t mention home control applications (lights, smart plugs, roller shutters…).  

In the realm of smart home technology, Samsung presented its smart fridge which can look at what’s in it, suggest recipes and… then make them using its articulated arms! What we saw was the Robot Chef. Although it promises wonderful possibilities in the future, the demo only included cutting tofu and pouring sauces and dressings into a salad bowl (this did, however, involve opening a cupboard to take out some sauce, which is pretty impressive!). The demonstrator performed all the other steps in the guided recipe. The fridge even has a ”growing station“ which can grow fruit and vegetables. 

Growing station

 

The other major trend discussed was the smart city, including the smart building solution. The special demonstration showcased the traffic control project made possible by 5G technology: the city communicates with vehicles and vulnerable pedestrians. 

 

Smart cities

 

Delta Airlines takes us up, up and away 

The airline has come up with lots of great innovative ideas to reduce travellers’ stress, and there is already one technology which seems to show great promise: Parallel Reality. A single screen can display personalised information for several viewers at once!  

So we made a beeline for their stand, where we watched a live demo that was… simply breath-taking! It began in one room with a first screen on which they showed us that, as we moved from one place to another, we could see different information on the screen. This was demonstrated using a set of mirrors. We then went into another room where, after scanning the QR code of a boarding card with our name on it, the screen showed each of us our name, destination and departure gate – and it still worked as we moved around the room! We were among the first 100 people in the world to test this technology and it’s undoubtedly THE innovation of CES 2020 

Delta airlines

Smart or bust 

There were many players who seized on the two big themes of the smart home and smart cities. Here are those that particularly caught our attention. 

Smart home  

Starting with French innovations, Legrand is focusing on the smart electrical panel and a smart door lock for increased security in the home.  

Legrand

 

At the CareOS stand, we tried their smart mirror which can understand voice commands, recognise faces and objects, analyse skin and allow users to try products in real time, and even play the role of a coach (water-saving and fitness, among other things) … these are just a few examples of the many potential applications in the home and in retail premises. It has already scored some notable successes and established a number of partnerships (such as with Pierre Fabre)! 

Careos

 

Another smart mirror, from Lululab, analyses faces and can suggest suitable cosmetic products. 

Google is also a dependable player in the smart home industry with its products and ecosystem of compatible partners (yes, there are some!), which rivals that of Amazon. 

Google

Smart cities 

In addition to the Samsung project, car manufacturers are also among the leaders in this area. Toyota promoted its Woven City (mentioned in our previous article). We were equally impressed by Hyundai’s hub concept which involves a heliport on the roof. Hyundai, in partnership with Uber, is also offering the UAM S-A1 personal air vehicle which will be able to land at the heliport. Autonomous shuttles dock at the hub and offer public and private transport, apartments, food trucks, wireless electric charging points or healthcare facilities… I like this hub idea because it can be integrated into an existing city. 

In addition, we picked out Ekin, which produces a device known as the Spotter. It includes various modules: air quality, weather conditions, speed monitoring, number plate recognition, video surveillance… along withNoTraffic, which produces an autonomous traffic management platform. 

 

Retail and e-commerce also in the spotlight at the CES 2020 

There were also a number of innovations for retail and e-commerce players. In the French Tech pavilion, we tried one of them, Retail VR, a solution which allows users to wander around a shop in virtual reality. We tested a 3D immersive e-shopping experience for Nespresso.  

Scanblue

 

Scanblue, which creates 3D models of physical products for use in augmented reality or virtual reality, is similar to Retail VR.  

We then came across personalisation concepts: Aetrex, which creates 3D models of feet and uses them to produce personalised soles, and Talamoos, which makes an AI-based prediction platform that provides personalisation and recommendations (furthermore, they gave us a demonstration of their solution on an on-demand video platform similar to Netflix). 

Finally, Wag.travel produces a personalisation solution for optimising the conversion of visitors to travel-related e-commerce sites into buyers… 

 

This is just a selection of what we saw. We also reported on innovations in many other areas: the automotive industry, fintech, collaborative projects, green technology, multimedia and healthcare – all of which we would be happy to discuss. 

