Podcast 13: Tech can learn a lot from the Natural World

Whether it’s starlings teaching us about high speed, resilient networks, or training IoT execs by Horsepower, Gilli Coston and Ken Figueredo show that the world of technology has much to learn from Nature. It’s also Human Nature to make fantastically bad decisions – and Trending Tech Podcast hears how technology can bail you out if you decide to post a friend home from Australia. Listen, people do! Plus the SEC says Blockchain is more than a question of trust … it’s also about iced tea. And finally, Jeremy Cowan gets an eyeful of upcoming news in Augmented Reality.

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Jeremy Cowan  0:04 

Hi and welcome to the latest Trending Tech podcast brought to you by IoT Now, The Evolving Enterprise and VanillaPlus.com. I’m Jeremy Cowan. And I want to thank you for joining us for this sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted look at enterprise digital transformation.

I am delighted to welcome two expert guests today who will be familiar to many of you working in the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent years. They are Gilli Coston, formerly Senior Vice President for EMEA at Kore Wireless. Gilli is now Managing Director of The Horsepower Partnership, where she’s leading, she’s developing, I should say, executives’ leadership and performance skills through facilitated learning. She describes this as ‘fear-free advanced communication skills with humans and horses’, and that intrigued me so we’ll find out a little bit more about that shortly. Gilli, thanks very much for being with us.

Gilli Coston  1:13 

Oh, Jeremy, it’s a joy to be together.

Jeremy Cowan  1:16 

And thank you, it’s great to be joined also from Washington, DC by Ken Figueredo. He’s representing today oneM2M. He’s also the founder of More With Mobile, which offers advisory and project execution services for business opportunities enabled by, would you believe, the IoT. Good to have you here, Ken.

Ken Figueredo  1:41 

Good to be here. Thank you very much for the invitation, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cowan  1:44 

Not at all. Okay, as always everyone, we’ll start by looking at some technology news that needs exploring. After that, we’ll find out what our guests have been up to, and how their work impacts on the tech world. And finally, in our section called What The Tech we’ll bring you some of the lighter news. So stay with us for the next 30 minutes. Gilli, can I come to you first? What has stood out for you lately in the news?

Gilli Coston  2:15 

You know what, I was really taken with the Clyde Space news (https://nmi.org.uk/aac-clyde-space-and-strathclyde-university-collaboration/) about utilising nature, in particular, the murmuration of birds, flocks of birds, in a way you see them all migrate, moving as if they’re one big, the big movements, and murmurations they make in the sky at various different times of year as they move away from predators. So, I was kind of really intrigued by that and how they’re using that and the development of technology with some of the Universities in Scotland. And using that in the aerospace industry.

Jeremy Cowan  2:58 

What is it that they’re doing with the aerospace industry? How does that tie in?

Gilli Coston  3:03 

Well, it was interesting, actually, because they’re developing and innovating solutions in this small satellites spacecraft area. And the thing that fascinated me the most about that was how they were really using the clues that nature leaves in order to develop new technologies and utilising how that works. So, back in the 1930s, they thought that birds moved in a big flock, as if they were one, as if they were mind reading, or some sort of command and control. And I think that’s quite intriguing when you look at even how organisations work today, and how we’re having to work seamlessly together, but really in lots of different spaces.

Then in the 1950s, the scientists were looking at insects and bees, and they came to the school of thought of them acting as one. But it wasn’t until 2015, when some of the universities, I think it was the National Academy of Sciences, looked at how self-organisation works. And then more research was done. And it really came down to the fast evaluation and the speed to change quickly. And I think that is absolutely amazing. Because today we have lots of remote devices working, but the information comes back and then actually how do you get the fast, rapid change? I mean, in murmuration you’re looking at sort of one or two flaps of wings. I’m not suggesting that we, you know, are able to get that fast changes. But if we can think about how that becomes more real-time, either in space or even on the ground when it’s a road diversion or an accident or something like that, and the learnings that we take from that. So yeah, I found that really, really fascinating and how they’re really looking at three factors and three vectors. But actually, the bottom line is it’s a bit like a Mexican Wave. So, you pay attention to the people or the birds round about you. In the in the flocks of starlings, that happened to be seven birds. They did the maths on it. And they’ve taken all these learnings from insects, bees, flocks of sheep. The fact that nature leaves clues for the digital world. And we could do with paying attention more, I think.

