Internet of Things (IoT): The rise of the machines!

If you grew up with James Cameron’s Terminator epic, you might perhaps feel a little uneasy about the Internet of Things. But you better start getting used to it as the rise of the machines revolution is well underway! You’ve heard about connected people (Web 2.0) or connected machines (Web 3.0), the Internet of Things (IoT) is actually the next great phase of the Internet (Web 4.0), a scenario connecting inanimate objects to our needs and desires. These objects could literally be anything from your keys, to refrigerators, lavatories, traffic stop lights, cars, the list really is endless.

IoT: The smart revolution

Are objects around us getting smarter? Physical objects are made “smart” by connecting them to the Internet utilizing ubiquitous sensors aiming to track all sorts of data. People very often tend to hang on the “Things” aspect of IoT. Actually, the real value and insight comes from the data provided by these objects or devices. For the first time in history, we have data on almost anything: from how we brush our teeth to how we drive, how we eat, how we sleep and so on. Today even wigs are getting smarter and your lavatories too! Well, it might seem crazy but imagine your lavatories providing health related insights about pregnancy, bacterial infections or even prompting you to seek medical advice! While smart cement equipped with sensors used in the construction of bridges or buildings will alert us to fix problems about cracks or shocks before causing human tragedies! Despite such benefits, IoT is seen by many as a major challenge to our privacy that needs to be addressed before it goes mainstream!

IoT: Redefining industries and economies

After the introduction of the steam engine (1st), the setting up of assembly line mass production (2nd) and the establishment of automation (3rd), it is now time for the fourth industrial revolution. Already tech giants are getting involved, viewing this as a logical progression from the personal computer and smartphone of previous decades. What does it mean for businesses? This isn’t just about money savings, but this is a huge and fundamental shift. The fact of starting making things “intelligent”, is going to be a major engine for creating new products and services. IoT is paving the way to a whole new “smart” Industry or Industry 4.0, which will very soon become the new Manufacturing standard! And what’s in for us, customers? On top of enjoying a “Smart Home Ecosystem”, where household chores can be handled by opening up an app, everything surrounding us will soon become vital communication tools in helping to make our lives easier, healthier and more productive. Although it all sounds like a futuristic life, thanks to IoT, the future has never been so close!

“The IoT has the potential to transform our society, economy, and how we live our lives,” Samsung CEO Boo Keun Yoon said during a keynote speech at the CES 2015 trade-show in Las Vegas. If organisations are struggling to cope with the rising tide of data volumes at the moment, they’re going to be overwhelmed once the IoT gathers real momentum. Why? Because the IoT is not just about gathering data; it’s also about the analysis and use of that data. And how firms approach this will be key to their success.

Is IoT the next industrial revolution? Feel free to post your comments!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

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Virtual Reality: The journey From Fantasy to Fact

Remember Marty McFly’s hoverboard from the movie Back to the Future, or Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak? Well, as unbelievable as it may once have seemed, science and modern technology finally caught up with the fantasy world. Indeed, today several futuristic gadgets that once only existed in the pages of fantasy novels or in science fiction movies have become a reality – or are about to any minute – and virtual reality (VR) is no exception!

Welcome to the future!

Virtual reality caught the public’s attention in the late 1980s, but at the time, the expectations of its potential far exceeded the lived reality that it delivered! Despite the growing interest in VR, virtual reality was still just another synonym for science fiction since technology wasn’t yet up to snuff.

And then quite suddenly — barely three decades later, the future knocked on our door and the futuristic fantasy became a reality! From students attending virtual classes, to virtual shopping with your avatar trying on clothes, or attending a concert featuring world famous artists across the globe, virtual reality is becoming more real than reality ever was! Ready or not, VR is about to change life as we know it on this planet. This new market will, in turn, create a new demand for a wide spectrum of virtual products and service providers. And this time, it’s for real!

A new dimension of opportunities for businesses

When it comes to business, the possibilities of making use of VR technology are endless. Virtual Reality technologies have evolved dramatically in the last few decades and this new industry is now picking up speed and rushing headlong towards a fierce competition between a handful of famed tech companies. The different VR competitors fervently believe that there’s a much higher interest in virtual reality than the average person might assume, whether for gaming, entertainment, education, business training or commercial applications. At the moment, the two major leaders in the VR industry include prominent firms like Facebook – who for USD 2 billion acquired the Oculus Rift device and Sony with its VR device, Project Morpheus. While both have been leading a David and Goliath kind of battle, other important tech companies including HTC (HTC Vive), Samsung (Gear VR), Microsoft (HoloLens) or Google (Cardboard) have also joined the ruthless competition.