 

CES 2020: the human being's experience at the centre of technological innovation

This 53rd annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gave pride of place to experience, by refocusing debate about technological innovation on human beings and how they can be better connected by monitoring their health, their homes, their environment (urban mobility and travel) and the challenges facing the planet. Check out the four main areas of innovation for 2020 that we observed at the show below. 

 

Health – a primary concern

A plethora of solutions for skin analysis (Miroir Poséidon from CareOS), monitoring heart rate (Binah.ai), stress (Sompo Himawari) and sleep (ScanWatch by Withings) are now making a breakthrough.  

A field of possibilities is opening up before us and is constantly expanding thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (IA) coupled with the myriad sensors and huge amount of data which we already have. It comes as no surprise to see a number of major international players taking an interest in the subject: Amazon has created a “Health” division, Walmart has invested in healthcare clinics and Google acquired Fitbit in late 2019. Once again, individuals face the issue of keeping control of their data. We must remain vigilant! 

Pierre fabre ces

 

Connecting your home to your ecosystem, what you need to know

Centralised platforms for managing and controlling smart homes were the stars of CES 2020, and everyone has their own version; the challenge being how well they can integrate objects in the home and partners from the Smart Home sector. We discovered Panasonic’s AI-boosted Homex platform for customising the smart home experience, and Enki from Leroy Merlin (400+ products and 25 partners), which allows users to set custom scenarios with connected household objects. Also worthy of a mention are Legrand, with its Drivia smart electrical panel, and Netatmo’s smart door lock and keys which don’t need to be connected to the Cloud (because the information is stored in the key). 

Homex ces

 

Seamless urban mobility – the great promise

Now more connected than ever, urban mobility is guided by the idea of having an overview to ensure a seamless experience. The self-driving car could be a game-changer for urban mobility; car and equipment manufacturers are all putting forward their Smart City connected autonomous vehicles, as well as vertical take-off and landing aircraft (Bell’s Air Taxi and Hyundai’s S-HUB). This is all underpinned by computer vision technology based on Lidar (Light – or Laser Imaging – Detection And Ranging; 3D sensors) which is more powerful but still not stylish… the sensors have still not been successfully integrated into vehicles. And taking this a step further, we have Toyota with its plans to build a test citythe Woven City, near Mount Fuji for testing the technologies and practices of tomorrow. 

 

In the field of travelDelta and its partner Msiapplied Science really impressed us with their Parallel Reality technology. This technology has the remarkable ability to display, on a single display board, a personal message for several people at the same time (currently up to 100 people). For example, to show their travel information and guide them around the airport (this concept is being piloted this year in Detroit). We pre-tested it and it’s truly amazing! Parallel Reality is undoubtedly the major innovation of this year’s CES show.  

Tweet ces

Consume smarter, in the great tradition of sustainable development  

Amazon ces

 

In spite of differences of opinion, progress is being made towards sustainable development with a rationale to simplify and streamline the shopping experienceAmazon and its automotive market concept is pretty impressive: in collaboration with its partner ZeroLight, the giant is offering a seamless experience which starts with the configuration of the car in augmented reality. The buyer simply has to confirm their order in 3 clicks; the order is instantly added to the dealers’ Salesforce CRM platform and then delivered to the buyer’s home along with a personal brochure. For its part, LG is offering a mobile-based virtual fitting room solution which uses a top-to-toe scan to create an avatar of the customer. So shoppers no longer need to go to shops to try on clothes. 

In the realm of sustainable food, the start-up Impossible Foods is back this year with its burger 2.0, a burger that tastes like meat but which doesn’t actually contain any (and it’s not bad…), and myFood exhibited a complete smart greenhouse solution for growing plants and vegetables in cities. To help us avoid wasting drinking water, Hydraloop is offering a patented system for recycling 85% of household water (for the shower, toilet or even the washing machine). And finally, 20tree.ai has increased our understanding of the planet by applying AI to satellite imagery. Therefore it is now possible to observe the quantity and quality of natural resources, biomass, carbon sequestration and threats such as forest fires, and deforestation. This data is then made available to financial institutions, businesses and governments via a platform and an API, (Application Programming Interfaceso they can have information about every square metre of land on earth in real time.  