Jeremy Cowan  5:47 

I think so. I mean, they seem to move as one almost faster than the eye can detect. So, I always wondered when I first saw these – because, like you, I have a fascination for understanding how this was happening when you saw flights of starlings twisting and turning together – I used to wonder whether or not there was one key starling, where there was, you know, the king or queen that they followed. But you’re saying it’s more a question of moving in sequence with those around you.

Gilli Coston  6:19 

That’s right. And of course, the reason they do it is to make themselves appear bigger. To make it look like they’re a much bigger thing – for a shark to pick off one fish, or an eagle to pick off one starling. It makes it really difficult when you’ve got lots of, hundreds thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of birds flocking together.

Jeremy Cowan  6:42 

So the technology applications for something like this would be in what, satellite management or drone management?

Gilli Coston  6:50 

Well, I think I would maybe even broaden it further. I think those are really good ideas, because they take on the idea of flight. But I think, to use your metaphor, the glide path, to really use this sort of thing in IoT could actually be looking at things that you don’t bump into. So, the theories that they looked at was like an attraction zone, so the area that’s closest to you. You’re just looking at the next person, or the next device and seeing what it’s doing. I see no reason why this isn’t sort of an advanced networking, because that’s really what it is. It’s an advanced networking solution in flight, you could apply that to anything.

Jeremy Cowan  7:38 

Yeah. Ken, what do you take from that? There’s always lessons from nature, aren’t there?

Ken Figueredo  7:44  

Yes, I mean, there’s a lot to learn. I think some of the interesting things are about cooperation, you could argue that there’s a lot of peer-to-peer interaction going on amongst the flock of birds. And technologically, a lot of people are looking at peer-to-peer systems. I think the other thing for me, I’ve been interested in this from the early days of being at university, is the whole idea of systems and systems of systems interacting with one another, which is quite complicated. I mean, we tend to look at things simply and have difficulty dealing with interactions between systems, and also the idea of unintended consequences. So, I think this kind of research is fascinating for trying to stitch together well, what is going on between these groups of seven birds, and then the other birds around them.

Jeremy Cowan  8:40 

Gilli, will you do us a favour and keep an eye on this story? Because I think there’s probably going to be learnings not only in the IoT, but in the wider enterprise. So, if you see something coming out of this, let us know we can get you back on to talk about this.


Gilli Coston   8:59            
Thank you. Sure.  


Jeremy Cowan  9:01

Ken, what news has caught your eye lately?

Ken Figueredo  9:03 

Well, a lot of my work takes a medium- to long-term view, so I’m always looking at strategic trends and keeping an eye on them. The story that caught my eye came out in the news a few weeks ago and it concerns a company called originally the Long Island Tea Corporation. And the Long Island Tea Corporation, as you might guess, makes and sells iced tea. In 2017, the company changed its name to the Long Blockchain Corporation and pivoted. (Laughter)

Nowadays we hear a lot about digital transformation and pivoting to new opportunities. Well, these guys pivoted to blockchain and their stock price went up by a multiple of three. So, if you’re holding you did well, as long as you got out. Anyway, earlier this year, the US Securities & Exchanges Commission, which has been looking at what the company’s been doing, revoked its stock registration. So, the blockchain piece, essentially is going or gone. But the iced tea portion is still operational, so you can still buy their iced tea. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  10:23 

Well, somebody has jumped on a bandwagon there. And you can’t blame them for trying it. But obviously, it hasn’t lasted. I mean, I guess there could be a big role for blockchain in partner ecosystems, such as the Internet of Things where we’re always looking at this more closely. Ecosystems seem to be becoming more and more important with every passing year. It’s got to be important anywhere where trust is critical? Would you agree with that?

Ken Figueredo  10:53 

Um, well, the reason why I picked this story, it requires us to step back a little bit and say, ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’ As opposed to ‘what technology can I throw at a problem?’ And when you talk about the Internet of Things and ecosystems, yes, there are ecosystems amongst providers and partners. You can also make the case that there’s an ecosystem of technologies that you use IoT to connect to devices and sensors, and collect data. But you also need to bring in, let’s say, machine learning or an AI (artificial intelligence) component to help you with the decision-making. You might use distributed ledger technology, if you want to change the dynamics of trust. Okay. But the key question there is, what are you trying to do? And if you say, ‘Well, I want to change the dynamics of trust’, you’re then talking about innovating the business model, the business construct, and then you have to decide, ‘well, is blockchain the way to do it?’