Everything that’s been happening lately in this new industry seems to lead us into the dream of the future, that is seemingly just waiting for us over the horizon! Although the journey from fantasy to reality in the virtual world seems so compelling… no matter what, virtual spaces are still human ones, filled with human hopes and fears, thus inevitably blurring the line between virtual reality and real life! The sceptics among us may fear that the opportunity to lead a “second life” limited only by the imagination might cause some people to totally withdraw from the real life…

If you’re tempted to walk into new dimensions and experience worlds without limits or perhaps you think it’s only a fad? Share your thoughts with me.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Alexandra Peterson Cart : Bridging Investment and Philanthropy

Who said that investment and philanthropy were worlds apart? Well, not for Alexandra P. Cart, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of Madeira Global, an impact investment and advisory firm. She has been working hard to solve that dichotomy of blending together social philanthropy with an effective model to make money! It was therefore, not surprising to see her in the top 30 Social Entrepreneurs list, in 2015. Her leadership and success in impact investing have been often featured in world-class newspapers and Magazines.

Millennial Social Entrepreneur

Alexandra Cart is not a novice in the Financial sphere, she comes from a line of renowned investment managers – granddaughter of Peter Peterson, a Blackstone co-founder. Surprisingly, Cart who grew up in a very for-profit family headed straight for the nonprofit sector right after her studies! Ergo, Alexandra who holds a B.A. in International Studies and Political Science from Middlebury College, has also worked for the City of New York. She contributed on antipoverty initiatives and programs at the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) for the Office of the Mayor. While working there, she was frustrated by always having to choose between nonprofit and for-profits and was desperately seeking a way to resolve that polarity! Cart has managed to find that balance at Madeira Global, where she is regularly seeking to deploy assets with a social lens. Alexandra is driven by the conviction that Millennials today are opting to become social entrepreneurs because they want to go beyond “Business As Usual”!

Catalyzing Social Change

Despite her famous family background, Alexandra is forging her own path in the impact investing business and has started to make a name for herself with Madeira Global. The advisory firm, is nowadays widely recognized as a leader in the investment management industry for optimizing the alignment of social and financial returns by leaning on values-based investment philosophy. Intentionally seeking social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns, this is the motto of Cart’s business! When questioned about her definition of Impact Investing, the 29 year old replies: “I think that impact investing is perhaps the perfect confluence between Philanthropy and Finance, so it takes the best of both worlds.” Our young millennial has realized that younger generations these days are more open to the potential of impact investing than older generations, who tend to focus on more traditional modes of philanthropy such charity and so on. “I think impact investing will be a huge industry over the next couple years.”

Cart is undeniably a leader in social impact investments, a personal passion that has its roots in her heritage. She believes that it is possible to reach a number of young people through impact investing where it would be impossible with nonprofit institutions. Well, moving from an aid to an economic model with a for-profit mindset, is the new challenge of today’s Social Entrepreneurs.

Alexandra Cart, is definitely this new Millennial social entrepreneur who takes the bull-by-the-horns. Well, let’s hope that together with her fellow “Millennials” , they manage to create global engagement and succeed where our fathers and forefathers have failed!

Social Entrepreneurship: Fad or a new way of doing business? Share your thoughts!

Leadership and Management style: East tops West

Different cultures can have radically different leadership and management styles, and if you want to do business cross-border, you better be fully cognizant of what it implies. While, American CEOs tend to adopt a more charismatic and innovative style and European leaders would opt for a participative and socially responsible approach, Chinese leaders, who have the reputation of a directive and didactic modus operandi, have evolved and become more people-centric and insightful. 

Western Leadership : Influential and ethical

Western leadership principles have been focusing on elements such as profits, human relationships, and long term strategic planning. Whether in Europe or USA, employers emphasize the value of respecting employees, valuing their contribution and promoting their career development. Now what about the personality of those business leaders? Nowadays, U.S. executives are usually known to be charismatic and influential, whose fame and force of personality impress the global business landscape as well as the media! Charismatic leadership has come to be the ideal for American businesses: Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos incarnate those magnetic leaders!

