Peter Cochrane

E-commerce, Futurists, Innovation, Technology

Travels from Cambridge, United Kingdom

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Peter Cochrane Profile

Peter Cochrane is one of the world′s most respected and sought-after speakers on technology, change and the future effects of change on corporations and individuals. He is the former Head of Research at British Telecommunications plc, the UK′s largest telecommunications company.

Renowned for his out of the box thinking, Peter produces a monthly blog for, one of the leading information sites for the technology industry. Peter is the author of over 1000 blogs, articles and scientific papers, numerous books on the future, technology, business, management, and living with rapid change.

Peter is a seasoned professional with over 40 years of hands on technology and operational experience. He has been involved in the creation and deployment of new technologies, the transformation of corporations, and the starting of many new businesses. He currently serves on the board of companies in the EU & USA.

His career in BT saw him progress to Head of Research and CTO with a 1000 strong team engaged in studies spanning optical fiber, fixed and mobile networks, terminals and interfaces, artificial life and healthcare, through to war gaming, eCommerce, eRetail, eLogistics and business modelling.

Peter’s PhD was pivotal in helping BT to decide to go all-digital and all-optical in the 1970’s, and he played a key technology role in a downsizing of BT from 242,000 to 110,000 people in the 1990s.

Since leaving BT in 2000 Peter Cochrane has been involved in the start up sector as an Angel and Venture Capitalist with an involvement in setting up new companies in the Travel, Entertainment, Logistics, IT, Security, Education and Healthcare sectors. He was one of the founding directors of eBookers – a start up that became the biggest eTravel business in the EU, reaching over $1Bn turnover in it′s fourth year of operation.

Peter has also spent time in academia as an educator. He was appointed as the UK’s first Professor for the Public Understanding of Science & Technology in 1998. A graduate of Nottingham Trent and Essex Universities, Peter has received notable recognition with the Queen′s Award for Innovation & Export in 1990 and Honorary Doctorates from Essex, Robert Gordon, Stafford, Nottingham Trent and Brunel Universities.

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    Financially stressed times sees companies hunker down, cut costs, rightsize, hoard money, and protect markets. But the tech transformation continues apace along with the industry leaders who ′make hay′ to steal a march on the rest. Ultimately, mounting market threat prompts more innovation across the board – products, services, operations, management – everything! The biggest mistake is to suppose that business will continue as normal and an ′innovation program′ is like any other. Hierarchy, heavy duty management, strong project control, and the practices of the past are the enemies of success. Freedom of thought, openness of mind, and multi-disciplinary teams with freedom of action are the key ingredients of success.

    Optical Fibre To The Home (FTTH)

    FTTH, office and company is the only technology capable of meeting the needs and demands of 21C societies. With more wireless devices automatically demanding more optical fibre everywhere to meet the needs of The Cloud and new ways of working it is paradoxical to see parts of the network industry and government still debating this issue. Bandwidth and traffic demand curves tell a very positive story, and without more bandwidth existing and and future industries cannot gain a foothold let alone flourish. Given that FTTH now costs-in against new install and replacement; copper technologies cannot deliver the speed or symmetry of service; or indeed the 90% reduction in OPEX, 70% reduction in staffing, and 95% improvements in reliability and resilience, it is difficult to understand the need for any debate or indeed the present low levels of investment.

    Ahead In The Cloud

    Ignoring cloud-based technology is to deny a company and it′s people the freedoms and new modes of working that the 21st Century demands. It is no longer a concept, it is a service reality and the lead adopters are realizing significant savings and more productive workforces. The big worries around security, reliability, resilience, machine and application control turned out to be unfounded and unwarranted.

    Right Sourcing

    We are challenged by continual and accelerating change, the need to do more with less, and to do it better, without destroying the planet! Energy, material, machine and people resources are finite and exhaustible. So how do you find what you need quickly, exploit the moment, and move on? In a word, technology! The networking of people, machines, things, suppliers, facilities and crowds all play a part in solving this conundrum.

    Industrial Revolution 2.0 (IR2.0)

    IR2.0 has started, and is taking shape at the intercept of bio, nano-tech, and ITC. The first printed car has been produced and a laboratory on a chip demonstrated. 3D replicators are being deployed, and genetically programmed materials are on track to transform medicine and pharmaceuticals. We have to think in terms of more change than IR1.0 and a transition from open software to open hardware, and of course, radically new business models.