I mean, you could just as well say, ‘I’ll use a distributed database’, right, because they achieve the same, same thing. I think the other point I want to make is, if you sort of throw technology at a problem, you don’t necessarily think enough about the consequences of what you’re doing. So, to take blockchain or distributed ledger technologies, you’re changing the nature of trust, it’s more cooperative trust. But by putting information to the blockchain, you’re making all that information visible to everybody involved in that ecosystem. So, if you’re a publicly-traded company, and you’re putting operational information into the blockchain, are you releasing that information before you disclose it to your investors? Okay, so that’s kind of like a consequence of going down this path. And I’ve seen that play out where, you know, a company did a pilot, did something very successful. And then, when the company looked at it beyond the pilot, as an operational system, they said, ‘Well, we can’t do this, right? So we have to find a different way of doing it.’

So that’s why I always say, think of what’s the problem you’re solving? And then what’s the appropriate technology to solve that problem?

Jeremy Cowan  13:22 

I like the Russian saying, ‘Trust but verify’. (Laughter) I mean, it’s been ascribed to the KGB, but I think it’s a broader sense, because after all, this is a decentralised technology. It’s an impartial ledger. So, no single player can control it. I mean, if you’re dealing in partnerships, or if you’re trying to deal in trust, it can give guarantees which may encourage previously unconnected partners to learn to trust.

Ken Figueredo  13:53 

It can. I think, I think this is, you know, one of the issues with progress, that we’re now moving into an era, if you use a distributed trust system, you’re almost having to ask the question, do I trust the people they’re enforcing the trust? And that’s why you’re starting to see the emergence of like permissioned-blockchain, somebody’s orchestrating an environment and granting permission to everybody in that environment to trust one another. It’s interesting, I started looking at this around 2013-2014 when I was doing some work for an investor that was looking at Central Bank Digital Currency. And at that time, there was a lot of focus on Bitcoin. And, you know, one of the issues people have found is the trust resides in the mining organisations and the organisations that are proving the integrity of the blockchain. And there was an incident where somebody cornered the market, they got 51% of all of the mining capacity. So you need somebody sitting above that saying, ‘well, is my mining, infrastructure truly distributed and trustworthy?’ So, it’s not as straightforward as throwing a technology at a problem. You really do have to think about the kind of the business problem you’re solving and whether the technology actually helps with that solution.

Jeremy Cowan  15:32 

Thanks, Ken. My take on the serious news this time comes from a BBC news site, which published a surprising call by the UK security agency, GCHQ. Andthey suggested that local councils should start preparing for cyber attack. Now, I’ve worked with local councils and I can tell you, the ones around here are barely prepared for a hole in the road. But whether they are prepared for a cyber attack, only time will tell. Obviously, this isn’t just a UK story that the same applies globally, in every connected economy. You only need to look at the ransomware attack on the Colonial oil pipelines in the US to see what attacks can do.

Smart cities are a different story. Obviously, they’re expected to be a target for hackers. And councils will need to be prepared because they do handle a lot of the data and a lot of the connectivity. And the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is talking about the role of sensors and IoT-enabled devices in improving urban services. But they say they could also be used by state or criminal hackers to disrupt those very city services. So, the NCSC has just published some guidance for local authorities on how to secure ‘connected places’. And, as we enter an era of far greater rollout of smart cities, I’m sure these principles will apply. And local authorities are going to have to learn how to design and manage their systems to protect data, or at least learn how to find the skills elsewhere that can do this.

This could be, it could be life-critical data for a connected hospital, or access to a power grid. So, my fear is that ensuring the necessary level of security will remain somewhat of a low priority for local councils, sadly until there’s a serious attack that causes maybe loss of life, or, or a critically serious service failure. Maybe I’m being cynical, but I fear that that may be the case. Gilli, what’s your thoughts about this?

