I’m attending tcworld India 2016 in Bangalore. The keynote on day 2 of the conference was “The Future is Intelligent Information”, presented by Michael Fritz. These are my notes from the session. All credit goes to Michael, and any mistakes are my own.
Michael’s presentation was partly a recap of things said at the conference yesterday. It also discussed digitalisation and its consequences for tech comm in the future. He also introduced a program started last year by tekom.
Notes from Michael’s presentation
There are many buzzwords around. “Smart” is one of those. Many things are smart these days: smart cars, smart homes, smart watches, smart fridges. These smart things have the capability to store and process data. They become parts of smart services. For example, instead of talking about a car, we talk about mobility. A mobility app may send you a car, or tell you to walk to your destination as you need more exercise. eHealth, smart shopping services, and so on.
What else is digitised? Production, for one. Smart components can join up and talk to each other by machine to machine communication. Products configure themselves automatically, forming intelligent products. Sometimes this is called cyber physical systems. This type of production system may not be focused on mass production, but rather on producing just enough for the people in the neighbourhood.
Another buzzword is “ubiquitous data”. All things are on the Web. The way in which we use data has changed. We used to use relational databases, and queried them, producing reports showing aggregated data, at specific time frames. Today we just search for data when we need it. Data is everywhere and can be used everywhere.
The economy is changing as a result of digitisation. Michael described Uber as an example. Users can rate drivers, and if a driver is consistently down-rated he or she won’t get any more fares. Taxis are suffering as a result of ride-sharing services like Uber.
Michael mentioned a few words of caution, such as cyber security (data is valuable), and the dangers of large companies dominating services by their digital platforms.
What are the consequences for technical communication?
- Smart products: Usage information should be embedded in the product so users can get it easily, or the information should be easily accessible on the Internet. Products (here Michael looked at his bottle of water) should have connectors, such as codes that you can scan to get the information you want.
- Smart services: Usage information won’t be stand-alone. Instead it’ll be part of an information chain. For example, when using Uber, the information is part of the whole process of using the service. When you car has a problem, the in-car screen will tell you what the problem is and where to find the nearest service station. It will even communicate the problem and your arrival to the service station.
- Smart production: Usage information must be standardised so that it can be easily merged and delivered to the user. Remember, this is the scenario where components have automatically assembled themselves. There’s probably no printer around, so the information must be available in some other way.
- Ubiquitous data: Usage information must be accessible from everywhere and from all the different device types that people are using.
Technical communicators should be ready for change. Michael mentioned the enticing prospect of an Uber for technical communicators. 🙂 And we must be aware of cyber security, and make sure we take care of the security of the usage information itself. Be careful not to send malware to our customers!
Michael discussed some challenges we face. We need to know the reality of today: we’re not yet in the world of smart things and smart data. Paper and PDF still prevail.
tekom’s intelligent information initiative
Michael described a tekom initiative promoting a paradigm change from classical publishing to intelligent information delivery. The focus is on the (electronic) delivery of information. We shouldn’t focus so much on the creation of information, but focus first on delivery. Don’t think of documentation or even of topics any more. Think of usage situations, use cases, the customer journey. This will lead to intelligent information, which is the right information at the right time for the right person.
There’s a lot more to this concept of intelligent information, and content creation based on intelligent information: adding metadata, analysing use cases, the types of information products we produce (paper, mobile, augmented reality, embedded display, online, and so on).
Tekom has kicked off the intelligent information initiative, and is running various working groups to move it forward.
Thanks Michael, this was an informative and entertaining session. Tekom’s intelligent information is an exciting initiative indeed.