    Think Fast – Act Different

    The words social, personal, green and cloud are not mere tag lines for fashionable change or momentary fads, they underline basic changes impacting everyone. These are unlikely to be addressed and serviced by old companies and old industries, as they demand new attitudes, behaviours, working practices and technologies. In this world we see ‘need-to-know’ usurped by ‘need-to-share’, management control sidelined by group influence, and the ‘prima-donna’ overtaken by the coherent multi-disciplinary team. So we have to address overall performance, but we have to remember that increased efficiency can lead to brittleness we have to design designed for reliability and resilience.

    When Machines Design Machines!

    It should come as no surprise that machines are now designing machines. The chips that power our computers and mobile phones, the robots and commercial processing plants on which we depend, all are now largely designed by machines. So what of us - will be totally usurped, or are we looking at a new symbiosis with human and artificial intelligences combined to realise the best outcomes possible. In most respects we have no choice! Human abilities alone cannot solve any of the major problems that confront our species, and machine intelligence is now an imperative. Far from being taken out of the design loop, we will find ourselves with a new and more vital role…

    Where, Were, Wear, Ware

    At the end of 2011 there will be near 6Bn digital mobile phones with around 60% sporting internet browsers, wifi and BlueTooth. Laptops, NetBooks, iPads, and Desktop PCs will on the other hand number less than 2Bn. The implications are clear; business and new opportunities will be dominated by mobility and automation. This will be complimented by the rise of artificial intelligence, information management, business modelling, and decision support allied with location based services and sensor nets. This can be exemplified by the paradigm: where am I, what am I doing, what/who do I need, and what is the next step I am about to take. BUT there is no gain without pain! We will have to give up some freedoms and privacy to benefit from what is on offer. It is a future where the need to share outflanks the need to know, hoarding, and control.

    What do Machines Think?

    Our perception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been mired by the immutable fact that we have no description, definition, quantification or measure of intelligence. We simply cannot describe or say what it is! The best we can do is to draw on some general concepts of neuron count and connectedness.

    But not understanding something doesn’t mean to say we cannot use and exploit it! Here we address the most fundamental question; what makes something intelligent? Using a series of logical delimiters we develop an engineering measure of relative intelligence and demonstrate that sensors and sensory systems appear to play a far more important part than memory and processing power.

    New Challenges for Retailing

    There has never been a time when the speed of change has been so dramatic, and the customer so knowledgeable and demanding. On-line sales are rivaling retail outlets, and in some sectors they totally dominate. Moreover, customers very often know more about a product and the competition than the retailer or on-line outlet. So this is a time to address all the opportunities available and business models that now span material sourcing through manufacture, supply, sales, support and disposal. It is also necessary to consider all routes to market, and to examine the relationship with customers. Mobility, and social networking. More extreme is the impending deployment of 3D printers and distributed design and manufacture. So the big question is; how do organizations adapt to take advantage of the new business opportunities?

    Seeing Is Believing - PERHAPS

    Around the time of the reformation art, science, technology, engineering and medicine were placed in silos. This accelerated each discipline whilst holding back many of the benefits to be gained from their linking. Today they are coming back together as a recognised, and much required force for innovation, solution finding and greater understanding at the very time when we are progressively being overtaken and swamped by vast amounts of data. In this presentation we examine the future role of visualisation, modelling, war gaming and artificial intelligence in helping us cope with the rising tide of complexity.

    Finding Not Filing

    We now live in a world of exponential change, unparalleled complexity, and chaotic systems. A world where finding is more important than filing, and understanding is paramount in making the best business and social decisions. For continued advance and progress we need ICT to assume new levels of intelligence and ability. In short, we need cognitive search and inference engines augmented by modeling and gamification.

    What′s on The Cards for Cards?

    The credit card business is about to be revolutionised by contactless technology (RFID) that will see the ′card swipe′ become a ′card wave′. But this is the least we should expect as all forms of card (Credit, Debit, ID, Membership, Licences, Loyalty, Pass +++) become integrated into mobile phones. Who will win this race? The first company go beyond the old ′card process and model′ to manage all our cards in an integrated environment, and one that recognises that Meta-Data is far more valuable than Data.

