CeBIT 2016 – The Difference of a Year

May The Fourth Be With You

About the only thing in plenty at CeBIT Australia 2016, is Sphero BB-8 prizes in exchange for your SPAM address.

Poster of the first Smartwatch Keyboard
Some UI’s were just not meant to be

A couple of years ago 3D printing was all the rage at CeBIT. Last year two technologies dominated the “ooh, shiny” bucket, drones and home automation (IoT) technologies.

This year my assessment of the CeBIT 2016 exhibition was more muted. Yes Cloud was there, but not in the Salesforce dominating way of previous years. Mobile developers, and app startups still have a presence, but far more mainstream.

Table Computer
Reminds me of the original MS Surface Table Computer. Still not as cool as the computer in The Island though

Big data is making a splash of course, as is Virtual Reality. Universities were keen to show their research on solar powered everything (including cars), robotics, and VR. And that was it really.

It wasn’t that shiny new technologies, at the top of Gartner’s hype cycle, weren’t represented. It’s more that there are enough of these to blend into the overall noise of the exhibition. The promise of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud) has traversed the trough of disillusionment to whatever the plateau is, and now considered mainstream.

Notable omissions included:

  • Microsoft – I’d expect their Azure IoT play in competition to IBM and SAS, not to mention the shiny promise of “holographic computing” with Hololens
  • Cisco – Where’s the Fog Computing and SDN?
  • Intel – Everything from RealSense 3D to IoT
  • Slack – They’re in country now, HQ in Melbourne
  • Uber – We know what they do, but what are they going to do?
  • Tesla – Wall Power Packs, the ‘S’, even video of the ‘3’, supercharger stations?
  • Apple – let’s face it, they never come to CeBIT, CES, MWC, AWE, E3 or anything other than their own
  • – Big Data, Visualisation?
  • Google – From mobile to maps and everything inbetween
  • AWS – IoT, Big Data
  • Samsung – Personal VR, mobility, wearables?
  • Sony – PlaystationVR
  • Telstra, Optus, VHA, NBNco

Where I thought 90 minutes was going to be a stretch to see all the exhibitors, it was more than enough to see the entire floor and chat to a couple of exhibitors.

What would be really cool would be to see more:

  • Autonomous and Connected Vehicles
  • Bio-informatics – bioprinting, DNA editing etc.
  • Robots – practical robots in surgery, people care, manufacturing
  • Nanotech – again healthcare, but also IoT, agriculture, smartdust
  • Blockchain – lots happening here, but not a lot to see
  • AI & avatars

All in all, ok but nothing to write home about. Certainly no “JLAT” moments.


VR And Empathy

Experiencing Dementia in Virtual Reality
The overwhelming terror of Dementia. Image courtesy Gizmag & Opaque Media

I stood in the dining room of this '70's decorated house, terrified. Through blurry tunnels I could see myriads of insects crawling over our mottled brown carpet and shuddered. What should have been the golden light of an autumn afternoon flared across my vision blinding me more than the monochrome blurriness of my cataracts.

The gentle sounds of our neighbourhood were a harsh blare of traffic, wind, and squawking cockatoos. In the deafening intensity it was impossible to discern any particular sound like the radio announcer. My ears hurt.

All I wanted was to escape this hell of noise and glare. Perhaps to my study, long an oasis of solace. But the polished wooden floors of the hall rippled, water sloshing from side to side, the fear rising like bile. I couldn't swim. Could I? I couldn't remember.

Perhaps I could skirt the edge holding onto the sideboard, but our striped walls were zooming out and in. There was no where for me to hold, I surely would be knocked into the water. Turning I glanced at our onyx table, but it was no longer. In it's place a hole to the depths of the universe itself, a mouth gaping to consume me…

…I never knew.

I never knew the effects of dementia. Not really.

I've never considered myself heartless, rather sympathetic to the elderly. But always thought the malady a benign losing of short term memory. One that affects different people in different ways for sure. The more benign become forgetful, absent minded, occasionally melancholy; the bitter more resentful and angry, sometimes violent. But I put this down to the frustration of not remembering and coping with increasing frailty.

For the first time I really experienced the overwhelming effects described above. In virtual reality. A phenomenal immersive experience designed by Opaque Media for carers and relatives of dementia patients. It began standing in a typical house from the '70's in the twilight of an autumn afternoon and one by one my physical senses, vision and hearing, were affected by the disease. Then they applied the psychological effects (crawling insects, rippling floors, zooming walls, and hole like blacks).

I wasn't immersed for very long, perhaps 10 minutes, and of course I maintained by cognitive faculties. Also I was forewarned about each effect.

Still it was a nightmarish experience. I could not imagine living like that. To compare this to a description, photos or even a video is laughable. I was in the world, struggling to navigate. And something visceral happened.

I walked a couple of steps in a dementia sufferers shoes.

And gained empathy.

Not a mile, not even a kilometre, just a couple of steps

The implications of this technology for carers of any mental, visual or aural impairment is life changing.


The Innovative Service That Rockets Your Business

If you were a pub, what one thing could you do to increase your business?

I would argue max profitability = number of people x number of (alcoholic) drinks

So to rephrase the question: “What is a major inhibitor of people buying alcohol?”

Of the two variables, pubs use any number of methods to increase the first: number of customers: food (high cost, low margin), TV's for sport, live music, and an Australian favourite, gambling.

But unless you're in a metro pub with easy access to public transport, chances are between 25 – 50% of your customers aren't drinking…

…Because they're driving.

So how about a complimentary designated driver service?

