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February 01, 2017
Technology Trends for People--The Uncharted: Invent new industries, set new standards
By: Marc Carrel-Billiard

In the digital economy, leading companies must take on an additional corporate responsibility: defining the new regulations, technology standards and ethical norms of the digital industries they’re shaping.

There’s a whirlwind of disruptive activity happening across industries. As described in the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 tech trend The Uncharted, companies are forging into unexplored territory as they move beyond developing products, services and customer experiences into participating in ecosystems and ultimately creating new digital industries.

Take the media industry, for example. Netflix started out as a DVD rental company and now competes with television studios and broadcasters through streaming content. In the hardware industry, NVIDIA has adapted its computer video card technology for applications in supercomputing and Internet of Things. And Tesla is not only developing high-end electric cars; it’s also expanding into energy storage and building a super-charger network that will disrupt the car-sharing industry.

As pioneering companies like these pursue these boundary-breaking opportunities, they must assume a new corporate responsibility. They must codify a new set of rules to operate in these digital industries, including helping to form the laws and regulations that govern privacy, data ethics and security.

Partnering across the spectrum Click to tweet. This opens a new window.
What is causing companies to step up to this extra role? As we’ve seen, waiting on the sidelines for rules to change and technology standards to solidify no longer works. Policy makers and regulatory bodies generally have been unable to keep up with the pace of technology change. Case in point: A few years ago, Amazon announced its intent to pilot a service using drones to deliver packages. While the US and FCC worked on an initial set of regulations around the concept, Amazon took the concept overseas to conduct the pilot, fine tune the service and launch its first delivery in the UK at the end of 2016.

To differentiate in the digital economy, both technical and non-technical enterprises will need to work with regulators, standards bodies and other ecosystem stakeholders to educate, collaborate and define the rules, ethics and best practices of each new digital industry. In some cases, governments are already inviting leading companies to the table to help shape what the regulations should be. In other instances, businesses are assembling joint task forces or collaborating with competitors to write rules where nothing exists. Last year, 25 startups united to launch a Bitcoin Smart Contract Federation in the belief that Bitcoin offers a more mature, tested and secure alternative to other smart contract platforms. By building the platform, they are creating the rules for others who will join this ecosystem in the future.

From a Technology for People perspective, which is the theme of this year’s Tech Vision, making forays into new digital industries also raises the bar of responsibility across an interdependent ecosystem of participants. Companies will be able to partner best with others that have the same security and technology standards, as well as similar ethical values and commitment to social responsibility. For example, an enterprise may begin building a technology for its business partners, customers or employees using the product or service; however, it will quickly become necessary to extend the thinking to the ecosystem beyond that. Take connected health: What does it mean if a person is jogging and his wearable device detects heart palpitations and connects to an ambulance? How does the wearable manufacturer transfer data from the jogger’s previous runs to the ER doctor? Ethically who can view the data? And which company or regulatory body governs what personal data should be shared and when? These types of questions will need to be answered proactively.

Technology that engenders digital trust
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To drive governance and accountability, leading enterprises will increasingly embed the newly defined rules and standards into the technologies themselves (see Figure 1). For example, the distributed database known as blockchain delivers built-in solutions to provide transparency. It also guarantees that records have not been changed. Maersk shipping lines has experimented with using a blockchain to replace cumbersome bills of lading, which often cost more to process than does a shipping container. And IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University are using blockchain technology to improve the way food is tracked, transported and sold to customers across China.
Technologies Support

Figure 1: Technologies to support new rules and standards.

Other emerging technologies include:

  • Differential privacy--Integrates digital ethics and privacy standards for companies by receiving data in such a way that individual identifiers are never collected.

  • Smart contract technology--Offers an automated way to enforce contracts whether the counter-party is trusted or not. Smart contracts design-in the rules for a value exchange and can be self-exercising or self-enforcing.

  • Homomorphic encryption--Implements data sharing and transformations that are performed exclusively with encrypted data, decrypting it only when a user needs to see a result.

How will your company demonstrate leadership to customers, ecosystem partners and external agencies by defining the rules for the digital industries your company
participates in?Click to tweet. This opens a new window.

To learn more about this IT trend, I encourage you to:

  • Read the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 overview and trend highlights

  • View the essential slide shares, videos and infographics

  • Share your thoughts at #techvision2017.

  • Reach out to us to put these innovation-led ideas to work in your enterprise.

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