Innovation & technology
“Digitization turns the status quo and the value chain on their head”
What are the new technology trends, and what impact will they have on our lives? According to André Kudelski, Chairman of Innosuisse and CEO of Kudelski Group, Swiss Post has an important role to play when it comes to digitization. An interview.
Switzerland was recently named the world’s most innovative country by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Why has it held this top position for eight years?
This remarkable capacity for innovation is not the result of applying a simple formula, but of a combination of several factors. Good ideas alone are not enough – it is also essential to be able to put them into practice.
To start with, Switzerland has excellent higher education institutions and universities, five of which feature in the top 100 in the world.
On top of that, we have the capacity to enhance this fundamental research thanks to the excellent quality of R&D conducted by our businesses, as well as the excellent execution we see throughout the production and distribution chain. For an innovative product to be successful, no step can be left out. It is this quality that is a key asset for Switzerland, with its qualified and skilled workforce across all trades and at all levels.
For innovation to succeed, entrepreneurs need to be able to concentrate on their priorities, and they must have access to high-quality infrastructures, of which Swiss Post is such a fundamental part.
I also believe that cultural diversity in Switzerland is a very good breeding ground for new ideas, akin to the way we have had to find pragmatic solutions to build our political system and ensure its effectiveness.
But one thing we must not do is rest on our laurels. It is vital that we keep re-evaluating ourselves, and that we do not plan out the future by simply extrapolating from the past. A better approach is to consider the sorts of scenarios that will affect our economic position in future.
What are the most important technological trends for the future?
There is of course the whole dimension of digitization, which is revolutionizing the world we live in. For digitization to succeed, we will need conventional information technology, but also related technologies that will help digitization unfold in the very best conditions. One such technology is cybersecurity, which will help prevent digitization from being hijacked by hostile forces. Another is artificial intelligence, which will enable digitization to respond to sophisticated requirements in a personalized manner, and is in keeping with the positioning of many Swiss businesses on the international market.
It is important to grasp the notion that digitization reverses the status quo and the value chain. In other words, a Tesla is not a car with an electric motor, but an Internet-enabled computer on wheels. This changes a lot more than just the motor or the energy source.
As for the other technology trends, we should also consider nanomaterials. These, by their very nature, will help solve problems deemed impossible to fix, for instance high-performing textiles that protect against moisture yet are still gas-permeable and biodegradable.
Another example is biotechnologies. These can provide solutions that have a certain degree of “intelligence” programmed to understand problems that affect the world we live in, in particular medicine.
How will they change our lives?
Generally speaking, these new technologies help us to meet people’s needs more and more effectively, even if those needs are not voiced.
Just 30 years ago, working with computers required a certain amount of effort, and this was reserved solely for elite IT specialists. Nowadays, every effort is being made to ensure that computers are simple and intuitive to use. Engineers are harnessing the power of technology to simplify computers and make them more accessible to the user, not to complicate matters.
These major changes – which create imbalances in the short or medium term – may also be alarming. As far as I’m concerned, I am certain that new technologies are going to improve our quality of life. To give you an analogy, let’s use the example of fire. Those who discovered it feared it, and those who mastered it changed the lives of humanity.
The changes will not always be easy to manage during the transition phase for people who will be “ challenged ” by these developments. It will therefore be necessary to find ways of reassuring people if they feel uncertain about the changes.
Which do you think are the most relevant to Swiss Post?
Swiss Post provides a range of services that traditionally require a physical movement objects, such as letter and parcel distribution. Many of these services now have – or will have in the near future – a non-physical equivalent. It is no coincidence that, in the past, a number of post offices incorporated the telegraph and telecommunications when these technologies emerged.
Even though postal roles and telecommunications roles have now become separated, the fact remains that a number of Swiss Post services can be digitized, and mail in general has a major part to play in this development. In particular, there are all those roles that deal with delivering messages, where the authenticity and successful distribution of these messages must be guaranteed. Furthermore, what with “fake news” and cyberattacks of all shapes and sizes, it is evident that delivery of certified official mail is an issue that telecom companies are far from resolving. Indeed, these companies tend to deal solely with telephony and sending of media content and data.
Lastly, e-voting also has a major part to play. If developed properly, this could be more secure than postal voting. Just because e-voting has encountered teething troubles is no reason to condemn it.
Swiss Post is always searching for innovations to ensure it can keep up with customers’ ever-changing needs and make their lives easier. Is Swiss Post innovative enough?
Innovation is not necessarily an end in itself. Innovation must benefit customers by improving the user experience, increasing productivity and/or by helping to improve working conditions. It needs to serve Swiss Post’s mission, and not the other way round.
Swiss Post now also has tremendous human capital at its fingertips in the form of its workforce, whose value can be further enhanced with technological innovation.
The Swiss Innovation Forum (SIF) will be held for the 14th time on 21 November 2019. A wide range of interesting speakers such as André Kudelski will provide inspiration during Switzerland’s leading innovation conference. The Swiss Technology Award, the most significant prize of its kind in Switzerland, is handed out as part of the SIF. Swiss Post is the main partner to the SIF and the Swiss Technology Award.