Transcending technologies

There are few industries that transcend across sectors and even fewer to the level of the digital industries. Known as ‘the spill-over effect’ more and more digital industries are being applied to other sectors to revolutionise our daily working practices.

It started with Charles Babbage who was a mathematician and mechanical engineer in an age where experimentation was freely encouraged. He created the first known computer and largely underwhelmed the powers that be, until the US Military got hold of it and saw an opportunity to speed up communication and ensure security of messages. In the years following World War II, riding on a high technology boomed and before long our households were filled with enough devices to send us into a minor meltdown.

Games consoles and robotic dogs aside, the real infiltration was in the work place. During the 70s and 80s, telecommunications seized the office environment with filing cabinet and dusty archives replaced with a uniform and almost alien row of computers, printers, fax machines, and that infamous chunky mobile phone that so characterised the 80s yuppie. Whilst the hardware was taking up residence in our lives the scientists were still not satisfied and in 1974 the first test run of the internet took place and remained of interest to a fairly select group until Tim Berners-Lee plonked the World-Wide-Web on it. The rest, as they say, is history.

"We humans are a social species; we're endlessly interested in each other and we love novel ways to keep in touch. So, from telegrams to tweeting, it should come as no surprise that successive waves of communications technology have rippled out around the globe. says Matt Edgar, former Head of Products at Orange Group Technocentre in Leeds, who know leads his own service design and innovation consultancy.

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"Communicating is so fundamental to us that small changes in the way we do it can have surprising effects on our everyday lives. For example, supermarket shoppers are now so fixated on their smartphones that they've stopped noticing the impulse purchases positioned near the checkout queues. Little things like this are the grit in the oyster stimulating innovation in many service sectors right now."

Can you name an industry today that doesn’t use the Internet in some way? Better yet can name an innovation or invention that was created in the health sector that is now common place in the cultural sector? Or a bright idea that the cultural sector had one rainy day that is now common place in the financial sector? Struggling?

With the human element being the key to the spill-over effect my money is on the health industry to be the new spill-over sensation. With an ageing population, a shrinking budget and a higher demand for more sophisticated services the health sector certainly has the motivation but does it have the means?

John Farendon Ernst and Young, believes it does. “The health industry has started to seize the opportunity presented by its challenging circumstances. Over the last five years innovation has been embraced by the NHS and having the NHS commissioning Board based here puts Leeds at the heart of the next wave of innovation” says John.

“Health care absolutely has to maintain the personal and human element but technology, better connectivity across the health care sector, devolved funding to focus on local priorities and smart thinking can combine to find a balance that provides high quality care at a lower cost. We are already starting to see new ways of thinking with service design principles and open data both playing a key role in how services will be delivered in the future.”

You heard it here first, clear a space for health care in your home as the spill-over effect takes up residence.


This article was first published in The Professional business magazine in October 2014.