The business culture in Europe may be a bit less star-focused but EU leaders believe in effective and ethical leadership incorporating a more participative governance model. Corporate Responsibility is not a fad, but an imperative for the European counterparts like Stanislas de Quercize (CEO of Cartier), Timotheus Höttges (Deutsche Telekom), Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal), and Gérard Mestrallet (Engie ex-GDF Suez), just to name a few, who value above all sustainable business growth.

Chinese Leadership : Ying and Yang

Profit was seen as contrary to the righteousness of mainstream Confucian teachings. Traditional Chinese leadership principles include considering ethical aspects above the achievement of profit but also comprise leading by example in terms of promoting equality, simple living and harmony. Today, Chinese workplaces have evolved and the concepts of leadership too. Long gone are the days when the social and cultural environment in China was extremely hostile to private enterprises. By integrating methods from Western management approaches, through education abroad and exposure to Western organisations present in China, Chinese leadership paradigms have changed but without losing sight of their rich cultural heritage.

There may still be major disparities like for example, political connections and family control tend to be more common in Asian businesses, unlike Westerners who groom their successors from talented employees in the workforce instead. Yet, Chinese business leaders including Jack Ma (Alibaba), Lei Jun (Xiaomi), Ma Huateng (Tencent) and Wang Jianlin (Wanda) have successfully reversed the prevailing cultural prejudice.

While the leadership style of Westerners haven’t evolved much in the last decade, the new generation of Chinese leaders have made a great leap forward by taking the best from traditional Chinese and Western leadership styles.

In fact, Global Business leaders can really make a difference in the way corporations affect the world. Clearly, no one leadership model is a universal remedy. But nowadays, CEOs are expected to adopt a more people-focused, ethical, innovative, long-term thinking and planning approach, and providing for the interests of a broad range of stakeholders, including the environment and future generations. Well, it is no easy job, as Globalization and major global concerns keep challenging leadership styles and practices as a whole! 

What other qualities do you expect to see in Global Business Leaders? Share your thoughts!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Child Refugees : How EU and the World is failing them!

While the war in Syria is in full swing and Syrians are compelled to abandon their homes, fleeing for freedom, in the hope of a better life in Europe. There is still nothing new under the sun, the Old Continent and the rest of the World are struggling to handle this chaotic situation which has turned into Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The ugly truth is that there is a record number of unaccompanied minors that have applied for asylum in Europe and are waiting, in its doorsteps, in the cold! Among all the migration-related issues, the Child refugee problem remains a critical one and EU cannot continue turning a blind eye to it!

Save Syria by Saving its Children…

Europol, the European Police agency, revealed that more than 10,000 children refugees who entered Europe during the last two years have vanished into thin air! “Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with.” reported Brian Donald, Europol’s Chief. Unicef has reported that more than 80 percent of Syrian children are suffering in this conflict, living in poverty, working instead of going to school or marrying young to survive. Other facts, the war has put 2.6 million children out of school and half of the refugees on the run – estimated at 2 million – are children! If there is 1 conclusion to draw from these facts and figures, it’s our failure – EU, USA and every other nation on this planet!

Syria: Reduced to Chess pieces

Nowadays, Syrian refugees have been reduced to chess pieces, starting with France and Britain. The former blackmailing to use them against Britain if the latter quits the European Union. Then, Turkey, soldier of fortune, is simply using them as a threat against the EU if more financial assistance is not provided. Many other EU countries have closed borders, and thousands of refugees are trapped at the Greek-Macedonian frontier. It seems that Europe has lost its soul by giving up on humanity!

Ending the refugee crisis is synonym to ending the Syrian conflict, but no solution is in sight for now. Unquestionably, protecting Children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence, whatever their origin, whether Syrian, Pakistanese (recent cowardly attack at a children’s playground), Nigerian (Chibok kidnapping by Boko Haram) or Honduran (minors affected by conflict in Honduras, fleeing to Mexico), should become a priority and everybody’s business not just UNICEF‘s and Save the Children’s responsibility!

The future of these children is at stake! They have already lost so much, their homes, loved ones, schools and communities… Let’s not kill their chances of building a future!

How to make Child protection become a foremost priority? Share your thoughts!

Picture above: Courtesy of World Vision Org ©