Tag Archives: disruption

🔥🔥Artificial intelligence more profound than electricity or fire.

A deep dive into artificial intelligence this week looking at some of the announcements about what is possible today as well as a look into the future disruption of the workplace.

Possible today.

The possibilities from artificial intelligence are picking up steam again (did it ever really stop?).

Airing on YouTube later today, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai and Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki are interviewed on the successes and challenges tech is bringing to the workforce today.

We already know one soundbite from Sundar in the interview:

Artificial intelligence will be more profound than electricity or fire.

He also talked about how much we already use artificial intelligence in our day to day lives. Just yesterday, someone was stunned at how easily I could find a photo from a few years ago thanks to Google Photo’s ability to recognise objects in a photo.

Popular definition of artificial intelligence remains something out of a Jetsons cartoon though and this definition has been generations in the making. Rosie the robot, from the aforementioned cartoon first appeared all the way back in 1962. The result is that stories of what artificial intelligence can do in discrete situations get extrapolated beyond what is actually possible.

What is possible today though is still astounding.

Microsoft recently showed that artificial intelligence can imagine a bird from a short piece of text: “Create a bird that is red and white with a very short beak.”

The result is the image below.

There is clearly plenty of imagination going on in that photo – nowhere was the shape of the bird mentioned, nor that it should be placed on a branch.

However, the researchers showed that this imagination came from historical knowledge of vast numbers of photos viewed. More images showed birds on a branch than flying. So really this is more literal imagination and human-like imagination. When the researchers suggested drawing a bus floating on a lake, it struggled.

This still opens up potential new tools bringing new opportunities. This for example might eventually change the meaning of stock photography or allow Photoshop to fix images quickly.

Just last week, Photoshop rolled out an AI tool to select objects within an image – something that was a laborious task in the past.

Some might contend that it cannot do it as well as if it was done manually and that is probably true but it is unlikely to be noticeable in most scenarios.

Even today things go wrong with photo editing with Vanity Fair recently giving Oprah three hands – something a future AI might be able to warn of or prevent completely.


Whilst there are plenty of opportunities with artificial intelligence, perhaps the biggest fear is around the workplace with people imagining upheavals on a much larger scale to the disruption of the textile industry in Great Britain as factories came online.

The World Economic Forum have released an excellent report looking at the future of the workplace and how jobs might transition in the future. Download it here.

Some of the highlights:

  • Women are more affected by this disruption than men (57% of jobs disrupted)
  • Government, trade bodies, companies and individuals will all need to work together to minimise disruption
  • Administrative and production roles are expected to see the most upheaval by 2026
  • Something that always gets overlooked is the impact on leadership roles. How will those change? The Harvard Business Review takes a look.

One aspect that is already changing is the ability to make better and faster decisions based on sifting through the vasts amount of data that companies now generate.

Here bias may have an impact on businesses. Artificial Intelligence has been shows to have the biases of their programmers built into them. As companies adopt uniform technology platforms, their ability to make unique decisions that outperform competitors may reduce, making it even more important to understand how decisions were came to.

🏇🏇The winners and losers in cryptocurrencies

A return to cryptocurrencies this week with a look at the fall of a popular cryptocurrency last year, the winners and losers and what comes next.


The last time I talked at length about bitcoin and blockchain was back in September and well, things have changed and changed again in that time, thought that remains worth a read if you are only just looking at cryptocurrencies.

Few still deny that the meteoric rise of bitcoin represents a bubble. It is impossible to predict where things will end up but at least right now the value is fluctuating violently – almost hitting a high of $20,000 before oscillating around the $12,500 mark.

For the most part all the other major cryptocurrencies follow bitcoin’s rise and fall though the percentage change does vary significantly.

Is it all a scam?

Simply no it is not all a scam but like every speculation there are plenty of people seeking to take advantage in an underhand way.

Ignoring the cryptocurrencies themselves, it is clear that the blockchain technology which underpins part of the system is going to transform many industries. The Land Registry is looking at using it for example to manage UK property registration and there have been many other companies looking to do the same for their industry.

Cryptocurrencies themselves are likely to be adopted by the existing financial players, with the FCA, the UK regulatory body looking at how it can be adopted as well as many major banks developing their own version called Ripple, which is seeing increasing adoption – albeit its value also seems to fluctuate broadly in line with bitcoin. CNBC takes a closer look at Ripple here.

However, Bitconnect, one of the most valuable of cryptocurrencies last year and reaching a market cap of $2.6bn, was constantly slated as being a ponzi scheme. It promised a daily return of 1%. This meant that a $1,000 dollar investment would be worth $50m three years later.

That alone should have set of alarm bells – but when you hear of how startups have funded themselves due to an early investment in Bitcoin, it is easy to see why people ignore those warning signs.

Last week they announced they were shutting down and almost instantly the value dropped 96% with many people effectively losing everything. For a more in depth look at the fall of Bitconnect, the NextWeb has an excellent article here.


As with the gold rush, the major winners are those providing services to the gold diggers. This is already proving true for Nvidia and AMD, major suppliers of graphics cards used by bitcoin miners (who use computing power to create new bitcoins).

Ars Technica is reporting that it is becoming more and more difficult to get high end graphics cards. However, don’t run out and buy your own and start mining. As more people mine in this case Ether, the system automatically increases the difficulty reducing the financial return. Back in October when many people switched away from mining Ether, another type of cryptocurrency, the difficulty halved.


