Sometimes I have a reason to look back on what’s been and look forward to what’s to come. This look back and forward however has a broader timespan.

I still remember from my first job at GEC Avionics that EAP, the prototype for the now named Eurofighter Typhoon, had a 50K data store for the Flight Control System. A 50K database to fly one of the world’s first unstable, fly-by-wire combat aircraft.

The cartonboard manufacturer, Iggesund Paperboard, I then moved to had a 25 square meter room housing two computers that ran the vast majority of the processes for a manufacturing plant employing 700 workers.

I now carry a more powerful computer in my jacket pocket, my iPhone. It’s not the latest version but it has 1.3 million times more memory that the EAP data store and you can only guess at how much more powerful it is than the combined effect of those two blocks of electronics.

Things have moved on at a tremendous pace and it seems like 2017 could be the year in which the speed of technology development has surpassed our capability to harness it’s ever increasing power. Or are we still able to?

During recent years there have been some breakthroughs, some disruptive entrants have become dominant market players. Many refer to Uber and Airbnb, a taxi company and a travel accommodation company that own no cars or hotels respectively. These disruptions would not have been possible without technology.

‘For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s the battle outside raging’

These companies don’t abide by the rules that have governed the respective industries for decades or even centuries. They innovate and disrupt taking a leading position that others must scramble to follow or compete with, in some instances even to survive.

User experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) are hot topics. Tolerance for what was acceptable only a few years ago has been all but wiped out. New standards for how we experience things are constantly being set and re-set. If your pre-school child can’t work out how it works in 2 minutes it doesn’t make the grade. When was the last time you reached for the instruction manual? Or rather when was the last time you saw a teenager or child reach for the instruction manual?

‘And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and daughters

Are beyond your command’

Where is it all going? What will be the outcome, the benefit?

As the picture at the head of this short post illustrates a lot can happen to certain accepted norms given the advent of and subsequent harnessing of technology. The so called ‘Red Flag Act’ (requiring a self-propelled vehicle travelling at a speed of 4mph to be accompanied by 3 people, one of which was required to carry a red flag 55m ahead of the vehicle) was introduced about 150 years ago for a variety of reasons including that of the safety of other road users. Now there are multiple trials of driverless cars all over the world and one of the key aspects to be improved as a result is sure to be road safety.

Over the past few months I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking to companies and organisations about their challenges and inevitably their digitalisation plans and also listening to some interesting people explaining what’s happening out there in the world.

One interesting example is in the field of healthcare, a good cause I’m sure all will agree! I recently had the opportunity to listen to Kevin Fitzpatrick (from ASCO) explaining how in the US, already 2,000 of the 14,000 oncologists have subscribed to make cancer patient data (first made anonymous of course) available to other practitioners. This is enabling identification of particular types of disease, evaluation of various treatment methods and their success rates, among other vital information to be instantly accessible when a patient visits one of the subscribing oncologists. This quantum leap in terms of improving patient care would not be possible without today’s technology.

‘The slowest now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past’

So what will 2017 bring?

Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, more Digital Transformation…

The list of hyped terms goes on, but the key is harnessing technology to enable innovation and deliver true value, whether it be to a patient or a customer or other beneficiary. One thing you can almost be certain of, the pace of development does not seem likely to slow down just yet.

‘Your old road is rapidly aging

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

Cause the times they are a changing’

For the record I am much more a fan of the Gallagher brothers than Mr Dylan, however he has written some very good and in this case very apt lyrics, but he didn’t write the last two lines.

‘Look to the future now

It’s only just begun’

Looking forward…