Every Business is in the Information Business

Phew…. I have just finished my write up of Infocomm, bringing to an end the peak of news activity in June, when we see both SID and Infocomm. It’s one of three peaks of activity – one at the beginning of the year, with CES, BETT and ISE and with the third being the confluence of IFA and IBC (as well as Cedia, Photokina and, this year, an IHS conference) in September. As someone that has had to make decisions about when to plan a conference, I understand the issues involved in choosing a date. There are often good reasons why there are not many events at particular times of the year, so they tend to “clump”!

Of course, SID and Infocomm are very different events. SID is at the research end of the business and is also dominated by small panel applications, these days. Infocomm is absolutely about big displays and, increasingly collaborative displays. These collaborative displays are very interesting and are going to have a big impact on business meetings and education over the next few years. Although, increasingly, these collaborative displays are LCD-based, projection is fighting back. Long life times and better performance are keeping projection relevant.

During my three week trip, I decided to try the Uber service to get around in Orlando. I had planned to use it when I was in the Bay area, but the only time I really needed a taxi was coming out of a station and a taxi was waiting. As it was rush hour, I took the easy way.

Mostly, the Uber experience was excellent. Apart from one trip, cars arrived in seven or eight minutes, even though there was a show on, and the experience of using the Uber app reinforced a view that I have had for a number of years, that almost every business is actually an information business. In travel, this is especially true. After I discovered the website, which allows the planning of address to address trips in Germany using a wide variety of travel options, I found myself using public transport much more.

The Uber app shows where the car is, using GPS, and how it is getting to you. Most of the time, this is very reassuring, but not always. On the one bad day, first a driver cancelled on me – and I didn’t spot it straight away. I guess that was because of traffic or some other issue. Then it showed that the second driver was heading to the wrong location – just a few hundred metres from me, but the other side of a big hedge! Uber has a special phone system that avoids the need to disclose either the user or driver’s direct phone number, but it seemed to make a mess of connecting me to the driver, so I had the frustration of watching the driver going to the wrong place!

We did eventually communicate, but at one point during the 45 minutes that I ended up waiting for the Uber, I was close to throwing the phone in frustration! I did learn a valuable lesson of the app, though. When you log in, there is a marker showing where your phone thinks you are. However, the driver’s GPS will probably have a problem finding this marker, so, assuming you know the address that you are leaving from, it’s much safer to enter that address.

The fact that feedback is possible and is recorded by the client about the service changes the relationship between driver and passenger, as it does in hotels, restaurants and many other internet-based apps. Taxi drivers in France yesterday were protesting violently against Uber, but the taxi companies could have done what Uber has (mind you, just a pre-booked taxi failing to arrive at a hotel in Paris cost me a lot of hassle some years ago). The Uber app is very well thought out, but it’s not based on anything that existing taxi suppliers could not have done.

As a geek, I was asked, about twenty years ago, to give a talk to a business breakfast club I belonged to about “this internet thing”. I said that I thought every business in the room would be significantly affected. The local lawyers, bankers, taxi companies and property salesmen couldn’t see how it would affect them. It turns out that every business is in the information business, and the display industry is working hard to improve how and where that information delivered!