    Combating The Cyber Threat

    The motivation, type, style, time, place and mode of cyber attacks are way beyond the complexity of anything we experienced in the past. Worse, the threat is evolving with our technology, networks, devices and working practices. To counter this we have to think in new ways, adopt new strategies and cease to be dumb and static targets pretending that firewalls and antivirus software will protect us. In a world of Cloud Computing, Mobility, Open Software, Hardware and Applications we need to do something radically different.

    Confounded by Complexity

    For decades our output has accelerated in line with our technology. Telephones, computers, robotics, automation, networks, mobiles, laptops, pads, and the internet have played important roles in the advance of science, industry, commerce, and our understanding of the complex world in which we live. However, we have hit a fundamental limit – us! We cannot input, process, and output data any faster, and in many respects we find ourselves confounded by advancing complexity. In short, we need help!

    Innovate or Die

    The only thing that saves our companies and species from disaster is our innate ability to innovate. We have an absolute need to continually invent and solve problems, and the consequences of not doing so litter the pages of history with failed enterprises and civilisations. There is no doubt about it - stasis kills! Today our choices are richer than ever in terms of technology and operating models, and yet, it is becoming harder for established companies and countries to change fast enough to meet the challenges of markets and a creaking ecology. However, radically new options and help is to hand!

    Banking on The Future

    The public perception of banks is that they are in the money business, and indeed that is where they started. However, they are now in the data business, with money reduced to bits and transactions occurring over networks spanning the globe. And whilst there is business and money to be made in manipulating and communicating data, even more can be leveraged from meta-data. People and companies will pay to be organised, steered, shaped and assured in cyberspace by trusted brands and institutions. Banks are ideally place to play this role, but there is competition that could force them out of the frame.

    Failing Education

    Today′s education experience sprang out of the need for a more capable workforce to power the industrial revolution. Indeed the whole process is industrial and resembles a sausage machine! The uneducated go in at one end and come out at the other fit for purpose, or at least they did! The industrial revolution has long gone but education and teaching has not moved on, and the output now tends to be a zombiefied version of what went in - unthinking, unenthusiastic, lacking in creativity and problem solving skills, but stuffed full of algorithms for solving education problems in support of education facts and figures. In short; the system is broken, and the time of the ′Sage on The Stage′ is over along with the straight jacket of national curricula that sees students uniformly disadvantaged and trained for a world that no longer exists.

    Can HealthCare be Cured

    The current crisis in global healthcare is not a sudden ′stage left′ event, it is something that has been projected and anticipated for well over 20 years. Sadly, successive administrations have chosen not to address the core problems, or engage in new practices wrought by new technologies. So we have witnessed wild swings in policy and organisation from semi-distributed to centralised and back again. But the problem, issues, and solutions require more subtlety. Moving from a curative to preventative, and the Do-It-For-Me to a DIY, future dictates a far different mindset. A successful healthcare system will not be founded on mega-projects, but revolutionary new technologies that will see most of us monitoring our own bodies and diagnosing our own illnesses. At the core will be a new raft of sensors born of the nano and bio-tech revolutions.

    Megatrends and Micro Solutions

    The big challenges facing mankind are encompassed by finite resources that are rapidly being depleted, a growing and aging human population, problematic food and water supplies, climate change, and the mounting complexity of relatedness. Nothing is isolated, relationships are no longer simple, and if there are sustainable solutions to our many problems they demand greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom that can only be furnished by a partnership with our technology. To survive and prosper we have to embrace a new raft of opportunities than span the organic, inorganic and technology spheres, with base solutions that are holistic and resilient.

    Managing in a Chaotic World

    There has never been a time when managers and organisations have been so preoccupied by change. With intervals of organisational stability now seeming a distant memory, constant change appears to be the new norm. How come? Accelerating business critical issues that managers at all levels have to consider; globalisation, markets, the competition, technology, people, politics and demographics. In this environment the old industrial and organisational models fall far short of what is needed to rapidly adopt, adapt and succeed. Centralised hierachical management models fail at a fundamental level, whilst complete autonomy involves too many risks, so a new approach is required....

