During this time of the 4th Industrial revolution, boundaries between technology and humans has completely blurred. No longer is the question "How might we bring people to the technology?", but rather, "How might we get the technology to- and into- people?". We see this in the automotive industry's marketing efforts to co-create with consumers and in wearable technology. Well the shift reigns far beyond automotive, apparel and accessories. Over breakfast this past summer in Shenzhen, China, Mart Maasik, the Innovation Lab Director at the Swedish Bank SEB. matter of factlyreferenced a chip in his hand. This was completely foreign to my American ears! How could this be?

In 2015, SEB was one of the first companies to commit to setting up offices in the Stockholm based Epicenter, a co-working "digital house of innovation" (with offices also in Oslo, Amsterdam, Helsinki and New York).  At Epicenter's Stockholm location, SEB and Epicenter founders Ola Ahlvarsson and Mahesh Kumar co-created the SEB Innovation Lab.  The impetus for Maasik and 200 of his colleagues to opt into implanting the chip was Epicenter and SEB's question: "How are we modeling innovation beyond having the word in our titles?".  Their Chief Disruption Officer challenged them to "try in order to learn".  Asking for volunteers working at Epicenter to implant the chip was a first step.  

This chip was inserted into the fleshy part of their hand just below the thumb knuckle by a tattoo artist at after-work "Beer and Chips" parties (pun intended).  The advantages from their perspective include convenience, seamless interaction with any surrounding digital environment, and an easy replacement for credit cards and keys. It is the same type of chip that some people implant into their pets.  Maasik uses his passive RFID chip to enter the office building, use the printer, lock his bike- and eventually he may use it to purchase train tickets.   

Maasik and others like him represent early adopters on the diffusion of innovation curve in the 4th industrial revolution where cloud based digital platforms, AR, VR and crypto currency compel us to become comfortable with intangible and ubiquitous technology. While Maasik and others see few drawbacks to the implanted chip (some compare its novelty to that of pace-makers in the 1970's), the World Economic Forum emphasizes that trust and relationship building is still essential for cloud and digital providers to develop.  Milena Chilla-Markhoff, the Europe and Asia Pacific Manager at INVNT has observed the tech industry becoming more mindful about encouraging human-ness within their comopany structures and communicating their brands' commitments to human values (trust, honesty, love, soul, etc) to consumers.  Integrating the "human quotient" now reigns supreme in technology as evidenced by Microsoft president Satya Nadella's book Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone where the words "soul" and "technology" are referenced in the same sentence. 

While from where I sit, Maasik is an early adopter along the innovation curve, he sees himself as a bit of a laggard compared to others at his firm.  Lessons from the 20th century's second industrial revolution's automated factories provide a cautionary tale: let's ensure that we leverage technology to amplify the human experience, and not replace it.

Published on: Oct 28, 2018
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