 

To sum up, this latest edition of the CES show was full of pleasant surprises, particularly Delta and Parallel Reality. We look forward to seeing how it will be put into practice and what will be learned from it. We were a bit disappointed by the automotive section, which did not have many new developments to offer, but which is nevertheless still trying to link up with the Smart City.  

 

 

Maxime Thubiere, Innovation Consultant and Arnaud Vatin, Technical Project Manager 

Bank adviser + AI = Augmented Adviser!

With the digital boom and customers that are more connected than ever, customer service teams are now turning to artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. On the one hand, the aim is to improve service quality. On the other, it is to meet the requirements of customers, who demand instant services and information, 24/7.  

 

What is an augmented adviser?

The idea of an ‘augmented adviser’ is related to the growing use of technological tools to assist advisers. The aims are to:  

  • Optimise the customer relationship 
  • Optimise the sales process 
  • Free up advisers from simple requests and low-added-value tasks, in order to allow them to concentrate on more complex conversations  

Augmented advisers are already operational in France’s banking sector. Banking providers that have deployed them include Orange Bank, Crédit Mutuel and Société Générale. For example, in 2017, Orange Bank deployed the solution Djingo, which responds to customers 24/7 and performs actions such as blocking and unblocking bank cards.  

 

Which technologies are used?

There are several augmented adviser technologies on the market: IBM Watson, Séreneo, Eloquant, Alcméon, etc.  

These solutions generally include chatbots, which answer customers, and processing robots in the back office. Most of these solutions are based on: 

  • NLP (Natural Language Processing), to better understand the tone and content of customer interactions, implement response templates displayed according to the question asked, and detect fraud.  
  • RPA (Robotic Process Automation), to automate certain tasks, such as completing forms, extracting content, and even blocking and unblocking bank cards.  

In 2019, augmented advisers are not considered to be a threat to the profession of customer adviser. On the contrary, they make it possible to create added value by making the customer relationship more productive. 

Developing innovation through a lab

I recently provided feedback on the construction of a lab at the bank Crédit du Nord, which was an opportunity to share our expertise in the area of innovation. Innovation is now a core part of all corporate strategies. AGary Shapiro said at the last CES in Las Vegas, “every company today is, or needs to be a tech company”, where innovation is a powerful performance driver in an increasingly competitive market. 

What is innovation exactly?

Innovation has many definitions, concepts and approaches… I found one which speaks to me (I would encourage you to do the same and find your own definition) and, above all, helps me structure my thoughts.  

 

Innovation lab eng

 

Innovation is organised according to 4 types:

  • Incremental: pressure on projects/tasks/activities is so strong that the company turns to innovation as a priority to improve its teams’ processes and productivity.
  • Adjacent: the company looks to save time and, therefore, directly integrates an existing product, service or technology into its offering via a buyout, partnership or recruitment.
  • Disruptive: this type of innovation destabilises the competition through the deployment of new technologies (very often produced by R&D) or new uses. It disrupts the market and makes the initiator the new standard setter.
  • Radical: this involves marketing a totally new product or service and, in doing so, creating a new market that does not address any existing problems or needs.

This division is of course very subjective and there are no clear boundaries between the different types of innovation. In terms of planning and impact in the field, the time required for these different types of innovation ranges from 1 to 5 years.

In terms of the scope, the first two types (incremental and adjacent) are generally related to product or service innovation. Regarding disruptive innovation (the most sought after), the focus is more on technological innovation. Regarding the most radical and open type, the scope is extended to cover the global market (no more sector boundaries), and we speak of market innovation.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the definitions of innovation, the question we need to ask ourselves is: What are we aiming to achieve through innovation?

In order to be successful and create value, all innovation must contribute to the company’s strategic objectives. This must be the starting point to build your innovation approach. It will guide you when choosing the type of innovation to pursue and the means to employ.

