Building the case for new technologies

New technologies are heralded every day as the saviour of the large or small challenges faced by humankind.

But though these technological advances may be exciting, and the benefits clear, there’s often a disconnection between the case for improving or updating the status quo from a technological perspective, and the business case for doing so.

Take the idea of a Smart City for example. In one way or another, Google, IBM, Intel, and other large multinational technology companies have put forward ideas around how they can advance the urban environment.

The problem is, they’re pitching to different governments and stakeholders from a perspective of information technology – all the ways they can change and improve upon existing cities. For municipalities, councils, and the like, that’s often too vague. What needs to actually be pitched is the business case and how businesses can be involved with new, dynamic systems or technological change. The business model is a crucial aspect of changing the status quo, because it helps get people around an idea – especially those that aren’t familiar with technical aspects of such change – and demonstrates how the change can be more valuable than what’s already there.

In a transport context, you could say that dynamic digital screens displaying timetabling information improves customer satisfaction within the network. It’s obviously true, and beneficial, though difficult to quantify. However, if you can show that new possibilities around advertising attached to such an update can bring in extra revenue, that hits home to businesses and some stakeholders to a larger degree and improves the success rate of pitching something new and technology based.

An example of a new system that has such a business model is LinkNYC. An all-in-one information kiosk, ‘Links’ are littered throughout a city and come fitted out with dynamic digital displays and touchscreens. They provide internet and free phone calls, but in exchange users give up a little of their personal information, allowing advertisers to target their message on the basis of the person who’s accessing the internet.

LinkNYC’s somewhat similar to a concept we’ve been discussing – the dynamic bus stop – and shows how a project can be successful where it satisfies the needs or desires of citizens, councils or similar stakeholders, and advertisers. It shows us that in order to displace the current model of advertising bus stops, you need to create something that offers more value. Advertisers are important stakeholders in these sorts of projects, and need to be appealed or pitched to, with a business model, as part of the process.