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what if? so what?

The Rundown: 5 Technologies You Didn't Know You Needed

In this episode, Jim Hertzfeld sits down with Mike Kosiek, technology product director at a Fortune 100 retailer, to explore the technological innovations shaping 2024 and beyond. The two delve into a discussion that spans practical applications of emerging tech to speculative technologies that could redefine industries.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Retail Wisdom and Tech Innovation
  • Personalization and Real-Time Applications
  • Strategic Investments in Speculative Technologies
  • Exploring Digital Twins and Augmented Reality
  • The Potential of Blockchain
  • Understanding the Metaverse
  • Navigating the World of Cryptocurrency and NFTs

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Special thanks to our Perficient colleagues JD Norman and Rick Bauer for providing the music for today’s show.

Episode 48: The Rundown: 5 Technologies You Didn't Know You Needed - Transcript

Mike (00:05):

And I was looking to spread my $100 across your portfolio of 100 trends. What would I be spending on the top 20? $50? $60? I would really be putting heavy investment in the top part of that list, and rightfully so. Those are the things that are going to drive growth and efficiency in my business. But the risk taker in me is going to reserve $5, $10 for some sprinkling across the bottom 20.

Jim (00:33):

Welcome to What If? So What?, the podcast, where we explore what's possible with digital and discover how to make it real in your business. I'm your host, Jim Hertzfeld, and we get s**t done by asking digital leaders the right questions: What if? So what? And most importantly, now what?

Hey, everyone, welcome to the podcast.

We have a really special episode today, and we're actually picking up an old conversation with Mike Kosiek.

Mike, excited to have you again tell us a little bit about your background and kind of what brought you to this conversation.

Mike (01:03):

Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me back. I do feel like there was a little bit of unfinished business, as we previewed a little bit during that webinar back in January that we had a few topics we had to talk about. So, I'm glad we get to do that today.

My day job, I am a technology product director at a Fortune 100 retailer, and I have the pleasure of getting to help lead a small team that's focused on what I call product incubation. So, really working at the intersection of real business needs and emerging tech, and I think that's maybe what excited me about the opportunity to come and finish off this part of the conversation on digital trends in 2024.

You kind of also asked what prepared me for this, and I haven't really shared this, but the idea of this relationship between what if and so what the title of your show is kind of the way that I've approached the last handful of years in my career and really tried to build credibility through this idea of how do you dream big and then make it real for people, especially leaders in your organization. And I even think back to my days of studying engineering in undergrad, and that's I was a mechanical engineering major, and I just always just sort of had that mindset. So, I'm excited to be able to do that on things that are certainly on people's minds, maybe not their roadmaps for 2024, but certainly on their minds, and looking forward to the discussion.

Jim (02:24):

Oh, the engineering mindset. You know, blessing and curse. I'm a double E, Mike, in case. There you go. We used to be friends at one point.

Well, I think mechanicals and electricals are sort of rivals yeah, rivals, maybe that is the point At one point like friendly rivals, but you said kind of like looking for real, real business.

You know, and I think that's kind of what brought us here because in that webinar that we did back in January, we examined some of the research that we did at the end of last year to prepare for 2024, to figure out what trends were, what digital capabilities are, you know, floating to the top, and it's always great to look what's at the bottom. And one of the things that we found and we were a little surprised by were, you know, some of these emerging, you know, maybe unproven technologies, not necessarily even new, they're not necessarily emerging, but they really kind of floated to the bottom and we had kind of some theories about that, but we didn't really have time to get into it in the webinar. So I guess I'm really, really glad you're back here to talk about it. So, we're going to attack those today. I don't know if we're going to justify the research or validate it, but we're definitely going to try and make sense of it. So, things that kind of got to the bottom of that list, that doesn't mean they're no good; it just means that they weren't at the top of many organization's lists.