The money you make on the extra drinks sold to an already capacity audience will more than offset the cost of the minibus. Those using taxi's will have more to spend. And you'll increase loyalty to the business.

Ok, that's an obvious solution, already implemented in some pubs. But what could you do in your business to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and spend?

Tip: It's usually about removing friction, or latency, at the edges of your business, or even with other interdependent services.

Here are more questions to provoke thought:

Do you like air travel? Yet you spend thousands to fly. What do you particularly dislike about the process (from door to door)

Do you like grocery shopping? Do it every week – what is irksome about buying groceries?

How about a visit to the doctor? The bank?

We are a long way from running out of ideas to innovate in and around our business.


The Church Needs Moonshot Projects

Have you seen this TED Talk by Astro Teller (great name), the leader of 'X', previously Google X:

He suggests that the criteria for X projects need to meet three criteria:

  • Large intractable problem that affects millions of people
  • Radical solution
  • Breakthrough technology

They call the projects 'moonshots,' in reference to JFK's challenge to get a man to the moon and back (alive) by the end of the ('60's) decade.

As the logical outcome of my last post regarding the Church and technology, I put forward that the Church needs 'moonshot's' of our own.


Some quick context:

  • 1.2b people are learning a second language in the world (that we know of)
  • 800m of them are learning English – mostly to improve their economic opportunities, many to raise themselves out of subsistence
  • There are 1778 languages in the world that are yet untouched by any books of the bible, nor have a translation project. That equates to 1.5b people who cannot access the bible in their own tongue.
  • But that doesn't include the people whom cannot read to begin with, some 17% of the world's population.

Hope Is Not A Strategy

So here's the thing, if we're serious about the great commission, to “make disciples of all nations,” we need to be serious about how we reach the vast majority of humanity. Because even if people do have a bible in their own tongue, that does not mean they've heard the gospel, met a Christian, or read a bible.

Simply hoping that the people in our middle-class, suburban church are going to reach one more person, is not a strategy.

The harvest surely is plentiful, and the workers few. This is a scale problem.

Not Marketing

Don't get me wrong – I'm not advocating that this is just about getting information out to people. Making disciples is not about EE3, the “Roman's Road”, 'Crusades,' and definitely not about tele-evangelists. We're not selling Coca-cola.

I agree that faith is about unconditional love rather than a rules based ideology, and spread via relationship. Most people I know who came to faith, were because of a deep friendship. I would argue that one or more relationships were instrumental to all people whom came to true faith.

No, most people look at how their believing friends negotiate the challenges of life: illness, separation, poverty, death; experience their genuine love for others, then become open to the prompting of the Spirit. I get that.

This leads them potentially to a conversion. The birth of a relationship with God.

Not to discipleship.

For that there needs to be mentoring, and personal research. A 'renewing of the mind.' Not about indoctrination, quite the opposite. The injunction is to read, research and learn to test for yourself God's will.

Clearly this is impossible without being able to read, or read in an understandable language.

More Than Discipleship

But this is far more than discipleship. This is also about social and economic justice. Remember that earlier stat? 1.2b people learning a second language. That's because many people in the world don't live in a middle-class suburb with 2 cars, and access to police, healthcare, education or work.

There's are two competing trends addressing this, both of which centre on a form of unequal information dissemination:

1. Information Access

Google, who we referenced earlier, Facebook, and to a lesser extent Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon; are all racing to connect the rest of the planet to the Internet. And they're pouring billions into this: cellular networks, satellites, even balloons.

No matter how altruistic their intent, they are still capitalist, secular, non-state, private organisations that will benefit from the exponential economic growth of a connected planet.

2. Divisive ideology

The competing trend is a dissemination of divisive ideologies, intolerant of commmonly agreed basic rights. Rights such as equality of women, access to education (for women), sexuality, even the right to divorce.

This trend is counter the mass provision of Internet access. They want to keep people in the dark.

Don't misunderstand, this is a race condition. And the Church isn't part of the race.

Not really.

Or not to any real extent.

The Danger of Leaving This

Growing your church membership by 10% is not the answer. (In Australia Christianity has shrunk by 7% in the decade to 2011, and church attendance halved) It doesn't even come close, to your own neighbourhood, let alone to the marginalised in your country, never mind the factory workers in China that made your Nikes and iPhone.

If we don't consider seriously how we're going to build relationships with people of all geographies, languages, and socio-economic statuses, one of two other movements will: Either technology companies, leading to secular consumerism, or alternate, extreme ideologies leading to injustice, violence and war. Both compounding the problem.

Either way, we don't fulfil the great commission. Either way, people that need to know the unconditional love of God, pragmatically in their lives, are left unloved.

Again, please read my comments in context. There are many Christian based organisations doing the right things. From Wycliffe Bible translators, to Baptist World Aid, to Missionary Aviation Fellowship, to Worldvision, and many others. Even the work of my school friend, Paul Williams, in bringing Christmas joy to orphans in Siberia.

I know this.

They're doing great work!


So my question is “How?”

How do we solve the scale problem?

How do we actually turn the dial on poverty? Access to education? Social injustice? Hunger? Disease? And yes, how do we share God's love with not only an unbelieving world, but one that has no access to even hear the message in a language they can understand?


My proposal then, is that we need our own Moonshot projects. With an added criteria or two:

  • Large intractable (social injustice, poverty, hunger, disease) problem
  • Radical Solution
  • Breakthrough technology
  • A solution that facilitates self-perpetuation: e.g. Each person we teach a language translates the bible into their native tongue; or the girls we teach to sew teach others how to stand up for equal rights.