Gilli Coston  18:08 

Oh, gosh, I think there’s so many angles to look at it from. If you look at maybe right back at the beginning of M2M (machine-to-machine communications) and the early beginnings of IoT, then there was a lot of vertical applications that had a lot of security built in. Whereas with IoT it is an ecosystem. So, there’s a different angle, as you’ve talked about with blockchain, in some ways that helps, in some ways it hinders. But you know, whether it’s the SIM, the device, the application, the network, you know, that sort of interoperability of security seems to me to be, you know, vitally important. And the thing I really liked about the story that you’ve hit on, and, you know, reading that myself as well, you know, the impact in the US example, I found it incredible, that Dark Side really kind of were fully in it for profit, and they have a ‘rent a ransom’ model, you know, ransomware as a service. I mean, that’s incredible to me. Then thinking to myself, well, if we had a similar hacker mentality, walking in their shoes, how would you respond? How would you do it differently? How could we sort of use the same bits in the business models, to Ken’s point, that actually target organisations to work together? Because I think one of the big challenges for companies that have sadly been affected by ransomware is that they want to keep it secret. They don’t want their customers to know about it. And of course, then you don’t get the learnings. So, you know, that’s a concern.

I think in some areas, they talked about even making it illegal for companies to pay the ransom, which I can’t quite fathom whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But it seems incredibly well organised. And it’s not just sort of the black hat or the white hat hackers that we used to see. And it’s everybody’s problem. So, finding a way to collaborate on any security as a service model, that people want to get involved in and want to share their learnings on would be a really good thing.

Jeremy Cowan  20:23 

I think declaring that you have been hacked is probably one of the few ways of getting a degree of openness, forcing that declaration by law is one of the only ways. Because at the moment, judging from an article I read in the Financial Times only a couple of days ago, the average payout in these cases is running at around $150,000. So, there’s no incentive for the hackers to tell a great deal, and certainly those who’ve been hacked, want to say as little as possible about it. We’re never going to know the full extent of this, and therefore we’re never going to be able to tackle it best if we don’t have some declaration. Ken, am I being naive in asking for that?

Ken Figueredo  21:10 

I think it’s convoluted. You have to ask the question, how could regulators force disclosure evenly across the market? How would you enforce that on non-listed companies, for example. There’s a whole court set of complications, and I suspect we could have a whole session on this. I think there are two points I would make in the context of cities and IoT. I think the first thing is, we’re doing something new. Okay. And so that’s placing a burden on cities to try and do something new. Many organisations, including cities, lacks skills, access to skills and expertise. And I think there’s a fundamental issue that all cities face around the world. If you’re not a London, or a Washington or a Los Angeles, if you’re a small and medium-sized city, and you have very limited budget to deploy these kinds of technologies, there’s an issue for cities to try and find ways of cooperating or collaborating to get the most out of the scarce expertise there is out there.

Then the second point is, when you look at it from an IoT perspective, in the early days of IoT the focus was very much on connectivity, connecting things. It was about hardware and modules and communications networks and wireless networks. The future is about data. There’s a nice saying from the Open Data Institute in London that says, Data is the new Infrastructure. And that requires a very different shift in thinking. I can get my data, right, that connectivity and transmission problem is difficult, but it’s largely solved. But how do I manage data? How do I keep data secure? How do I share data selectively? Right, so that’s going to require a whole new set of procedures and tools. And, you know, that’s something I’ll talk about when we talk about more of what oneM2M is doing.

Jeremy Cowan  23:16 

Yeah, well your timing is excellent, because that’s exactly what I wanted to turn to you now. Ken, IoT-Now.com recently carried a really interesting article from you with the provocative headline, Does the world need another IoT standard? So, I guess the question is, are we being burdened with tech standards, as that headline implies? And does the world need another?

Ken Figueredo  23:43 

Yes, that might have been a bit of a trick statement, because it’s not so much a question of being burdened by standards. I believe that we are moving into a future where standards will become even more important, and there’s going to be a strategic choice about how you participate and making some standards. Just to put it in perspective, I was listening to a webinar last week, looking at international relations between Europe and China. And one of the speakers said that at a recent (Chinese) Party Congress, one of the top politicians spoke about the importance of standardisation. He spoke for 30 minutes, and spoke without notes. Now, just imagine any Western politician being able to talk about standardisation without notes. So, standardisation is, is strategically important.

I talked about the cities having to do new things with smart city applications and data. And when you do new things, you have to solve them in new ways. So, the question is, do you solve them as one-off problems or do you try and solve them through standardisation? I would make the case that actually yes, we do need standardisation for the new things that we’re doing. But what we should do is we should promote standardisation that tackles the new problems. I think what we need to do is to say we have standards that work very well, you know, they do certain things. But we need to find a way of joining those standards together to deliver the more complex types of IoT service and application that we’re starting to see. And you see them in cities, multi-tenant buildings, intelligent transport, anywhere where you have multiple organizations collaborating, they’re bringing data and they’re sharing data, and they’re making developing insights and, and making decisions based on data.

Jeremy Cowan  26:03 

Those two examples, you quote, both tend to be private networks, private areas, campuses, like a building or a port, which suggests partner ecosystems have a role to play in achieving standardisation. Is that fair?

Ken Figueredo  26:19 

I think there are two things; partner ecosystems, when you look at them, are there to try and make it easy for organisations to adopt a solution. So when you look at the growth of the M2M and the IoT industry, you had a lot of mobile operators standing up partner ecosystems. Now, you see a lot of the cloud service providers creating the partner ecosystems, and some of the hardware vendors also create partner ecosystems. And so partner ecosystems are very useful for adopters to try and get something up and going quickly. But it’s a bit like eating, right? Which ecosystem are you going to pick? Do you want Italian? Or do you want Indian? Or do you want burgers? Or do you want fast food or what you want a la carte? So, there’s a little bit of a burden on the adopter, in terms of choosing which partner ecosystem to pick? And then I would say on the supplier side, a lot depends on the governance of the ecosystem. Is it a very curated ecosystem? Somebody controls who comes in and who comes out? Or is it an open ecosystem that allows little start-ups, innovative start-ups to come in and offer their services and help grow the ecosystem? Again, how’s that run? And what’s the attraction to the adopters?

Jeremy Cowan  27:48 

You mentioned openness? I mean, one of the first thoughts that I had about this was that there might be some parallel with telecoms, which is moving slowly in the same direction, where telecoms has a new-found emphasis on open radio access networks, designed – amongst other things – to avoid vendor lock-in. Do you think there are parallels there?

Ken Figueredo  28:12 

There are some. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on, on open RAN. But my understanding is it’s taking the radio access network, and disaggregating it, splitting it up into three main components apart, and trying to some stuff I’ve read is, is trying to get away from the proprietary capabilities that have been being built into these operands. So what they want to do is to open up the interfaces and enable interoperability between equipment from different vendors. So that idea of openness and interoperability, and the ability to mix vendors is very much relevant in the IoT arena. I think what’s slightly different in the IoT arena is it goes beyond hardware and communications. And it’s now moving to incompatibility and the data level. So if I pick up a temperature sensor reading in my, in my office space, can I share that sensor data with the building manager? Do we have a common language for sharing that data? Yeah.

Jeremy Cowan  29:19 

So is oneM2M, the only association that’s working to enable these suites of common reusable tools? Or do you have allies that you can work with on this in order to manage different IoT stacks?

Ken Figueredo  29:38 

Well, so oneM2M is is unique as a formal standards body. So oneM2M is trying to make IoT scalable and interoperable. oneM2M is modeled on 3GPP. So what 3GPP has been doing for the last 20-plus years is managing and evolving the standard for cellular communications. And, you know, they’ve gone from standing start to, I think they’re working on Release 16 and Release 17. And those are official standards backed by national standards bodies and so forth. And that’s what oneM2M is doing. It’s doing standards for the IoT, it’s currently working on Release 5.

I mean, I would contrast it with industry alliances, which are more focused, let’s say on promoting a particular solution or trying to foster business networking amongst member participants, but they don’t have a pathway to standardisation at the national level or at the international level. So, to put that in perspective, oneM2M was set up by national standards bodies in the Americas, so North America, ETSI in Europe, a couple of them TTC in Japan, TTI in Korea, CCSA in China, and then recently TSDSI in India. So, these national standardisation bodies wanted to avoid global fragmentation. And they are also the very same organisations that sit behind, promoted 3GPP. So, it’s very neutral, open, collaborative; it’s not as if you’re paying to participate. Anybody can become a member, contribute, and anybody can download the specifications and apply and it’s free.

Jeremy Cowan  31:37 

That’s really helpful. Gilli, you’ve got a lot of experience in the IoT. What do you unpack from all of that?

Gilli Coston  31:45 

Ken, that was brilliant. I really enjoyed hearing more about oneM2M, because it wasn’t one that I knew a lot about. And there’s a couple of projects that I’m working on that I think that would be really interested to follow up on. I was also really interested in thinking about Ken’s point about enabling different brands, especially as we come into consumer IoT. And I do think standards are really important if we want mass adoption, mass consumer adoption, because we only have to look at Zigbee, and Bluetooth and good examples like that, where you get consumer standardisation, and you’ll get products that people are really using and still using many years forward.