Mike (03:37):

Maybe if I could just offer a point of view on that and if the list, I think, shakes out exactly what you would expect, like the things that are most important to, especially CDOs and CTOs, and where their money is going, where the things that were probably showing up in your top 10 or 20 and the more speculative trends are the ones that are showing up at the bottom. 
And you know, if I was a betting person and I was looking to spread my $100 across your portfolio of 100 trends, what would I be spending on the top 20? $50? $60? I would really be putting heavy investment in the top part of that list, and rightfully so. Those are the things that are going to drive growth and efficiency in my business, but the risk taker in me is going to reserve $5, $10 for some sprinkling across the bottom 20. And a lot of that is maybe placing strategic bets, taking some long shots. The difference, though, in business, is that you have to have a little bit of action on those bets to see them through. It's not like just throwing something on a hundred-to-one horse and seeing if it wins, and that's the action. You have to be committed to at least some level of learning, and I think maybe this conversation is the start of that.

Jim (04:53):

Well, I'm glad you brought that up, Mike, and that actually goes back to an earlier episode we did with Eisaiah Engel around his book called “The Innovation Casino.” I don't know if you had a chance to catch that; I did, yeah.

It's a great, great episode with some similar concepts, and I know we have an approach we call now new, next, which sounds like a timeline, but it's kind of the same thing, built on the portfolio analysis of those investments. So, like you said, 20%, this is the here and now. It's table stakes. It's parody, now maybe around, you know, 20%, you know, something that's maybe some are doing, and then that 10%, which is a real innovation. You really have to do all of it right. You have to. You know, if you don't prepare now for disruptive innovations and you only focus on the sustainable innovations, to kind of put an innovator's dilemma lens on it, you know you're going to miss out. So it's getting that balance right. So, I'm glad you brought that up. And you know you're you're going to miss out. So it's getting that balance Right. So, I'm glad you brought that up. And you know, like any research, you know, I think Mark Twain said it there are lies, damn lies and statistics. So, the way we're going to do this, you know we, we have opinions, we have perspectives. I don't know if we're going to agree or disagree on some of these. That's where the sparks will fly, and we're going to call it the rundown. So I'm going to go through, I'm going to call out a technology or a concept, and we'll take turns, kind of, on the what, if, and the so, what, so what. We'll talk about what it is, maybe what, what's the excitement, what's the hope, and then we will ground it a little bit Like so what, what makes it cool, and what makes it kind of compelling. So you like, you ready, you ready, ready for it, I'm ready, bring it on. Without further ado.

All right, first on the list, and I think these do require a little definition. I'll start with digital twin. And I brought it up to somebody and they said is that an electronica band? They thought it was a band. Digital twin would be a great name for a band if you're an electronica band, maybe a house, you know, DJ, you know, we could be digital twins.

But that's not what a digital twin is about having a digital version of something physical and something in reality. Right? So, I think the simple example of a digital twin might be my car, right? My car is wired up on the dashboard. I can see the oil temperature, I can see the tire pressure. It's presenting me Without having to go around with gauges on my dashboard. I'm witnessing a digital twin of my car, not necessarily how fast I'm going, but what's the engine doing, what's the temperature, what's the tire pressure, what's the lifespan of my cabin air filter.

And you know, I think, what's interesting about that, the what if is like what. If I extended that to anything in the physical world, I could be not in my car, I could be a thousand miles away, and I have a digital version I can look at, I can see from anywhere on my mobile phone, you know, at some command I always think of like a command center, mission control, I can see the digital version of some physical something somewhere. And why is that exciting? Well, I don't have to be there; I don't have to be a thousand miles away; I can be in the comfort of my home. So lots of possibilities. Mike, why don't you jump on that? What's your version of a digital twin?

Mike (08:13):

The one piece and I actually had this conversation recently with someone in the data science space, the piece for me that's maybe missing for the definition that I personally agree belongs there is the real-time nature of the model that you're thinking of and you'll talk to folks, say maybe in like supply chain, and they'll say, well, we have a digital twin of our network.

It's a simulation that we run, and we can change what-if scenarios, and it will tell us what the outcome is.

