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Technology innovation with a human-centric focus

Kenny MacIver — November 2014
Fujitsu’s director of foresight, David Gentle, argues that the digital revolution that’s under way demands a visionary response from IT companies — one that puts technology in the service of people.

The technology megatrends of cloud, mobility, big data and the Internet of Things together present transformational opportunities for both business and wider society, argues David Gentle. But according to the Fujitsu director of foresight, the implications of that digital revolution are so far-reaching that industry leaders need to have a clear vision of how best to address its potential.

“These emerging technologies are really starting to influence the way that businesses, and indeed society, can generate outcomes,” says Gentle in our video interview. “We have the ability to achieve things that even five years ago would have seemed ambitious, if not impossible.”

The scope of those ambitions might include ways of engaging with customers in a genuinely personalized way, for example, or the creation of new digital product categories that spawn new markets and redraw competitive positions, says Gentle. But it will also extend the application of technology to areas that enhance individual lives and tackle societal challenges.

The Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision, which Gentle has helped develop, “takes as its starting point the fact that these emerging technologies have the potential to deliver unprecedented value for both business and society,” he says. But it also highlights that organizations face major choices about their areas of focus in the digital revolution. “Our vision sets out the desirable outcomes that we think are achievable if we make the right decisions around how we can use these emerging technologies,” he says.

The company’s vision also seeks to move IT beyond its traditional boundaries by exploring the wider opportunity to address some of the big challenges of mankind, says Gentle. The question is: how can we use the power of new technologies to more effectively deal with population, enhance education or manage healthcare, for example, he says.

People dimension

Fujitsu has responded to the opportunity with what it believes is a new approach to innovation — Human Centric Innovation. That brings together not just technology infrastructure and the vast amounts of highly valuable information that IT generates and holds, but also the people who use and benefit from those systems. “Infrastructure, information, people: these are the three dimensions that we think need to be brought together in order for businesses and society to really leverage the opportunities that exist here,” says Gentle.

The huge advances in IT in the past decade means organizations can now use IT on an unprecedented scale, he suggests. “Because of the way that technology has evolved and the scale the digital world can handle, we now have the means to do extraordinary things — to manage city infrastructures and traffic flow, to manage our energy resources, to manage water and agriculture production,” Gentle highlights.

The opportunity is there, he believes, for companies with the right vision to create a more sustainable future that uses the power of ICT to help corporate customers realize business innovation, but also to create innovation that enriches people’s lives and society as a whole, he says. “We shouldn’t ignore that opportunity.”

“Ultimately, our Human Centric approach is about delivering technology and information that benefits and empowers the individual.”

The long-term aim is to create what Fujitsu calls a Human Centric Intelligent Society, which is powered by ICT but focused on people. Gentle paints a scenario of how such a future society might deal with something like a road accident:

“Imagine that a cyclist in a busy city center is hit by a car. In a Human Centric Intelligent Society there will be numerous technologies that can improve that person’s chances of survival. Impact, motion and location sensors on the bicycle or in wearable devices will be able to tell if the collision is a minor or serious one, alerting the emergency services accordingly. Health-tracking monitors attached to the cyclist will track his vital signs and feed that data to paramedics en route to the accident, as well as to local hospitals. Information will be available to paramedics, such as real-time data on areas of traffic congestion and the availability of medical staff at the hospital, with traffic lights changed in favour of the ambulance as it speeds towards the hospital.”

This is just one scenario in a Human Centric Intelligent Society, he says. But that would be duplicated across other areas, such as environmental monitoring, agriculture, transportation and retail.

“Ultimately, our Human Centric approach is about delivering technology and information in a way that benefits and empowers the individual, allowing them to create value or to achieve value in a sustainable world,” he says.
First published November 2014
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