Futurist Keynote at TMA Annual Meeting Outlines How to Succeed in Mass Disruption

Jack Uldrich addressed executives at The Monitoring Association’s conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., to discuss future trends that are bringing exponential change to markets and lifestyles.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It makes sense that futurist Jack Uldrich would deliver a keynote for The Monitoring Association’s annual meeting here and weave in foresights that portend the central station’s interlaced role in markets that will emerge from tomorrow’s mass disruption. If only you’ll let it. If only you can see it coming first in order to seize the moment.

That’s his point. Uldrich, who has authored numerous books on technology and change management, doesn’t so much predict the future as he dispenses insightful observation on the agents of change that can serve as guideposts for an organization’s successful future.

In his Oct. 9 address, titled “Business as Unusual: Innovation and Global Trends,” Uldrich laid out several trends and technological advancements that can be expected to vastly transform businesses and lifestyles in the coming years. Think wearable technology, 3-D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT). Augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, nanotechnology, robotics, Big Data-crunching supercomputers and sensors. Myriad sensors. So very many of which will be monitored.

A common theme in any conversation about future business landscapes, of course, includes some version of “get onboard or get run over.” Or, “If you don’t, somebody else will.” Obsolescence is real. An industry’s demise is not pretty. Uldrich reminded attendees who packed into a conference ballroom of a few cases in point. Stagnant or unseeing business leaders ruled over the ubiquitous Blockbuster video rental chain while Netflix delivered its death blow. Blackberry anyone?

It’s happening now. Uber and Lyft are overwhelming the taxi industry. Uldrich also cited Amazon Go, an experimental retail store in Seattle. The checkout-free shopping experience leverages similar technologies used in self-driving cars, including computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. High-tech gizmos detect when products are plucked from shelves (or returned) and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. Leave the premise as you please, upon which your account is charged and a receipt is on the way.

“The Amazon Go store has a lot of sensors, a lot of cameras and a lot of monitoring. Every other competitor is going to have to figure out how to do that,” Uldrich said. “Will some of them have to rely on your technology and expertise and tools? The answer is yes. You might not be thinking of the retail market as a growth opportunity, but from my perspective some of you should be.”

Uldrich explained there is far more to simply fully understanding how a given technology works. Savvy are the business leaders who understand that the convergence of disparate technologies create wholly new opportunities.

Healthcare monitoring is not necessarily a novel idea to the central station community, but it is a burgeoning sector that is sure to explode one day — sooner rather than later. I have had meaningful conversations with Morgan Hertel of Rapid Response, among others, on this very topic. Uldrich further illustrates the coming wave of possibility with his description of Mercy Hospital near St. Louis.

The hospital operates a virtual care center that was purpose built for the delivery of telehealth services, including what the facility calls the nation’s largest electronic intensive care unit. Healthcare practitioners communicate via video calls to patients using highly sensitive two-way cameras. The patients’ vital signs are monitored in real time through tools that plug into mobile devices such as an iPad.

“Healthcare monitoring might not be a market you are thinking about, but it is a huge area and it is only going to grow exponentially larger in the not too distant future,” Uldrich said.

He spoke of other technologies with more than a tangential connection to the future role of monitoring centers. Augmented reality, for instance, is now being leveraged in first-responder applications. Uldrich said he projects the wider security industry will begin adopting AR within 2-3 years. If you attended ISC West or ASIS this year, then you may have seen Assa Abloy demonstrate AR in its booth to demo how the installation process could be enhanced.

Virtual reality was also illustrated as a soon-to-be commercial endeavor, as Uldrich played a short promotional video clip for Lowe’s. The video depicted a handyman using VR to instruct a woman, who was in her home, how to install new piping to her bathroom sink. Will security dealers one day find a use in some fashion for such a thing?

A real game-changer on the near horizon for central stations — and the security and fire/life-safety industry as a whole — is the eventual adoption of 5G wireless communications. “In the next couple of years we are going to be moving from 4G to 5G. 5G is 100-fold faster,” Uldrich explained. “This is going to change a lot of different things. With 5G it will be like we are living in the Internet.”

The reach of 5G will move far beyond urban areas and most certainly into rural communities, he continued.

“AT&T is already partnering with local municipal cooperatives to use their telephone poles to deliver high speed Internet access to rural areas. Could they be partnering with some of you to serve your rural areas?” Uldrich asked the attendees. “You have to be aware of this. We have to figure out who to partner with that will help us stay competitive in the world of tomorrow. The world of tomorrow is arriving really quickly.”

How to Future-Proof Your Business

Uldrich expressed optimism that small and medium-sized alarm and monitoring companies can compete with the likes of the Googles and other tech behemoths going forward. “You know your customers. People still value the trust you have developed with your customers and communities.”

Still, the onus will be on companies to future-proof their businesses. Here, Uldrich offered some advice which he referred to as an “AHA moment” — you must exercise awareness, humility and action. He said entrepreneurs must be aware that business thinking has leapt from linear to exponential. Decision-makers must be humble enough to realize the tried and true business practices that once brought them success may not apply well tomorrow. You will need to embrace risk and act, even if all of the information isn’t ideal.

Here’s another piece of advice that may cause company leaders to gulp: Uldrich urged executives to remove themselves from the daily rigors of running the company and take a full week to do nothing else but ponder the disruptions their organizations are likely to face. Uldrich calls this a “think week.”

He asked attendees, “If you are not thinking about the future of monitoring, who is?”

Uldrich also suggested that company leaders enlist the help of one or more “reverse mentors” or younger people who view the world from a different perspective. The idea here is even a person with less life experience or practical experience can shed light on fast-moving developments in technology and trends. This is especially relevant at companies experiencing a Millennial workplace revolution. Uldrich’s point is younger employees have a lot to teach people of Generation X and Baby Boomers a thing or two about applying social media and other technological factors today.

“We get locked into seeing business the same way,” Uldrich said. “I strongly advise you to get a reverse mentor. “When the world changes,” he continued, “we have to change with it.”

The TMA Annual Meeting is being held through Oct. 11 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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