But to me, that is a simulation model and the power of a digital twin is the infusion of IoT within that physical environment or that physical thing to actually recreate what's going on in a remote environment.

And I think probably the best example that I've seen, at least in my sector, is Lowe's. They've been working with NVIDIA publicly through NVIDIA's Omniverse, to create a 3D representation of the store that uses all their RFID and computer vision tech to actually show business leaders this is what's happening in the stores, where product is, where customers are, is what employees are doing. It's incredibly powerful to lower the kind of barrier of entry for understanding operations in your business If you can represent it visually and in real-time without having to A put someone on the ground or B help them understand how to interpret rows and rows of a spreadsheet. I think the thing that makes it really challenging to pull off is capturing good, clean, relevant data, which usually requires an investment in a pretty like I said, deep IoT array to actually gather it, and that's probably the thing that holds most organizations back from truly getting to this.

Jim (09:56):

No, that's it, I'm. I love that angle of what makes it different and compelling is it's real time, right? And that's great. I think you're right. I kind of we kind of jumped over that, what makes digital twin possible, aside from the sort of telemetry or distance factor, is the sensing right? How many sensors? And I know I talked to a lot of manufacturers who you know use it. I love using car examples. There are two metaphors. I love to use cars and picnics. Like, try it out, LLke you're trying to create a metaphor; Like I'm planning the picnic, I'm running the picnic.

Mike (10:27):

Oh, man, what's going to be my metaphor? I'd feel like I need a personal metaphor. That's just my go-to. Great suggestion.

Jim (10:32):

Well, we'll work on it. Maybe it'll come to you by the end of this episode. All right, yeah. But yeah, I think that's a great idea, like the real-time nature of it. And, you're right, it's enabled by sensor technology, which is everywhere, right, IoT sensors I was just reading about. You know, there are more protocols coming out that are driving shop floor automation, and warehouse automation. You mentioned the store. I know another application we hear a lot is something we call the digital oil field. You're mining, or you're running a solar array, you know, and there's again, spread out over miles, and it's in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, that idea of, like, not just distance, but you know what's happening now. Right, the simulation thing will come up later. I know that's going to come up. But let's go to another one, which that might be related to this, like these next two, I think, are quite related, and that is augmented reality. Mike, why don't you start by giving me your take on augmented reality?

Mike (11:28):

It's probably, you know, like you said, we probably need to start with the definition. So, if you want to situate augmented reality among the R's, augmented reality being strictly the overlaying of digital content in the physical world, Virtual reality, the second R would be the simulation or the substitution of your world with a digital world. So, think of immersion to the extreme, and then you have mixed reality, reality, which is the recreation of your physical world in an immersive environment so that you can overlay digital content, and those things often are used.

Yeah, it is in it, but in, and often you can just call it extended reality is all three, but it's important because when you're talking about augmented reality, this is the one that is, you know, I'll say, the most attainable and the most here and now. In fact, you know, we probably have a lot of people listening who have used things you know through their phone to be able to, you know, like I said, bring digital content into physical work. My favorite story is last year. You know, my wife and I are looking to buy a new sofa for the family room and said, well, we got to, we got to get a babysitter so the kids can stay at home, so we can go to Crate and Barrel and sit on this sofa. And I said, you know, I wonder if they have like a home AR experience. I pulled it up and I'll be honest, it was one of the best ones that I had seen in terms of capturing the physics lighting and dimension of the sofa. I placed it right on top of our current one and said it looked great.

I got out of a trip to Crate and Barrel, but it was a really great representation of the power right now, of how overlaying digital content can change the customer experience, and so I guess my take is what if there is an entire realm of data that you can choose to opt into, if you have the right hardware, that doesn't have to hinder the rest of our life?