In terms of means, you should identify or anticipate user needs, experiment with new technologies, uses and tools, in order to better understand them, and align everything to validate your innovation on a target market as early on as possible.

 

Innovation lab 2

 

This is where the three pillars of Design Thinking come in. This approach puts users at the centre of concerns, while making it possible to improve understanding of the usage context, expand the range of possibilities and rapidly test in real conditions. All of this contributes to the creation of a desirable, feasible and viable product!

A lab to give shape to your innovation approach!

Finally, to identify, experiment and validate, a lab is an excellent way to concretise your innovation approach. It promotes the development of ideas and concepts by providing the tools needed to put them into practice. It also encourages you to study the behaviours of users or consumers and find new solutions to get them to evolve. This naturally leads to the emergence of new markets to exploit. Finally, it makes it possible to jointly create innovations that are experimented directly with users.

There are several types of lab available to you: This list is not exhaustive, but here are some of the labs I have had a chance to observe:

 

R&D LABTest and validate emerging technologies

E.g.: ‘Le Lab by Cdiscount’

FAB LABCreation of physical prototypes

E.g.: The Leroy Merlin workshops

 

AGITATOR LABInternal facilitator, raising awareness of and acculturation to the innovation, and improving company processes

E.g.: ‘LeChaudron.io’ (Crédit du Nord)

DATA LABDevelop new products or services based on data collected and analysed

E.g.: Airbus Skywise

 

MONITORING

LABTechnology & uses monitoring unit

E.g.: ‘L’Échangeur’ (BNP Paribas)

FORWARD-LOOKING LABFrom technology monitoring to prototyping to test uses

E.g.: The SQLI Lab

 

 

The scope of these labs also varies:

  • Internal: a unit that brings together internal resources to stimulate innovation through synergy between the company’s departments
  • External: integration of external skills/solutions (startups, partners, schools, etc.) to develop new products or services that will contribute to the company’s objectives
  • Hybrid: a mix of internal and external profiles to both develop internal projects (entrepreneurship) and bring business skills to external stakeholders

 

However, the same cross-cutting missions can be found in all of these various labs:

  • Give shape to an idea and turn it into a product
  • Speed up the maturation of an idea (often too cautiously for my taste)
  • Connect internal and external stakeholders
  • Acculturate employees to the innovation

 

And now, how do we build our lab?

There are no off-the-shelf solutions for this, but we should ask ourselves a few questions.

  • Design the lab’s missions
    • What are the aims and target customers?
    • What is the right balance between technologies, uses and tools?
    • Which areas need to be researched?

Research areas are very important in order to scope activities related to monitoring and prototyping. This also affects budget and HR-related aspects when defining the skills and resources to be mobilised.

  • Define the organisational model
    • Which skills, work methods and governance approach to adopt?
    • How to mobilise the right resources?
    • How to ensure that the lab is integrated in the existing organisation?

Favour Agile & Lean-type work methods (Lean Startup, Design Sprint, etc.), which promote employee autonomy, learning through experimentation with users (Test & Learn), etc. Care should be taken when bringing the innovation into the existing organisation. The famous industrialisation phase should be integrated into the governance model very early on, as the full value of an innovation is realised only when it is deployed and activated.

  • Manage the investment
    • What kind of operational budget and roadmap?
    • Which management indicators?

Management indicators are essential in order to ensure that the clients trust the innovation and therefore adopt a long-term view in order to deliver the full potential value (2-3 years)

By asking these questions, we can avoid some of the pitfalls and build on solid foundations, but should always remain vigilant. While they are set up in order to come up with disruptive solutions, labs often lose their essence because of hasty implementation, unclear objectives and the use of traditional management methods.

To conclude, I would argue that a lab should be both an operational accelerator, for the construction of strategic roadmaps, and a means of stimulating innovative ideas and revealing their feasibility. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your Innovation Lab plans.