One of the leading users of bitcoin remain criminals. It was famously used as the currency of choice for paying the ransom when they locked out NHS systems and many others. Ignoring whether you should even need to pay the ransom, the biggest challenge after figuring out what is bitcoin, was figuring out how to make a payment using bitcoin.

Now ZDnet is suggesting that criminals are looking elsewhere thanks to the high profile bitcoin receives and worries over how anonymous bitcoin really is after some groups were identified and shutdown.

This creates a challenge for law enforcement who will have to deal with penetrating different currencies.

Post rush

Venture capitalists are already looking post the gold rush. Whilst many believe we are in a bubble, there is also a strong belief that cryptocurrencies as a technology are here to stay. They may end up still being pounds, dollars and euros or they may not but if the technology is here to stay then some of the problems with managing cryptocurrencies need to be solved.

One of the biggest issues is around the wallet that holds your “coins”. People have lost significant amounts of money through not having fully secured digital wallets and storing them on internet connected computers.

Today the most popular method is to buy dedicated cryptocurrency USB devices which prevent anyone hacking into them. Their physical nature means that they are not permanently online. Of course that makes them very similar to a real wallet, so maybe not such a breakthrough product?

Regardless, Draper Esprit have invested $75m in Ledger SAS who create such keys and has already sold 1m of them. Whilst they are aiming to grow this side of the business, I suspect the real value is in their desire to grow the software part of the device and sell it to financial institutions. Potentially a big growth opportunity.

🍏 Apple surprises. The big hurdles are yet to come. 🚗

Last week Apple released their results and outperformed expectations. Revenue for the quarter was a mere $45.4bn up 7% and so everyone was very happy but should they be?

Mobile is not what it used to be.

The quarter just gone is typically a quiet one as sales start to slow as expectations for the new iPhone release rise. After the previous quarter slowdown in iPhone sales there was some expectation of a further slowdown. It didn’t happen and instead iPhone sales grew 2% and revenue rose 3%.

This is a surprise because smartphone growth has slowed down to around 3% overall so a big win for the iPhone in the marketplace. It may have started slow but the lack of any big innovation this year amongst the competition seems to have allowed the new iPhone grow.

With the iPhone’s 10th anniversary this year though, all the eyes are on the iPhone 8. The leaks are mostly making it sound disappointing with several big ideas for it being delayed.

I would be surprised if there isn’t some theatre and surprise come the launch though.

Services? Apple does services. Really.

Apple can’t rely on the iPhone to grow its revenues, instead the major growth opportunity is coming from what Apple calls services, which includes iTunes, Apple Pay, Apple Music and iCloud storage. A broad mix if ever there was one.

Up 22% this quarter and now 16% of all revenue, the services group has delivered so far on Tim Cook’s promise to double the services revenue by 2020.

The behemoth is obviously iTunes, which includes the App Store but I wonder how much growth is coming from Apple Pay? Difficult to tell as it is not broken down.

Peak App Store?

The concept of the App Store has been a major earner for both Apple and Google and transformed the way we use a mobile. Yes we can still go to any website we like using the mobile browser, but apps took advantage of a smartphone’s powerful graphics and processor capabilities that the browser just could not do.

That has created a very different internet on the mobile.

Something as innocuous as an app completely defeated Google’s stronghold on the desktop. No longer did you go to Google to find something you needed online, you went to the App Store and downloaded an app. Apple is clearly in control.

It also placed a limit on the number of apps that you actually use. Apps get lost in groups or on secondary pages and rarely get used.
There is a change to way we interact with our phones though.

The smart assistants on the phone are slowly becoming more and more powerful and are increasing the “apps” you use by integrating them directly into the assistant.

Apple is obviously not allowing anyone to replace Siri as the default assistant just as there is only the Apple App Store, but Apple remains behind with the capabilities of Siri and could fall behind if it doesn’t upgrade it significantly.

Tablets are not a PC killer after all

The tablet market overall is declining. It is no longer the device to kill off the desktop or laptop and rather something else.

Apple though owns this market with 85% market share in the US for tablets above $200. Despite the overall declining market, iPad sales rose 15%. But with revenue flat, people are really only buying the cheap iPads.

The iPad Pro, the most expensive iPad was always going to be niche and was really launched I think to offset the success of the Microsoft Surface. Hell?—?it even had a pen. Sorry a pencil, but I think the operating system and its business capabilities need an upgrade before it is really any real competition. I’d still go for the Surface over the iPad Pro.

What next?

Speculation on Apple’s next breakthrough product is endless.

The watch came and stumbled.

The Apple TV screen was whispered of but instead the focused is back on the Apple TV box. Even then it remains a side project.

The autonomous car is seemingly coming. There has been plenty of money spent and patents filed but there is no timeline for its arrival. Can they really take on both Tesla and the other slowly catching up car titans?

One possibility is for a tech vendor to partner with a car manufacturer. This is not an Apple approach though as they like to control both the hardware and software. Maybe that means they will buy Tesla. They have the cash but until the White House changed the rules, most of the money they could do this with is sitting outside the country. The investment so far suggests this is not the preferred route.

Whether Tesla will continue to own and build the software is itself a question. Amazon has been quick to build partnerships for its Alexa smart assistant and this interface seems a natural one for the car. Will we see a Tesla assistant? It would seem to be a better approach to integrate an existing one. It would be even better for the consumer if it supported them all.

One thing we do know is coming this year is augmented reality. We knew it was being integrated into the phone but it seems there are glasses on the horizon. Similar in approach to Google and Snap albeit integrated rightly into the iPhone, can they really persuade non-geeks to wear them? It will need a killer use case..