Archive for June 2013

How the law can do justice to emerging technologies

June 27, 2013

Here is my article  published in the Times supplement on June 11th 2013.

The relationship between the legal sector and information technology is poised to change dramatically over the next decade. Indeed, the role of IT is already changing rapidly for some in-house legal departments and law firms.

Constant and accelerating innovation is delivering analytical tools that can, for example, interrogate the characteristics and outcomes of past insurance disputes to predict the likelihood of legal success for current claims.

Clients are also becoming savvier around the cost efficiencies IT can deliver and are auditing law firm IT systems and assessing the IT capabilities and proficiency of the individual lawyers assigned to their account.

Rapid IT advances are enabling the creation of new strategies, business models, collaborative working arrangements, virtual law firms and service delivery models. A look to the future highlights several emerging technologies that could transform every aspect of the legal sector.

Coming over the horizon are developments offering the promise of automated capture of every image we see and conversation we have, intelligent virtual assistants to guide in-house counsel and external lawyers, wearable technologies and widespread adoption of artificial intelligence in the legal value chain.

So what are the critical technologies that will shape the future of the legal sector and how should in-house legal departments and law firms be preparing for them?

To help explore and address these questions, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) has launched its Legal Technology Future Horizons research project. This ten-month global study will explore the potential impact of new and emerging technologies for the sector, and the resulting strategic priorities over the next ten to fifteen years.

The study is designed to challenge current thinking, and provide insights and practical ideas to inform the development of future business and IT strategies for law departments, law firms and legal technology vendors.

The final report, to be delivered at the end of 2013, will outline:

  • Key trends in the broader environment affecting the legal sector
  • A likely timeline of IT developments and the key technologies that could impact tomorrow’s legal enterprise
  • The role technology could play in future legal-sector business models in a changing business environment and as a critical differentiator in this emerging landscape
  • Strategic IT imperatives for the legal industry and critical implications for the management of IT in the legal sector.

Our findings to date suggest the next ten to fifteen years will be characterised by continued global economic turbulence and uncertainty, with a significant shift of wealth, influence and power to emerging markets.

Every business sector will continue to be transformed by factors, such as shorter and faster business cycles, talent mismatches, disruptive innovation, and accelerating diffusion of advances in science and technology.

The effective use of technology is seen as critical both in responding to these forces, and in the generation of new commercial opportunities and business models for customers and law firms alike.

These global business drivers are coupled with factors such as growing client demands for transparency, information and innovation. At the same time, there are expectations of greater regulatory scrutiny along with growing concerns over security, data protection and data privacy issues.

Intense price competition, commoditisation, alternative business structures, disruptive new market entrants, demographic shifts and rapidly evolving customer expectations are changing the nature of the relationship between clients and their law firms.

Collectively, these forces are driving the need to rethink the strategies, business models, structures and operations of in-house departments and law firms.

There is a growing recognition that technology will play an increasingly central role in the emerging legal environment, streamlining legal processes, enhancing client-supplier relationships and creating future sources of commercial benefit as both a value-chain enabler and value creator, with a focus on data-driven insight.

Technology is also facilitating the move towards more online delivery of services and enabling new types of structures with different business models for in-house units and providers. Indeed the boundaries between in-house and external service firms may blur dramatically with individual lawyers moving between them fluidly.

Faced with continuing change, key themes are emerging around the role of technology in tomorrow’s legal function and enterprise:

  • The technology environment will be characterised by the “internet of things” [machines “talking” to machines], social media and “social listening”, smart environments, a more immersive multi-sensory intelligent internet, increasingly sophisticated data gathering and analysis, plus widespread penetration and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).
  • End-users will increasingly be mobile, supported by intelligent digital personal assistants and “lab on a chip” devices, and use wearable technologies enhanced with augmented reality (AR) and holographic displays.
  • Devices will offer AI-enabled smart interfaces, automatic language translation, and support user interaction via gestures, language and thought.
  • Customer service delivery could be enhanced through deep collaboration environments, portals providing tracking dashboards and total transparency on the status of individual matters, shared databases, advanced videoconferencing, touchable holographs, novel data handling tools and sophisticated security technology.
  • Legal function and law firm processes could be transformed through developments in AI, knowledge management, smart data capture and analysis, predictive analytics, intelligent document production, video mining, integrated analytics and “gamification”. Emerging technologies could bring about dramatic changes in the way matters are conducted and information is analysed and presented back to clients.
  • At the IT management level, the cloud will be used for infrastructure, applications, development and data. Priorities for IT management will shift from production to innovation, developing next-level services and evolving the IT staff profile, skill sets, management focus and alignment. For in-house functions, a dedicated IT and knowledge manager will become an increasing priority.

While some in-house functions and law firms are alert to and embracing the transformative potential of IT, others are struggling to stay abreast of the changes and showing reluctance to embrace these opportunities. The challenge is to help players across the sector prepare for and embark on IT enabled transformation.

Business and IT leaders need to understand the emerging technologies, explore how to integrate and manage them, and identify opportunities to leverage IT to deliver new levels of efficiency and competitive advantage.

Here is the link to the article:


UK cities are being left behind in planning for the long term

June 21, 2013

My interview for the Yorkshire Post, published on  June  6th 2013.