 

I would like to thank Virginie Lacroix (Crédit du Nord) for giving us the opportunity (during the ‘innovation meetings’) to present our expertise and feedback on the construction of a lab. Thank you also to Julien Giraud (SQLI Managing Consultant) for organising this talk.

VIVATECH 2019: hyper-personalisation and the taxi of the future

This 4th edition of the Viva Technology conference, which brought together no less than 124,000 visitors over a period of 3 days in Paris in May, put two technological issues in the limelight (thanks to the Cannes Film Festival!), namely hyper-personalisation (which was at the heart of all the new experiences on display) and the flying taxi.

Hyper-personalisation boosted by artificial intelligence

Hyper-personalised experiences were the star attraction of the event, as was the case during the Retail Big Show in New York. All the main fashion and retail brands are in agreement about the importance of this approach, which is made possible thanks to the algorithmic analysis of collected data (in other words, artificial intelligence). We can only admit that we have moved on, from an approach based on “cost saving” technological innovation to improve the internal process, to an approach based on “growth hacking” for a change of scale. Performance marketing has become precision marketing, to create personalised experiences according to data collected during each interaction with the consumer.

Artificial intelligence uses machine learning algorithms to concentrate on added-value data (80% of “parasite data” is thus eliminated according to P&G). As for augmented reality, it is a way of supplying information directly and in situ via a phone, headset or glasses. Customer interaction is also at the heart of preoccupations, with increasing needs in mobility – anytime, anywhere -, new channels such as voice (through mobile phones, connected speakers, etc.) and the pursuit of direct exchanges with consumers through social networks.

 

Here are a few examples in the worlds of fashion, health and retail that caught our attention.

 

Vivatech 1

L’Oréal devoted its stand to hyper-personalisation, through various experiences that shine a spotlight on technology and the user experience. We discovered SkinConsult AI, which combines L’Oréal expertise and deep learning (provided by ModiFace, recently purchased by the brand) to interpret selfies and produce a personalised analysis of your skin in real time with augmented reality, and therefore recommend the right treatment.

Shopitag, an omni-channel commerce solution developed by the Belgian company Infiniti Mobile, provides a framework of tools for customer interactions (chat, voice, social media) all the way to logistics including the  integration of business solutions (SAP, Salesforce, etc.). They put their expertise and platform at the disposal of customers to make the most of commercial momentum, regardless of the sales channel, by creating contextualised offers which are suggested to customers at the right moment.

CareOS is the first operating system (OS) devoted to health and beauty specifically designed for smart bathrooms. From connected showers to scales, including such things as toothbrushes, more than 50 IoT devices, products and services are currently available on the platform. As seen during a demonstration at the LVMH stand, Artemis, its smart mirror, combines artificial intelligence, augmented reality, voice command, object recognition and facial recognition for an immersive personalised experience. This mirror is capable of recognising its user, capturing certain physiological indicators (thanks to a connected bracelet), giving reminders about appointments for that particular day as well as the weather report, suggesting hairdressing tutorials, or shopping for products directly by scanning the label… A very wide range of services: video link

 

Could we be using flying taxis by 2025?

As for transport, there’s a real trend towards urban mobility, with the presentation of several flying taxi prototypes, combining drones, helicopters and light passenger aircrafts. Most of the solutions concern urban transport for home/work or airport/city centre trips.

Vivatech 2

The most extravagant one was the Slovakian AeroMobil, currently working on the 4th version of its flying car, which is capable of morphing into a small plane (with a 9-metre wingspan) in less than 3 minutes. This two-seater vehicle (with a 240 kg carrying capacity) will be able to cover a distance of 750 km at a maximum cruising speed of 260 km/hour. All you will have to do is head to the nearest airstrip or take the motorway.

The most operational is HoverTaxi, a new type of two-seater electric aircraft (multi-rotor) that relies on a land-based infrastructure of modular containers, an air traffic management interface in urban areas, and a mobile application for bookings. Like the other companies, it focuses on urban and suburban transport, and ultimately on four types of use.

  • Event: Nice/Monaco during the Monte-Carlo tennis tournament
  • Point to point: Orly Airport / Gare de Lyon in Paris
  • Recreational: to get a bird’s-eye view of certain sites and natural areas
  • City trips: to link strategic points

To be profitable, the price of a 30-minute run should cost about fifty euros.

The most promising was Ascendance Flight Technologies, a French start-up created in 2018 by former Airbus R&D teams, and project E-FAN, who developed a technology that enables planes to take off and land vertically. The idea is to provide an urban taxi service (point to point) that fits in with existing infrastructures (heliport network), with low noise pollution and operating costs. Currently in the prototype phase on a 1/3 scale, the airborne taxi concept will be equipped with hybrid engines (a unique and patented propulsion system). It will be able to carry four people within a 150 km radius at a speed of 200 km/hour. Hybrid motorisation is only the 1st stage. They aim for it to be 100% electric. Its commissioning date is scheduled for 2024. In the meantime, they must get their prototype up to scale and successfully obtain all the necessary certifications. Several partnerships with airports, cities (European and Asian) and helicopter operators are currently under discussion. Watch this space!

 

This 4th edition of the event kept all its promises and provided guidance to the digital transformation currently gathering momentum in all areas of the market, thanks to increasingly mature technologies.

Biometrics: a minor revolution in the world of user tests

If, like me, you are interested in biometrics and innovations in the area of UX Research, you may have come across a sensational news item regarding ‘ear tracking’: an ear micromovement analysis technology, said to be a potential game changer in the area of user tests. Once I got over the surprise and looked at the publication date (April 1st 2019), I realised it was a hoax.  

However, this April Fool’s joke by the Nielsen Normal Group teaches us something interesting about our profession. As UX designers, we spend the better part of our days in front of a screen designing, creating and testing digital products. We have specific software tools for almost all parts of our work. Most of us are also surrounded by digital services in our personal lives.  

However, when it comes to conducting user tests, it is almost surprising to note that our main tools – the traditional paper and pen – have stood the test of time so well. 

However, things are changing in this field. A sign of the times, more and more companies are turning to biometric technologies, which were previously confined to the world of scientific research, as UX Research tools. 

In order to gain an idea of the set of tools that could become available to us and take a closer look at what may be the future of our profession, I would like to give you an overview of biometric devices with potential applications in test situations.   

Biometrics and user tests: which solutions? 

Eye tracking 

Eye tracking is probably the most well-known and common method in user testing. By tracking the eyes of your users, you can check what they are looking at as they browse during a test.  

Two eye-tracking technologies are currently available: “screen-based” and “real world“.  

For user tests on desktops, I would recommend the screen-based method. If you are performing tests on smartphones, either solution may be used, but neither is totally satisfactory. You may also want to take a look at this method, which is promising, but which I am unable to recommend due to a lack of feedback in context.  

Screen based

A screen-based system. A simple bar to be placed under the screen.  

Measurement of cerebral activity 

This is not science fiction, but two very real, tried-and-tested technologies, which could make their way into the field of testing sooner than we think.  

EEG and fNIR are two technologies that record the brain activity of your testers using sensors placed on the surface of their head.  

While relatively costly and complex to use, these technologies make it possible to estimate the mental load of users in real conditions. Using the most modern solutions, you can also infer the nature of emotions they are experiencing.  

Did you say science fiction? 

Eeg moderne

A modern EEG system 

Basic biometric sensors 

Back to basics: here are two biometric technologies from another century. The electrocardiograph (or ECG) can be used to record the heart rate of testers.  

Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), on the other hand, involves sweat. By measuring variations in humidity on the surface of users’ skin, strong emotions, such as fear or excitement, can be detected.   

Obviously, neither of these technologies is revolutionary, but they do offer several advantages. They are inexpensive, convenient and easy to transport (most smart watches have an ECG system, for example). You can therefore assess the impact of a system in real conditions over a long period.  

Montre connectée

An elegant ECG system. 

Voice and face recognition 

Born of a convergence between simple hardware (microphone, camera) and artificial intelligence, these technologies are growing fast. Their promise: detection of testers’ emotions through their voices or facial expressions.  

Other advantage: these systems are easy to use and have very little impact on testers during testing. 

At the present time, these solutions still lack reliability, but they are developing very rapidly. Stay tuned… 

Reconnaissance émotion

An emotional recognition software interface. 
“Ha! I love your website. It takes me back to the 90s!” 

What will the biometrics of tomorrow look like? 

Will we all be researchers?  

The several techniques presented above have not all reached the same level of maturity. Some are already being used in studies, such as eye trackers at the WAX Lab.  Others, however, will never make it into common use in our field.  

Nevertheless, these new technologies will require that the UX Researchers who use them acquire new skills. This is why I think it is necessary to take an interest in them right away, in particular to gain sufficient perspective by the time they come knocking on our door.  

In-person testing: a method with a bright future!  

More conventional test methods are not threatened by these biometric analysis techniques. This is primarily because in-person user testing is the most spontaneous (and easiest) way to interact with testers. It also offers the best way for us to focus on their emotions, non-verbal language, etc. This type of testing still offers one of the best balances between time spent and insight quality.  

At WAX Interactive, we carry out conventional user tests on a daily basis. They have remained effective to this day and we still have much to learn about our users! 

Your very own Karl Lagerfeld in your smartphone

Artificial intelligence can enable major progress in areas ranging from the military to education and health. e-commerce and fashion are no exception. We step into the shoes of a B2C user to see what kinds of challenges can be met with the use of AI. 

 

A disappointing e-commerce experience

It’s midnight, Friday the 23rd of November 2018, your laptop is fully charged, your Internet connection is stable, your bank account is in good shape (even though it could always be better), and you’ve been waiting for this moment for some time. Black Friday is here at last! 

However, even though you identified potentially interesting websites beforehand, you begin to get lost in the maze of great deals on offer. There is no shortage of good deals, but what can you do with an 80% discount on a beautiful red cashmere sweater when you can’t stand that colour? The first page doesn’t have much of interest, so you click on the next page, then the next, and then the next… Meanwhile, your bank card is itching to get some action, as tonight is its big night. 

The clock reads 00:32 when you finally manage to find a pair of shoes you like. Delighted, you jump at the opportunity and then disaster strikes: “The requested size is no longer available.” You spent too long searching and the same thing happens several times. The time is now 01:04, and you’ve finally settled on a few items, but they were not the ones you had your heart set on. After a disappointing night, you (and your bank card) retire to bed in a glum mood. 

Your sleep is restless, and you dream of a revolutionary app – a virtual assistant that knows you inside out. More than an assistant, it is an image consultant that knows your body shape, favourite colours and brands, and the clothing styles that suit you… Your very own Karl Lagerfeld, who points you in the direction of items that are sure to please you! It would be such a fashion expert that it could even anticipate future trends and turn you into a top Instagram influencer. 

 

Artificial intelligence to avoid frustration and provide a tailor-made experience

Of course, all of this remains a dream for now, as fashion is far too subjective a field to be able to programme such an app. However, artificial intelligence, and progress made in deep learning technologies in particular, give us real hope. 

Today, the Big Four are able to develop artificial intelligences that can understand something as complex and ambiguous as natural language. Why shouldn’t they be able to understand a person’s tastes?  There is AI out there that can recognise road signs to adapt the behaviour of a self-driving car. So shouldn’t it be able to recognise which clothing styles suit customers? AI capable of image recognition also exists, so why shouldn’t it be able to analyse trending photos on Instagram during events like Fashion Week? 

It seems clear that in the future users will benefit from advice worthy of a Karl Lagerfeld directly on their smartphones. Beyond fashion itself, advice could be even more personalised since variables such as budget and body shape could be taken into account without discrimination (contrary to what certain science fiction films would have us believe, AI is nothing but love and it loves everyone). 
Users would have access to better advice than in stores (with AI that knows them perfectly), while saving a considerable amount of time. 

 

Rest assured, despite such progress, artificial intelligence will not replace human intelligence and it will still be possible (for the purists among you) to go shopping in stores.