So I was really interested that the ZigBee Alliance have changed their name to the Connected Standards Alliance. And doing exactly that, looking at multiple devices. And I was really encouraged also by the fact that their membership is also a lot of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), like Signify and Honeywell, and those types of organisations, and semiconductor OEMs. I think that end of the market, I’ve always watched the NMI, or the National Microelectronics Institute, I think they’re doing a great job out there. And sort of linking that up with oneM2M, thinking about how sort of the long range of standards for lots of consumer devices. And to Ken’s point about the data, then it becomes more about having the platforms and the portals.

So, you’ve got the edge devices, with good security and good standards. And you’ve got the mass adoption, that you really need those portals and platforms. And I think those types of things could really help the local councils, because therefore, they’re not having to worry about the edge devices, because they’re really managing with the reporting and the usable data from it.

Jeremy Cowan  33:51 

Yeah. And thank you very much. There’s a real eye-opener there about standards. And I’m sure it’s something we’re going to be coming back to.

Gilli, can I turn to you? I was intrigued by the name of your company, as soon as I heard it. What does The Horsepower Partnership do?

Gilli Coston  34:09 

Well, the name has been many years in the making, actually. So the Horsepower Partnership has two aspects to it. It has IoT consulting, and advisory services end. And the advisory services also look at people development within start-up and scale-up organisations, as well as large media organisations. So we’re in the tech, the TMT (telecoms, media & technology) space and working with quite a few different technology companies in helping them with their development and their scale, both from a technology point of view in IoT and also people development, which is brilliant and we’ve been able to do a lot of that online. But we also have an outdoor aspect to it. So, I manage a herd of horses on a 15-acre farm in a very natural environment, hence my fascination with the starlings. Because we really created a lovely natural environment.

What we’re able to do is all for corporate customers, corporate clients the opportunity to bring them executives or their teams to do Outdoor Leadership programmes at the farm and also work with the horses, either one-to-one or in groups, because there’s a lot of learning as we said, from nature. We get a lot of clues. And for every corporate client that we work with, we do offset some of that to pro bono work. I’m just in the process of setting up a CIC for The Horsepower Partnership. And that means that we can give back to vulnerable people that can’t necessarily afford mindset coaching or leadership coaching or finding their way out of their struggles.

Jeremy Cowan  36:01 

Forgive me, what is CIC?

Gilli Coston  36:04 

It’s a Community Interest Company.

Jeremy Cowan  36:07 

Okay.

Gilli Coston  36:08 

Yeah. So, it’s a not-for-profit organisation. We’re in the process after a year of working with corporates, and we really felt that we wanted to give back and so we rescue horses, we bring in horses into the herd from the Blue Cross. And those are horses that have been maltreated, and they’re recovering. It’s a way of sort of giving back something, and also for key workers, etc.

Jeremy Cowan  36:37 

This is quite a directional change for you after a career in senior IoT leadership. What made you take that change of direction?

Gilli Coston  36:47 

Do you know what, it doesn’t feel like a change of duration? Because it’s actually all about communication? That’s the overarching theme, and whether you’re communicating with devices, or big systems, or people, and generally, there’s a human element to it. So just keeping it real.

Jeremy Cowan  37:06 

What have you learned from mentoring people in this way? Because it sounds outside my experience, I haven’t heard of anybody else doing anything quite like this.

Gilli Coston  37:15 

You know what, I was blown away in the first sessions that I did. Because I’ve obviously been people coaching for many years as you do through your career. But the speed at which working with the horses, the rapid change work that happens, because horses give you the instant feedback. And I’m really not watching the person, I’m watching the horse, because the horse gives instant feedback on what they’re doing. So, whether you’ve got a chief executive, trying to lead a horse by pulling it, that’s a bit of a metaphor in and of itself. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  37:55 

So the coaching and mentoring and training needs of business people, are they evolving still? Are you seeing any differences in the run-up to the pandemic, or since the pandemic?

