Goodbye status quo

Published on the 11/04/2014 | Written by Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes reflects on the up-and-coming technology that could see your industry turned on its head…

It’s easy for us here in the antipodes to feel a little insulated from the broader trends affecting business and, by extension, to think that the status quo will always exist. But we only need to look at local examples of existing businesses being disrupted to see that there are no ‘solid grounds’ any more. From the telcos being affected by the widespread use of applications, which are replacing voice communications, to TradeMe shaking up the way people buy and sell goods, we have a tendency that misses revolutions when they occur over a period of time.

Today there are a number of macro trends that I think make increasing disruption likely. We live in a society that is ever more comfortable doing things online, where technology is becoming more accessible every day, and both internet connectivity and devices that can be connected to the internet are pervasive. Together these factors mean the time is ripe for yet more traditional businesses to be threatened by as-yet unknown players.

We’re fortunate here in Australia and New Zealand because our technology uptake tends to lag a little behind other countries, so we can observe changes overseas, and intuit what it will mean for us in the short term. Below are a few notable examples of disruption that may make waves on our shores in the near future.

Uber is a service that allows consumers to order a cab quickly and easily from their smartphone. Billing is integrated so there is no more fumbling with credit cards when you have an important meeting to go to. But Uber is also disrupting the supply-side and enabling anyone with a car and some free time to set themselves up as an independent taxi company. By combining smart technology (online payments, location-based services and mobile messaging) and new business models, Uber is disrupting the taxi industry.

A plethora of companies are offering streaming music services. Services like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes radio combine a user’s social circle and offer her up music that is likely to be a good match given her previous listening habits and the listening preferences of her friends. Apple already disrupted the status quo of buying music by the album and these services are going even further, reinventing the entire listening process.

A big area of attention in the US is the so-called ‘quantified self’. Individuals are using a myriad of hardware devices (FitBit, FuelBand, Jawbone) alongside different internet services in order to better understand the way their bodies work. Many see the rise of this self-analysis as a short step to custom-designed fitness and medical services, and the rise of individual genomic testing services such as 23andme makes this even more feasible.

3D printing, once seen as simply an opportunity to print crappy little trinkets, is now breaking out into much more important areas and researchers have already ‘printed’ working human organs and replacement joints.

All of these examples would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago and the majority of them are yet to have much impact on us here, but as examples of how broader technology is having an impact on some traditional areas, they are worth thinking about.

While it’s easy to think that we can hide from these sorts of changes, the challenge for all of us as we head into 2014 is to re-evaluate our businesses and how they work and try and intuit what these broader changes in society, in the commercial landscape and in technology mean for us. One thing is certain however, and that is that change is the new constant.


Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure.

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