    Soup to Nuts Retailing

    On-line sales are rivaling retail outlets, and in some sectors they dominate. Customers often know more about products and the competition than retailers and we have to address all the opportunities available and business models spanning material sourcing through manufacture, supply, sales, support and disposal. It is also necessary to consider all routes to market, and to examine the relationship with customers. Mobility, and social networking engender social selling, which is being enhanced by ‘Bar Code’ and ‘Near Field′ (RFID) readers. More extreme is the impending deployment of 3D printers and distributed design and manufacture. So the big question is; how do retail organizations adapt to take advantage of the new business potential on offer?

    When Machines Think

    Our societies and companies we are facing a future of complexity and challenges that require the analytic capabilities of computers to help us make wise decisions. They already do a better job of medical diagnosis and treatment prognosis in areas like breast cancer screening, and without them we would be blind to the vast storehouse of information and knowledge we enjoy via the internet. But if they are to become truly intelligent they will need more than bigger storage capacity and faster processing speeds. The will need a network of sensors and a much greater facility to output their data. That network of sensors is most likely going to be provided by our mobile devices, and the output will be: virtual and augmented reality, haptic 3D robotic presence, and more.

    From Identity to Ownership Theft

    Anyone who has suffered identity theft will tell you how difficult and drawn out it is to reset the clock, clear your name, recover credit ratings and get clear of all the impending financial liabilities and potential losses. Everything in this connected world turns out to be biased against you the victim, and all the advantages lie with the dark side of the force. This situation does not look set to improve anytime soon and could get a whole lot worse as we migrate into the Internet of Things (IoT).

    In a future world where everything is on-line and tagged: with histories of design, sourcing, production, delivery, purchase, ownership, use, reuse, repurposing and recycling; ownership theft becomes an even bigger threat for the most valuable of items. Cars, boats, trailers, TVs, hifi, computers, tablets, mobiles and more will become obvious targets and always at risk. And a change in ownership means a change of user, thereby giving an open door to ongoing data access and misuse of facilities.

    It is hard to imagine or estimate the depth of the implications for future societies if we advance into the IoT without due caution and effective security measures. For sure, continuing to treat security as an afterthought will see catastrophic failures and disruption to commerce and banking on a massive scale. The good news is: we have more resources and technology available for good that the forces of evil, but only if we share, consolidate and act in unison.

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Books by Peter Cochrane:
    Tips for Time Travelers

    Futuristic technologies (which frighten most people) are a delight to Peter Cochrane, an internatinal speaker with Business Week′s Executive Programs, and head of Research at British Telecommunications. Human cloning, identification chips implanted under the skin, digitally enhanced brains, and machines that can think–these are things which he not only believes will occur in the near future; Cochrane actually embraces these scary, science-fiction notions as natural extensions of human development. While he remains an unbashed optimist about the future of technology, he is fully cognizant about the jarring nature of rapid technology, he is fully cognizant about the jarring nature of rapid technological change, both to individuals and to societies. As little as 30 years ago, he points out, an individual would meet and communicate with only 3,000 people in their lifetime. Now, we can do so in a matter of weeks or days.

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    Uncommon Sense: Out of the Box Thinking for An In the Box World

    In Uncommon Sense, Peter Cochrane′s follow up to the radical 108 Tips for Time Traveller, Peter explains how very simple analysis allows the prediction of such debacles as the 3G auction and the subsequent collapse of an industry, whilst simple-minded thinking is dangerous in the context of a world that is predominantly chaotic and out of control.

    People balked when Peter suggested a wholesale move to eWorking, the rise of email and text messaging, and the dotcom regime mirroring the boom and bust cycle of the industrial revolution. His predictions of the use and growth of mobile devices and communication, or use of chip implants for humans to replace ID cards, passports, and medical records, or iris scanners and fingerprint readers – were all seen as unlikely. Today they are a reality.

    How then will the world react to his predictions as set out in Uncommon Sense of a networked world of distributed ignorance and sharing overcoming an old world of concentrated skill and control? To everything becoming ′Napsterised′ in every dimension, where storage and processing power cost nothing, and become connected without the help of the old network companies? A world where individuals create their own networks, where laws of copyright and resale, and old business models have to be changed as giant industries are dragged kicking and screaming out of the 19th Century and into the 21st?

    Peter Cochrane poses and answers questions, suggests solutions, and raises red flags on issues that need to be addressed. Tables, diagrams, pictures and illustrations generously support all of the text, with the most difficult aspects illustrated by simulations and other material on a CD and links to a web site with an ongoing expansion of the themes addressed.

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