Gilli Coston  38:07 

Yeah, I’ve seen more need for care and compassion, What we’ve seen is that problems that existed in the business with communications were exacerbated during lockdown. So, we’ve seen more investment on one-to-one coaching, with individuals, both at senior level and middle management level, because there’s been more emphasis on middle managers to really help and drive. And then we’ve seen quite a bit in the start-up, sort of 20 to 30 people plus. We’ve seen a fair bit needed to self-power, if you like. Ken called it Distributed Trust. And I’ve written that down, I’m gonna steal that, Ken. Because it’s all about trust in your people, in your organization, especially when you’re working remotely. Do what you say you’re gonna do, but also give people trust, and don’t just leave them on their own, you know, be compassionate leaders.

Jeremy Cowan  39:09 

Ken, what do you make of this?

Ken Figueredo  39:12 

Yes, it makes a lot of sense. I remember many years ago, coming across a stable not very far away from where we live. And they were particularly set up for, to bring in young children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to work with horses, because it developed a sense of responsibility. You’re taking care of another creature, it also developed empathy. And these are clearly skills, you need in management.

Jeremy Cowan  39:48 

Absolutely. Well, I’m sure we can all take something from that. We’ll ask later where people can find out more about this, Gilli, and from you, Ken. We’ll come back to that in a while, but for now we’ve reached the final section of the pod, which is called What The Tech where we share a tech-based story that either amused or amazed us. So, go on, Gilli, what struck you?

Gilli Coston  40:12 

Well, I kind of thought we would talk about your module, Jeremy. I know you didn’t expect to talk about your module. But your story really fascinated me because I’m actually blind in one eye, and not a lot of people know that. I have all sorts of problems, because I have double vision all the time, for everything. And I can’t see in 3D. So, I was really interested in your story about the AR (augmented reality).,

Jeremy Cowan  40:52 

And the contact lenses. Yeah, it’s an extraordinary story. If you don’t mind me jumping to it now, I’ll go to it. Because I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. There’s a company in California called Mojo Vision. And they haven’t just started, they’ve been working on this for a while, from the sound of it. They’ve developed a contact lens with a miniature built-in display. And these smart lenses are designed to let you view augmented reality images on a screen that doesn’t sit in front of your eyeballs, it sits on your eyeballs. And I use lenses periodically as well. And I find it fascinating that somebody is going to be able to deliver that to me, because I’m sure I could use it. Mojo Vision is now apparently partnering with a very established Japanese-based contact lens maker called Menicon. To turn this concept into a viable product, and the partners are working to improve not only the contact lens materials, but also the cleaning and the fitting, and all the practical sides of it that may not immediately fall into a concept. Mojo Vision apparently can call on vast amounts of research from Menicon, not least of all into lens coatings. But even things like how the devices are interacting with the human body. So, it sounds as though it’s getting a lot closer to market. What was your take on that? Is that something that you would use Gilli?

Gilli Coston  42:37 

Well, I first of all I would like to know if it would work because when I wear lenses I only wear one obviously because the other eye doesn’t work. And I think that it would give you a real kind of another dimension to what you’re seeing. So if I think about being out with the horses, for example, you notice small things like eye movements that can generate data and information that can make you even more skilled, so I know when the ears go in different directions then you can build a picture over time and learn and the more you interact with it, the more you learn. But if you could have a contact lens, where all of that data was gathered it would just speed up learning for humans. In any topic. Basically, it’s a bit like The Matrix, I’ve always fancied just having a plug-in. (Laughter) Maybe it’s in the front rather than the back.

Jeremy Cowan  43:36 

But I think it would be amazing. I’m really intrigued and looking forward to trying it. Ken, does it fill you with hope or horror?

Ken Figueredo  43:46 

It’s funny, it reminds me of something from 10 years ago. I was working with a team at McKinsey. And this idea came up in discussion, which is as you grow older, you become forgetful, but you need to remember more things. So, picture this scenario where you’re walking across a room, a busy room, and you’re about to meet somebody and as you walk up to them, you get this little message through your glasses into your ear saying, ‘This is Joe, you last met him three months ago and this is what you talked about.’ (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  44:22 

That is brilliant. I could so use that!

Ken Figueredo  44:24 

This whole idea that you have a connected pair of eyeglasses or a hearing device. And it’s able to visually look at using the room. Recognise people, understand who you’re going to talk to, and then it’ll tell you the backstory so that when you do go up to Joe you say, ‘Hey, Joe,’ rather than you know, ‘Haven’t we met before?’ You’re very quickly into it. So yeah, I can see the benefit of it.

Jeremy Cowan  44:55 

Exactly, it’s the upside of Terminator, isn’t it? (Laughter) Ken, what have you seen in the news that amused or amazed you?

