I think this is a very complex and fascinating innovation topic, and while reading it, it kind of reminded me of the IBM Watson case. I think the tremendous value of robotic surgery will become clear once the robot’s capabilities surpass the ones of the human surgeon, such as in cases of great precision (e.g., neurosurgery) or long-lasting extenuating procedures. But how does the development team progress to that point and how do they track it? They seem to be doing it incrementally, by starting with regular procedures, but I am afraid this might not be sufficiently “impressive” to guarantee the capital they need to progress towards the development of an actual break-through. I wonder if they shouldn’t try to focus on first developing some sort of intelligent tools for very delicate procedures, that can still be used by surgeons, and only once they have proven their superiority, evolve by adding the remote features and the “full surgeon” to the tool.
As an Eramus beneficiary and enthusiast, but also someone who struggled to find accommodation, I fully see the value that Uniplaces is bringing. What I do wonder is if it wouldn’t make more sense for them to explicitly focus on the core niche of Erasmus students, rather than broader student accommodation. As the Erasmus network is quite well connected, I think they could benefit from positioning themselves strongly within it, by even offering part-time positions to Erasmus students (often looking for an extra buck) and making sure they become top-of mind early in the Erasmus process, before students even think of accommodation. While this could limit their reach and also make them quite dependent on the Erasmus program (potentially at risk given the EU’s recent developments), I think it could really position them as the Erasmus Housing partner of choice.
While I find the idea really interesting from a conceptual and technological view point, as a potential customer, I am a bit concerned. I think many people, especially in Europe are a bit worried of how sophisticated companies are becoming at drawing us towards the products they want us to buy, often without us even noticing. This is why I think retailers could benefit from starting with a sufficiently long period of dedicated pilots in which they understand customers’ range of perceptions and reactions and then think of how they can tailor the user interaction and message in a way that generates positive reactions.
To echo Haley, in the Western world, this particular technology application tends to have a bad connotation, as actively searching for a partner is often seen as “desperate”. I think the fact that the core activity of matchmaking is already part of the Indian culture actually allows the app to get closer to its potential. I do think the fact that it scans through a broader set of candidates and that it seems to pose lower entry barriers for less well connected or shier people, allows the app to find better matches for its customers (compared to traditional matchmaking). What I do wonder however, is if the availability of a “better match” around the corner (if one stays on the app a bit longer) will not end up taking it closer to the Tinder model.
I too find it an area of tremendous potential impact. What I wonder is whether there is a sufficient incentive for governments to optimize their operations through digitization. It somehow feels like the knowledge of technology and understanding of its potential are present among our politicians’ teams, but they tend to manifest predominantly during electoral campaigns (often close to digital communication masterpieces). This is what makes me afraid that the current voter is simply not sufficiently reactive to “technological” failures of the governments, and often even accepting of the excuse that “the system did not work”. But I hope the coming generations will become more taxing both of system failures and inefficiencies that can easily be addressed through technology.
I fully share your concern for what seems to be an already immediate threat of climate change. And while I think Sanofi’s initiative to develop a dedicated vaccine makes sense, to echo Andrea’s concerns, I am afraid this could actually turn the impact of climate change into a lucrative business. Similarly, the fight against malaria, which is also thought by some studies to be exacerbated by climate change (http://www.who.int/globalchange/climate/summary/en/index5.html) is creating a more legitimate case for genetically modified mosquitoes (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34898931). I am genuinely afraid that these lucrative externalities of climate change are resulting in a series of perverse incentives that might end up slowing down the fight against climate change and shifting it towards a far less sustainable, yet profitable “accommodation” business, which will again be primarily carried on the shoulders of the more exposed developing world.
I think this is one of the few effects of climate change that many of us can directly relate to. In my native Romania, where slopes are built at lower altitudes, it happens more and more often that we do not get enough snow until February or sometimes for an entire year. And I can clearly remember this not being the case when I was a child. To echo MC’s point however, I am a bit frustrated with the solution we have decided to adopt. Our measure of creating artificial snow is not only not fighting against the root of the problem, but actually exacerbating it. One option to partially mitigate the problem could be charging an eco tax in order to fuel the artificial snow production from renewable energy sources (or of course, the equivalent green certificates). While I know this would not totally address the issue, it can be a step forward, and I would expect the skiers’ willingness to pay to be higher than the average consumers’.
Zach, thanks a lot for sharing this particular research with us. Even though it makes a lot of sense, I had honestly not thought of it before. What Barry’s Callebaut’s approach reminded me of, thought, is the idea of accommodating vs. reducing variability. While I really applaud their efforts to collaborate with local farmers (as I think there is a clear gain for both parties), what I am afraid of is that the fact that they are working on accommodating the impacts of climate change on cocoa beans production might actually result in the perception that climate change is actually “less of a deal”. Sometimes, treating the symptom rather than the cause might work against the efforts to actually reduce the root cause, in this case the climate change. Or do you think the mere fact that they are invested in the issue will raise more awareness and thus also accelerate the reduction efforts?
I meant Mary with one single r 🙂
Thanks so much for shedding light into this topic, Marry. To be honest, I have a bit of trouble appreciating H&M’s initiatives and would be more inclined to put them into the “greenwashing” category. I think coming up with water and power reduction measures in a fundamentally unsustainable business model that is based on the artificially accelerated consumption of clothes and the underlying resources, and then calling yourself sustainable is quite deceiving. And while I do not have deeper information on the efficiency of their recycling systems, it is very often the case that the energy input used to recycle one item ends up being higher than the actual footprint of producing an entirely new item. I think your post is very valuable because its mere existence is a step towards the solution – it contributes to our (H&M) consumers’ better understanding of the issue and gradual shift towards “slower fashion” brands.
Jose, I particularly like the topic you’ve chosen. In the past few years that I’ve been active in the energy space (including as a manager of the renewable generation and efficiency portfolio of a Swiss utility), I have observed a so called “war” against traditional utilities. While I do acknowledge that historically they have been artificially benefiting from very high returns at almost no risk (and still do in many countries under the pass-through tariff regimes that you’ve mentioned), I also believe they have the potential to be front-runners in the transition towards renewable generation, especially given their holistic understanding of the power system. However, I think the biggest problem they are facing (that makes it quite difficult to venture out of their traditional assets) is the regulation uncertainty, especially in Spain, where the government has had such an abrupt downwards shift in support schemes during the past 4 years. I share your hope that COP 21 will result in higher levels of support (be they in the cap and trade or more recent tendering schemes), but what I believe will truly change the game and allow utilities to use their immense know how into becoming front runners of the transition, is the long term commitment of the participant states (indeed a more meaningful crowd than Kyoto’s). Tomorrow’s elections will probably give us a good first signal of this potential.