retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

In our technological world it seems the limits of what can and will be done are always left in the dust. Kevin and I like to speculate on future technologies; needless to say, with us the discussion always comes back to Star Trek.

But in many ways life seems like Star Trek. Consider those 17-year periodic cicadas I’ve talked about before. The last time they emerged in 2004 there was no such thing as an iPhone.  In fact, there were no smart phones. None of us knew what 5G stood for, could have imagined ransomware choking fuel supplies, having watches that give a rapid EKG, electric powered unicycles or drones delivering our groceries. (Or think about the technology Kevin wrote about on Friday that allows people to “try on” clothing virtually.)

Of course, cicadas won’t worry about any of that stuff. You, however, must, because all this new technology always finds a way to quickly change life for consumers everywhere and that impacts your business.

Just last week, IBM announced the development of a new, denser computer chip that once available (in five years, they estimate) could quadruple the battery life in your smart phone and that’s just the start.

It’s been years since I’ve heard anyone talk about Moore’s law, the long ago technology prediction that every two years the power and capability of computer chips would double, while costs would essentially drop by 50%. Gordon Moore (later the CEO of Intel) made that prediction in 1965 (and edited it a decade later) when neither people nor cicadas could have possibly imagined the technology we’d all have at hand today. (Everyone that is except Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, which first aired in 1966.)

So let’s consider where things go next. If we’re soon to see chips that are exponentially faster than today’s and linked to 5G networks that are themselves substantially faster, that means today’s technological dreams are coming true faster than anyone might have imagined.

In turn that means we are just a few years from smarter homes, smarter appliances and an expectation of smarter stores that are armed with artificial intelligence and more, and that will take the mundane shopping trip to new technological heights and frankly to places I can’t imagine. Perhaps we’ll finally achieve the Star Trek vision of food replicators that turn waste back into desirable edibles, but more likely our future phones and watches will guide us through the supermarket to the products we need based on what our refrigerators told them.

That’s, of course, if we need go to a store at all.

Here’s the thing: we aren’t cicadas who get to emerge every 17 years and try to somehow survive whatever changes the world has created. We do it day after day. That means even now companies need people thinking about the impact of vastly enhanced smartphone chips and networks, not to mention shoppers who’s expectations will rise exponentially with every change.

For many businesses the challenge isn’t so much Moore’s Law as “we expect more” law, of consumers’ rising demands. And either you rise up with them or you become as relevant as the computers Gordon Moore likely battled in 1965 to get them to complete a simple math equation.

Change, competition and consumers are all constants, but mainly in how they keep growing.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.