And we are just starting to tap into that, and I'll just offer maybe another point. AR was really prevalent in the wearables space at CES this year. As far as AR eyewear, and I think kind of where that is at, we are probably still three to four years if you read some of the tea leaves out from having truly sort of overlaid wearables. I love the meta smart glasses that came out at the end of last year, and while they are not augmented reality, they are sort of a precursor for this idea of how you convince people to wear technology in a way that could augment their experience in the future, and while this does not have visual overlays, the ability to use camera and artificial intelligence to augment the way that I live my life with technology and I'm not exaggerating there's some game-changing devices out there, and so this one gets me truly excited for what's coming in the next couple of years, and I don't think we have to try too hard to make something of it.

Jim (14:18):

Yeah, I agree; I think I love your definition and breakdown of augmented or the various realities, and this one, I feel, I agree, I think there, it's the most tangible to me. That's why I think it has the most success. I love your story. Now, if we can, if we can augment, like the feeling of the cushion, like I can imagine in my head what that looks like and how that would function. You know, we can take that to your lab. But you know, I think that's the most tangible for people. There's just, you know, it's the documents and the timesaving.

Again, we're overlaying simulation. We're overlaying, you know, connected devices. But I think the just the physical, the way we operate. You just think about people like I was working out this morning, and I have my watch on my Apple Watch, and I was like, well, wait a minute, it's actually when you break it down, it's a bit of augmented reality. Maybe it's a bit of a digital twin, but if I could just use the glass to do that in a hands-free kind of a way, you know, it's a little bit of a cyber extension. Yeah, there's an element of ambient computing there, yeah, which I think is maybe what you're getting at is augmented reality, is sort of the next step of there's a visual component to it.

Mike (15:29):

But this idea of ambiance in our life, yeah, just technology, if it works well enough, should really sort of move to the background, and I think that's maybe it's a good segue into the metaverse, which is the opposite end of the spectrum, which is asking you to leave your physical world and come enter something else, which I love, this topic too, but I love it for a completely different reason. I'm curious where you're at. I don't know if you're a Metaverse bull or a Metaverse bear.

Jim (15:56):

What's in between? I'm a little neutral on it, I'm probably a little more bearish on it. My gauge is just where we see, and we have a pretty diverse set of clients and where we see some of the adoption taking place. But, aside from the research that we did, metaverse to me, I go back to the gaming world and the second life and the sim that I'm still stuck in that. Maybe that's part of my problem.

But, again, this convergence of a digital twin with augmented reality and metaverse might be a pretty cool place to be. You know, and I think that's where I see some really clear training applications like the first ones that come to mind. I'm training for physical events, maybe a presentation or a tour. I'm planning my vacation, I'm planning my hike. But you know really more grounded applications, like I have to go to a dangerous location or I have to simulate a rescue or some adverse event, to have to simulate a rescue or some adverse event, so that's actually. Those are some real-life scenarios that we've encountered and that we're hearing about some applications.

There's a sense of urgency. Sometimes I think, hey, that's a great play; that's a great way to get started and then learn about it. Right, that's in real terms. So I think, are people going to exist and live in the metaverse? Are they going to wake up and look out the window and then opt into the metaverse for the day? I hope not. But aren't we kind of doing that anyway? On social media, maybe. But you know, I think there are some really interesting direct applications. I guess that's why I'm a little bearish on Metaverse being this new place. You know, I'm listening to myself, and I'm thinking, God, I sound out of touch, but I don't know, maybe there's a better application out there.

Mike (17:41):

I don't think you're out of touch and I think we probably sit in the same spot. There's just a distinct difference. When you say the word metaverse Some things have happened in the media that have created a lot of obfuscation of this. So, first of all, it's just the difference between big m and little m metaverse. Like, if you're talking about Ready Player One, where exactly what you said, you wake up, you throw the headset on, you leave that's big m metaverse.

But when you talk about little m metaverse and the idea of creating a sense of place, presence, and location in the digital world in a way that you can't do through a mobile device, you just rattle off five or six of them. There's a ton of application of where that's really important, and so I too look at and you've kind of seen a departure of the word metaverse. Maybe we just say immersive now to sort of get across this idea of how you give people that sense of presence and location when they need it, and I think there are plenty of applications that are there for it. But the number of times that people you know look and call a call metaverse, meta or call a VR video game the metaverse, there's a lot of confusion on what and I'm not blaming Zuck for this, but they're just. They're different things, and that company is right now. It's a products company that's churning out VR technology.

Jim (19:07):

Well, I like the big m, small m distinction, so that's, I think it's a great way of looking at it. So, let's jump out of digital twin augmented reality, the realities, and the metaverse are pretty tightly related. We're going to kind of shift into a couple other things we saw that are really all built around blockchain. Boy, that's another boy, there's one that wants to have a whole show on this one. That's a whole other metaverse we could get into. But yeah, let's start with blockchain. Gosh, how do I maybe you want to? I've tried out a definition of blockchain with family members, and I don't know if it's going to fly with you. Here's my definition, right?

Mike (19:46):

Here's how, and I love this topic because you know, at its heart, blockchain is an infrastructure technology. It's what it does. It's a way to store data, which means, just like we've always made decisions around do I use SQL or NoSQL, or relational or unstructured? Now, I have to decide if I use decentralized. It's another infrastructure technology, but it is wrapped in this sort of Web Three mania where we have this altruistic belief that data ownership should be taken back from the man and decentralized across its owners, the people, and we're going to revolt against big tech owning our digital lives. That is. It's hard to remove the technology from this belief that there's some like I said, some higher purpose.

Jim (20:32):

Is it big tech? Is it the government? Is it the Illuminati? I don't know. It's this nebulous sort of bad guy. That's why this is an interesting topic because I'm with you.

I think blockchain is the way I've explained it to my family members. It's very similar. Of course, when you talk about infrastructure to somebody, they're thinking roads and bridges and we're thinking, you know, we're thinking data centers. But you know it's like, yeah, you take something, instead of putting it all in one place, I break it up, like I spread it out, but we all have this. But blockchain manages the agreement between the people who own the parts of it to work together. That's kind of my, and that's also pretty abstract. Very much so, but it's a hard one. And then the sort of security element of it comes in. You know it becomes more secure that way. Oh, you don't have all your eggs in one basket, and then people go to this sort of somehow because everything becomes politics. Then I can hide things and it's what enables the dark web, like there's all kinds of stuff around this one, but I think there's some real applications here.

Right, that, I think, come from you know, the distributed nature of it gives it to me is the not just the security, but there's a resilience around blockchain. I don't have to like how did you make sure that that server there was a problem? The whole thing didn't collapse. Well, you know, you took the data and you just broke it up a couple of hard drives. Now it's in the same box. There's an advantage to that If you can explain that. Like, hey, if I have electricity coming into my house from the utility, but if something bad happens, I have a generator, that kicks in. That concept, the idea of resilience, and the security that comes with that, to me, is the best use case for blockchain.

Mike (22:16):

The place where I find it to be most applicable is where you have data that is constantly changing. That is sort of changing hands, changing parties, or you have a number of parties that are involved in the same ecosystem, so think about supply chains. And then, if you look at the sector of luxury goods, where you have to deal with counterfeiting and inauthenticity, this idea that something was made in, you know, a handbag is made in France and it's going to make it all the way to an owner or a second owner or a third owner that's now in Brazil, yeah, the ability to see that in a way where there is proof in buying that that is truly an authentic product. So a lot of those, yeah, there are in the other one, you know you could argue is digital identity has even, like the United Nations, came out a number of years ago and said we believe that digital identity in 2030 is based in blockchain and it's not controlled by centralized governments, and we're going to have the ability to, you know, grant durable identities to people in refugees and third world countries where we don't have these services.

There is a lot of good that can come from this idea that the infrastructure is not tied through a central authority, and those are the types where I think we're making headway, and most people, they're not going to realize that it's blockchain behind the scenes, I think, where you get a little skittish, which is like trying to force your everyday business challenges onto the blockchain because it sounds cool, like trying to put your customer data on the blockchain. We're not ready for that, I'm not sure we're ever ready for that.

Jim (23:49):

It seems like one of those tags that got a like it was, of course, crypto, which is kind of, you know, built on blockchain networks and made again, made it scary. 
You know, the man versus the criminal, you know the dark web, but I feel like blockchain just continues anyway because this idea of resilience is going to happen. It's an infrastructure that has to happen. It's going to happen and probably needs to be higher on this list. Like I would say, blockchain is not in your infrastructure strategy, At least developing an understanding of where it might support your business. Be higher on this list.

Mike (24:17):

Like I would say, blockchain is not in your infrastructure strategy, at least developing an understanding of where it might support your business where it doesn't? Yeah, so you, you kind of dovetailed though are you, do you hold?

Jim (24:27):

Do you hold crypto? I dabbled in the moment when it peaked and got out before it kind of graded. It's repeating, yeah, yeah, I don't think it's going anywhere either. So, I think it's early stage. I'll admit I need to spend a little more time. I got it. I was in the experimentation stage. You know the joke about crypto bros. I know a couple. They were crypto-rich for like a hot minute. But again, I think the underlying concept is around. Blockchain is solid. I know we were. Next unrelated is NFT nonfungible tokens one of those great names, not quite the cool band name of Digital Twin, but I don't know, maybe it'll stick. So just related to that. Again, another blockchain application.

Mike (25:13):

I'll start with crypto. Yeah, another example of sort of carrying forward that altruistic belief that decentralizing currency is important for humanity and maybe it is. We've seen some people get very rich off of it. Some people did some very illegal things around the space. That's not unique to crypto, but I think the unregulated nature of it right now is certainly creating more space for that.

The problem that I have right now with crypto and why I would say most organizations, either ones that I've worked in or talked to there really isn't a need to be getting into this space. A highly volatile, speculative asset that doesn't really belong on the balance sheet and customers aren't really asking to transact with it, and I think we're probably some time out or continue to see it be very niche. We'll talk about NFTs. You can't buy NFTs unless you have crypto. They're sort of married up, and the biggest problem for me is right now the crypto customer experience as you purchase some is really confusing and there's like an adage around personal finance that if you can't understand it, it's probably a scam. And I'm not saying that crypto is a scam, but like the way that the relationship between a digital wallet and these very odd know-your-customer regimens, it doesn't feel natural, and so it scares people away. It drives volatility, and I think we got to let that settle out.

Jim (26:46):

Yeah, I would agree, and you just put the whole financial services sector under speculation. Nobody understands. I mean explain. You know we're going to go credit default swaps Like nobody. You know that was. Let's go back to 2008, right.

Mike (26:58):

If you've seen the movie The Big Short, I mean that probably went a long way to explaining the yeah, yeah, the Big Short.

Jim (27:04):

I described that. Okay, pop culture reference. It was like regulators scamming bankers who were scamming hedge fund managers who were scamming regulators who were scamming bankers. It was so good, so well done. Let's save that one.

I'd love those more and I would love to ask those listening what else do we need to look at? What else is out there, Mike? We can get back together again. We can take that collection because, as we prepared for that research, as you start to look at emerging technologies, the nature of an emerging technology is you don't know what it is Like. That's what makes it emerging. So I think, just seeing what's out there, I'd love to see what else you guys are looking at. You know, I feel like we're halfway through the year already. It's time to start thinking again about what's out there. The pace of change is faster than ever, so maybe we can do this again, Mike, anytime. Yeah, great. Again for those listening, we'll open it up. We'll leave some show notes. If there's an emerging tech or something else you want the scrutiny from Mike and me, we'll give it. We won't hold back, and we hope to hear from you and Mike. I hope to do this again soon.

Mike (28:12):

Thanks for having me, Jim.

Jim (28:24):

It's super fun. Great conversation.


You've been listening to What If? So What? A digital strategy podcast from Perficient with Jim Hertzfeld. We want to thank our Perficient colleagues JD Norman and Rick Bauer for our music. Subscribe to the podcast, and don't miss a single episode. You can find this season, along with show notes, at Thanks for listening.