Ken Figueredo  45:04 

Well, I know you’re a bit of a Southampton football fan, so I’m going to talk about somebody called Bryan Robson, but not THE Bryan Robson.

Jeremy Cowan  45:16 

(Laughter) Okay.

Ken Figueredo  45:18 

And if anybody can track this down, there’s a wonderful interview on the Today programme on (BBC) Radio Four. And I had to stop work because I was crying with laughter, it was so funny. So, Brian Robson emigrated from the UK at the age of 19 and went to work in Australia, but really didn’t like it. But didn’t have enough money to pay for the airfare to come back. Anyway, he saw this ad in the cinema for Pickfords, the removals firm, and the strapline was, ‘We move boxes anywhere in the world’. So, he got two of his friends, to nail him up in a in a box. And to ship it back to the UK. And this is the brilliant bit, Cash On Delivery. So, they didn’t have to pay upfront.

Now, unfortunately, instead of going directly to the UK, I think the box ended up in Sydney. It was sat on the runway for about 24 hours, then got shipped to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, a couple of warehouse workers spotted something out about the box and opened it up and found Brian and you know, he was in pretty bad shape because he’d been in this box for about five or six days, with his knees up to his chest. So, when they actually opened the box and took him out of the box, he was lying on the floor with his knees up to his chest because his body couldn’t unflex. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  46:52 

Hideous! (Laughter) My idea of a nightmare.

Ken Figueredo  46:55  

He was interviewed by the FBI, and they very nicely persuaded Pan-Am not to fly him back to Australia, but to fly him home to the UK. He says it was an absolutely stupid thing to do. (Laughter)


Jeremy Cowan  46:52 

He’s not wrong there. (Laughter)

Ken Figueredo  46:55 

He went out with the story because he had lost touch with his two Irish friends that helped package him and he was really quite keen to find them. And just to kind of bring this around to the IoT and technology, when you think about supply chains and tracking packages and parcels nowadays, you know, where things are right? If he had a smartphone, his friends could track him across the world. (Laughter)

The other thing apparently was, when he was in LA – even though they had painted a This Side Up sign on the side of the box – the box was stored upside down. So, he was in this box for like three or four days upside down, until he was …

Jeremy Cowan  48:06 

Upside down? I mean, what could possibly have gone wrong? What was he thinking?

Ken Figueredo  48:12 

It’s a wonderful story and if you hear him being interviewed, he’s a hilarious bloke, and it’s tremendously funny.

Jeremy Cowan  48:18 

We’ll have to look that one out. I remember from what you said about it, that it was going under the headline of The Crate Escape, which I loved. Ken, thank you for that. Sadly, as always with these things, we are out of time. So, let me just wrap this all up. And how do you encompass contact lenses, people being transported upside down, Horsepower Partnerships and oneM2M standards? I don’t know. I’m not even gonna try. I just wanted to say a big thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us to first of all, Gilli Coston of The Horsepower Partnership.

Gilli Coston  48:55 

Thanks very much, Jeremy. Ken’s last story made me think about the value of thinking inside the box.

Jeremy Cowan  49:06 

(Laughter) Absolutely, and Gilli, how can people contact you for more information?

Gilli Coston  49:09 

Oh, they can just get me at gilli[at]thehorsepowerpartnership.com.

Jeremy Cowan  49:14 

That’s G-I-L-L-I.

Gilli Coston  49:17 

Yeah, that’s right. Well remembered.

Jeremy Cowan  49:19 

And my thanks, too, to Ken Figueredo of More With Mobile. Ken, how can people reach you?

Ken Figueredo  49:26 

Through my LinkedIn, so Ken.Figueredo on LinkedIn. But I’ve also written and spoken at many events. So, it usually comes up on Google search.

Jeremy Cowan  49:36 

Well, that’s great. Ken, it’s been great to have you too. Thank you.

Ken Figueredo  49:39 

Thank you very much.

Jeremy Cowan  49:41 

Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, don’t forget please to subscribe to the pod wherever you find us. And please spare us a moment just to give us a five-star rating and say something really nice about the pod. Yes, it’s going to make our Mums happy. But more importantly, it really boosts our SEO rankings.

So, keep safe. And check out TheEE.ai, IoT-Now.com and VanillaPlus.com for tech news and features, and join us again very soon for another Trending Tech podcast, looking at enterprise digital transformation. Thank you and bye for now.

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