Lithuania, wrongly written off by some as a basket case, has a detailed national plan to guide its development to 2025.

South Korea launched a commission five years ago to look at the future integration of robotics into city life.

Developing economies are stealing a march on their rivals in the developed world with long-term plans for the future and a sharp focus on the efficient use of resources.

The UK, meanwhile, has been incredibly complacent, failed to notice what is going on and is suddenly seeing everything changing but cannot find the right answer.

This is the scenario set out by Rohit Talwar, who advises international governments and corporations on how to understand and respond to the various forces shaping the future.

He will explore these themes and others at the Intelligent Cities Conference in Leeds later this month.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post yesterday, Mr Talwar said technological infrastructure like fast broadband is very important, but local and central governments must understand that the most successful towns and cities are sustainable, economically viable and vibrant places.

“They need to think about a lot more than just technology,” he said.

He added that planners must find new uses for high streets following the consolidation of the retail sector and suggested repurposing retail units as community resources.

Mr Talwar said public buildings such as schools could be used as “multi-service facilities” in the evenings to accommodate local libraries, community centres, doctors’ surgeries and even magistrates’ courts.

“Such moves would meet the twin goals of cutting the operating costs for local councils and taking local facilities and giving them more value to the community,” he said.

He suggested that Britain needs to shake up its education system to take account of the instant availability of academic information and increase efforts on helping pupils to learn valuable life skills to help arrest the nation’s slide down OECD world rankings and deal with the vast numbers of disenfranchised young people.

Mr Talwar said the industries of the future will develop to support the ageing population and care for the elderly.

He also highlighted the growth potential of sectors including biotechnology, biomanufacturing, human enhancements, wearable robotics, nanotechnology and advanced materials.

Mr Talwar said Leeds should host international conventions if it wants to realise ambitions to expand its healthcare sector.

This will bring academic experts and industry together and forge new global links for the city and help develop its cluster of businesses.

But Mr Talwar cautioned that “it’s not all about money”, adding that culture, lifestyle and values help make a destination and a great place to live.

The Intelligent Cities Conference takes place at Leeds Metropolitan University on June 19.

Organisers said Rotterdam’s planning for sustainability, Helsinki’s investment in energy and resources, and the IBM city control centre in Rio de Janeiro are all examples of how cities around the world are taking a smart approach.

It will include presentations from Cambium Networks, Ericsson, EE, IBM, Cisco, Arup and Aql, Leeds Data Thing, Medtech University of Leeds and Synchronoss Technologies.

Paul Hadley, deputy director of Information Economy Industrial Strategy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, will also speak.

Mr Talwar’s business, Fast Future, helps clients identify and analyse “future trends, drivers and shocks”.

“Technology is a critical enabler of the smart city, but a truly sustainable and intelligent model requires us to go much broader and think about every aspect of what makes a city vibrant and viable,” he said. He urged governments to see technology infrastructure as part of the vision, not the whole solution.

Here is the link to the interview:

Transforming Education – Apps for Good – a Platform for Innovation

June 17, 2013

One of the areas we have been interested in for some time is the long term future of education and how we can transform systems around the world to equip children and adults for a changing world. One of the initiatives that has impressed us most is Apps for Good for Good is an education initiative that enables young people from 11 to 18 years old to develop their digital skills and knowledge, and create exciting new apps for mobile phones, tablets and social media platforms. Fast Future has just started discussions with Apps for Good around how they can scale up their initiative and platforms to serve a much larger audience and cover a wider range of educational topics.

The goal of this not for profit initiative is to offer an open-source technology education movement which partners with formal and informal education organisations to train educators to deliver courses to young people that teach them about technology, problem solving and entrepreneurship through the medium of learning how to write apps. The courses cover all key aspects of new product development, from idea generation, feasibility and deciding on business models to product design and marketing. Young people work together as teams to find real issues they want to tackle and how best to solve them through apps. Through this, they unlock and explore their talents, passions and skills.

Launched in March 2010, Apps for Good worked with 97 schools, 6,200 students and 150 experts. For the 2013/2014 academic year this will grow to 400 schools and 20,000 students supported by 800 educators and 400 experts. The goal is to increase this to 50,000 students in 1,000 schools for 2014 / 2015.

As a not for profit organisation, they are always looking for support and assistance. They are currently looking for schools and experts who want to be part of their programme and for people to support current and future events through provision of skills, services and sponsorship in areas such as event filming and photography, printing, WiFi provision, catering and accommodation for the student finalists. If you can help please contact Heather Picov

Radical Abundance – Could a Revolution in Nanotechnology Change Civilization?

June 4, 2013

We recently attended a fascinating London Futurists presentation by Eric Drexler on his new book – Radical Abundance – How a Revolution in Nanotechnology will Change Civilization. In what he described as abanquet of indigestible truths, the originator of the term Nanotechnology explained how he thought the term had been hijacked to mean very small things. He argued that the initial hype had led funders to focus their research investments on narrower domains of materials science rather than exploring the true potential of engineering at the molecular level. Drexler believes that such a focus on atomically precise manufacturing (APM) could yield massive low cost, zero carbon and clean advances in domains as diverse as ultra-efficient vehicles, energy production, physical infrastructure, computers and consumer products.

A video of the presentation can be found here:

Book site: